Friday, July 31, 2009

I think it was Hud.

"Sir, will you get rid of my hiccups?"

"I'm sorry?"

"I've got the hiccups. Will you make them go away?"

It was 11:45 at night and I was just leaving the office, hurrying to Metro because it closes at midnight. I didn't have time for anything.

He interposed himself in front of me on the sidewalk. I looked up at him. I'm 5-10, and he was 6-4 and broad. He was young too, in his early twenties. The odor of an alcoholic beverage suddenly washed over me fleetingly. I was familiar with this phenomena, the first indication of heavy drinking, from dealing with drunken drivers when I was a State Patrolman many years ago in Colorado. His eyes were glassy. He hiccuped.

His girlfriend, swaying slightly, said, "He can't stop hiccuping. Do you know any remedies?"

He looked so pathetic, standing there in my path, expecting a complete stranger to take care of his hiccups. He hiccuped again.

"Yeah, I know a remedy."

This was going to be hard to explain, and I had very little time to spare if I didn't want to be walking home ten miles. When I was a boy, I watched a Paul Newman movie where Newman played a raconteur coming home drunk with the hiccups. The leading lady encircled his throat with her fingers and pressed in on his carotid artery with her thumbs. I think the movie might have been Hud. Does anyone out there know the scene I'm thinking of?

This usually works on me when I get the hiccups. Rather than laboriously explain this curious remedy to two drunks and stand there coaching while The Girl, as DC Rainmaker would say, administered the treatment to him and risk missing my train, I acted. I stepped close to him and reached up.

"Relax," I said. "Stand still. This is what I do to get rid of the hiccups."

I gently grabbed his neck with my hands and pressed in on his carotid with my thumbs. The Girl looked aghast.

"What are you doing?"

"No, no, it's okay. If he doesn't strangle me, maybe it'll work."

Time flowed by. His eyes were bulging a little but he was standing still. "Don't leave any marks on my neck."

I wondered if he had another girlfriend that he didn't want to have to explain hickeys to. "I won't."

After thirty seconds I let go. "How's that?"

He stood there for a moment feeling his neck and then announced to The Girl, "They're gone."

The two of them commenced on their merry way down the sidewalk as if I had never existed.

"You're welcome," I called out after them.

They didn't hear me. They were off in a boozy haze to catch last call at the nearby Dubliner.

I made my train. Such little encounters enliven life.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Needs work.

I felt good. Breathing easily, I cruised into my driveway at 5 this morning and hit my stopwatch. Walking into my house, I checked my time.

"Aw, sh*t!"

9:23 for the mile.

I had run the mile strictly by feel, resisting the urge to check my watch along the way. Loping along in the dark, I had felt on track to nail a nine-minute mile, but it turned out to be way too slow.

I have a new challenge. I am three weeks into being a coach (actually a site director) for my club's Ten-Miler Training Program. This year we are the exclusive training partner for the Army Ten-Miler, the second largest ten-mile road race in North America. The race sold out its 30,000 slots in less than a week. We have 170 trainees whom we have to prepare to run the race less than ten weeks from now. We ran five miles for our long run over the weekend.

In addition to coaching, I'm going to be the nine-minutes-per-mile pacer in the race. You know, one of those runners who holds up a sign that says "9:00" for the entire race and chatters away happily to whoever is around (will he ever shut up!?). I've got to nail a 1:30:00 for the ten miles, give or take 30 seconds. But it'd better be 1:29:45 instead of 1:30:15.

In January I ran a ten mile race in 1:24:00 (8:24). In April at Boston, before I crashed and burned in the twelfth mile due to my utter lack of training, I ran every single one of the first ten miles in under nine minutes, including one in sub-eight. So I should easily be able to be a nine-minute pacer.

But I have to practice because my natural pace seems to be around eight minutes per mile. Sunday in the daylight, checking my watch frequently, I practiced a nine-minute mile for the first time by running my meandering neighborhood mile, which has no markers nor marked halfway point. 8:04. Hmmm. Way too fast.

Now way too slow.

I might have to move my efforts to the W&OD Trail behind my house, which has markers every half-mile. Although I'm bracketing a 9:00 mile with my 8:04 and 9:23, my "running by feel" definitely needs to get more on target before I can fire for effect all ten miles.

I might even have to buy a Garmin (and learn how to use it) for this one. But I'm loving this upcoming challenge.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I felt betrayed. The display on the bike rack read, "Temporarily closed for system servicing. Please come back later."

I didn't have "later." The monthly noontime Tidal Basin 3K Run, held the third Wednesday of every month, was going to start in 10 minutes. And it was two miles away.

I wasn't going to make it. This was going to be only the tenth one that I have missed in the last hundred months.

