May 31, 2007

My Stubborn Pet Calf

According to Wikipedia, a calf is the young of a certain species of mammal. The term is mainly used for the young of cattle, though the youngs of dolphins, whales, giraffes, bison, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, yaks and hephalumps are also called calves. Calf leather, according to this highly reliable source, is particularly valuable because of it's softness and fine grain.

According to Me-pedia, a calf is not particularly valuable nor is it very pliable. To the contrary, a calf is rather worthless because of it's inflexibility and string-like musculature. In fact, a calf is rather frustrating due to it's firmness, stubbornness and controlling behavior in my life. I don't like calves. I don't like calves at all. I am angered by calves. Actually, left calves I have no problems with at this point. Right calves? I have no affection for right calves. Right calves are dead to me.

I ice, I stretch, I coddle, I massage. But during every training period of every year there comes a time when my calf becomes an ass. All may be going fine, we're working hard together and getting along. Then, just as suddenly, with no advanced warning whatsoever.... it stops. Just like that....

Done.

I've had enough of this bullshit, my calf says to me with a heavy, tired sign. It's over. I'm not moving anymore - you can go on without me. Have fun. Send postcards.

I get confused at these comments. But..... But.....I can't go on without you, I plead to my calf. You are the thing that enables me to go forward. I need you. You complete me.

Welp, I guess you're screwed then, Bucko, the calf will reply in what I have to admit is a bit of an obnoxious tone.

This immediately gets me all riled up. I don't like the attitude and I definitely don't like being called Bucko - by one of my body parts, nonetheless. What was a nice calm conversation has suddenly turned rather hostile.

I'm NOT screwed! I yell back. You WILL move! We WILL run. MOVE DAMMIT! RUN!!

I force myself to push forward, dragging the calf with me. But it doesn't want to budge. It stings me with the kind of intense pain that sears up my spine and forces me to stand still. I plead and beg. Please work with me. Please move. For the love of all things holy, just a few more steps!

But the calf refuses to listen. It gives me the silent treatment.

I hate the silent treatment.

OK, calf, I'll say in my most beseechingly reconciliatory tone. How about we make a deal, eh? How about this....Why don't we go home together as friends. We'll take it nice and easy for the rest of the way, no pain, no worries. And when we get home and everything feels fine, I'll treat you to a nice cool drink of ice and a massage. How's that sound? Enticing huh?

And I'll try to set off on a slow jog again, thinking I've lured him into an unruffled acquiescence. But the calf hurts, it will have nothing of it.

Go fuck yourself, the calf says to me.

That pretty much sucks all the beseech and most of the reconciliatory right out of me.

Fuck me?! FUCK YOU!!!

I scream and yell and hit trees. I hold back tears and sit myself down on the curb. Within a few minutes I will stand up and limp home.

The first 10 minutes of the limp will be fueled by a barrage of anger. How can this happen to me every year. This isn't fair. This sucks!

The last part of the limp brings me a bit more serenity because, after all, it is what it is. I am plagued with fragile calves that just can't seem to withstand the constant pounding and an increasingly demanding training schedule. Every year, just as the speed part of the training bursts into the limelight, the calf stands still.

I get frustrated every year that I'm not running faster than the year before. I think of the days when I would practically fly down the road, when my feet barely even touched the ground. But I suppose it all makes sense. I can't get fast unless I do the speed work. And I can't do the speed work unless my calves want to play. And apparently they're just not the playful types.

I haven't run in four weeks. I am going to try and go for a slow, easy jog tonight. But I know my calf can be an ass, so I'm trying to be as friendly as possible. Hopefully it will turn out fine.

Can't we all just get along?

May 30, 2007

Kastor Goil

Deena Kastor is a f***ing fast runner.

Her 5k PR is 14:54. That means she was moving along at a 4:48 per mile pace, which just so happens to be the 5k world record for women. Deena's best marathon time is a blazing 2:19, which, if you grapple with your abacus for a bit, you'll realize calculates to a 5:19 pace, good enough for an American record. As I said, she's fast.

Deena won the bronze medal in the women's marathon at the 2004 Olympic games and, what with her eight American records and one world record, is a favorite at the 2008 Beijing Games marathon.

I bring this up because Deena Kastor lives in Mammoth Lakes, California. Catherine and I just spent a wonderful long weekend in Mammoth with our two friends, Chris and Wendy. That's pretty much my relationship to Deena Kastor - I spent the weekend in her hometown. I wouldn't exactly say we're bosom buddies.

Mammoth is a gorgeous part of the country and arguably one of the best ski mountains in the United States. I've been to Mammoth many times during many winters and have had the pleasure of freezing my petuties off in many a lift line and bonking my head on the hard snow on many a ski run. This, however, was the first time I've been to Mammoth when it wasn't covered in white. Not surprisingly, I didn't fall down and hurt myself as much as I seem to do during the winter.

Perhaps partially due to the lack of falling on my face, I found Mammoth to be even more pretty on a cool spring day than it is in the cold winter. When you dig beyond the 8 foot snow drifts and icy roads, what remains is a lush, green paradise with cascading waterfalls, endless pine forests and calm, reflective lakes. You half expect Bambi and Thumper to whistle sweet nothings at you from the side of the road.

I suppose if I were to die and go to heaven, one corner of it may look a bit like Mammoth in the spring (including the two Starbuck locations in a town that is less than a mile long. I assume they have Starbucks in heaven, don't they? I mean, they're everywhere else, why not heaven? hmmm.... I wonder if you need to pay for wi-fi access in heaven....)

With a beautiful three day weekend ahead of us, Catherine, Chris and I all brought our bikes up to Mammoth, eager to sneak in a couple of high-altitude rides and runs. Catherine did a bit of research on running locations and somehow came up with a few of Deena Kastor's favorite routes. I'm not quite sure how she did that, but somewhere on this great World Wide Web thingy, she found a site that listed her runs. She's good like that. Meanwhile, Chris assembled a beautiful 56 mile route for us to cycle on Saturday morn.

We all got in late Friday night and immediately hit the hay, which, in this case, is another way to say "tossed and turned on the really bouncy beds." We awoke on Saturday morning a wee bit worn for wear, but eager to get on our bikes. After some aimless piddling around, Catherine, Chris and I hopped over our respective top tubes, eased our respective tushies onto our respective saddles, and rolled off into the great green expanse.

The first thirty minutes of the ride was a non-stop downhill that I suppose doubled as our warm-up. Being the first day of high-altitude exercise, even downhill riding raised our heart rates a bit higher than expected. But, hell, we were on vacation so our heart rate monitors must adhere to vacation exercise rules in which heart rate zones are more of a suggestion than a rule.

After some high heart rate coasting, we turned left onto a long straight road and began the effort-filled part of our ride, as we calmly pedaled towards the mountains that were beckoning us from the distance with a come-hither stare.

