Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is this terrorism?

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab didn't succeed in blowing up an airliner. 
He was caught, and if he is guilty, he'll go behind bars.
Meanwhile, the rest of us millions are now screwed even more when we go to the airport.
Already the song and dance with security is a pain in the ass. Remove your shoes. Get scanned 20 times. When I went to Vegas a couple weeks ago, I had to undergo what was, in effect, an interrogation, answering questions about why I was there, what I blogged about, what my complete agenda was, all while a line of passengers rolled their eyes and shoved my laptop out of the way, nearly breaking it, so they could grab their bags.
I suppose these measures are necessary, though they didn't seem that effective, did they? Abdulmutallah still got enough explosives on the plane to do some serious damage, if not make it crash, though all he managed to do was light a few firecrackers and burn a hand or two.
Thanks, man. Now we can't leave our seats during our flights, get anything from the overhead bins or carry any pillows or blankets on board. We're closer than ever to being treated like cows heading for slaughter. Though at least we get peanuts.
As I said, I seem to understand the need for such measures, and yet, well, the last two "attacks" on airplanes that seem to have affected security the most came from lonely, disturbed guys acting alone. When I heard about this attack, my first thought was there was no way this was planned by Al-Qaeda. It seemed too, well, unprofessional. I hate to put it that way but that was my first thought. 
After 9/11, a well-conceived, horrific attack that took years to plan, security measures tightened, and I was all for it. They were looking at bags more, enacting rules that quite frankly should have been enacted years ago (no knives in carry-on bags) and being more careful about liquids on a plane.
But since then, a guy tries to blow up a plane with a poorly made shoe bomb, and now we're not only taking our shoes off but dealing with antsy security officers. 
And now this. Now even stricter standards, and we're spending far more time in airports than we will on the plane itself, and no one trusts anyone, and everyone's a suspect, and traveling to see our loved ones almost really isn't worth it any longer.
I don't think, really, that either one was working for Al-Qaeda, but maybe they should sign those guys up.
Those nutbags may not have succeeded in their goals, whatever they were, but I can't help but think they're winning.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Inglorious bastards

I risk telling you this because you will most likely make fun of me. 
But I'm afraid of the dark. 
More specifically, things that go bump in the night.
Like ghosts and demons.
OK, OK, I'll give you time to stop laughing.
Look, it's a phobia. That's how I excuse myself. Yes, I know how stupid it is. Yes, it's completely illogical to hear the house squeak at 3:30 a.m. and believe that some shadowy horned thing is disrupting your sleep. Yes, I know. Hey, stop laughing!
But phobias are not logical. Not at all. Kate is deathly afraid of snakes. Like Indiana Jones afraid. Only worse. She's refused to go into the reptile house at the zoo. She won't pick up Jayden's stuffed snake. And it probably doesn't help that her husband LOVES snakes. Seriously. They're my favorite animal. I'd own one if I could, but owning one would mean instant divorce. And she used to think that I liked them just to irritate her, but Mom confirmed that, yes, I read about a dozen snake books as a kid.
It's a phobia. It's not logical.
I saw "Poltergeist" as a kid, and that's still the scariest movie I've ever seen (and I've seen scary). As a kid, I used to yell in my room, "If there's a ghost in there, please communicate my moving the pen I've set on the ground."
I saw "Paranormal Activity" just a month ago, and I thought I was over my little quirk. Oh, no. I saw it more than a month ago, and I'm just now getting over it.
And why am I getting over it?
Well, we returned from a weekend in Winter Park to find our front door open. We generally remember to do things such as close the door before we leave for three days, so we knew something was wrong. And something was wrong. Our plasma TV was gone. Kate's jewelry box was gone.
Kate found our back sliding door open. I had forgotten to lock it or the gate. We even had three days' worth of papers in the yard. Stupid, I know. I'm still kicking myself.
They were thoughtful thieves. They set our ceramic snowmen gently on the floor. They didn't trash the place. They even left $1,000 in cash I had from my Vegas trip in the basement. Suckers! They only took the TV. And Kate's almost worthless jewelry.
How nice of them.
We're hearing from our neighbors that we think they were over there Friday night. And that makes us wonder if it's not someone we knew who knew we were leaving. I'll never post a vacation on Facebook again. That was stupid as well. But could it be a co-worker? A student of Kate's? We'll probably never know. 
The thieves did me one favor. I don't think I'm afraid of the dark any longer. Thoughts of ghosts and demons haven't kept me awake the last couple of nights.
Why would I worry about those when I need to take a hard look at humans?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hello, my old friend

At the end of my week off from running - a week that included all kinds of drinking, staying up hours past my bedtime and lots of Vegas time with 80 of my closest friends - I honestly began to question why it is such a part of my life.

I was relatively pain free. I had more time to do stuff that was, well, fun. Despite a lot of my running friends telling me it would drive me crazy to take so much time off, I honestly didn't miss it.

Still, I had worked too hard to throw it all away because a week off felt good, and I started throwing on my running gear last Tuesday, two days after my Vegas trip, more out of habit than actual desire.

I expected my body to protest a bit more than usual as I started up the same old hill from my driveway and into my tempo-run route, even if I'd be taking it easier than normal. But it was more like a handshake with a buddy, something I didn't have to think about too much, and as I began to breathe hard, the machine started pumping again with only a few hiccups.

Still, that day was not about breathing hard. It was about getting back into a groove, and so I eased off a bit. Whoa, Tiger, I thought to myself (and won't that phrase take on an entirely different meaning now, given the headlines these days?).

In fact, the mechanics were so familiar to me, I found myself thinking about the past weekend, Christmas, a few stories I needed to write at work and, yes, even a couple world affairs, albeit briefly. I thought about poker and whether I really did play well at those live sessions or whether I just got the cards to do so, and how often the cards really can make us believe how well or how poorly we played when the opposite might be true. I solved a sticky point in a story I'm writing for New Year's Day about a family who battled cancer and a car crash in one year. I felt refreshed after the run, and for the first time in more than a week, my mind was clear.

The next day, our running group held its annual Christmas lights run. It's exactly how it sounds: We run around Greeley and look at holiday lighting displays. We got to one of those houses where you wonder if the owner really is a Christmas vampire (which is about the only Vampire plot I can think of that hasn't been covered this year) who doesn't sleep and instead works on his house. He even sets his house to music via a computer program, and we begged a guy to roll down the window so we could hear the music on the radio and watch the lights.

About a dozen of us went on the run, and there was laughing through the snow, as we went o'er the hills and our spirits were bright. Some of my best friends, who I hadn't seen in more than a week, were there with me.

It was wonderful.

Today, on our last day in Winter Park, Colorado, my alarm beeped me awake at 6 a.m., and I snuck out of our condo (where we're staying, it's not OUR condo) for a getaway weekend.

It was a hilly start, and we're kinda high up here (I believe around 9,000 feet), so it was cold and I was breathing hard right away. Yet the best part about going up for two miles is you get to go back down, and after a slow climb, I found myself running free and easy.

The snow crunched under my shoes, smoke seemed to curl from my mouth as I panted and the trees were coated in winter's beauty as the sun rose, spilling pink light over millions of flakes.

I'm a touch tired and sore as I finish this, but running is much more than a way to work my body.

It's a time to reflect, a time to restore relationships and a time to rejoice.