I have a new system for attending this run which is two and a half miles from my work, to cut down the time I am away from the office when it is held. I used to jog there, run the race, and jog back. It was time consuming.

Lately I have been jogging over to Judiciary Square and picking up a SmartBike (100 bikes scattered about the city at 10 bike racks that members can use for free anytime during the day). Then I bicycle the rest of the way, and bicycle back after the race. It saves a lot of time. I have come to depend upon this method of getting there, and now leave my office for the race at a quarter to noon instead of at 11:30.

But the SmartBike.DC system was down, and I was stuck. I couldn't get a bike out of the locked rack, although there were seven candy-colored beauties there tantalizing me. Just when you start to count on something . . . . .

Runners are resilient though, right? I figured out a 3K route in my head that travelled up Capitol Hill for a little hillwork thrown in and took off at noon for a virtual 3K race. I wound up 14:54 (8:02) later at Union Station where I bought lunch and walked with it the two blocks back to my office, arriving back at work at 12:20.

Later when I plotted out the route I had run on g-maps, I saw it was a little short of 3K, 1.8 miles instead of 1.86 miles. But the real race doesn't have a big hill like Capitol Hill in it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

He showed up all sweaty.

"We were talking about you this morning, me and a couple of office mates on our drive to Costco to get supplies for today's going away party for the summer intern."

"Nothing but good things, I'm sure."

"Interesting things. They were asking me, ' Did he run all the way from the agency here in the District to the office picnic in that park in Virginia last month? He showed up all sweaty.'"

"I didn't run there from here, that would have been ten miles. I took Metro to Ballston and ran from there, only two miles. As you know, there's no way to get there directly unless you drive. Besides, I designated that as the weekly noontime office run, but nobody else came along. Then I ran home after the picnic, because I live just down the W&OD Trail three miles from there."

"Yes, very unusual. Everyone else was able to find a ride."

"Who'd you go to Costco with? They saw it as a good thing that I got in my exercise before I ate a hamburger, a hot dog and all that cake and cookies, right?"

"I'm not telling."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Goin' Down.

We're goin' over!

Yesterday I came out of a restaurant after lunch in DC and unlocked my bike (one of the 100 bikes that SmartBike.DC keeps scattered about the town for my use whenever the mood strikes me) to return to work. It was next to the curb, and the rear wheel slipped down the cement sidewall into the street. Then the front wheel slid down the curb. Next I started going over.

As I tried to keep the bike from clattering onto the street, I just followed it down into the roadway. Face down. In the gutter. At high noon in midtown. In my suit.

All energy being expended, motion ceased. There was no harm done to anything from the slow spastic fall.

I looked up from where I was flat on my face in the street, lying atop a candy-colored red and white SmartBike. If I was a younger version of myself, I would have sprung back up and cycled away before anyone noticed me. (Yeah, right, an anonymous noisy falling down in a busy street at noon.)

I stood up, brushed my hands off and righted my bike. Everyone on the sidewalk bustling by was ignoring me. I raised my arm, waved it and said loudly, "Don't worry, I'm alright everyone!"

A man crossing the street called out, "Are you all right?"

"Everything's fine except the pride," I said and he laughed.

I just hate it when those slow motion train wrecks get started.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Don't try this at home.

As I ran along the Mall during the noon hour on Wednesday, my left arm felt heavy. It also felt full, like it was under pressure. The skin was taut, and that I had Popeye forearms was undeniable. They were fiery red, and unbearably itchy.

I had a bad case of poison ivy. That'll teach me to clear out the underbrush behind the garage, which I did on Sunday.

My left arm was definitely swollen. The rash had started crawling up my forearms on Monday, and I was barely able to sleep on Tuesday night. The itching woke up at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., and 6 a.m., at which time I decided to get up.

I located some itch-relief medication under the sink, which told me that my last bad case of poison ivy was in August of 2002. The Ivy-Dry bottle was notated in my handwriting, "Works well, Eckerds, 8/02." On the Bio-Sentry Anti-Itch spray bottle I had noted, "Doesn't work any better than calamine lotion, 8/02."

The bottles of topical analgesics had expired half a decade ago so I figured it was time to use them up. I started with the Bio-Sentry, to finish it off and keep the good stuff in reserve. It didn't help my maddening discomfort much that night.

Wednesday I ran with my workgroup and, given the swollen nature of my left arm, I decided to go to the doctor. For poison ivy. Wimpy me. My arm was weeping big drops of amber fluid out of a blister at my elbow. (Does poison ivy make my arms look fat?)