I love mountains. There is something about them that is so awe inspiring to me. I suppose that it's the sense of history in each crag and cranny. To me, mountains reflect the power and fortitude of our planet. I can stare at them for hours on end, exploring with my eyes each millennium of the earth's movement and dreaming of the commanding seismic occurrences that carved these monsters. When I see a mountain, I want to climb it and stand on top to understand what it's like to be so all-powerful.

These are the types of things that ran through my mind as we began to bike down the road.

This is the road Deena Kastor trains on! Catherine exclaimed, ripping me from my own private mountain dreams.

Ummmm....Who's Deena Kastor? I responded after I stumbled back to my earthly senses.

After a bit of education on her Olympic history and supreme fast-ness, I nodded, not really knowing what more to say. Ah yes, that Deena Kastor, I probably mumbled.

We continued our ride and I went back into my mind and the calming monotony of a peaceful pedal.

Riding down this road on the outskirts of Mammoth was just about everything you'd expect in a perfect ride. Gorgeous scenery at every turn, very few cars and very few people. The road itself was void of any rocks, glass, gravel or debris. There were no potholes and no sudden cracks that appear out of the void to crunch on your tires. It was as smooth as a newborn's tush.

We passed over the creek, passed the lake, through the forest and up the hill to the summit that was somewhere in the range of 8500 feet above sea level. We took a short little pee break, breathed in the fresh air, then turned around and rolled back down the hill, through the forest, passed the lake and over the creek.

The mountains were behind us now, we were riding away, nearing our climb back to home base. About three miles to go before the end of the straight-away, we rode by a couple of water bottles that were partially buried on the side of the road. Clearly somebody had put them there.

Oh look, Catherine said jokingly, it's Deena Kastor's bottles.

We chuckled to ourselves. Deena Kastor was our running joke throughout the ride. (Didja get the pun in that one, Smartypants?) We passed the water bottles with a smile and continued on with our previously scheduled conversations. Chris and Catherine were in front chatting it up about something or other, I was taking up the rear having a fine how-do-you-do with the Committee in my mind about subjects I can barely remember.

The day had woken and what was a deserted road when we rolled out, had picked up with traffic as we headed back. All the early morning fisherman apparently decided it was time to go home and play with the kids.

Car back! I yelled to Chris and Catherine as a pick-up truck zoomed passed us.
Car back! I repeated seeing a Jeep quickly approach.
Another car! I screamed as I saw a line of roof racks beyond the Jeep.
Car back! I yelled again.
Deena up! I screamed jokingly as I saw two runners approaching us from about a half mile ahead.
Car back! I reverted to my safety-induced monotony.

All the while we stared at the runners ahead. As we neared closer, I realized they were moving at a pretty fair clip. Holy shit, I said, they're hauling ass.

Within seconds they were nearing on us, like bullet train on a crash course. They were flying. And in the blink of an eye they blistered past us. Whoooosh!!!! It had to be somewhere around a 5 minute per mile pace that they were holding. Whooosh!!! I'm not sure if I actually felt the wind of them passing, or was just in awe of their speed.

The man was in front leading the way. As he passed within inches of me, I saw the look of intense pain on his face. It was the look you have right before everything goes to hell. I've felt that look before - I know what it means. Right behind him, with an expression of ferocious, eye-of-the-tiger-like concentration, was a woman. A really f***ing fast woman.

Whoooosh! they slipped by us within mere inches of our bikes. The Road Runner cartoon comes to mind. Whooosh! Beep Beep!

Deena Kastor! Catherine yelled within seconds after they passed. That was Deena Kastor!!

They must've been her water bottles. She must be doing three mile repeats. Holy shit she's fast. That was Deena Kastor! DEE-NA KAS-TOR!!

Wow. An Olympian just came rushing by us. Our hope and pride in 2008, an arm's length away from me. I just saw history, or at the very least, the person who has already written it and is destined to write some more.

As we approached the end of the straight-away we saw the Subaru parked on the side of the road. You know the Subaru, it's the one with the Olympic rings painted on the side, the one that says "Official Car of the Olympic Games." It's the Subaru that Deena Kastor gets for being so f***ing fast.

I don't have a Subaru and I don't have the Olympic rings on anything but a t-shirt I bought at a gift shoppe. I don't own any bronze medals, nor any silver or gold ones for that matter. I don't hold any American records and, Lord knows, am never going to be close to any world records. I can't run a 4:48 mile, I never will.

I don't know Deena Kastor, I never met her. I did, however, spend three wonderful days in her hometown. And though I'm fairly sure none of her fast running genes rubbed off on me as she whooshed on by, I do know that a wee bit of that Olympic spirit in her ferocious focus left an indelible mark on my psyche.

Olympians like Deena are like mountains to me. Packed into her seemingly fragile frame is an awe inspiring fortitude that will long outlive the limited confines of history. And I can only hope to continue pushing my body and mind in my constant quest to climb the mountain and somehow understand what it's like to be so all-powerful in a human type of way.

May 25, 2007

Dancing With My Girlfriend

15 minutes! Catherine screamed in excitement. I can't wait! I can't wait!!

She was virtually bouncing off the walls with anticipation. I looked up from the computer that was laying on my body, which itself was laying on the couch. Yep, I acknowledged and smiled. You're so happy about it.

I know! she burst with joy. I can barely stand it!

As her excitement stimulated the happiness in my heart to grow a few delicate notches, I meandered back to whatever gobbledygook I was pounding onto the keyboard.

There is something weirdly dulcifying about happiness that I suppose can be compared to BenGay in one of my bizarrely apropos type of ways. Hear me out on this one...

If you're loved one is in pain, perhaps in the evening after a gruelingly long brick workout, they may rub some Ben Gay on their muscles to soothe that pain. As you're laying next to them in bed, physically and emotionally drained from another tiring day, maybe your body ever so softly touches theirs. In that brief and subtle contact, the Ben Gay mysteriously jumps off their skin and blends into yours. Just as suddenly you feel that soothingly cool heat flow through your body.

That's what a lover's happiness is like - the soothingly contagious transfer of Ben Gay. Just by making them happy, so to it eases your pain.

So I lay there on the couch, typing away on my keyboard with Catherine's happiness, like Ben Gay, spreading it's icy hot joy into my heart. And just as suddenly she erupted again.

7 more minutes! 7 more minutes! I don't think I can even last that long. I can't stand it!! I'm going to die from too much excitement.

I know you are, honey. You're going crazy!

No, you don't understand, she exclaimed, rising from her seat and bounding across the room. This is like the Tour de France for me. I am SO hooked on it. I LOVE it. I'm going to be so sad when it's over. I can't believe this is the last night.

Catherine, you see, has become addicted to Dancing With The Stars. In fact, addiction probably isn't even the proper word. Severe and utter infatuation may be more fitting.

There are three people that my girlfriend is in love with: Ivan Basso, Apolo Ohno and me.
And I'm a very distant third.

I've known this for awhile, and I accept it. I'm fine with being third in line because, after all, I'm the one that gets to spend the days with her and is lucky enough to go home with her every night.