God how I missed it so.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Let it ride - WPBT Trip Report December 2009

3 a.m. hasn't been a particularly good time for me lately. It's either a time when I let the ethos of "Paranormal Activity" continue to haunt me with every creek or groan or our wooden floor downstairs, or it's an opportunity to fret.
The day before the annual WPBT gathering, I was, of course, back to my usual indecisions, two hours before my alarm would go off and I would drive to the airport on frozen asphalt and through a cold that could crack steel. And of course it was my early arrival in Vegas that would cause me such consternation.
Do I rage solo and play in a poker room I haven't played? Or do I call some blogger friends, namely Bad Blood and StB, and see what they were doing?
Really, I hear you saying. This is what you were crunching in your cerebral cortex. You're right, of course. But yes.
I am type A. I actually like this about myself. It is why I'm successful at work: I never, ever miss a deadline. It is why I'm reasonably successful with my friends: I never, ever show up late or forget gatherings. It is why I can train for races, even half marathons: I never, ever blow the chunks of time it requires to do that and raise the wild animals that are our young children and keep the wife reasonably content.
But with the benefits come the issues, and anxiety can be a shadow of mine. 3 a.m. is the price I pay for that. It's though it's my biggest asset at work (besides my, um, creativity), it's also my biggest flaw: The news breaks when it wants, not at 9 a.m. when you've got three hours in your planner to handle it. When an editor approaches me with a story, I'm not always as, um, flexible as I should be. But I am creative!!!111
So planning out every detail of a weekend is not only smart, it's soothing. A place for everything and everything in its place, even the seconds of the day. Ahh.
Of course, one of the main reasons I come to the WPBT - the other is all the wonderful people - is the fact that I can live a weekend completely the opposite of my life back home. I can drink, stay up really late, wake up at 10 a.m., eat bad food, leave my running shoes at home and, most importantly, I can Let It Ride.
If you're truly going to enjoy a WBPT event, you can't plan it out. You really can't. Yes, you can have an agenda, but you also have to understand it may not be followed. It's an ethereal event, and the best moments are in the spur.
I always have a requirement to play in a poker room I haven't played before when I come to Vegas. I like the $1 chip that comes from that. All I have to do is look at the chip in my Man Room downstairs, and that triggers a rush of memories.
Of course, knowing how WBPT events work (you have to grab moments to EAT, let alone play in a poker room that probably won't interest anyone else since I've covered the big ones), I was worried I wouldn't get to that. So do I do that first, or see what the day brings Thursday?
(Yes, this is what Type A people worry about. At least I fret over things I can control, like my weekend, instead of how many women Tiger holed-in-one).
I'm not a "see what the day brings" kind of guy. I prefer to read the directions to the puzzle rather than just dumping the pieces on the floor and going with it.
But, like George in "Seinfeld" discovered, sometimes doing the opposite of what you would normally do can be a wonderful thing. And so I texted StB as soon as I got in my room.
"Hey," I said. "I'm here. Whatcha doing?"
• • •
Thursday after lunch, Stb asked me what I wanted to do. This is always a test. Do I push the poker room, even knowing that there would be plenty of poker that weekend, or do I Let It Ride? I took a deep breath.
"I don't care," I said. "What's going on?"
I was not only relaxing, I was BREAKING plans I had already made with Bad Blood and the G-Vegas crew to meet them at the Venetian poker room to play. But I'd get there. Stb wanted to head to the IP. Pauly and Speaker and Derek and AlCan'tHang were already there. Some guys, and more importantly writers, I truly admire, in other words. Sold!
I headed over to the Venetian buzzed after a couple hours of intoxicating conversation with some truly brilliant scribes. Or maybe it was just the boobies. The first sighting of Vegas itself is like that first hard shot. You have to just let it smack you and then you can shake your head and start to enjoy the buzz.
I've struggled this year online, as I said a couple of posts before (I refuse to link myself, sorry JJOK), but the Venetian gave me exactly the jolt I needed, like a gel in the middle of a half marathon. My table was as soft as my girls' cheeks. I knew exactly where I was almost all of the time and never, ever worried about getting pushed off a hand. I finished up $100 after two hours and realized online is much tougher than I remembered. I also found myself wishing I could play live more.
I think Thursday might be my favorite night of a WPBT gathering. There is a certain, addicting joy from seeing someone you haven't in a year and watching their eyes light up when they recognize you and beckon you over for a hug (even the guys, though that, of course, is mostly shoulder to shoulder, coughcoughcough). And there were SO MANY moments like that Thursday. Really, it's like being a kid at Christmas, only a really, really spoiled kid who gets like five presents to unwrap just from his uncle.
My tree held a small mountain of presents, and unwrapping them slowly, going from person to person, was so delicious.
And then the fun begins, and the alcohol flows and the stories start.
As you all know, I'm a runner, so I was determined to pace myself. A WPBT weekend is a half marathon (I would say a full but I don't know what that's like), a 14er, a backpacking trip, and you can't blow it in the first mile. At least I can't. By the second beer a slow buzz started to creep behind my skull, and I stopped, knowing that I'd be out in an hour if I continued.
Didn't stop me from going to bed at 3:30 a.m. tho. Which, from what I hear, was early.
• • •
Friday I got up at 8:30 a.m. - damn body clock - and ran 10 miles. Hah! Just kidding!!!1111. No, as I was still fully enjoying my week off from running, I jerked around on Facebook and then prepared for the day.
Friday is always a rager. I mean, it's Steel Panther day. That says it all, doesn't it?
It started with a good, long lunch with The Wife. As much as I love everyone at the WPBT, I still get a little edgy in large crowds and find myself preferring the small, sweet company with a few select, treasured friends. Jordan is one, and The Wife is another.
I didn't have dessert. I didn't need to.
I was, however, pleasantly surprised at how often so many others could fit that bill at any given moment. I felt far more comfortable this year than any other, and the reason is they are all friends now and seemed as genuinely happy to see me as I was to see them. Maybe I'm just a wide receiver. I need a third year.
The day sort of melted into traveling back and forth and gazing at all the mind candy until Jordan and I headed to the Hard Rock to play and wait for Pokerati' s 1/2 Pot Limit Omaha/NLHE game. What a wonderful present. Free food, good conversation and Omaha (!) live. It was dead when we got there - which is too bad, it really is a nice room - but our No Limit table eventually filled, and Jordan and I sat down to a bunch of tight players again. Jordan's antics eventually loosened them up, and I finished $50 up after three hours and the Omaha game began.
It was tighter than I thought it would be but a blast. I got involved in one huge hand with Jordan when I held top set and an open-ended straight draw and he flopped the straight. I got it all-in on the turn (which was a mistake, I should have done so on the flop, as CK pointed out) but we ran it twice and we split the pot. I got there on the first and didn't on the second.
And then....Steel Panther. What can I say that would truly capture the genius of that band? I can't. So I won't.
Plans formed out of thin air after the show - I think I was getting the hang of that - and we played 2/4 Limit with a full table of bloggers. As proof that I was fully embracing Let It Ride, the inevitable three-outer suckouts that cost me monster pots didn't even phase me.
Damn you, Doc and Drizz.
• • •
I sensed an early exit was coming in Saturday's blogger tournament. I had too much good fortune last year and finished 6th, and finished strong the year before as well, and sure enough, I was out way early, after only two hours. Eh. I thought so.
The Wife and I headed to the MGM poker room after a bite to eat, and occasionally I would ask her what was going on. There was this, there was that, and she constantly reassured me we could check it out if I wanted.
But I kept finding myself feeling...content. It was really fun, the table was easy and relatively douchebag free, and the lady sitting on my right was a good player and friendly. I could tell exactly where her narcolepsy uppers were in her bloodstream by the way she either chattered my cortex off or sat silently like a wax museum display. People stopped by. I told myself I should probably go back to the IP and take full advantage of the people I rarely get to see, but I finally decided that was not Letting It Ride. That was me being a planner.
I was having fun watching The Wife through her first 1-2 NL game, texting Doc to give him shit for sitting across from her and playing good poker. Plus I was winning again, and that always helps. Two big hands - my AK versus an older lady's KK dressed in a red sweatshirt with a Royal Flush embroidered on the left breast (she glared at me three hours later when she got KK again, but my Ace didn't hit that time) and my set of 6s against another set and two-pair - won me $500.
I went to bed Saturday night at 3 a.m. and set my alarm for 8:30 a.m.
• • •
I said my good-byes Sunday at the extremely hollerballa sports lounge CJ/Luckbox set up and went back to the airport to reflect and type this out. I wanted to finish this now because when I get home, it would be all kids, all the time (something I was looking forward to this time, I miss my little gals and the force that is my 4-year-old).
And so here I am.
It might be a bit of an eye-roller to call these trips life-changing. Really, I'm leaving my family and going to Vegas to see a bunch of gambling, drinking, hard-living degenerates. That's a bit irresponsible and maybe even childish.
But nah. Because not only are they insanely fun, I always learn so much about myself on these trips. And I always learn that perhaps a change or two is in order.
In 2007, my first time out, I learned to try new things, even doing something as crazy as flying to Vegas to meet a bunch of people I had only talked to online a few times. I knew them by their blogs, and that was it. Since then I've tried trail runs, races in the dirt and done things I would not have done before that trip.
In 2008, I learned to talk to anyone, not just those I believe will talk to me or, on the flip side, I believed I should talk to. Since then I've formed solid friendships with people in Colorado that I did not, and would not, have before that trip. I've even got what I consider a crew now, a group of people who meet every week to run for a couple hours, something I'll lean on even more starting in January (and more on that in a future post).
This year? Well, I've learned that my Type A personality is OK. It's served me well. But occasionally, it needs to be put to bed.
When you plan out every hour of your life, you're blocking and whacking away the little opportunities and moments that might otherwise slip through those creases. And those little opportunities and moments form some pretty damn good memories, and it's those memories that get me through traffic, or a high-decible tantrum, or the last mile of a tough race when I all I want to do is collapse.
Sometimes you just need to Let It Ride. And Monday, when my life returns to normal, I'll get up early, maybe get back on my running plan, and then I'll shower, smile and, after my 10 a.m. interview in my planner, go back and write the story.
And then I'll see what the day brings.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ah, the good 'ole days

