The increasingly parochial observations of a casual runner in his fifties. Was "serious" about "the sport" until personal and sociocultural inevitabilities prevailed.

Friday, February 21, 2020

From my keyboard to your face

I decided that I would permit myself to post here only after reaching certain milestones on an unrelated writing project, which is not the same as promising to post here each time I achieve one of those milestones. And although these aren't really milestones, more like inchpebbles, I plan to attain them at a remarkably glacial pace. Part of this is quite reasonable, since I have to write for money while we all still can, and have churned out a startling amount of informative chum over the past four weeks. I am also continuing to assemble blog posts in the way they probably appear to be constructed, i.e., over time and from a patchwork of current events and whimsical ideas.

Although I prefer to shun blogging even when unfettered by such arbitrary self-shackling, I virtually never lose interest in writing about other people's questionable ideas once I decide my own ideas about those ideas are sufficiently urgent in my own mind to warrant public expression. This usually means making a number of jokes that at most three people possess the background to understand, although it's not usually the same three (or fewer). I also seem unperturbed by the notion that most of my recent ideas are likely to offend a nontrivial fraction of the readership I have cultivated, given that, although this has been a mostly unguided process, I have largely managed this by offending our mutual philosophical enemies. Every misanthrope ultimately paddles toward whatever uninhabited islands are left, it seems.

Putting this altogether, I'm therefore expecting that this standard will afford me a day or two to ponder the likely upshot of posting ill-advised content before I actually publish it, thereby adopting the putative perspective of Wile E. Coyote in those fragile moments after he had already stepped laterally off a high precipice but before the Acme Inc. version of gravity exerted its inevitable effects and sent the hapless poacher on yet another whistling plunge toward another in a long string of faked demises.

Astute readers might have noticed that I usually fail to supply links to buttress my words unless I need to link to something not easily found otherwise. This saves me a lot of time, and it assumes that you follow distance running closely enough to have some idea what I'm talking about.

  • I had a dream a couple of months ago that would have qualified as a nightmare if it had involved me drinking or had left me more disturbed than curious. In it, I was a passenger in my own car, which was being driven at a reasonable speed on a street near my house that makes a long semicircular turn around a sizable park. Whatever we were up to, our travels were interrupted when a toddler ran into the street, turned and faced the oncoming car with a perfectly beatific but creepy smile, like one of the touched little fuckers in Children of the Corn. Whatever his provenance, the car hit him so hard that it wasn't really a collision, more like a perfect kaleidoscope of gore that nothing short of a physics lab, much less a car that looks like it came from IKEA and can be parked in storm drains, could produce in reality. Yet the modest thump was just like that you'd hear if you struck, say, the unluckiest squirrel on your block that day.

    The driver's reaction scaled with the auditory rather than the visual impression. "Oooosh," she said and winced and kind of hunched her shoulders and looked in the rearview, exactly like a reasonably conscientious person would do after terminating a cute rodent. But that was it; no letting off the gas, and in fact she sped up a little, as if to flee. But then I looked out my window and saw a litter of busted-up bodies in various states of undress. I never actually saw The Sixth Sense, at least not sober enough to remember anything between whatever and fuck-all, but I wasn't looking at dead people in the sense of ghostly presences; I was just looking at corpses.

    This is where you might think I turned to the left and saw some apparition from a Clive Barker film, or maybe the Crypt Creep or Smeagol or some other less-than-optimal chauffeur, now in charge of the death car. Instead, I just woke up.

    More recently I dreamed that I was out running with Rosie and in the same general neighborhood as the park. We rounded a corner to see a line of fire trucks and a house blazing away (I even know which domicile on this street it was, and it doesn't deserve this shit from my subconscious). There were kids on the second floor screaming out the window, but it soon became evident that they were just yelling taunts and not crying for help. Which was weird, given that is was the middle of the day and had this been a real-life fire, it would have been Jerry Bruckheimer-level mayhem compressed into one unfortunate house and then spooged on by Michael Bay for good measure. You more than get the point; the house was surely about to collapse, even in a dream. This was in the middle of the day, for what that's worth; I remember it being really sunny.

