Saturday, August 23, 2008


I was leaving work early yesterday to pick up my younger son for a basketball game at 5pm and i had the radio tuned to local station 94.9. The DJ was doing a bit they do every afternoon called the "Dog Dare", which is basically a song request. The DJ was reading this particular request, which went something like this: "My son Brandon is playing his first professional gig tonight at SOMA with his band, The Demeanors". It was a request from Brandon's dad Rich (Brandon is the Demeanor's excellent drummer). It was pretty cool. The DJ mentioned the band and the show three times, i think.

The show itself was really, really good. I was so impressed. I've heard them play five shows now, but this was far and away the best. Part of it i'm sure was just the superior sound quality of the venue, but i also think that the larger crowd gave the whole thing a higher energy. Although the side stage at SOMA is not a huge space, there were at least 200 people in the crowd and most of them were in to the music.

It was a bit bittersweet for the band though, since this was probably the last show for their trumpet player Jacob. His parents, who are Mormon, decided that the rock-n-roll lifestyle is not in his best interest. I understand their concerns, but he obviously derives great joy from the music, and i can't imagine how hard it must be for them to take it away from him. I of course worry about what Nathan is exposed to, but since he's a straight-A student who keeps up with cello, piano, and cross country i figure i have to give him the benefit of the doubt. In fact, every kid in the band is a wonderful individual, and the type of music is energetic and joyful rather than nihilistic and negative.

Ironically, this was also my first show at SOMA. As an all-ages venue, there haven't been many shows over the years that have been enticing enough to overcome the essential creepiness of being as old as the parents of most fans. I did feel pretty creepy last night-- i figure most of the kids assumed i was a narc-- but there were enough lingering parents around that i wasn't the only creepy dude.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


TransRockies starts in five days, so at this point there's not much that can be done training-wise. I'm trying to stay virus-free and injury-free, and i'm trying to eat as well (and as much) as possible. I still feel under-trained, but i'm relying on the past five years of regular running and the experience of several marathons and ultras. The altitude is still my biggest concern. I know what it's like to run long distances every day, and i know what to expect in terms of terrain and weather, but the altitude over an entire week is a huge unknown. I'm hoping that the scenery makes up for the suffering.

I was watching the women's Olympic marathon when Deena Kastor, one of my running heroes, had to drop out with a broken foot only 3 miles in. It's hard to imagine how frustrating it must be to train so hard and so long for a particular goal and then to not even have a chance of competing at the end. I've been thinking about what i would do if an injury prevented me from running at TransRockies. In principle, i can walk the whole bloody thing-- there are worse things than a week-long hike through the Rockies. I have to concede though that i'd be disappointed if i could not run the entire distance.

Mr. P and i have a tentative goal of finishing in under 20 hours total. That won't be competitive in our division, but it's respectable. That goal however must be secondary to finishing, surviving, not getting eaten by a bear, etc. I'm more excited for this race than i've been since my first marathon, but like any first-in-category race, it'll probably be more of a learning experience than a competition.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Brothers, The Brothers

One of my favorite novels is Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. It's one of the few books i've read multiple times, and back in my college days i read portions of it in the original Russian. I love Russian literature in general, and over the years I’ve read everything from Lermontov to Tolstoy to Bulgakov. But for some reason, I never read The Brothers Karamazov. I’m not sure why—maybe it’s because they made a movie out of it that had William Shatner playing one of the brothers.

Despite that I had high expectations for the book, and I really wanted to love it the way I love Crime and Punishment. When I started to read it a couple of months ago, I assumed that I’d eventually be drawn into it, even if the beginning was a bit slow. In theory, this is exactly the sort of book I like: deep, philosophical themes couched in a murder mystery/courtroom drama. But, Jesus, the most interesting thing that happens in the first 300 pages is the death of a monk ('cause he's really old -- no mystery here).

It's an incredibly complex novel. The structure, the characters, and the subject matter all serve to explore themes of faith vs. rationalism and what is morally permitted if there is no God. And of course, there are the Freudian overtones in the story of a son killing his father over a woman. The three (or four) brothers cover a spectrum of different personalities and represent the paths you can take in life and the dilemma in the fact that you can't choose all of the paths. But i just didn't feel it, like with Crime and Punishment.