Moments in 60s Rankin/Bass claymation specials that probably wouldn't fly today (we are currently watching them with our little ones, who love them):

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Narrator: "Well, they were very sad at the loss of their friend, but they knew the best thing would be to get the women back to Christmas town."

Santa Claus is Comin' To Town - Santa (he's not really even Santa yet, just some stranger who wants to give cute little children toys): "If you sit on my lap today, a kiss a toy is the price you'll pay." (They even show scenes where he looks to the sky in apparent ecstasy when the kids kiss him). 

Frosty the Snowman - Is that girl wearing any pants at all in the dead of winter?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Why I play

Many times this year, I have questioned why I play poker.
A bad streak started with the coming of the new year and, save for one or two good months, has hammered away at me throughout 2009. When I finally posted a great month in September and a decent month in October, I thought it was over - I mean, really, I've suffered enough - but November and now December crushed any of those hopes. Not even a healthy chunk I got from my e-mail being selected to win 500,000 euros helped.
I play at fairly low stakes and only a few hours a week, so it's not like my bankroll is in any danger of disappearing. In fact, I've still lost less than four figures this year. I know some players who lose that much in a day. But after posting wins into the thousands every year since 2006, it's hard not to look at all the time I've spent playing this year as a wasted opportunity. It's not just the losses. It's the money I should be making per hour that isn't there. At least in my mind.
I won't lie. The losses have hurt. They've drained most of the joy I had for a game I truly loved. Most of the time, most sessions are winning ones, or at least break-even, until one or two inevitable hands ruin it for me. That's how most sessions go, I realize, but the countless times it's happened to me this year, especially recently, make me wonder about the point of this game. For instance, if I spent weeks training for an event, and then, on my last run before the race, I got hurt, I'd have a hard time not mourning all that training time. And if this happened over and over and over, I'd probably give up running.
I've tried not to obsess over all the bad beats, the multitudes of draws my opponents have hit against me this year or the lack of draws or hands I've hit this year. That does me no good. Bad luck and bad beats are a part of poker, and it's your job as a player to overcome them.
Sometimes, though, it's hard. Opponents, for instance, have flopped sets against my A-A the last seven times I've played them. I've either stacked off, or when I've correctly folded them, my opponents have flashed their sets to me.
And two nights ago was a perfect example of the way this year's gone. I hadn't flopped a set in a week. 0-60, which was my longest streak ever. I played 4-4 to a single raise and finally hit on a board of 8-4-K. I sarcastically grabbed my heart. When my opponent shoved on me, I happily called. My opponent showed 8-8.
I also realize that I'm not playing especially well. I've always played too tight, and that was fine three years ago, when opponents continued to make mistakes and all I had to do was wait for them. Now they're three-betting at .10/.25 pre-flop, and I still haven't found a way to completely deal with it. Sometimes I push back too hard, other times I play way too many hands to appear unpredictable, and other times I fold way too much because I still lack the indifference you need to have toward money to be a better player.
So why do I continue to play? Well, the answer came Friday night. I haven't lost touch with my two best friends in Greeley, but I haven't seen them nearly as much as I would like lately. 
Friday we played poker. We all enjoy the game. I suffered a couple horrible suckouts, of course, but after some initial bitching, I laughed them off. Mostly we drank beer and ate queso and caught up. 
Poker allows good friends to catch up. That's worth the money it might cost me if this streak continues.
I look forward to catching up with more starting Thursday.
See you in Vegas.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Santa for sale

My Thanksgiving probably went as yours did, meaning you ate some, ignored Black Friday and went to the city aquarium, ate some more, spent a couple days at the in-laws, then went home and spent six hours putting up Christmas decorations.
And told by Santa to put away the camera.
Well, that's what we did. It was a pretty standard holiday for parents with twins and a 4-year-old, which means nothing is really standard. But it was peaceful, sorta, until Kate decided we needed to go visit Santa at the mall during the Kansas-Missouri game. I'll fight battles if I have to - that's why I have somewhat of a running and mountain climbing half-life - but I knew I wasn't going to win that one, so I set the TV (thanks DVR!) and tromped off to the mall. 
This would be the first time my kids would get to see Santa, so I did what any respectable parent would do and brought a video camera. I had the camera out until the nice, older, bitter lady, the kind with stringy long hair, skin like a raisin's and a three-packs-a-day voice, told me to put it away.
"They're not allowing cameras at all this year," she said.
I didn't say much, but it pissed me off. They are stealing a childhood memory, and why?
• Santa's a popular dude and could be tired of all the paparazzi.
• Santa is wary of random shots of him with his fly down or fondling children showing up on the TMZ blog.
• Homeland security. That seems to be a good excuse for any random tromping of freedoms.
• Child exploitation.
• Older, bitter lady worried about random shots showing up on the Playboy site. Or PeopleofWalmart.com.
All of these would be acceptable reasons, but really, the real reason is much plainer.  They don't want you recording your own children on video or film because they want to do it instead and charge you $39.99 for the prints.
Now I don't mind the moxie required for such a stunt - I almost admire it - and also understand the need to make a buck, any kind of buck, in this economy. But it disappointed me. I thought the mall was hosting Santa because it was a nice thing to do, maybe give the kids a chance to see God (or as close as you can get this holiday season besides, you know, Jesus) and spread a little holiday cheer.
Gestures just don't really exist anymore.
Later, after dropping our fair share of money on crappy food and some mechanical rides, which is what the mall had in mind all along, I looked at the tape I was able to record without them knowing (Fight The Power!) and sighed. But the kids still enjoy Santa. They didn't know he was for a price.
They've still got a good, sanitized version of him in their heads. The non-corporate kind.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009