I went to Catherine's workplace not too long ago to help her with something or other. On her wall was a black and white copy of a photo of me and her. The photo was from our 2005 trip to Hawaii. It's not my favorite photo, but she really likes it, and that's enough to make me happy.

I needed to use the computer so I sat at her desk and touched the keyboard to wake it from it's hibernation. As the screen came to vibrant life, I found myself face to face with yet another photo that was the background on her desktop. Perfect positioning for a picture she'd want to stare at hours upon hours during every working day of every week. Unfortunately, the photo was not of me. Nope. It was Ivan Basso staring right back at me.

OK, I know she's got this little thing for Signore Basso, but for goodness sakes, why am I relegated to black and white while he's got a full color smile? How about a little, ya know, somethin-somethin for the hometeam?

But, alas, the Tour is still a couple of months away. I won't hear the daily cravings for Ivan in the near future. I will let her have her daily drool and keep her Ivan idolatry in the confines of her desk. Regardless, Sir Ivan ain't gonna be at the Tour this year anyway - the illegal drug taking so-and-so.

But now I've got someone else to deal with. This Apolo character. Apolo this, Apolo that, Apolo is so cute. Apolo better win. I don't know what I'll do if Apolo doesn't win. These are the things I hear time and again. Dancing day after Dancing day.

I finally confronted Catherine a couple of weeks ago.

You're in love with Apolo, aren't you?

Yes I am, she said matter of factly.

I admit, that wasn't exactly the answer I was expecting. I didn't really have a response.

Oh. That was all I had. If my girlfriend is going to be in love with some other guy, I reckon there are few better than Apolo Ohno to take that position. He seems like a friendly gent. Fairly smart, rather attractive and pretty darn athletically talented. And I've gotta admit, the boy can dance.

Fortunately, Apolo won Dancing With The Stars this season or I'm sure I'd never hear the end of it. I can only imagine that had he lost to Joey "Captain Dork" Fatone, Catherine may have very well slipped into a tailspin of depression and homicidal rage.

Being the third in line of her love, I want to make sure that the other two keep her happy. Because when Catherine is happy, my heart is filled with joy.

Go, Apolo, go.

May 23, 2007

Special Things Have Happened

Of the twenty 25-yard repeats that I slogged through earlier this week, the fastest clocked in at 18.0 seconds. It'd be a lie if I were to say that this didn't make me a wee bit happy. Which is probably why I keep talking about my swimming until I practically reach the point where I don't want to even hear me talk about it anymore either.

Last year there was no way I could even come close to an 18 second split. So after I stopped coughing up all of the water that I swallowed in that final 25 yard jaunt, I actually smiled and symbolically patted myself on the proverbial back.

I felt fast while I was swimming those 25 measly yards, and the 18.0 seconds on the watch just solidified my feelings. I don't always feel fast when I swim. In fact, I rarely feel fast when I swim, so it was nice to actually have the sensation that I was zipping forward faster than my usual slug-like pace.

As you probably know already, I do most of my swim workouts at the YMCA which is Santa Monica's own personal haven for the geriatrics and hygiene deficient. Sometimes I am the fastest swimmer in the pool. Of course, given the motley crew of nearly incompetent participants, that's like saying I'm the prettiest person in a leper colony. (Bad analogy... I'm going to hell for that one.)

However, I am not always the fastest swimmer in the YMCA pool. More often than not, there are one or two who are flying by me like I'm treading water with a couple of cinderblocks tied to my pelvic girdle. So when I clocked in my 18.0 and actually felt fast doing it, well... yippee for me.

As I stood there on the edge of the pool, hacking up chlorine in joyous hairball bursts of pride, I reflected on my 18 seconds of Aquaman-ishness and started having those ever-so-ridiculous delusions of Olympic grandeur.

Of course, the moment I started actually believing I had somehow transformed into a swimming wunderkind, I got to thinking about how incredibly fast the Olympic swimmers are flying through the water.

I was lucky enough to visit the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs recently. They've got this wire thing-a-ma-bobby in the Olympic Center pool that attaches to swimmers and drags them through the water at World Record pace. The goal for the athletes is to swim faster than world record pace and put some slack on that rope. Neat, huh?

The current world record pace for 50 meters is 21.10 seconds. Which means that good ole Fred Bousquet (the French fellow who set the world record in 2002), can swim 25 yards in well under 10 seconds compared to my relatively embarrassingly torpid 18 seconds.

One could only imagine that if I were strapped behind this world record dragging cord at the Olympic Center, I would be painfully pulled through the pool like a pathetic, fallen water skier who forgot to let go of the dang rope. I feel like I'm choking on chlorine just thinking about it. [cough][hack][ccchat-ptoooie!]

In a funny way it is humbling going to the Olympic Training Center and walking down the same paths that Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, Apolo Ohno and so many others so much more talented than me had walked down before. You don't necessarily feel like you're in a special place when you're at the Olympic Training Center but you definitely feel like you're in a place where special things have happened.

I suppose that's the place my mind is in right now. I'm not special - no more than you. But I'm going through a stage in my swim, where special things are happening. And that makes me feel really good. Like I accomplished an enormous goal. Like I am, in fact, special. Like I've finally met my own personal Olympian tucked deep down inside of me.

May 18, 2007

I'm here - or - 66:37

Sixty-six, thirty seven. I know what you're thinking... There's no possible way he is going to waste my time reading another pointless post about a customer service call with Verizon. That's what you're thinking.

And you know what? You're wrong. You've over-estimated me.
I'm about to waste your time.

But I'm not going to waste your time for no apparent reason. This one is worth it. Mainly because the ineptitude at Verizon DSL Customer Service has reached such absurdly inane proportions, I honestly thought I was being Punk'd for a few minutes. Mostly, for sixty six minutes and thirty seven seconds.

Unless you've been lost inside a jihad lately, you have probably noticed the recent trend in corporate America towards outsourcing customer service duties to India. After all, it's so much cheaper to do it over there. I mean, really, who needs to pay non-Americans a fair and decent salary?! (And I say that with a twenty-five pound bag of sarcasm strapped to my jowls.)

From my far-too-extensive customer service experiences, I'd have to say that United Airlines is, without a doubt, the most incompetent organization within this field. I'm not sure if it's because they're trying to save too much money or that they truly don't care about their customers. Either way, they've screwed it all up. Whereas most other major US corporations seem to get their customer service personnel from Emily Post's Indian School of Higher Education and Proper Telephonic Mannerisms, United Airlines appears to have plucked their telephone wizardry from India's Mentally Challenged Institute for the Deaf and Apathetic.

But I digress. We're here to talk about Verizon.

To tell you the truth, it seems like Verizon actually cares about what they're doing. They really want to be of help. Unfortunately, they're not.

I'm not sure if the customer service representative to whom I was speaking today was based in India. For all I know, he could've been sitting on a ranch in Boise. Either way, there was a communication gap between us that was so large, I fell in quite a few times... and got really frustrated trying to pull myself out.

I called up customer service because I could not access the Internet with my new modem that I had to pay $90 for after a two hour and sixteen minute exercise in frustration. My new modem would turn on, but no connection was to be had. I tried everything I could think of, but nothing was working.