At the doctor's office I received a steroid injection in the deep muscles of my buttock (the last time I was shot in the butt was 51 years ago!) and a 12 day prescription of prednisone tablets. I was getting juiced!

By yesterday the swelling was down and the itching was tolerable. Except for running with my workgroup (I lead the group), I didn't run at all during the entire workweek due to the frustrating condition. Wimpy me.

I think my arms are totally grossing people out.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Look out your window.

I was working late but it was still light outside. The phone rang. I answered, and it was a colleague on the street below who had just left work, on her cell phone.

"Peter, there’s a race going on. It’s going by our building right now. Look out your window."

From my third floor office, I looked down at Massachusetts Avenue, two blocks from Union Station. A swarm of runners was proceeding, amoeba like, towards my building down the sidewalks on both sides of the street, and some runners were cutting across the roadway in traffic. Other runners were stopping and starting as if they were looking for something. Odd sounds reached me through my sealed window. I swear I heard, "Talley ho!"

"Oh, that’s a hash house harrier run."


"A hash house harrier run. They’re crazy people who get together in the evenings to run, and they follow flour trails that eventually lead somewhere after about six miles, usually a drinking establishment. Then they proceed to get plastered."


"Well, that was the short version. They’re known to be drinkers with a running problem. They form clubs worldwide and meet after work to follow a trail that somebody else has left earlier, filled with false starts, to some eventual objective."

"I’ve never heard of it before."

I heard "Are you?" drift up from the street.

"Google ‘Hash House Harriers’ and you'll see. There are probably 25 clubs in the DC area. When they come through an area, they look really strange to bystanders, running and stopping, fanning out, backtracking, following tiny flour spots on the sidewalk. When they get on the scent, they call out to each other to follow them. It’s like a fox hunt on two legs instead of on horses."

"What? Why are some runners running fast, and others are just jogging along?"

"The fit runners, or FRB’s, try to find the true flour trail and follow it, and everyone else hangs around until they do, or else they look for it themselves. The path is littered with false trails and dead-ends."

"It sounds like fun. Why don’t you do it?"

"Checking!" came through the window. Runners were milling around below me.

"I have done it, twice. They’re all crazy though. All they do is talk and drink afterwards."

"They’re having so much fun! Can you see them talking and laughing? They’re all so young. I’d love to do it too but I don’t see anyone my age."

My thought bubble said, "You don’t even run." What I said was, "You have to go to the suburbs to find people in their 30s and 40s who do it, but they’re out there. This could be the White House Hash Harriers, leaving from Union Station, all in their 20s."

I dimly heard someone shout, "On-on!" Like a dozing dog springing to life upon hearing someone on the porch, the horde of harriers turned as one to the sound. They all streamed away towards it and in a flash they were gone!

A strange bunch.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The 2009 DeCelle Memorial Lake Tahoe Relay

Last month I ran in the DeCelle Memorial Lake Tahoe Relay for the third straight year, on Bex’s team. The team members joked this year that we’re going to change our name from the Band of Outsiders to the 6:30 Club because every year the team counters some really good performances with some really challenging ones and the result is pretty much always the same, about eleven and a half hours for the 73.2 mile relay around the lake in seven legs. Given the 7 a.m. start, this puts our anchor leg always pulling into the finish at South Lake Tahoe at around 6:30 p.m. every year, Miller Time.

This year was no different as we finished at 6:39 p.m., slightly slower than last year’s 6:30 p.m. finish, which was slightly faster than the prior year’s 6:32 p.m. finish. Running through two states and past some incredible scenery, this race is a must-do. We’re always far off the winner’s time, which was under seven hours this year, but we have fun.

Eric ran the first leg in 1:20:18 (8:22), 9.6 miles of rolling hills in the cool of the morning past the casinos at State Line where the race leaves California and enters Nevada. He came within a minute of the team’s PR on this relatively easy leg. Remember, this is a race with hills at altitude (starting at 6200 feet), so even this “easy” leg is a difficult run for us flatlanders.

Eric handed off to me and I ran the shortest leg, 8.2 miles, in 1:18:01 (9:31). It was practically a mystical experience for me because this is the highest, hardest and hilliest leg, a killer. It literally made me sick. Maybe I'll tell you more about it in a future post.

Next up was K, who had a tough run. Her scenic 10.3 miles was mostly downhill, which aggravated a hip condition she had. She handed off to Bex after being out for 2:02:20 (11:53). (K on the left is done, Ashley still has a five and a half hour wait before her leg starts.)

Bex motored off on the longest leg, 12.3 miles which included a big uphill part. After re-entering California, she brought the baton home to J, an avid mountain biker, in 1:58:00 (9:36).

