Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas Redux

I spent the Christmas holiday in Phoenix this year, at my mother-in-law's house. The weather was unusually warm, even for Phoenix, with highs near 80. We drove to Phoenix on Friday morning (the 23rd) and drove back yesterday (the 27th).

It was a nice break. I ran, a lot. I did runs of 10, 20, 5, and 8 miles, all at around marathon pace (about 7.20 miles). It felt really good, although i have to factor in that it was on very flat terrain compared to what i'm used to. I was especially happy with getting in 20 miles at race pace, especially the day after a moderately hard 10 miles. I also managed to knock off another couple-hundred pages of Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, from which i'd taken a break after the invasion of Poland. Also went to see King Kong, which i found slightly disappointing. It's too long, and despite vastly better effects and environments it lacks some of the mystery of the original (the Jeff Bridges version, as Bill Simmons would say, never happened).

On Monday i drove the marathon route. It's definitely flat, though not especially attractive. It's a point-to-point route that starts near downtown and ends up at Sun Devil stadium in Tempe. I think there must be some sort of marathon route planning guide that dictates miles 22-24 must go through an industrial park. Never fails.

This was probably the most unusual Christmas i've had since 1996, when i was in the Philippines. We got up and opened presents as usual, but then i went out and ran 20 miles. For Christmas dinner we went to my sister-in-law's house, and though we had traditional Christmas fare, we also sat in her yard drinking sangria in the 70+ degree weather. It was lovely, but not exactly Irving Berlin. My boys are understandably (i think) a bit puzzled by Christmas, since the standard Christmas imagery (snow, sleigh-rides, caroling, chestnuts roating on open fires, jack frost, etc.) is mostly foreign to them. Though they've been sufficiently indoctrinated in the religious significance of the season, it's mostly about the loot for them. I hope that they have some special memories of Christmas when they grow up, but it's hard to imagine that it'll have the same resonance for them that it had for me.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Or as i like to think of it, twenty-one twice. I'm not quite sure if that's old yet.

I did my annual birthday bike ride today. I didn't want to affect my marathon training too much so i did a relatively low-key ride of about 60 miles. I went over to the coast via the Highway 56 bike path, went up the Torrey Pines hill into La Jolla, and then i climbed up Mount Soledad. I went up Soledad on Via Capri, which as it turns out is way steep. In fact, i don't think i've ever climbed anything that was so consistently steep. At several points i wasn't sure if i could keep moving forward, even though i was in the lowest gear and standing on the pedals. Must be over 10% grade.

I did the ride solo again this year. All of my biking friends were either out of town or couldn't get a Thursday off work. I haven't ridden alone for a while, so it was kind of nice. Although it's a little lonely at times, you don't have to worry about matching anyone else's pace or following a certain route.

I'm not certain which year i started this tradition, but i think this might have been my 14th year. I think that Dec. 1991 was my first ride, because i was still working at the supercomputer center in San Diego. I think that the 2nd year i wasn't at the center anymore, and i left there in April of 1992. The only year i missed was 1996, because i was in the Philippines.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

O'Brian Quote

I've mentioned here before my fondness for the late Patrick O'Brian's sea-faring novels. I came across this quote in the first of the Aubrey/Maturin series (Master and Commander). I think it should be etched on the inside of the eyelids of every commentator on Fox news:

...patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either 'my country, right or wrong', which is infamous, or 'my country is always right', which is imbecile.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


This morning i got up at 4am, drove to Coronado Island (yes, you can drive to an island), and ran 20 miles, from Tidelands park down the Silver Strand and back. It was dark for the first half of the run, but for some strange reason i enjoyed that. My craving for solitude has reached such a drastic point that i not only prefer being alone, i prefer being invisible.

I've been running so much lately (for me) that i've apparently achieved some sort of metabolic transformation where i literally cannot get enough to eat. I am constantly hungry. I read in book recently that birds go through a phase prior to migration called hyperphagia, which as you can guess just means that they eat a lot more than normal. I figure i'm eating 3500-4000 calories/day and yet i'm never really full. I only stop eating out of a vague sense of embarrasment. I can't really say that i'm eating well. Though i try to get a fair amount of fruits, vegetables, and protein; i also get a fair amount of peanut M+Ms and pop tarts (i really like the non-frosted strawberry poptarts).

This was another 30 mile weekend. I did 10 yesterday between games at my boys All-Star soccer tournament. My legs feel better than i would expect. The 20-milers used to really wipe me out, but now they're fairly routine. I'm not sure if this is simply a matter of better conditioning, or if there's some adjustment that your musculo-skeletal system takes years to make.