The first thing most of these DSL customer service people tend to do is have you unplug your modem and restart your computer. Since I always do that a few times before I even call, I tend to get frustrated right from the get-go. Fortunately, today's customer service chap didn't ask me to restart. Chalk one quick point up for Verizon.

Unfortunately, that's where the problems began.

I knew I was in for trouble the moment the customer service gentleman came on the phone and took a good 30 seconds to get out the words "Hello, my name is Ed." There is no way in hell that this guy's name was Ed. Edpernathastysum, I would maybe believe. Just plain Ed? No way. So I couldn't help but let out a chuckle when he used such an overly American name as a self-reference. OK, whatever. I didn't harp on the subject and promised to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I explained the problem and we began to work on a solution.

Why dun you....uh..... put on.... no...ummm... why dun you.... turn on.... I mean....uh.....click on..... control panel.

By the time he got through the sentence, I was already looking at the control panel.

He continued. Click on.....uh...... you there?

Yes, I'm here, I said. Click on what? What do you want me to click on?

Click on....uh..... in the control panel.....click....um...

It seemed he may have been reading something, though I couldn't tell whether it was a technology how-to manual or an English translation dictionary. Suffice to say, before he could even finish his sentence, I interrupted him...

Where do you want me to go? Do you want me to go to the Internet Connection Settings?

Uhhh....Yes.

OK, I'm there.

Alright... he said. hello? you still there? hello?

Yes, I'm here, I replied, wondering a bit if he couldn't hear me through this phone.

OK... what does Internet Connection Setting say? he continued.

It says nothing, I replied. It's a screen with two icons, it says absolutely nothing.

Oh, Ed responded. Go to property.....um....right click...go to property. Hello? You there? Hello?

Yes, I'm here, I said. I'm going into properties.

I followed his lead and then proceeded to give him the information he was requesting, at which point I waited for him to respond.

Hello? he said. You there? Hello?

This was odd. It would seem that he couldn't hear me. Yet every time he asked me if I was here, it was at times when there was no reason for me to say anything.

Yes, I'm here, I replied again in a somewhat annoyed tone. Can you not hear me?! I started speaking loudly, wondering about this phone connection.

Yes, your voice is very clear, Ed said somewhat matter of factly, leaving me wondering why the hell he kept asking if I was still on the phone in the first place.

You sound yun, he said.

Excuse me?!

You sound yun, he repeated himself

Yun? What's yun?

You sound yun, he repeated. Not old. Yun. You have very nice voice.

That's about when it started feeling creepy - when Mr. Verizon turned from Customer Service helper to a somewhat freaky homosexual pedophile. I didn't know what to say. Isn't this conversation being taped? Didn't my mother warn me decades ago about talking to these kind of people?

Oh "younG", I said. I'm not young. I'm old.
Let's change the subject very quickly, I thought to myself.

There was an uncomfortable silence for a few moments.

Hello? he said. You there? Hello?

I'M HERE!!! I yelled. Jesus Christ almighty.

We proceeded to spend the next 50 minutes trying to adjust the settings on my computer until my frustration reached its peak.

Listen, I said as my proverbial rope reached it's proverbial last thread. The problem is not with my computer settings! It is not with my internet settings! It is not with ANYTHING on my computer! The problem is with the modem. It is the modem. How many times do I have to tell you what the problem is!!!! I have been able to access the Internet many times over the past week from many different locations. My computer works fine, do you understand that?! The only place I can not get online is here, at my home, with this Verizon modem. IT IS THE MODEM THAT ISN'T WORKING!

Apparently I talked too fast for him, because he tried to have me look at my Internet settings again.

Please would you....um.....open....uh.....Internet Explorer.

NO! I exclaimed with the fury of Hurricane Katrina. No, I will NOT open Internet Explorer. The problem is NOT with my browser. Do you hear me?! I yelled. IT IS NOT MY COMPUTER!!!

Apparently whatever I said - or perhaps even the manner in which I said it - was able to bridge our intelligence gap. He told me he needed to put me on hold and get technology advice from a supervisor.

Great, I said. Go get advice. See ya.

As I was on hold, I decided to try a few basic tinkers of my own. In fact, I decided to go back to the basics. I unplugged the modem, let it sit for 30 seconds and plugged it back in.

Guess what. All of the sudden the Internet connection worked. I could get online.

In another minute, Ed came back on the phone.

Good news, Ed, I said. I'm back online. Unfortunately the wireless connection from the modem isn't working. I need to get the wireless working.

Uh...you can access Internet? he asked.

Yes, but I can't do it via wireless.

Hello? You there? Hello?

I took a big breathe and counted to 5. Yes, Ed. I'm here. I am still here. I haven't left. I haven't gone anywhere. Why would you expect me to leave?!?

Ed and I continued our little banter as he led me in all the wrong directions to try and fix my wireless access. After another twenty minutes, I realized it was a simple channel error. My modem was on Channel 11. It needed to be on Channel 9. I made the switch in all of three seconds and everything worked fine.

That's enough, Ed, I said. I'm all set. Goodbye.

As I hung up the phone I looked at the timer. 66:37. And all I could imagine was Ed, still waiting on the other side of the phone line, trying to talk to me.

Hello? You there? Hello?

May 16, 2007

2:06:15

2 hours 6 minutes 15 seconds and 90 dollars.

Sounds like a respectable time for an Olympic distance triathlon.
Sounds like a reasonable cost for an Olympic distance triathlon.
I should be happy about that. I should be ecstatic.

But 2 hours 6 minutes and 15 seconds has nothing to do with an Olympic distance triathlon.

For 2 hours 6 minutes and 15 seconds I was on the phone with Verizon and Dell yesterday morning as the two companies squabbled like the Keystone Kops Kustomer Service Center in their feeble attempts to solve my Internet problems. In the end, they gave up. They decided to just send me a new modem, which is costing me 90 dollars.

I want my 2 hours 6 minutes and 15 seconds back.
God, if you are listening, please tack that time on to the end of my life.

Oh, and if there’s 90 dollars waiting for me in heaven, I won’t complain.

May 15, 2007

Count To Ten

My toe hurts.

It's the one just next to the little pinky toe. The ring finger toe, I suppose is what you'd call it. On my right foot. Right now it's taped to the middle toe because that's what you're supposed to do. I know because I saw it on ER once. George Clooney taught me.

I came back from St. Anthony's two weeks ago carrying with me the latest sickness that's been going 'round. Fever, sinuses, runny nose, sore throat - I got the whole shebang. I was tired and frustrated when I dragged my suitcase into my bedroom and pretty much fed-up with travel when I started unpacking. I just wanted to swallow some DayQuil, lay on the couch and watch stupid movies but, alas, I'm one of those people who has to unpack immediately or never at all.

I got all of the clothes out of the bag and into the laundry bin. Just had to bring my toiletries into the bathroom and I was done. With a hefty sigh of relief, I grabbed my toiletry bag and sludged into the hallway and towards the bathroom.

