Former 2:24 marathoner, now pushing 50 and reduced to a pitiable spastic shuffle • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on distance running since 1999; mostly a crank since approximately 2016 and possibly long before • Coach and adviser of less pessimistic perambulators • Dobie-mix owner Sentence-fragment impresario

Friday, July 19, 2019

Instead of tweets, Vol. 1

  • This year's running of the Boulder West End 3K was last Thursday. They need to have separate men's and women's elite races at this event. For one thing, chasing a bunch of dudes who are mostly in the 8:40 - 9:30 range is not helpful when the first woman is lucky to break 10:00, as happened this year. More important, it would allow them to blast "West End Girls" the whole time. That one song is a good enough reason to own a modern musical keyboard.

    The local summer road race series always hammers home a bizarre truth: If a carbon copy of the fastest version of me (c. 2001-2004) showed up in Boulder and started laying down times commensurate with what I managed at sea level, that person would be considered a damn good runner. This is even though Boulder is considered a competitive running mecca and I myself was never good.

    This arises from the story here being the same as it always has in the Boston area, hierarchy-wise. Just as the truly elite runners based there rarely take part in the New England Grand Prix Road Series, the best of the best in the Boulder area don't usually line up even for "elite" races held here. I sometimes don't even know certain athletes are based here until I see their names in results in races that have taken place far from Colorado.

    (People may insist on training here, but it takes a lot of incentive to get world-class runners to actually race at altitude. One day, exercise physiologists and coaches will shake their heads, and in some cases their asses, at the idea that moving to altitude was generally considered a smart training tactic for endurance athletes born and raised at sea level, ceteris paribus, and wonder why no one connected all of the obvious dots in play in the current U.S. system.)
  • When I got into my car last Saturday afternoon, I had just learned that the windstorm named Barry had made landfall in Louisiana as a hurricane. When I started the car, and the first sound I heard was Deborah "Blondie" Harry's voice singing, "The tide is high, but I'm holding on." This was not a shock since my car's radio is always tuned to one of the startling number of stations in major markets that play nothing but 70s and 80s songs. I bet no DJs in New Orleans were loading up songs like The Tide Is High or anything by the Beach Boys at that point, but if so it could have been an honest mistake. 
  • It is probably not controversial to propose that a world in which people were not born with crippling mental disabilities, or diseases that have such a limitation as only one of their nasty features, would be a better world than the one we live in. But rather than see such impairments obliterated outright, I would like to see them shuffled around a little.

    Instead of having a society with a certain fraction of people who are born too cognitively handicapped to ever stand a chance of functioning on their own, with everyone else ranging from brilliant to "everyday stupid," it would be better if everyone had, say, a 1 in 30 chance on any day of waking up with an IQ of about 60 and staying at that level for the next 24 hours. Street wino, airline pilot, professional poker player, doesn't matter. In other words, most people would be "struck retarded" about 12 times a year, kind of like menstrual cramps, only far more incapacitating at the individual, local, and global-societal levels.

    The clincher is that those under the lash of these crippling spells would only be able do so much to offset their pernicious effects even after repeated exposures, meaning that people who enjoy participating honorably in political discussions suddenly start making impossibly stupid arguments, relying on obvious crank sites as sources, and so on. This might drive up the accidental death rate, but we would probably all learn to develop a little more empathy too.
  • I Googled "bedtime energy drink" to see if any other entrepreneurs had already latched on to the idea. Apparently not. This somehow surprises me.
  • Not only can running simultaneously seem like the most important thing in the world and the most pointless activity imaginable, but it virtually always does resonate with both of these seemingly dissonant qualities. Thus it makes sense that one of the best forms of procrastination available is to go running, since you can usually justify choosing this activity over whatever it is you're avoiding out to a range of about 6 or 7 hours, I'd say. On the other hand, when I don't feel like going running, that's usually when I clean the house. My tendency to be trying to avoid something at all times is probably the very wellspring of my productivity in general, because every game of musical procrastination ultimately produces one or more completed tasks. I am not sure what I am avoiding to write this shit.
  • On Tuesday afternoon, I found out that my car needed, or at least qualified for, about $2,200 in repairs. Although this was not great news, I credit myself for accurately guessing about how much I'd be looking at. I figure at this point that with the amount of money I have put into the car now having reached its purchase price (and almost its purchase value), I want to invest in one more round of fixes now that the odometer is on the grim side of 100,000 miles. I have no major trips planned, and I typically don't drive much. After this douchemobile craps the bad for good, I will decide if I even need a car. Going without this week (it'll be in the shop 'til Tuesday) is teaching me how well I can do without a vehicle, as I have done for the majority of my adult life. My guess is that even though I hate driving and cars and people driving cars, I'll probably always have at least a shitty one to complain about.

    Contemporaneously, I found out that if I want to keep my health insurance, I will have to start paying a lot more than I have been for the last bunch of years. This, too, came as no surprise. I am leaning toward going without at this point because I seek to become one of those people who studiously avoids the medical establishment generally (until getting blood work done recently, I hadn't been to my doc in about a year, and only then because I was curious about my T level) and then washes up in an ER as the uninsured victim of some unavoidable catastrophe.

    You see, the fact of our fucked-up system is that people can exist in perpetually uninsured states because when they show up at emergency departments for major things -- often after winding up there as a result of ignoring a series of minor things -- they will get treated. Sure, they'll get a huge bill for it, but what if they don't give a shit about things like their credit scores, or don't even know what such a thing even is? Maybe it won't be long before the Repubs can pass legislation that legalizes actually leaving seriously wounded homeless and other uninsured people outside on the curb at hospitals. They want to, but until this point is political history that's been a little too much. Maybe not anymore.