So I'm eating my soup last Saturday. It's not a hall-of-fame lunch, but it is vegetable, and it is Chunky, a good brand, and I'm hungry after a 10-mile run. Most of all, it is quiet. Quiet, in our house, is a luxury on the same level of hot tubs, Japanese steakhouses or cars that cost more than 10 years of my salary (and no, smart ass, that is not a Ford Taurus. A Honda Accord? Maybe).
I hear the girls thumping around upstairs. Now Kate is gone with Jayden to the store, so I can't do what I normally do, which is to yell at her to go get them (ha, just kidding, honeypie). I look at the clock. It's 1:15 p.m. This inspires some profanity from me. Now granted most everything the kids do these days inspires that, but in this case, 1:15 p.m. sucks, cause that means they haven't even napped a half hour.
Naps are for them, but mostly they're for parents, and not only so you're not dealing with little Linda Blairs by that afternoon, but for an hour or two when you're not being hounded for juice or snacks or TV or saying things like OMGCRIPESWILLYOUPLEASESTOPJUMPINGONTHECOUCHIVETOLDYOUTHAT50TIMES.
So, when that's taken away from you, well, that sucks. So I made the decision NOT to let that be taken away from me. As long as the girls aren't screaming, I would enjoy my soup in peace.
I would, of course, regret that decision.
(This is a literary device we call "foreshadowing." It means something bad is about to happen. Very bad. Historically bad. If you want to you can skip down to that part now. Ready? Here it comes).
I finished my soup - yummy - and went upstairs to see what all the noise was about. Unfortunately I smelled something bad before I even opened the door. This is never a good sign when you're a parent of three kids under 5. When I did, in fact, open the door, I didn't see the girls. Instead, I saw hell!!!!1111
(No really. I know that sounds cheesy but read on).
There was poop.
It really looked like all the toddlers in our city decided to dump the contents of their diapers on the carpet. I quickly closed the door, took three quick breaths, and starting calling the girls, hoping that a demon didn't cast a spell that turned them into poop. Sorta. At this point maybe that wouldn't be so bad.
When I did find them walking down the stairs - how the hell did they get by me? - I glanced down at Allie's hands and saw brown. I knew what it was, but in the state of shock, my mind sort of hoped that they were playing with Play-Doh. It wasn't Play Doh.
"OK, Ok, ok," I said. "It's going to be OK."
In the tub with you both.
"Um, Kate," I said as she brought in groceries. "I'll take the girls if you take the room."
"What?" she said.
"Oh, just wait," I said.
After washing off both of the girls while fighting a strong urge to hurl my soup into the tub, I managed to get them both clean and smelling like apples and not the death that surrounded them.
Jayden, who once puked at one of the girl's diapers, came upstairs despite my warning, looked in their room, said, "ew" and dashed downstairs. 
Yeah, I know, buddy.
So Sunday, as I put diapers on the girls for their nap again, I explained to them that IF they did poop to yell "Daaaaaaaaady" and I would come clean them up before they took care of it themselves.
I turned out the light.
Five minutes later, I heard "Daaaaaaaady," and tore a hole in the time-space continuum, bowling over the dog and almost breaking four bones along the way. I rushed upstairs, breathing hard, and opened the door.
They were both in their beds.
"Ha ha, he he he," Andie said and looked at me, grinning.
NOT funny, girls. Not funny.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Questions raised by hair metal songs

• If you're already hot and sticky sweet, do you really want someone to pour some sugar on you? Isn't that ENOUGH sugar already, man? Do you have a problem with your sweet tooth or something?
• If you're man is working hard, I think he's worth a LOT more than a "Deuce," which to me means something that ain't exactly a reward, if you get my drift.
• How do you get "Naughty Naughty" as opposed to just naughty? And, no, I don't think "down and dirty" is enough of an answer.
• If a guy whines like a toddler for you to "Wait" throughout the song, are you really gonna be attracted to him at the end?
• How do you live on the edge of a broken heart? Did you get a bad note between sixth and seventh hour, but you don't know if you're actually broken up until the bell rings?
• If a girl tells you "she's only 17," isn't that a sign you should probably move on?
• If your heart needs to be kickstarted, shouldn't you be, like, dead?
• Can a girl have a love machine?
• If you're shouting it, isn't it already out loud?
• What exactly are they burning up there in Heaven for it be on fire? Aren't there just like a bunch of clouds and stuff?
• Do you REALLY need bad medicine? I prefer the good kind.
• What exactly is "motorin'?"
• How effective would shouting at the devil really be? I mean, it's the DEVIL. Can't he just spear you with his pitchfork or take your soul or something?
• If you really wanna rock, can't you just, you know, do it?
• Where, exactly, should I jump? Do you mean in place?
• When he said I really wanted to lay it down, was he trash talking in a poker match?

Can you name all these songs and the artists?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Flimsy final table

If this was a final table, it was made with rickety metal legs, a thin coat of astroturf and gaudy markings showing you where the cards should be placed.
Granted, the Main Event of the WSOP is, ultimately, like any other tournament, and so you're going to have a mix. You're going to have the luckboxes and the pros, the skill players and the ones who give an "aw, shucks" when they outdraw yet again, the bad calls and the fantastic bluffs.
But that's not what I saw Tuesday.
I just saw horrible poker.
That could have been ESPN's coverage. In fairness, it's nearly impossible to whittle down that much poker to two+ hours with the understanding that you have to show the bustouts. But I'm going to judge this final table by what ESPN shows us, as that's what the general public will watch. They won't go to PokerNews or PokerWorks or the countless other poker sites to follow every hand. That's what we do.
The whole November Nine was made for the average television viewer in an effort to make it more of a sporting event. It worked last year. Ratings were up. I think I still hope they do it every year. I like the final table being a spectacle. 
But not if that's the poker we'll see.
The final table, at least what ESPN showed, did nothing to showcase poker as a skill game. The massive chip leader, Mr. Moon, played like he was in outer space. I don't think I've seen that horrible a performance at a final table. This is our biggest event of the year, and the guy who had most of the chips looked to the average viewer like he was a lucky logger and nothing else.
Now granted, I didn't see the heads up match, mainly because my DVR thought the show was only two hours long (and I wonder how many other viewers had that trouble), and he supposedly redeemed himself there. But Moon seemed like a country boy who got lucky, not a skilled poker player.
And how many times did Cada, our champion make reckless, foolish pushes, only to suck out with a two-outer? This is supposedly the best player in the world, the one who beat all the others, including the Man, Phil Ivey? I can't imagine what the average viewer, one who really doesn't have much understanding of how poker tournaments work, thinks.
It worries me. We want average viewers to watch this show. Again, that's why the November Nine was created, to put poker more into the mainstream. And then we bill the winner of this tournament as the World Champion. The average viewer, therefore, must think these are the best players in the world. That's what I think when I see the Yankees celebrating.
I saw all-in calls with mediocre hands like K-Q, no regard for stack sizes, gutless folds, even when the story made no sense, stupid, all-in bluffs and suckouts galore. In fact I can't think of a time when the best hand held up at a crucial moment. 
I would imagine the average television viewer probably can't either. And while we carp about how poker really is a skill game, seriously, no really it is, and hope that they overturn the stupid federal law that says it's gambling, I have to wonder what the everyman thinks.
Because if I'm everyman, after seeing the final table, I'm really wondering what's so hard about this supposed skill game, wondering why people scream about some law that says it is, and scraping together $10,000 through roulette, blackjack and craps, all so I can get my gamble on next year and hit it big, baby, just one time.

Edit: Oh, the heads up match is TONIGHT? Sweet. OK. Maybe that will help. :)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Race retch

There aren't many true adages that exist in running, much like there aren't many in poker, either. 
But there is one: You never know how you're going to feel until you start running.
Twice I've felt like total crap, once with a sinus infection, once with a horrible cold, both times bad enough to leave me wimpering like a kitten. Both times I PRd in races, the first in a 10K, when I broke 47 minutes for the first time, and the second this spring, in a half marathon.
Saturday was, unfortunately, quite the opposite.
I felt great as I lined up for my last half marathon of the year (probably until August of next year, actually). I was worried. I was doing my third half marathon in five weeks, and I ran good, hard times for the first two. I had no idea how my body would react to that. It's a lot. I knew it. I just wanted to see if I could do it.
I continued to feel good as I ran the first mile in 7:30. In fact, I usually gage my pace by how I'm breathing and how hard I'm flowing, and I flowed easy and wasn't breathing hard. I was stunned, in fact, to see my pace floating around 7:15 most of the time and found it hard to slow down. Well, shit, today is going to be a good day, I thought.
I was so, so wrong.
By mile 3, I reconsidered, as I gagged for the first time. For the next three miles, I managed to keep my pace above 8-minute-miles, but I almost tossed my cookies another three times. What the hell? I'd never felt that way, even during my 5Ks. 
By the time mile 7 came up, I was hurting, bad, and knew I wasn't going to PR. In fact, part of wondered if I was going to finish. And I couldn't do anything about it. It was 80 degrees, super hot for November in Colorado, and yet I couldn't take any water or Gatorade or a gel because I was afraid I'd puke it back up.
By mile 11, predictably, my pace slowed to a crawl, and I had to walk occasionally. 
I did finish - I wasn't NOT going to finish - but did horribly. I didn't even bother to see where I finished. I ran 1:54, or at a 8:47 pace. I ran 1:45 three weeks ago at the Denver Half.
But I was proud. I had a horrible day and pushed through it. I finished. And I wonder if it was just too much. That's what I'm thinking. 
If you see me in Vegas, I'll be on a running hiatus for a week or so. I'll start training as soon as I get back. I'll leave this race behind me, call it a good year and eagerly await the Thanksgiving run.
That's only 3.1 miles. I'm already looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Kids these days...