I'm not sure if it was the fact that I was overly tired, or that the fever had me feeling a little delirious. Though maybe it was just my stupidity and eagerness to be doing nothing. Whatever the reason, it didn't make much sense why I took the turn into the bathroom an inch short of actually reaching the door and ended up walking right into the wall. My foot slammed into the molding as the toiletries flew out of my arm and onto the bathroom floor.

There's one thing about guys that you have to understand, when we kick a wall by mistake or slam our finger with a manly construction tool, we don't scream right away. To the contrary, we're pretty quiet as we bottle up the energy. We draw in an immense inhale, and then we hold our breath. We may start counting - 1....2....3....4.... - because that's what our fathers once told us to do. We rarely get to ten though. Somewhere around 8 is when the pressure of the increasing pain starts bursting from our mouths in a barrage of expletives.

SHIIIIIIITTTTTT!!!! I screamed in agony as the electric razor whirred away on the bathroom floor. SHHHHIIIIIIITTTT!!

I hopped on my good foot and muttered a few other extended four-letter words. I picked the razor up from the floor, shut it off and slammed it down on the sink counter. That's another thing we do, us men... we take our aggression out on inanimate objects. It's always their fault, never ours.

I hopped into the living room and lay down on the couch, still muttering obscenities, though admittedly with a little less brashness. Clearly, my toe was broken. There was no question about that. Definitely broken.

So when Catherine came over she did what had to be done: she taped my toe to the other toe because, as we've discussed, that's what Dr. Ross said you're supposed to do.

And now it's nearly two weeks later. I'm laying in bed in some hotel room and my toe hurts.

What with my sickness and the broken appendage, I hadn't exercised at all in two weeks. But I was feeling quite a bit better yesterday so I decided to go for a 30 minute run. It was tiring, as runs usually are when you've barely gotten your tush off the couch in two weeks, but it was exhilarating at the same time. As a matter of fact, it was so exhilarating I decided to go for another 30 minute run this morning.

The first 25 minutes of the run felt really good. I was so happy to be out there moving again, I couldn't help but smile. Then as I neared the end of my jaunt, it hit me. My toe started hurting again.

Five minutes later, when I finally finished the run, I was in fairly serious pain. It hurt to walk so I stood still. It hurt to stand still so I took off my shoe to give my toe some breathing boom. But that hurt too so I drew in a big inhale and held my breath. I started counting. 1....2....3....4..

Somewhere between 7 and 10, the pain subsided a little and I didn't embarrass myself by uttering a barrage of potty-mouth in the middle of the hotel lobby. I started hobbling to the elevator, silently cursing my stupidity. I must've re-broke the toe somewhere on the run.

By the time I got into my room I was able to relax a little. I taped my toe up again and got myself ready for the day. Fortunately, I was able to put my shoes on and manage through the day without too much discomfort.

But now, as I lay here in this hotel bed, I can feel the pain.

I glance around the room and, for the first time on this trip, notice how truly ugly the room is. This is not a shabby hotel by any means, but hotel decor is rarely my favorite style. The wallpaper pattern must've been in the close-out bin at Home Depot and the carpet is straight out of the Office Depot catalog, circa 1996.

There is one painting on the wall and you probably know what it looks like because it seems to be the standard painting you see in mid-level hotels. From the looks of the characters clothing, the scene in the painting takes place somewhere within the 17th or 18th century. The man in the painting is wearing formal, rather antediluvian clothing that includes a pair of knickers and a grey wig pulled into a ponytail. He's got a rifle under his arms as we walks through the forest, this fine gentleman. He is clearly out for a morning hunt, that much I know. After all, he's got his trustworthy dog scampering by his side and there's a fox darting off into the distance.

As I said, it's a standard ugly painting that you can look at a million times over and still not notice.

You just don't see this type of scenery anymore. There's not a lot of fox hunting going on and even less knicker-wearing. It's a shame, really. Back then in those knicker-sporting, grey wig wearing days, being a man seemed so different. So much more, shall we say, manly in a funny sort of ironic way.

You can only suppose that this fox hunting chap didn't mistakenly stub his toes on any walls. Or if he did, there wasn't any yelling or screaming about it. He probably just wrapped it up, powdered his face, pulled up his bloomers, put on his wig and went out to blow the face off a rabbit or something.

I stared at the artwork in a daze of the mystery of history.

Then I realized how pathetic the painting is. Butt ugly may be the nicest thing to say about it. It's just a few strokes short of a $5.99 paint-by-numbers. What makes somebody paint this? What kind of lonely life do you have to lead to paint a picture like this and expect it will sell? I can only imagine it was done by some geeky historian who can't get his teaching license so spends his days dreaming of being a statesman in the days of yore as he lives the life of a third-rate painter.

Then, of course, I think of that one fate-filled day when this sad-excuse-for-an-artist got a telephone call from this hotel as they placed an order for a few thousand copies of his Hunting Expedition masterpiece, and how this so-called artist is probably now living in a mansion on the hills of Kuai'i right now.

For a brief second I felt happy for the pathetic little Hunting Expedition painter fellow. Then my toe began to hurt again.

I inhaled and counted to ten.

May 12, 2007

[blank]

Something about lying in bed in a hotel room makes me want to write something for this blog.

Something about lying in bed in a hotel room makes me feel like I have nothing new to say.

I’m lying in bed in a hotel room right now.
I want to write something but I feel like I have nothing new to say.

Another hotel, another case of bloggers block.

I’m open to suggestions.

May 10, 2007

A Moment Of Silence

Last year at St. Anthony's Triathlon the water conditions were so horrendous, they ended up pulling over 50 people out of the water. With waves well in the 4 foot range, it was probably just a couple of inches short of canceling the darn thing.

It was scary just looking at it. Combine that with the hundreds of newbie racers at this event, all of whom had to start their swim when conditions were at their worst, and you've got a recipe for disaster. My sister was in the newbie group last year and remembers seeing people pulled out of the water. Fortunately, she wasn't one of them.

This year's St. Anthony's delivered water conditions that were as flat as can be. Yet right before my sister began her swim, she noticed the safety patrol pulling one woman out of the water. We didn't know what happened but expected that, with such calm conditions, it couldn't nearly be as bad as last year.

We were wrong.

Juli Wilson Marshall, a Chicago attorney and mother of four, who had raised thousands of dollars through Team in Training to compete in St. Anthony's, has died.

We don't like to see anybody, ever lose their life in triathlon. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Juli, her family and friends.

May 09, 2007

St. Anthony's Triathlon: A Race Report - or - Apparently I'm A Swimmer

We've talked about pre-race anxiety before. I am fully aware of how the fear and doubts creep into my psyche before a race without me even realizing it is happening. Just like our good friend, the frog in the boiling water.

Yet knowing this action occurs does not in any way stop it from happening. I suppose it's like when you take that turn too quickly on a cold, icy road. The fact that you know you are sliding uncontrollably towards a crash into the snow covered embankment does not in anyway stop you from actually slamming right into the darn thing and then swearing at yourself for having gotten into that situation in the first place.