    Then I noticed that the six or eight firefighters I could see weren't fighting anything. They were leaning against their trucks and looking up at the blaze and squinting. I could see bright sweat on their faces, but that was just my memories of Die Hard and Rescue Me filling in blanks for me, because I have never seen the faces of firefighters actually confronting fires up close.

    "Are there already guys in there?" I asked (I think; I'm sort of filling in blanks here).

    "No," the closest guy said. "I think we're just going to let this one burn itself out."

    My dream ethics committee processed this as non-normative firefighter behavior, and yet I decided to bite my tongue. Instead, I asked "How'd it start?"

    "Fuckin' video games!" one other guy blurted. "Like always!"

    I really wasn't sure if he meant some sort of negligence secondary to inattention or an aspect of the games themselves, but whatever the case, this crew had decided that the moral offense of he people inside meant that they were sitting this one out. And, as if to perversely justify this bizarre acquittal, a volley of fresh insults were coming from the kids in the blazing house, audible over the oxygen-sucking inferno. Also, a bunch of condoms, rainbow colors and still in their packages. None of them looked more than eleven or twelve years old. All boys, I think. When someone up there yelled "Your mother sucks cocks in HELL!" I knew I was about to wake up because that's straight from The Exorcist and means nothing else to anyone, alive or dead. And then I did.

    If there is anything to be made of these in terms of a common theme, it seems not so much that I have experienced a decline in my own valuation of human life, but that I am perceiving this in others and not quite fretting over it the way a fully conscientious or empathic person would. On the other hand, maybe they were just funny-macabre dreams. At least I know my friend can drive a stick, and had I been driving and the kid been older and on a scooter, it might have even been a premonition. My latest people to hate on is indiscriminate scooter-riders (some of them the newfangled rentable kind, the rest old kiddie clunkers) and the parents of kids who leave those silver scooters that should have been banned by the FTC upon their release in the 1990s in the middle of the goddamn road overnight, or on a sidewalk that leads into a public park. You people make it hard to feel regretful about the nocturnal carnage my acetylcholine neurons often wreak on your ethereal selves.
  • I never thought that I, or for that matter civilization, would last long enough to see a University of New Hampshire graduate record the country's all-time fastest finish in a sporting event not contested on snow or ice. I would also bet my life that Elinor Purrier is clean, and even if you remind me that I conspicuously assign little value to that life, you still have to accept the gravity of the clichéd sentiment. Although no one is under any obligation to give my personal convictions and their underpinnings any weight, I find it striking that someone as jaundiced as I am can even have such a stance without engaging in obvious forms of special pleading or cognitive compartmentalization.

    I didn't attend UNH, but my mother did (graduating with top honors as a commuter student at age 39, a rare status in pre-Internet 1987), and it would be hard for me to not have a number of runner-friend types who spent four or more years in Durham. Also, I have (mixed) memories of racing there. Until the winter of 1987-1988, my senior year, UNH had a dismal 160-meter (or maybe even 176-yard) concrete indoor track with a dirt infield, and anyone breathing through a white handkerchief over the course of three or four hours in that dungeon would have a very filthy piece of cloth to wave around on the 35-mile bus ride home. That was better than their outdoor track, which was retired and had weeds growing through the asphalt. They had to have home meets at Spaulding High School a town away back then, and Spaulding's track was terrible in its own right. This was at D-1 school, and the one I went to was arguably much worse from a track point of view (a rant for a later day)

    When I was at Concord High, I only ran two seasons of indoor track. As a freshman it didn't occur to me, probably because I was still at Rundlett Junior High School and not fully oriented to varsity sports despite having just run cross-country and focusing on trying to run under five minutes for the mile that spring; as a sophomore I had a broken foot, not from running but from a weird backyard basketball injury complicated by a sexual escapade involving a great deal of scopolamine, a long blackout, and an anus that felt as if a blowtorch had been applied to it (this was never ruled out). I wish now that this already modest total of indoor track campaigns had instead been zero, which of course follows logically from often hating having become a runner in the first place, but unfortunately, I made a lot of poor decisions as a teenager and some of them are still with me today. My senior year, the facility was being renovated, so all of the indoor track meets that winter were held indoor track in the state at the time, the 220-yard eyesore inside Leverone Field House at Dartmouth College. After they finished up the renovation of the UNH track, the number of high schools that boasted indoor track teams kept increasing and they used both Leverone and UNH. Now they also have meets at Plymouth State and....why the fuck am I even saying this, in a bullet point no less?