J was picking runners off right and left on his 10.6 mile run until about halfway through, where he discovered that being in condition for hard biking doesn’t necessarily correlate to running long and he was hobbled by knee problems. He gave back all of his passed runners and more before handing off to Ke in 1:54:57 (10:51).

Ke was new to the team, a runner we picked up the day before. A high school track coach, he had come to vacation in Lake Tahoe and could think of no more relaxing start to his time off than to run a very hard relay leg up in the mountains. We gave him the other hardest leg, comparable to my leg, a 10.5 mile run over large rolling hills that culminates in a steep, relentless mile and a half climb up a mountain pass. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Ke. I did this tough leg in 1:37:44 (9:18) last year and injured myself doing it (my hamstring seized up into a clenched, fiery ball 200 meters from the end). Ke was handling it very well until the last hill knocked down his time, but he still finished in a very nice time of 1:35:54 (9:03), setting the team's PR for the leg.

Ashley took it from there. Coming back from injuries, she returned to racing after a year of recovery with a time of 1:28:12 (8:24) on her 10.5 mile run back to the starting point, also setting a new team PR. Her scenic leg included a narrow shelf road portion with no shoulder where the roadway fell away steeply on both sides, and I was going to assist her along here by running with her as a spotter, but I couldn’t keep up with her quick pace and abandoned the effort. She picked off nine runners enroute to the finish so we finished 94th overall out of 150 teams.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Birthday Wish

I want to wish my old friend a happy birthday and express my thanks, and say good luck in the future because you will need it, I'm sorry to say.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A slow Tidal Basin 3K run.

Yesterday was a special running of the monthly noontime Tidal Basin 3K run, a July 4th holiday version that featured a 9 a.m. start, a 3K run, a 6K run and a 10K run, all in the same race. I was one of two officials at the finish line and it was confusing with people coming and going. The start was strange too, with racers lined up facing three different directions, all to accommodate the varying distances and enable everyone to finish in the same place.

If I had started with everyone else I would have placed in the 3K and gotten my name in the Washington Post as one of the top three finishers. I normally come in around 14:00 and the third place runner in the 3K was over 20 minutes. As it was, my official time for the 3K was 1:49:29 (58:44). That’s pretty slow. I was tied for DFL, three quarters of an hour behind the last 10K finisher.

The race director and I didn’t start running, though, until after the last of the other runners came in. Then we all had cake to celebrate a participant's 60th birthday, and after all the party-goers finally left, the RD and I ran the 3K course. We had left the race clock on so we’d get an “official” time.

We made our loop together in 14:44 (7:54) and punched the race clock out at 1:49. The race director was being nice to finish with me as he could have beaten me handily. But hey, we broke 1:50. I love breaking 1:50 in the 3K.

It was fun. And no, Dan didn’t show up for lunch today. The meal at the Lost Dog CafĂ© in North Arlington was delicious though, try the Polynesian Pizza if you ever go there. Hey Dan, let's do Labor Day!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Here's the plan, Dan.

I posted on my FB that "I have invited Dan [my youngest child] to lunch on the Fourth at The Lost Dog Cafe in Westover [North Arlington], after the Jump Start Program. My treat. The last time I conversed with him in person was in March 2003 when he was 14. Miss him (and the other two)! That's our American courts in action, a system we want to give to the rest of the world."

That got a friend to send me heartfelt congratulations at my impending liaison. I am afraid my post misled at least her, and I am sorry for any misconceptions it engendered.

As is my wont on approaching holidays, ten days ago I sent Dan, who is not yet 21, a letter inviting him out to lunch on July Fourth, so we can catch up and I can fill him in on all the relatives on my side of the family. Not a one of them has heard a word from him or any of my children for over half a decade. Unbelievable as this is, this is just classic Parental Alienation Syndrome ("PAS") stuff. Some people believe that PAS is child abuse.

The only address I have for Dan (or any of my children) is the house his Mother sold shortly after she re-married last year and moved out of. She has since refused my two requests to her for their current addresses. All of their addresses are big secrets (this teacher uses her first grade class in Falls Church as her return address to me).

The house has been vacant since last fall and is being gutted, as I know from knocking on the door in order to ask for Dan on Thanksgiving, Christmas and his birthday. This long-vacant house is the only tenuous link I have to my children.

That's where I send their letters and holiday cards. That's what their Mother instructs me to do. The phone number, which wasn't answered for years anyway, was disconnected last fall.

I'd love it if Dan came, but he hasn't responded, as usual, and he has never showed up before. But I'll be there at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow in any case (unless he calls me off beforehand).

My 2c: If you ask me, though, my situation shows the total bankruptcy of the American domestic law system and its insidious, invidious effect upon our society. Family values it fosters not!