I suppose I should've known better.

I tend to sleep very soundly the night before a race. People think that means I'm very relaxed. People are wrong. For some reason I get tired when I'm nervous. I think it's because I don't get enough oxygen to my brain when my body is battling fear. I suppose, in those instances, I should probably try not to forget to breathe. Maybe that'll help.

But on to the race...

As always, the St. Anthony's Triathlon is the yearly kick-off event for my sickeningly-athletic family. This year, it was just my sister and me racing. We spent a wonderful long weekend down in Florida with our parents and my cuter-than-all-getup three year old niece.

Come Sunday morning, my sister and I woke up early to make the thirty minute drive to the race site. My wave was going off 45 minutes before my sister's, so I wanted to make sure I got there as early as possible. I'm a stickler for early.

There are three things that I hate rushing to: airports, movies and triathlons. I need sufficient time to get situated, get the best seats, and get relaxed. Otherwise, I just get nervous. So I suppose it was my discomfort rising as we drove to the race a few minutes behind our pre-determined schedule.

One thing I learned about my sister on this trip: when she gets nervous, she has to speak to other people.

One thing I learned about me on this trip: when I get nervous, I don't want to talk to anybody.

It's good to learn new things about your family members. It makes you feel closer to them. That is, as long as you don't kill them. All in all, though, the drive to the race was just fine and as my sister talked about miscellaneously unrelated topics, I tried my best to begin visualizing the race ahead of me and keep myself calm, cool and collected. Despite the fact that we were ten minutes behind schedule and she needed to stop at the 7-11 for a cup of coffee. Not that I'm complaining. And I'm not saying it made me more antsy when it took her surprisingly long to get a single cup of coffee in a seemingly deserted 7-11. Really, I was very relaxed.

SWIM
The Day's Challenges:
* Umm.... none...?

The water was a balmy 72 degrees and about as flat as you can get in the ocean off St. Pete, Florida. The conditions were just about perfecto. Made even more perfecto by the fact that it was a wetsuit legal race.

I love swimming in the wetsuit. It makes me happy. Swimming in a wetsuit reminds me of when I was a wee little lad trying learn how to swim in the pool. My father would put his hands under my stomach and drag me around the pool to simulate the act of swimming. Sure I was horizontal, and yes I was moving my appendages, and absolutely I was being propelled forward - but it all seemed so effortless. Mostly, because I wasn't the one putting in the effort - it was all pops. I suppose that's the feeling I get in a wetsuit, a child in my father's arms.

But back to Florida and this little Olympic distance race. I promised myself that I would do this swim differently than I have done all previous swims. I told myself not to get overwhelmed with other people on this swim. I usually get too engrossed in the people who are passing me and tend to waste too much energy trying to keep up with them. Not this year, I told myself. I'm swimming my own race and nobody can stop me. What happens around me is out of my control, says the control freak.

As the gun went off, the 150 red cappers in my wave all hurried down to the waters edge and did our best to create chaotic mayhem as we curiously jockeyed for position, all the while knowing full well that this early position jockeying was for naught. Very few of us had any chance in hell of taking home a medal. But jockeying is part of the process, so jockey we did.

Fortunately the jockeying doesn't last long. Just a short time. It's jockey shorts, I suppose.
[ba-ha-ha!! sorry, couldn't resist... ok.... get serious....]

Once I got myself going on the swim, past all the jockeying, all seemed to be moving smoothly. I focused on going straight out to the buoys, as opposed to my usual circuitous route. The funny thing is that just about every time I looked up, I realized I was still on course. As someone who usually swims about 1800 meters in any given 1500 meter race, I found this quite peculiar. No doubt it was a good omen.

About 500 meters into this swim a funny thing happened. All of the sudden, I realized that not a lot of people were passing me. To the contrary, I seemed to be passing quite a few people. In fact, in that first 500 meters I even passed at least three people from the white-cap wave that left 5 minutes in front of me. I had to laugh as that happened. I mean, it seemed so absurd because, after all, I'm not a swimmer. I'm a runner.

What I found even more peculiar happened around 1100 meters into the swim. I looked up briefly once again and, if you can believe this one, I saw no other red race caps from my wave. All that surrounded me were the white race caps from the wave 5 minutes in front of me and a smattering of those silver capped gents that had started a full 10 minutes before me.

This is crazy, I thought to myself. Am I actually leading my wave?! It can't be. I let out a wee bitty smile between swim strokes, knowing full well that my eyes must have deceived me, because I'm not a swimmer. I'm a runner.

I looked up again just to make sure where I was in the realm of things and, lo and behold, I saw a smattering of other red-capped brethren in front of me. But not many. I'm used to seeing a sea of people in my wave in front of me, not a smattering. A smattering is a new thing.

OK, I'm not leading my wave, I told myself happily, but I'm clearly in the lead group. How odd. I've been running for 30+ years. I've been biking for over 20 years. But I've only been swimming properly for nary 6 years. As I said, I'm definitely not a swimmer. Without question, I'm a runner.

But at the same time, I couldn't wait to figure out my swim time. I knew I was on a PR pace and I had a real good feeling that I was somewhere near the front of the wave.

When I finally got out of the water and ran to the bike rack, that was the turning point. I noticed most of the other 150 bikes from my wave were still in the rack. This has never happened to me. All of the bikes are usually gone when I get out of the water. How neat.

As it turns out, I did in fact swim a PR - by over 2 minutes! As it also turns out, I finished in the top 14% of my 300-person age group. Yeah me.

Apparently, I am a swimmer.

I ripped off my wetsuit, crammed on my helmet and pushed my bike out to the road. I was off. Time to make believe I'm a biker.

BIKE
The Day's Challenges:
* Aerobars that weren't tight enough so dropped whenever I hit a pothole
* The usual sore back that begins at mile 17
* The usual frustration that begins at mile 18 that follows the usual sore back that begins at mile 17

The St. Anthony's bike course is flat and fast. That is, it's fast if you're a fast bicyclist. For me, I suppose it's flat and moderate.

The reason I know this is a fast course for fast people is because all the really fast cyclists passed me by like I was pedaling backwards. For all I know, I may have been. I swear, it was the best promotion for Cervelo I've ever seen. Every three seconds I'd look to my left as another P3 or P2C or C3PO passed me by. About six miles into the course it passed the point of absurdity. Enough with the Cervelos! I screamed out loud, to the dismay of the naive P3 passer-by passing by.

You may know this already, but biking is, by far, my weakest sport. All the make believing that I am a cyclist is just that - make believe. My cycling is weak. Weaker than swimming, weaker than running, weaker than table tennis, curling and hopscotch. I'm a middle-of-the pack cyclist on a good day and I seem to be dropping very quickly towards the back of the pack.

Like in other races, I tried my best in this one to just maintain a strong steady pace. All I need to do is survive the bike. That's my only goal. As always, that strategy worked out all nice and fine until mile 17, at which point my lower back started hurting so much I contemplated jumping off the saddle, hoisting the bike over my shoulder and running the rest of the bike course.