    Since Purrier is from Vermont, a familiar phenomenon is emerging; Which of the two small, non-winter-athlete-starved states should get to claim Purrier in her current form as its own?
  • Amazon Prime trucks rumbling through my neighborhood have rapidly come to account for about half of the non-scooter traffic in my neighborhood, and because I'm outside a lot and at various times of day, I can't help but notice the households that seem to be ordering individual boxes of Kleenex or maybe a single tube of chapstick at a time. It seems like we could all be this lazy in a more environmentally sensitive way, although my own concerns are strictly selfish -- and why not? Everyone else in Boulder seems to believe that he or she is entitled to full control of whatever quarter-acre-sized circle he or she happens to be occupying, although that description applies mainly to those under thirty.

  • Not everything in my world consists of unwanted impressions or negative conclusions; those just seem more interesting to write about. I have little time for coaching these days, but the few people I have worked with in recent years have proven to be gems. I did not see this coming:

  • Sometime last year, I noticed that Alison Wade, who used to operate and Mensracing,com under the banner of New York Road Runners (a, two decades ago) before the NYRR discontinued those sites, and in so doing gave me some of my most enjoyable work in the nonworld of running journalism, had restarted this project in a somewhat different form. Only recently did I see that Sarah Lorge Butler, who is exactly the kind of person anyone should want high on the ladder of any legitimate running media outlet, gently scolded The New York Times for publishing Lindsay Crouse's "Forget facts, it's time to SCREAM!" production about Mary Cain's dismal experience with a comprehensively wretched coach. I will salt this by adding that Crouse's regularly featured column is an ongoing exercise in undisguised hackery and is not offered in the good-faith service of women's athletics.
  • I peed on my dog's head again, making this probably the fifth or sixth time since I brought her some. Later that day, she topped this by curling into a ball next to me and farting in both of our faces simultaneously. The reason for the first incident was the same as the other times -- we were running and I had found a place sufficiently concealed to do my business. (Not that it matters, but I'm still getting in 45 to 65 minutes a day. When the weather improves I'll bump it back to an hour.) Sometimes the urgency of this -- I drink a lot of coffee and water and I'm, like, 50 -- combined with Rosie's proclivity for making sudden creekside moves produces the aforementioned result. As usual I only mention this because I'm sure I'm not the only one who has done this, though I hope I'm the only male.
  • Nico Young will break 8:30.00 for the 3200 meters this spring and he may not be the only U.S. high-schooler who does, although I expect to see Cole Sprout closer to 8:35.00. Sprout will probably not even be the most celebrated high-school distance runner in Colorado this spring and he certainly won't be the best within a dozen or so miles after Cruz Culpepper's two near-missed at indoor sub-four miles this winter.

    I kind of wish I knew someone with deep knowledge of both Colorado high-school cross country (and the dynamics of altitude-to-sea-level interconversions) and Derryfield Park's cross-country layout, because I would love to discuss the unknowable result .
    of a hypothetical race between Sprout and Young there. Young might be the best American high-school distance runner ever, better than Drew Hunter or even Alan Webb, by the time he finishes. Young and Sprout are possessed, fearless and smart runners and on a dry day both could run under 14:45 at Derryfield. The only argument against this is the argument that neither can run under 14:00 for 5,000 meters on a track. Young just ran the equivalent of a ~13:45 in his 3,000 meters at Millrose and Sprout, while having seemingly conceded a small but definite edge to his rival, is nowhere near 15 seconds behind Young over 5K when he's on.

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