    I do use my insurance for therapy, which I enjoy going to every week, but as you can see is also clearly an utter waste of time and someone's money. I could continue to see her on a sliding-scale arrangement, as has happened in the past, but the various howling voices in my head have all assured me in a roaring basso profundo chorus that talking to people about your problems is basically the best way to pave a path to taking your own life before you otherwise might have. I say this because it seems that -- confirmation bias here aside -- everyone who commits suicide is reported to have been in therapy at some point. Maybe I can expunge having been in therapy from my record, so that I will be safer even if that's the last thing I want.

    I also struggle with the idea that the government, or anyone, should make it easier for me to even attempt to protect or preserve the health of the ugly shambles of a meat-marionette under my guidance/ If I become gravely ill, I won't be one of those people who courageously fights it, although I shouldn't say things that I really have no basis for defending other than falling back on being a nihilist at root level. I think I would be more likely to simply agree that them vicissitudes of biology can take away what it so randomly gave in the first place, unannounced and all decisions final, and avail myself of a shitload of opioids.

    Anyway, as I will probably no longer have health insurance and can count on my car being fully reliable with normal use for quite some time longer, these factors and other recent developments have me toying semi-seriously with the idea of moving back to the Blue Ridge. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there in April, but even then knew I needed to come back here and experience the countless easy-to-take-for-granted positives of living here. It's kind of a weird thing, being here in a "Running USA" town not as a direct result of my own running, and remaining here as as a burned-out semi-decent former runner who jogs every day and kind of sneers the Boulder running scene in the abstract even though most of my local friends are members of those groups. If I left, I would miss about a half-dozen people dearly and a lot of others in more than a passing way, and I would be giving up at least one significant and almost unique benefit of being exactly where I am.

    I think I am still a couple of tantrums away from just loading all of my shit up and heading east, but I feel like having that option available and a clear path to settling in back in Roanoke actually makes me less likely to do it until I'm sure it's what I want, because it's not an "or else" kind of situation (and in years past I found myself in those more than once).
  • Although I nominally place very little value on my life using any metric (which doesn't mean what you probably think it does, something I may get to here later if I survive) and have at times surely qualified as "clinically depressed," I like to spend as much of that valueless, often dark existence putting data like words and images into my brain, just so they create an erratic and enormous database of thoughts that will some day just go poof and disappear. At least five decades of unique drudgery, automatically and sorted away with an an array of errors and from a one-time-only perspective, evaporating in an instant. Yet in my frantic effort to stay more amused than not, I insist on experiencing as many things as I can, even if personal history demonstrates that a significant share of that input will produce anger, resentment and other organic forms of dysphoria. It is an interesting treadmill to be sure. So, although I have the freedom to sleep in pretty much every day to compensate for my almost invariant late nights, I don't sleep a whole lot. Only when I was "competing" "seriously" did I grudgingly concede to the need to get at least seven hours of sleep a night if possible.
  • After the Bret Kavanaugh and Frank Meza spectacles, I don't think I can ever trust anyone who says "the boys" will vouch for him. After all, "boys will be boys," a quaint tautology that seems to imply that no one from this pool is to be trusted. It is also not altogether certain who actually qualifies to be among "boys" generally or "the boys" (or perhaps "the 'boys'") in particular.
  • Boredom needs to be classified as an official DSM psychiatric diagnosis, so that everyone alive who wants free or discounted weed can get it.
  • Mario Fraioli,who for some time has been producing the only running-related Web content consistently worth reading, sums up why he's not especially jazzed about Sifan Hissan's new mile WR: "I personally have a hard time getting excited about any athlete who puts his or her trust in a coach that operates under a cloud of constant suspicion and has a history of practices that are shady at best, illegal and immoral at worst. I’m not accusing Hassan of any wrongdoing but it’s hard not be jaded when you take history and context into consideration." 
  • I'm a very loyal person. I wish I could get in touch with some of the people I was friends with before this year to vouch for me, but I have no idea what those types are even up to since we drifted apart.
  • Some of the busy streets here feature those executive-authority-style crosswalks, wherein if a pedestrian pushes the WALK button, he or she is automatically given the right of way while a tinny voice implores "Caution! Vehicles may not stop!" from a speaker next to the activation button. Many times in my post-crepuscular travels, I have seen someone press the one nearest to my 'hood when there were only a couple of cars in sight for literally a half-mile in either direction (Baseline Road follows the 40th line of latitude exactly for most of its course through Boulder and therefore is obviously a straight line). This seems like the perfectly savage misanthropic thing to do, make some people stop for half a minute when you could have just jogged in front of them to the other side or waited a few seconds yourself.
  • Certain things I will always do just as badly now as I did in the days of most abject drunken misadventures. I ruin cookware no matter what. I can stand frying something on low heat with about four gallons of oil in a one-quart saucepan and something will get irreparably scorched to shit anyway. I didn't ruin a lot of cookware when I was drunk, only because I rarely had the motivation or wherewithal to pepper bouts of culinary futility into the general clamor of my mellowly suicidal existence; every time I did attempt to deploy a stove in that state, though, the results were catastrophic. This is why so much food comes in containers that allow for the rapid transfer of whatever gunk is inside these containers to the yammerhole just below our booger-shooters.
  • My friend Jen recently got out of the hospital after a freak blood disorder. When we stopped by, Rosie had no way of knowing Jen had been laid low, yet she did an unusual thing and hopped up onto her lap immediately. Rosie is a leaper and a lap-dog, but she never does it when it's this inconvenient for all involved (though still welcome). I like that she has these instincts, which also show up in other ways.


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