Unfortunately, right about at mile 18 of the St. Anthony's course is when the road starts getting really rough and frustratingly bumpy. Naturally, this increases my annoyance, jolts the pain in my back and has me sitting straight up on the handlebars for the rest of the ride in pure frustration as many who I had previously passed easily get their revenge.

Every year, the last four miles of the bike leg of this race seem endless to me. This year was no different. The thing is, though, regardless of the distance of any given race, I have the same feeling whenever I finish the bike leg of a triathlon. I suppose it is best summed up in four words: Thank God it's over.

Perhaps I should take up aquathon.

I ran my bike into transition, slipped on some socks, shoes, race belt and visor and headed out for the run. After all, I'm a runner.

But I suppose we already established that fact.

RUN
The Day's Challenges:
* Tight right calf
* Tight right achilles
* Tight left calf
* Maladjusted race belt

I've got this crazy running habit that I've developed as I've grown older: it takes me 20 minutes to warm up. Now 20 minutes of warm up isn't bad for, say, an Ironman distance race. It isn't even too bad for a half-Ironman. At an Olympic distance like St. Anthony's, however, it ain't that good. By the time I get my legs all loose, the run is nearly half over. And don't even get me started on the sprint distance problems where my legs warm up about 15 feet beyond the finish line. Just about the time I'm munching on a post-race banana.

Needless to say, the moment I started moving out of my bike transition at St. Anthony's, my legs felt quite similar to concrete blocks. I'm all for concrete blocks - I've got no problems with concrete blocks - I just don't want them for legs.

I tried to begin with an easy 9 minute/mile pace. In less than the time it took to get beyond transition, I realized I wouldn't be able to hold that pace. With each step, the pain in my calves got tighter. I struggled on for a quarter mile. A half mile. But it kept getting worse. And worse. And I knew if I continued going, I'd probably end up doing some serious, long-term damage - and that's a bad thing.

So I stopped, uttered a few caustic four letter words, and hobbled to the side of the road to stretch.

I stretched, breathed, relaxed, shook the legs and started waddling on again. This lasted for another half-mile or so when the calves tightened up again like a taut rubber band. Yet again, I stopped, cursed, stretched, breathed, and continued. Within the first three miles of the run I had to repeat this little charade three times. This led me to an average pace somewhere around 10 minute miles for those first three miles. It was disheartening.

In my mind, the quality of a triathlon is directly proportional to the quality of my run. I'm a runner. I love running. This should be my highlight.

As I passed mile 2, all hopes of an exhilarating run had drained through my pores. Frustration turned to anger. And as I made the mid-point turnaround at 3.1 miles, I realized that anger had morphed into an increased pace. By mile 4, I suddenly realized that my legs had loosened up and I was running sub-8 minute miles. So I did what any normal, idiotic and angry triathlete would do - I picked up the pace even more.

For the next two miles, I kept going faster and faster until, by the last 1/2 mile of the race, I was averaging well below a 6:30 pace and feeling pretty darn good about it. I was passing the many of those who had passed me by 30 minutes earlier. The wind was blowing through my hair, I was focused, I was determined and I had no leg pain. This is what running should be about.

In the end, I crossed the line just a wee bit over 2:35.. not a PR for me, but at least 2 minutes faster than last year's time at this race.

And so it was. Another year of St. Anthony's for the record books. Another equally exhilarating and exacerbating start to the triathlon season. And as we turn the page towards our next event, I prepare myself for another week of training. A brand new season with brand new opportunity.

And apparently this year some things have changed. Apparently I'm a swimmer.
Let the games begin.

May 05, 2007

Dudley Do-Right Gets In A Pickle

I went to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago for 24 hours and 2 minutes. Not that the two extra minutes is really significant. It's just that when I climbed into my car on Saturday afternoon to drive back to Los Angeles, I couldn't help but squeak out a slight guffaw as I looked at the clock and saw it read 3:46 PM. After all, I knew full well that I had arrived at the same location at 3:44 PM the previous afternoon. Peculiar.

Forty-eight hours is about my limit in Las Vegas. I start getting violently agitated beyond those forty-eight hours. In fact, one time I was supposed to fly home from Las Vegas 50 hours after I had arrived there. When I got to the airport I discovered that my plane was delayed for a few extra hours. Needing to leave the city so incredibly fast before I flew off the wall in a Jerry McGuire sort of way, I said "screw it all" to the flight, went downstairs, rented a car and drove back to Los Angeles instead. That's what Vegas does to you after two days - you just need to get the heck outta Dodge.

At the same time, 24 hours is a quick trip in Vegas. It is sufficient time to get enough damage done, but the fact of the matter is that you don't settle into the Vegas lifestyle until the second 24 hour period roles around. The fact that I was only there for 2 minutes beyond the first twenty-four hours doesn't make much of a difference.

However, as previously mentioned, those two minutes are completely irrelevant to anything in this story.

My purpose for going to Las Vegas was to surprise my friend at his 40th birthday celebration. He went out to the City of Sin with his wife and two friends to spend a weekend of the Three G's: gambling, gastronomy and gnightlife (that last one with a silent g. actually, two silent g's, now that you mention it). Only being there for twenty-four hours and two minutes, I was able to partake in a bit of the gambling (lost on blackjack, lost on craps, won almost all of it back on roulette) and gastronomy (Aureole: mmmm.....), but was unable to attend Saturday's gnightlife activities of Cirque du Soleil.

Sure it was a short trip, but the look of surprise on my friend's face on Friday when I snuck up next to him at the bar on top of theHOTEL was worth the price of admission. It was great to spend the time with him, especially to do it in Vegas.

If you haven't been to Lost Wages yet, it's not so much a city as it is an attitude. The whole space-time continuum thingy takes a few loop-dee-loops when it travels through the city. It is such an odd place, unlike anywhere else on earth, that in order to fully enjoy it, you kinda have to stoop to the Vegas level. It's a town of excess, in every aspect of the word. Even if your biggest vice is people watching, there is an excessive amount of that in Las Vegas as well. Excessive laughing and smiling are also prerequisites for the true Vegas experience.

On top of all the excess, there is an undertone of wrongfulness that oozes between the cracks. Where gambling is as ubiquitous as oxygen, prostitution as blatant as Howard Stern, and con-men meld in with the common folk, you can't help but be intrigued by the underbelly of the city and wonder about all the mayhem scuttling about under your nose as you mindlessly throw your money into the sewage.

Friday night turned out to be a fairly late night for somebody of my natural lameness. But, of course, late nights are common in Vegas. In fact, they're almost expected. After cocktails, and dinner, and gambling, and more cocktails, and people watching and general messing around, I got back to my room somewhere just short of 2am. Come to think of it, there seems to be a 2 theme here, what with the 2 minutes past 24 hours, the 2am arrival and the 2 hour run I had the next morning.