They got it so easy. SO easy. I was pondering how much easier my life would be if I were 14 today instead of back in 1985.
Read on.
(Disclaimer: Yes, this is a "when I was young, we didn't have..." post. I know the idea isn't original. Deal with it.)

• If I were 14 today, I wouldn't have had to watch a football game for 25 minutes to find out the score. Or if I wanted another score, I wouldn't have had to watch until halftime. The score's already there, in the corner, along with the scores of every other game. I wouldn't even have to watch the game at all. I could check ESPN or a billion other sites, along with stats and who had the ball and where they were on the field. I can even check the stats of my fantasy players at the click of a button.
Kids these days don't need to watch a game. They can get the score whenever they want.
• Fantasy players, you ask? If I were 14 today, if the Chiefs sucked (as they most certainly did back then, almost as much as they do today), I wouldn't have to pretend to like another team to drum up some interest in the NFL (Go Redskins!). I would have a fantasy team. Fantasy these days is the only reason I watch the NFL.
Kids these days can like sports even if their teams suck. They have fantasy teams.
• And if I were 14 today, I wouldn't have to wait for the beer commercial with the bikini babe ever year to prep my overactive imagination with a little, um, "me" time. I wouldn't have to trade Sports Illustrated Swimsuit pages with my overactive friends for fresh material or wait for the Sears catalog to come every year or root around in the 7/11 dumpsters for discarded Playboys or make a red-faced purchase of a swimwear catalog. I wouldn't have to rent "10" or "Revenge of the Nerds" and wait for my parents to go upstairs before I could watch it at 12:30 a.m. I'd have Internet porn. 
Kids these days don't even have to leave the house for "me" time.
• If I were 4 today, I wouldn't have had to rely on Saturday Morning Cartoons and watch those gay two-hour "preview" shows that revealed all the new SMCs that were coming to suck up soccer time (yay! A 'Pac-Man' cartoon!). Or Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker or violent and semi-racist Tom and Jerry cartoons on a local channel that featured bad furniture commercials through a snowy screen that didn't come in when it rained outside. 
Kids these days have channels that show nothing but cartoons all the time. They're not as good as Bugs Bunny, but they kick Chilly Willy's ass.
• If I were 14, I wouldn't have to think that the blobs of light that were shooting at other blobs of light were the most kick-ass thing ever because I could play VIDEO GAMES AT HOME!!!!!1111111. I wouldn't have had to beg my Dad to take me to Malibu Grand Prix to spend my $5 bag of 25 tokens. True, they only cost a quarter back then, but they weren't worth much more than that, either. 
Kids these days have video game systems that totally kick ass. No blobs of light allowed.
• If I were 14 today, I wouldn't have had to wait by the radio for hours, listening to the same Flock of Seagulls song over and over, in the hopes of tape recording "Mr. Roboto," and when I did, it usually sounded like a whisper-thin song with an ocean crashing over the guitars and drums. If I wanted to see videos of the song, I wouldn't have to stay up until 3 a.m., my eyes like boulders, to see ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" on "Friday Night Videos." 
Kids these days can just download any song they want, anytime, and watch those same videos for free on YouTube. I even remember saying once to a friend, "Don't you wish you could just make any radio play any song you wanted at any time." And I wasn't even thinking of getting a perfect copy of the song and playing it on my crappy Walkman that skipped whenever I, say, breathed. I just wanted to record it off the radio whenever I wanted.
• If I were 14 today, I wouldn't have to pine over a yearbook photo of the girl I was crushing over and fantasizing over the way she signed my yearbook ("Have a cool summer! Hmmm"). I could just go to her Facebook page and stare at the thousands of shots at her in a bikini during her parents' trip to the lake. 
Kids these days have all kinds of ways to lurk.
If I were 14 today, I could buy something to drink at my school rather than sneaking out to down a 12-ounce can of pop over lunch or being forced to count to 3 at the water fountain. I could eat Taco Bell at my school. I could chat online with my girlfriend or just call her cell phone or even just text her rather than having to ask her father if she were there and then having to go to the basement just to talk for a few minutes alone on the phone.
If I were 14 today, life would be so much easier.
But I don't know if it would be as much fun.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Steely Dan snow show 10-29-09

I looked around at all the work casual clothes, the patches of balding hair and bifocal glasses, the retired beatniks with graying goatees, the women in dressed usually reserved for office Christmas parties and the soft conversations back in their comfy seats.
Was this a rock concert or an orchestra performance? I'd played at many more orchestra performances than attended them, so I can't be sure. But I could say that this was definitely different than most of the rock concerts I'd attended.
Where were the black T-shirts? The AC/DC playing in the background? The, um, people my age?
Of course, I didn't care. After a white-knuckle drive through Colorado's first major snowstorm of the year (more than a foot), where my car occasionally skated more than drove, I was happy to be there with all my major organs. Besides, I admitted that I, myself, was wearing basically the same outfit, without the Dockers or loafers and with a slightly hipper black sweater and Nikes.
And I had always wanted to see Steely Dan.
Steely Dan ranks in the top 5 of my all-time favorite groups. I have the box set and know all the words (the ones I can decipher, anyway), and I'm one of those who roll their eyes when someone calls himself a fan because he knows "Reelin' in the Years," like the hardcore fans of Led Zeppelin who don't want the band to play "Rock and Roll" at a show.
It's an odd mix, yes, my love for loud, crunchy guitars, fast drums and screaming vocals coupled with a band that could be played at coffee shops. But it comes from my background in jazz bands and love for original artists. I still love jazz, and there isn't much better than Steely Dan.
I've always considered them a jazz band with rock tendencies, not the other way around, and sure enough, the band proved it at Thursday's concert. The opening act was an organ jazz trio (imagine THAT at a Metallica show), and when the Dan band came out, the four-piece horn section opened with a combo tune and each took a turn soloing. Can you imagine Slayer hitting the stage and noodling around on "Fly Me To the Moon?" Yeah, me either. Several times during the show, the band played different arrangements and the solos were improvised, not memorized pieces from the albums. It was as much a jazz concert as it was a rock and roll show.
I went alone, partly because I get to go to a show like once a year, so I tend to splurge when I go (I paid $150 for nearly front-row seats), and partly because it's Steely Dan, and partly because I'm lame. But it didn't matter. There were many who joined me, intent on the music and not dancing around. Several just sat there and listened. It was, again, like an orchestra concert, or more like we were there to see Wynton Marsalis. I was starting to feel pretty fucking sophisticated and shit.
Then I smelled the pot.
I never know where the pot comes from. I never really find it. I don't have Pauly's nose or radar (or a girlfriend who gets baked more than brownies at a Martha Stewart show). It was a nice reminder that this was still a rock concert, even if we were sitting down and I wasn't thrashing my head back and forth like it was attached to a Slinky.
As The Dan launched into its full performance of "Aja," I was reminded why I love the band so much. The guys don't tour often, which was one reason I'd never seen them (another is because, again, I'm lame). It's easy to see why. The music is fucking HARD. The Dan needed two guitarists (including the brilliant Walter Becker), a pianist, three female backup singers, the horn section (bari sax, tenor, trumpet and trombone), bass and drums, in addition to Donald Fagen's vocals and organ work, to pull it off. And I was amazed at how many times the Dan NAILED the complex songs, tempos and changes (jazz musicians regularly include their music among the Miles Davis and Charlie Parker in their sets).
Fagen didn't speak to the crowd during the "Aja" set, preferring to pretend the record was on during a cocktail party (one of the female singers even "put on" the record on a beat-up turntable, and the band was so serious about playing along with the illusion, she switched to side B halfway through).
I love "Aja," and it did make me realize how much we miss these days by not owning albums anymore (I'm guilty of this myself, choosing to download singles probably 90 percent of the time). It's so awesome when you get a record that plays seamlessly from start to finish, with the powerhouse tunes ("Peg," "Deacon Blues," "Black Cow" and "Josie" blending well with the few weaker tracks on the record. The weaker tracks ("Home at Last") were there to give us a break before we got our socks rocked off again. More bands should play albums in full; it's a perfect way to enjoy the first half of a show.
The Dan played an hour and a half after that, maybe rewarding us a bit for traveling through the icy roads and snowy air.
There were two minor missteps. One was near the end of the show, when the band played "Dirty Work," one of the band's first major hits (it might have been the very first), and since it's one of the few tracks not sung by Fagen, the girls took turns singing the lines. It was nice to hear the trio featured on a song, but it came across far too karaoke for a band of the Dan's caliber. And I'm being greedy, but I wish the guys had played at least one song from their last two albums, including "Two Against Nature," which earned them their only Grammys.
My highlights included "Bodhisattva" (few bands could pull that one off so well live), "Don't Take Me Alive" (my favorite song by the band), "Time Out of Mind" and a cool arrangement of "Show Biz Kids."
And, of course, "Reelin' in the Years." The band played it as an encore. The crowd rushed the stage and cheered the loudest.
That's OK. It really is a great song.