Crime and Punishment is not a happy book. In fact, it's a bit oppressive at times. But what always struck me about the book is that you feel this oppressiveness in the writing, you feel Raskolnikov's fear and guilt. I never really felt sympathetic at all with the characters in The Brothers Karamazov. It may be that i read it too late in life-- all of the brothers are still young men and it's hard for me to relate to any of them. If there's a character in the book to whom i most closely correspond it would be the father, Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, who is an ... um ... i forget the Russian word for "asshole".

Crime and Punishment also works better as a crime story. Even though you know the murderer from the outset, there's a fascination in the way the detective in the story hounds Raskolnikov (this is the basis for the television show Columbo). In The Brothers Karamazov you know that the accused is not the murderer, and furthermore the actual murderer is revealed before the trial starts. There is "drama" in the trial, but no real suspense. It must have been incredibly frustrating to the people reading it in the original serialization.

Like all Russian realism, everything in the book is supposed to be significant, but i'm still scratching my head over certain characters, like Ilyusha, a boy who is at first tormented by his peers and then becomes their friend just in time to die. I'm still not sure about the significance of the Elder Zosima (the aforementioned dead monk) either. His death involves one of the strangest episodes in the book. Although i suppose it's yet another illustration of the boundaries of faith, it's really surreal. The one thing that this book has over Crime and Punishment is a sense of humor. However, it's not the sort of humor that will have you laughing out loud. It comes out more in absurd contrasts or gentle pokes at a character's foibles.

I regret that i no longer have the ability to read the book in Russian. Although i read what seems to be regarded as the best current English translation, the language still didn't ring true. From what i understand Dostoevsky's prose in this book is a bit unorthodox to begin with, so a translation is bound to seem odd no matter how skillful.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Demeanors @ SOMA, August 22

The kid's band is opening a show at SOMA on the 22nd. Ironically, he didn't know who that is on the poster.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

TransRockies Training

This was a tough week. I did several trail runs, and including last weekend i've done 90 miles in the last 9 days, including over 40 in the last 3. This morning was my first run over 3 hours since the New York marathon, but this was much harder given that a large portion of that time was climbing to the top of Mt. Woodson from the Lake Poway side. I'm a bit fried, but i'm still not sure i'm fit enough for TransRockies. We'll finish, but i'm dreading Day 4, when we'll be doing our second consecutive 20+ mile run. Day 6 is also over 20, but there we have the promise of relief at the end. I'd feel much better if i get could get in a couple of 70 mile weeks, but i think that i need to taper for these last 2 weeks.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Monday, August 04, 2008

San Jacinto

This weekend Mr. P (my friend and TransRockies teammate) came to San Diego to do some training. He flew in on Friday night, then on Saturday morning we ran down the Silver Strand-- the sliver of man-made land between Coronado Island and Imperial Beach. We did about 16 miles, but it was nice and flat. Afterward, i went to my weekly kung fu lesson and Mr. P drove up to Joshua Tree to do some bouldering.

Our real intent for the weekend was to run up Mt. San Jacinto from the Mountain Station at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It's only an 11 mile round-trip, but it's single track trail and most importantly it's at a decent altitude (the peak of San Jacinto is a bit over 10000 feet). This was meant to be more psychological preparation for the Rockies since one run at altitude wouldn't affect our fitness much.

Turns out it was pretty hard. Although i'd backpacked the trail in the past, i'd forgotten how technical it is. Lots of rock-hopping and step-ups, not to mention tree roots that i tripped over about every 10 yards. The altitude did affect us, especially on the stair-step sections. I got the same dizzy sensation i get after getting choked in submission grappling. It took us a sobering 1:15 to do the 5.5 mile up to the top (about 13:40 pace). The downhill trip was a touch faster at 55 minutes, but not much easier on the legs. We did stop briefly at the top to drink some water and take some goofy cell-phone pics:

Mr P. pretending to be exhausted

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

It was a revealing run, but i think it accomplished its purpose. Some of our days in the Rockies will be about twice this run, and we'll have to get up and do it again the next day. I think this gave us a good idea how hard we can afford to run and how easy we'll have to take it after each run to be ready for the next one. I think most of the trail that we run in the Rockies will be slightly less brutal, but i think i'll need to run some stairs or something over the next few weeks.

I managed about 52 miles this week, but i still feel horribly under-trained for TransRockies. I'm probably going to have to do one more hard week before tapering.