With 7 hours of alcohol and food lodged in my stomach, my 5 1/2 hours of sleep were fairly restless, which made me think that my 2 hour run on Saturday morning would be fairly crappy. You can probably imagine my surprise when, 1 hour into the trek I was feeling pretty darn good.

A two-hour run in Vegas is pretty simple - you head down Las Vegas Blvd (aka "The Strip) for 1 hour, turn around and run back. There's not a lot out there when you get beyond the casinos, just a whole bunch of empty desert, a few newly-built condominium complexes and a convenience store or two every now and then. Surprisingly, Las Vegas Blvd remains a six-lane road for miles beyond the downtown casinos, despite the limited traffic.

Perhaps it was the late night alcohol and lack of sleep making squishy out of my brain, but I got myself into a wonderful trance during the run and slowly floated across the barren wasteland with nary a worry. After one hour I turned around, crossed over the six lanes to the other side of the road and began trudging back towards town.

My eyes were focused on the ground in front of me, my mind on subjects far far away. I felt every step of the run, I saw every thing around me yet was not focused on anything in particular. I suppose this is what we call being in "The Zone". I also suppose that this won't make sense to the non-runners out there but hopefully there's a runner or two that will understand this nonsense I speak.

So there I am, trudging along on the shoulder of a six lane road, making sure I don't get slammed by any early morning drunk drivers. My eyes are jumping back and forth between the sights around me, my brain bouncing like a pinball. That Shell gas station sure looks clean and sparkly. Damn gas is cheap out here. I should come to this gas station to fill er up before I drive back to LA. Why is that guy sitting on the corner? He looks drunk. And homeless. Actually he looks kind of angry too. Don't look him in the eye, look down at the ground. Oh look, there's an empty Dorito bag in the dirt. I hate when people litter. What makes them think that somebody is going to clean up a Dorito bag that they throw outside the car window. Where do they think it will go? Damn ingrates. Oooh, watch out for the pothole... Whew, almost twisted an ankle. That'd be bad to twist an ankle, especially since I have a race in a couple of weeks. Ah, I almost forgot about that race. Oh lookee, there's a Sears card in the dirt. Why would somebody throw their Sears card out the window. That's ridiculous. It has their name on it... and there's a bank card... and...

At this point my mind comes screeching to a halt like the Road Runner right before he flies over the edge of the cliff into the field of Acme Dynamite.

A bank card?!

I stop my run and walk back to pick it up. Somebody is surely going to want their bank card back. Especially since it has their name on it. I should pick it up and try to return it. As I reach down for the card I see another charge card in front of me. I pick that one up too. All of the sudden I notice that the entire side of the road is littered with charge cards and photos and all sorts of miscellaneous stuff that should be in a purse. And all of it has the name of the same person on it. And look at this - I find a wallet laying in the dirt. I pick it up... Social Security Card, miscellaneous loyalty cards, drivers license. And again, all with the same name.

Peculiar, I think.

But this is Vegas, it could be anything. And so my mind wandered. Is somebody trying to lose their identity? Are they running from the bad people who want to kill them? I saw all of those Martin Scorcese movies, I know how this works.

Clearly somebody threw this wallet out the window. Was it some sort of mob hit? Then again, maybe it was just a simple case of a stolen wallet.

I start picking up the credit cards, wallet and photos. With each card and photo I pick up, there are three more I find. But this person would want all of this stuff back, I think. I need to do the right thing. Do unto others as you hope they would do unto you. Or something to that effect.

So I spend about five minutes collecting what must be thirty family photographs, ten credit cards, a wallet and a whole bunch of other miscellaneous identification. I shove it all in my fuel belt and, with a bit of extra weight at my stomach and looking a bit like an over-stuffed wallet carrying fool, resume my trudge back home.

I've done something good, I thought. I've found somebody's wallet. Yeah for me.

When I got back to the hotel room, I looked at the driver's license and realized the woman (5 foot 1, 165 pounds. Let's call her LaQuisha), lives in Las Vegas. I called information and got her phone number.

You don't know me, I said into LaQuisha's answering machine, but I'm wondering if you lost your wallet. If so, please call me.

Two hours later I get a call back from LaQuish. I asked her if she lost her wallet. Yes, she said. I tried to verify that it was hers. A picture of Winnie The Pooh on the front, she said.

I told her that I think her wallet was stolen.
No it wasn't, she replied matter of factly. I left it at iHop.

I'm pretty sure it was stolen, I insist in as nice and comforting a manner as I can. I found it on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere all scattered about. It seems somebody threw it out a car window.

No, she insisted. I left it at iHop.

I started to feel uncomfortable. How come she isn't thanking me? Aren't I doing a good thing? Isn't this right? How come she isn't grateful?

So you know, I told her. There are no credit cards or cash in here. I found your bank card but it looks like the other forms of payment were stolen.

LaQuisha was silent.

Does she think I stole her credit cards? Does she really believe that I ripped off her cash?! I'M DOING A GOOD THING!!!

As I said, I found it on the side of the road, I repeated. I think somebody must've taken out the cards and thrown the rest out of the window.

I wanted to tell her how I stopped my two-hour run to pick this up. And how I shoved this George Costanza wallet in my fuel belt and ran with it down the Las Vegas Strip for nearly 4 miles. I wanted to let her know how I scrambled around in the dirt and the storm drain to gather all the photos of her nieces and nephews with their stock football-player-on-one-knee pose and standard yearbook smiles and random baby pictures. I wanted her to be grateful. I wanted a goddam "thank you."

But I felt accused.

I left the remains of her wallet in a bag with the front desk personnel at the hotel and told LaQuisha she can come pick them up. I spent an extra two minutes writing her a note, letting her know where I found the items and wishing her the best of luck in cancelling her credit cards.

Two minutes extra. Trying to be nice. Trying to justify my do-goodliness.

And as I drove out of town, two minutes beyond 24 hours of being in Las Vegas, I started thinking once again about the underbelly of it all. Something was odd about my exchange with LaQuisha. Something just wasn't right. I know they say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I can only hope it doesn't travel right down Las Vegas Boulevard.

May 02, 2007

Houston, We've Got A Problem

I've written all these wonderfully witty and insightful things and I'm eager to share them with you. I've even penned some pretty interesting stories that I want you to read. Oh, and I completed my first race of the season (with a PR involved in the mix). I want to let you know all about it.

Unfortunately, my computer exhaled it's last breath of life this past weekend. She's dead. She was a good partner, we've been through many things together. Good times, bad times and everything in between. I can only hope she is on to a better world, filled with all her technological peers where she can make beeping noises with such mechanical compadres as R2D2, C3PO and HAL. It will be a much happier place for her, my poor little computer.

Not that I'm so flippant as to quickly forget and replace something that meant so much to me for so long, but the moment my computer died on Saturday I went online and ordered a new one. It should be here this week.

Once my new computer and I get ourselves acquainted and get through a few ice breakers (like loading programs and restoring my data), I'll be back to fill you in on my journey through life.

All apologies for the technological breakdown.
Be back soon.

J.