Set List:

First set
The Complete "Aja" album:
Black Cow
Deacon Blues
Home At Last
I Got The News

Second set (not in order)
Black Friday
Hey Nineteen
Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More (sung by Walter Becker)
Dirty Work
Don't Take Me Alive
Time Out of Mind
Babylon Sisters
My Old School
Kid Charlemagne
Reelin' In The Years - Encore

No "Do It Again." Phooey.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

All Hallow's Eve

We went to a trick or treating event at an old town museum in Greeley. Christmas gets a Christmas Eve, so why can't Halloween have several different events?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Leaving it all behind - the Denver Half Marathon

It started with a little friendly bantering. I expected that. I was proudly wearing my Jayhawk shirt, as I always do, but I was surrounded by people foolishly wearing University of Colorado gold.
I was at Saturday night's football game, and when you venture into enemy territory, you have to expect some ribbing. Only the guy, with his kid, kept up the ribbing when CU scored, and then it became on every play, even a three-yard run. SEE THE SPEED? he proclaimed? Or a Jayhawk dropped a ball. I THOUGHT YOU GUYS COULDN'T CATCH. When CU scored again and took at 27-3 lead, he popped me in the chest. SEE? My eyes flashed a bit at that chest smack. Kate told me later she prayed I would keep my cool. I may not have a few years ago.
But I was running the Denver Half Marathon the next day.
I left him at the first mile.
I used to be a Type A. A is for Anal and uptight and wound. I would get into shouting matches with opposing players on softball squads and once came close to a brawl. I would worry about the future, even if the future looked bright enough for shades (enter harmonica here). I would sweat the small stuff. Profusely.
Mountain climbing was pretty much the only thing that would help, and that, unfortunately, was seasonal. 
I've mellowed, and events like the Denver Half Marathon are reasons why.
Around mile 3, as the sun starts to shine over downtown and bathe Coors Field in orange light, I leave worries about the economy. Around mile 5, I no longer shake my head about being duped, like everyone else in the media and law enforcement, by the bubble boy hoax (the family, being from Fort Collins, ensnared an unusual amount of our time and ink space at the Greeley Tribune).
Andie, Allie and Jayden, I love you, but I leave you behind around mile 9. Running was probably the only thing that kept me sane when you all were infants. At 4, 2 and 2, you continue to test me in special, strange ways - fits over wanting the blue cup, for instance - and its better to leave you all on a race course rather than yell them out in your face.
Around mile 10, it's me at the large, looming hill, and I no longer care about anything but the top.
Around mile 13, with just a .1 to go, I repeat, in my head, to finish strong. There is nothing left to leave but the shadows.
You've seen the shadows. They're symbolic. The shadows in front of me represent my goals for the future. The shadows beside me are my running partners and life partners, the ones who encourage me to push my limits. And as I race to the finish, the shadows behind me are the many worries and frustrations in my life, as they struggle, in vain, to keep up.

Edit for stats:
1:45. I finished 450/4480 runners in the half marathon. 8:04 pace. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tune up

The air felt heavy and the driveway reflected the street lamp in front of our house as I scampered out to get the paper.
Great. Drizzle. Perfect.
The air nipped at my ears and I ran upstairs to get a jacket. Fall, quite frankly, has been a bitch this year. Saturday I ran 10 miles, a tune-up, in snow, and it was 13 degrees at the start of our day. Even today I wore what I call full combat winter gear, with running tights, a hat, fleece gloves, a long-sleeved tech-shirt and the jacket. I usually don't have to break that stuff out until the middle of November.
I put on my iPod, took out the trash and, as soon as the last bag hit the curb, I was off. I didn't want any second thoughts of running that stupid, boring treadmill entering my brain again.
My cadence was choppy, like ocean waters, but it quickly smoothed out as I approached a half-mile. I usually kick into another gear here, but I was pleasantly surprised at how effortless it was to do today. I don't think I'm feeling any effects from the half marathon more than a week ago. My hamstring didn't hurt at all. Good news.
The run goes well. I continue to float along, hovering around an 8:10-per-mile pace, which is the goal today, until I turn into the wind. Ouch. My face starts to go numb, my breath escapes me after a long hill, and I began to feel the moisture soaking my jacket.
I live for these moments. They test me. You don't need any will power to run when times are good, when you're warm and the wind in your lungs and legs that are free of pain. But when you're faced with the opposite of all that, it's hard to convince yourself to keep going. I do, though, because I know things always get better. Put your head down, work through the shit, and the bad times pass and usually you'll forget they were even that bad in the first place.
They do pass as I head for the homestretch. My face won't be warm until I go into the house, but I get my breath back and my rhythm returns, and that's enough.
I cross the finish - a fire hydrant - and walk into the house. My pace was dead on. My body feels good.
The Denver Half Marathon is this weekend. It'll be the second one I run this Fall. And I'm ready.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It hit me

Watching the Rockies at 11 p.m. in the seventh, with me yawning the whole time, confirms three things for me:

• Baseball - playoff baseball, no less - shouldn't be on when you'd normally expect "Piranha II: The Spawning," "The Late, Late, Late, Late, Late Show" or lots of "Girls Gone Wild" commercials.

• I'm a morning person. That's not by choice. But as my streak of days in a row waking up before 7 a.m. climbs into the hundreds, my night owl days continue to fall behind me.

• I'm really lame.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Raising kids in a material world

"We are living in a material world, and I am a material world."
— Madonna

Andie, the oldest of my 2-year-old twins by less than a minute, looked down at my feet yesterday.
"Ooh," she said. "Daddy got some new shoes?"
Andie, my 2-year-old, loves shoes. Loves them. Maybe not as much as The Wife, but that's probably because she doesn't have unlimited access to red heels. Yet. When Kate brought out the winter clothes bucket, most of it hand-me-downs from my brother's 4-year-old daughter, we discovered a black pair of shoes, and a brawl broke out between Andie and Allie. Kate let Andie have the shoes before the oldest twin grabbed a butcher knife and diced up her sister. She's worn them ever since, despite a sore on the side of her ankle from the rubbing. Love has a price.
I sighed. "No, these aren't new, I just haven't worn them in a while."
"I like," Andie said.
I know, sweetie. I know. 
That's not all. Andie has attachments. She loves silverware. She's carried around a knife for the last couple of days (not butcher, thank goodness). She pilfers Jayden's cars. She gets hooked on wacko toys she finds in her Happy Meals. 
I would say this is a chick thing - because, let's be honest, this is TOTALLY a chick thing - except it's kinda not. Jayden forms the same attachments. When freaks when his sisters have a toy of his, even if he hasn't played with it since he was born. When we buy him a new car, he carries it around for days, like a donated organ. He even — sigh — loves new shoes, especially if they feature anyone from "Cars," which, let's be honest, usually do.
I wonder if kids are born with the need to be material or if they develop it after getting a bunch of crap every year for their birthday and Christmas and occasional visits to Wal-Mart. It makes me worry a bit about what I'm instilling in our kids. I wish they could all be like Allie. 
Ah, sweet, sweet Allie, the younger of the two twins. Allie screeches when Andie takes her juice - that's just survival - but otherwise Allie always gives Andie a toy when Andie demands it. She watches out for Andie and will bring her stuff all the time to cherish. This is, of course, enabling, but it's also cute and sweet. Allie also loves shoes but was happy with the brown pair of clog-like sandals in the tub.
I don't know where the other two get it. My wife points out that I get pretty attached to a new pair of running shoes, but those are running shoes, they help me RUN, and that's, like, totally different.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Blue Sky Half Marathon

I knew this half marathon would be different than any other I'd ever run. It was a trail. It was steep. It was rocky.
I just didn't know HOW different until it started.
I started out running at a good clip, hovering around 8:15-per-mile pace. It was a chilly start. Fall is definitely here. I almost wore my jacket along with a warm hat and gloves, a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. Less than two miles into the run, I was wondering what all the fuss was about.
And then I hit the first climb.
Sweat was pouring down my face, and I was breathing hard, like the kind of hard during a 5K or a mile. I promised myself not to look at my GPS. I'm sure my pace was horrible. 
The thing was, so many others were struggling, too. It wasn't just me.
The hills went on FOREVER. You would turn a corner, get a bit of downhill, and just as soon as you'd catch your breath, you'd have another long stretch to tackle. 
I panted. I pushed. I even, occasionally, walked.
But I also had fun.
Part of the thing I love about doing a race like this is I don't think most people get to feel the highs and lows of a good, long workout. Most people, I think, stop at the kind of struggle I felt during those first few climbs. I don't blame them. There's no reason for it.
But the thing is, you get through those parts, and not only is your mind sharper for surviving it, you feel so good later on. There are always tough moments in our lives, too, and things like that teach us to keep fighting the good fight.
When I crossed the line, my time was 22 minutes slower than I'm used to, and yet I felt proud to get through such a tough race. And I felt proud that I felt good most of the time. And when a guy stopped me and said, "Oh, you fell," and I said, yeah, I did, I wondered how he knew that, until I saw the bloody patch on my knee.
I guess I did, indeed, leave just about everything out there.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Time to get hammered

We are cribless. The girls spent their first night in their big beds and we heard nary a peep from their room. 
We are a house without tiny plastic potties, daytime diapers, bottles, daytime pacifiers, baby toys and Baby Einstein.
We're taking the house back, dammit, one milestone at a time.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A love story

For months and into a year I've had to put up with crap stacked on the futon. Stuff crammed into the closets. Shit, really, in every tiny corner of the basement.
Then the girls (finally) got a bit older, and, therefore, didn't need the mounds of baby toys, clothes and whatever else, enough to supply the population of India.
Then we had a garage sale.
Then water leaked into our basement, molding the old carpet.
So I had to pack up the basement. But this was an opportunity, not a sentence, even if it felt like it sometimes.
Weeks more of waiting, but Friday, the new carpet was installed.
And I organized and unpacked and sorted.
And we have a new basement, with a (sorta) toy room and an over-organized, clutter-free life. At least underground.
My type-A, anal itch for putting things in their place is finally, blissfully scratched and twitterpated.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Make up session

We almost broke up.
I was pissed. I had worked my mind up for a tempo run (not an easy task at 6:45 a.m., at least not for me), was dressed and ready to go and stepped outside. It had been a while for a tempo run, and I was practically excited for it.
I expected the bite on my skin, raising my goose bumps, but I was still ready. It's OK, dear, I thought, I can take that. I've taken that many times from you in the past. I know you're a little fickle. 
But as I was strapping Andie and Allie in their seats, just two minutes away from the start of my run, I heard a splatter, then a spatter, then a hard splat. Oh, no. You wouldn't dare, would you, dear?
My frown turned into a growl. Rain. At 6:50 a.m. It was cold and wet. Warm and wet is lovely. I had that last week, during a two-hour run in the rain, as summer gave me one last kiss. Cold and wet, quite frankly, sucks.
Wow. Summer never even got to say good-bye. You just couldn't wait, could you dear? And what a start.
I was not talking to her as I drove to the gym and parked my car. No way. I scowled as the rain soaked my arms and made my shirt stick to my skin. Fine. I'll lift. You won't stop me from working out.
Ugh. I was really pissed.
The rain came down even harder. Unapologetically, actually, as if she didn't care just how poorly she was ruining my day. I got in the car, sniffling from the rain that ran down my cheeks and the cold that frosted them. Grrr.
I decided to make her jealous. At least I'll have a hot shower when I get home. Maybe it's better to just stay inside for the season, I said.
Maybe it worked. The sun broke through the muck that afternoon, and this morning was gray and a little dark and a little nippy. But clear and cool and crisp. Crisp. Ah. You always seem to know what I like, baby.
I had to wear an extra layer but no gloves and shorts. I never overheated. I never sweated too much, just enough to let me know I was working. I breathed in and breathed out. The cool air teased me, then embraced me. She saved the wind for later, after I was done.
I had goose bumps at the beginning and the end.
Dear, dear Fall. Welcome back. I've missed you.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fretting (and not on the guitar)

I'm not really a worrier. I used to stare into the sky before climbs, but I always go to bed with the knowledge that I can't control the weather, so worrying about it takes away energy that I'll surely need on the peak.
I still need that energy - my kids are still around, along with a wife just getting over the swine flu - but I find myself worrying more than ever.
Maybe it's because I work in the newspaper business, not exactly a reassuring career, but I continue to have a hard time believing this recession/depression is getting better anytime soon. I don't WANT to think this way, just like I want to honestly believe there is no such thing as climate change and that our health care will be reformed in a smart way and that we'll find a way to deal with our crippling national budget deficit. But more and more, I can't. 
Our city of 100,000, Greeley, is cutting $10 million from its budget this year. One of largest car dealership closed. My favorite downtown restaurant closed. 
Worst of all, I fear my fantasy football team might be mediocre, squeezing what little joy the NFL brings me these days (I am, after all, a Chiefs fan).
Sometimes I honestly think if my children will have a future at all, which is terrible to think and a little worthless, since 20 years ago, it was 1988, and times have changed since then (it was a time when you WEREN'T sick of "Pour Some Sugar On Me," for instance, in fact you begged to hear that song, and don't deny it, you know you did).
Anyway, these days I fret, a little too much, in fact. Funny. At one point all I worried about was the repealing of the poker law. Now I'm not sure I care. We've got bigger problems.
So I've booked my trip to Vegas. I'll be there for blogger weekend, starting Thursday. I'll try to soothe my fears with mediocre poker, Steel Panther and maybe a drink or two.
It may not work, but at least I can say I was there one more time before all that glamor comes crumbling to the ground.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Anatomy of a race

Breaking down the Labor Day Park-to-Park 10-miler in Denver.

4:49 a.m. - Coldplay's "Viva a Vida" wakes me up. I didn't pick the song, but I like it. I throw the sheets back in the hotel and flip off the air conditioner. I try to poop. No go. Uh oh. Pooping is the most important thing you can do before a race. Besides dressing.
5:15 a.m. - Time to caravan the cars. This course ends 20 minutes from the start at the Denver Zoo. I'm tired. I've had a busy few weeks and they are catching up to me. But I crank Metallica's latest, and I feel the first jolt of excitement about the race halfway through "That Was Just Your Life." I was beginning to wonder. I wish I had more control over how I felt before a race, but a little person inside me determines that.
6:35 a.m. - The race is close to starting, and we walk up to the starting line. I'm relieved to see a generous helping of port-a-potties. I do the deed. Thank God.
6:59 a.m. - Nerves blast through my body as the Star Spangled Banner rings out. I'm getting into the mindset you need to have to ignore pain, exhaustion and discomfort for as long as I can. The music helps.
7:01 a.m. - Stratrovarious speeds through my ears. And we're off.
7:03 a.m. - Dammit. I can already tell this race may not be my best. My body feels tight. I run into a 7:45 pace, which is what I'm hoping for, but it feels like I'm dragging my body with it, rather than floating along. Not a good sign.
Mile 3 - This is a pretty race. Lots of parks. I try to notice. I'm maintaining a good pace, around 7:40 or so, but my body still feels like it's made of iron, not paper mache.
Mile 3.2 - Hills. Shit.
Mile 4 - Oh man. This hill's a killer. The whole mile is uphill, and I've got a cramp in my side. I try to ignore it, and surprisingly, I do a pretty good job. My attitude remains good, but not even speed metal can drive it away. I'm maintaining a pretty good pace up the hills, but I've just got to get over the top. Ouch. The cramp really hurts.
Mile 4.3 - I consider walking it off, but I'll lose a lot of time. I'll run through this, but if it gets any worse, I'll have to walk.
Mile 5.5 - Whew. OK. I'm starting to feel better. I dig through a pocket in my shorts and find some Sport Beans. I try to eat a couple. I stick them in my cheek, and they sit there, like a patch of tobacco. Eating something is tough when you're breathing hard, and I don't really need it, but if I start to feel tired, it's too late and I've blown my race.
Mile 6 - So far, so good, still on pace, I just ran a sub-48-minute 10K. Or close to it.
Mile 7 - Ugh. The troll is starting to creep in my head. I've done a good job of keeping him out, but I can only block my thoughts for so long. This is something I'll have to work on this fall during my half marathons. The troll doesn't tell me to walk, but it does whisper in my ear that it sure would be nice to stop.
Mile 8 - I'm tired, and these constant rolling hills aren't helping. It seems like as soon as I finish one I've got another to tackle. The hills aren't steep but they are consistent, and that's almost worse. I can't really find a groove. I start to fall off pace. What's worse is I stop caring.
Mile 8.5 - Well, my plan to finish strong is gone. I'm really tired, my body's tired and my legs are heavy. I'm really looking forward to the finish. I try to find a pace and stick with it, and I fear that that pace is 8:45. Sigh. I don't have it anymore today.
Mile 9.5 - I'm dying here. I feel like I've got a sack of sand tied to my ass. What a disappointment. It's small consolation that I am able to run hard at the end.
Mile 10 - I'm done. 1:20:22. 8:01 pace. Still good, but disappointing given my good start.
Walking to a blueberry muffin is difficult. I've got to get something in my body.
Why did I finish so poorly? I ponder this as I wait for my friends to finish. I have three thoughts. One is I'm tired. Those peaks were difficult, and we ran the mile Wednesday (6:05 was my time), and your body can break down occasionally. I didn't give myself a chance to peak.
Second is I wonder if I have the mental strength for something like this. I should have just stuck with it, even if I was feeling bad. Sometimes I don't suck it up enough.
Third is I didn't eat enough and it caught up to me, and not only that, but all the hills caught up to me. This course was harder than I thought it would be.
The rest of the day I walked around the zoo with the kids, and now I'm on the couch. I'm really exhausted. I should feel better about the day than I do. That, too, is part of getting better.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I walk the line

I looked at Teakettle's cirque of amazing features, shapes that such be displayed in a pottery gallery, really, and as we approached the final traverse that led to its summit tower, I should have felt awe, inspiration and excitement.

That's what I would have felt in the past. That's what I was feeling now. But I also felt something else: An undercurrent of fear.

This is the first year since I had kids that I began really stretching my abilities. I started with a climb in the Never Summers range, a climb up the Hart Ridge with Cirrus and Lead mountains. That was a nice warm-up, a couple of ridges, some exposure, even a little danger.

Then I really pushed it with a climb up Capitol the weekend before Saturday's attempt of Teakettle, 13,800+. I was fine up until K2, but as we started to crawl over its top and back down, I was a little nervous, and then, as I stared as its knife ridge, I felt fear.

I hadn't felt fear in a long, long time in the mountains, certainly not for five years, at least. And this fear was different. Tears actually sprang to my eyes as I gathered the group and told them I wasn't sure I should go on. It's not my life any longer, I told them. It's the lives of a 4-year-old and two 2-year-olds, and it was hard for me to justify risking their lives when they don't have a choice.

Before kids, when I climbed, I never worried about my life. It's not like I did the tango on a ridge or two-stepped a sprint across summits. I was always careful. But I was never really afraid either.

That changed, of course, and so when I was attempting Teakettle with Pete Krzanowsky, Adam McFarren and the Artist Currently Known As Piper, I felt that damn fear once again.

I knew I stood out a bit in this group. Climbing mountains is a hobby to me, something fun to do on an occasional weekend, a way to challenge myself and a way to get out and see Colorado. It's a lifestyle for Pete, Adam and Piper. I hadn't really obsessed over the peaks for a few years, since, I'm sorry to say, I finished the 14ers. This was my third time out this year. Pete said he'd been out close to 50 times. That kind of devotion to anything impresses me, and their skill levels reflected that.

I could not have paid for better guides up the peak, especially Adam, our leader. They knew the route cold, set a quick pace and helped me with gear.

Gear is really what prevents me from doing these kinds of peaks more often. I don't know anyone in Greeley, where I live, who has the equipment and the knowledge to lead climbs. Besides that, I struggle when it comes to gear.

Like, a lot.

If this frustrated Adam, Piper and Pete, they didn't show it. They were very good to me. To be honest, I don't know if I would have been as good if, say, I was on the summit of Teakettle, and one of my climbing partners not only didn't have an ATC with him, he didn't really even know what one was. That might have happened. It was pretty high. Altitude fogs memories.

They double checked my harness, helped me with knots, gave me an extra biner to back up my own and generally helped me get through the final, 40-foot summit tower. They also sent up an extra ATC to the summit for the guy who forgot one.

When I didn't have to worry about the gear, I could concentrate on the climbing, and that was really fun. That's something I can do for the most part.

Sure, rappelling was a little rough at first, but it came back to me fairly quickly, and that, too, was fun.

We made it back down off the final ridge before the tower, went back down the black gully (not nearly as scary as advertised, by the way, it was actually one of the highlights of the climb) and then worked out way down a horrible, awful, terrible, very bad slope filled with loose rock, screen and loose rock. Also there was loose rock. I haven't yelled "Rock!" that much since I went to a Metallica concert a decade ago.

Oh, why do we always have to pay for such fun with such crappy, loose rock that the Elks and the San Juans throw at us?

By the time we were headed for our attempt at Dallas the next day, I'd had enough. True, I'd only camped one night and climbed one tough peak, but parenthood's left me a little soft, I guess. I didn't sleep very well in the tent - I never really do - and wasn't looking forward to another night or hauling a heavy pack up to our campsite.

I was looking forward to Dallas, however, and so I was disappointed as well as relieved when rain started pelting our tent at 3 a.m. The attempt really ended with those first few raindrops, even if it let up twice and didn't rain on us again even hours later.

I reached a conclusion in my tent as the rain came down that I hope will help calm my fears as I do another attempt like this one next year (maybe Dallas again, I hope). I will continue to push myself and climb challenging peaks, but only under optimal conditions, if they're within my ability and if I'm with good people.

Teakettle matched all that criteria, even if I wasn't as good with the gear. Dallas, however, was not under optimal conditions, and Adam wisely recognized that and called it off at the base of its majesty.

In the past, I'd be crushed. I don't honestly know if I'll get to attempt Dallas again, at least for a while. And we spent the night out. But now I appreciate the beautiful hike up and a good reconnaissance mission and the company of new friends. I appreciate the chance to get out.

I still recognize the need to get out. I still want to get out. It's so damn fun.

And most importantly, it makes me appreciate the small things. Camping and climbing for a few days makes you appreciate a pillow, hot water cascading over your body, clean skin, a fresh scent, an uncluttered car, white fingernails, a freedom to pee whenever you want and without having to put on your boots to do it, four-lane highways, real food like a cheeseburger (not an energy bar, gel or chew), sheets, cotton T-shirts, a place to keep your stuff (and your back not having to be the place where it all goes), sandals, lip balm, a couch, water from a faucet (not filtered from a creek), healthy toenails, flat terrain clear of rocks, cell phone reception and shelter from a storm.

And I really appreciate my family thanks to the peaks. There are always good things, like my kids shouting "Daddy!" when I get home, and there are always bad things, like my kids turning bedtime into a Civil War (actually it's pretty uncivil).

In fact, as Swine Flu invades our house - Kate answered the door tonight as I was getting out of car tonight with a "welcome to your infected house" and a cough - I may continue to worry about pushing my limits on the peaks.

But I'm also already keeping an eye to a few trips next year.

Sunday, August 23, 2009