Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Value of Imagination

The most common drawback of natural intelligence is: people who believe that intelligence is innate tend to give up much faster than those people who believe it can be developed.  

It seems to comes down the subtle distinction between A or not A. Believing skill-intelligence-ability are innate qualities we perceive them as foreign, thus more easily discounted as "not A" rather than "A."  Application means seeing this "not A" person is gifted i.e. different than I (A).  

Alternatively, if we believe regardless of talent that hard work and diligence will gain us the same results as someone to whom things come "naturally" we view ourselves as "A" rather than "not A." This alternative perspective means no skill-intelligence-ability is remote nor alien; therefore can be developed.
the dilemma

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Artisanal LA with my girlfriend.  Dozens of booths lined he LA Mart on Broadway with local merchants generating new business and fostering new peer connections.  Originally I aimed to only visit Le Pop Shop (http://www.lepopshop.com) since I have known that business since inception and and addicted to macaroons (particularly with coffee).
Drip Stand seen at Artisanal LA
Cruising the aisles I saw a coffee drip stand for the Hario V60.  The stand was $85, i.e. out of my ballpark.  I like coffee, I do not think this is a secret.  The process by which the taste and aroma of each blend is extracted is like Dexter's Laboratory to me.  The strange thing is coffee calms me down.  Most people enjoy a cup of joe for that extra pep in the morning, but for me its purely the taste.  In the mornings I am pretty wacky and my mind races with random thoughts.  The scent and taste of a cup of coffee settles me into a "home" feeling and I am better able to go about my day.  Anyway, I saw V60 cone drip stand and thought…how clever.  Noting the price I thought to myself, why would someone charge this much for a drip stand?  A quick google search for "Hario V60 Stand" yielded shocking results: prices ranging from $30 - $124 for a stand!

I decided; why not make my own?  It can't be that complicated.  I opted to be "A" rather than "not A."  I rarely have the ability to use my imagination and go from idea to reality.  All of us are rushing from one place to another so creating something in our mind then applying it to life is luxury we do not have.  
the process
But, Saturday, my muse encouraged me to just do it.  We were not busy and had no "plans" so why not try and create something?  The result was a personal drip stand that looks great and works for my life costing around $20.  At Home Depot, C and I spoke as if we were on a planning committee.  What about 1/4" ? 1/2" ?  Should it be taller since we use travel mugs a lot?  Can it be adjustable? What the hell is a washer, finished wood or stain, etc. etc.?

Finished Product
We engaged in "A" behavior.  Rather than simply shelling out some cash for someone else's work we decided to make it personal and functional, why? Because it's fun to create and see ideas materialize.  It is fun to accept that we can accomplish things that are not normally in us to do.  Think about it…why are you so happy when you do something that you thought you couldn't do?  Because you are A rather than not A; the little voice in your head that makes things unknown suddenly whispers…why not, go for it. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Gentleman in the Modern Era

Lately there has been a trend in fashion, music and culture towards the "old-fashioned."  Males want to be more cultured, respected and manly while maintaining amicability and emotive freedom.  Often times I am complimented or frowned upon for having "old man" tastes.  I believe few things are best done old school like: keeping a journal, knowing how to open a book without ruining the binding, wet shaving and courting a lady.

But, let us not forget the past lest we be doomed to repeat it.  Although a women were revered and respected this old fashioned-ness; she was at the same time seen as chattel and not an equal.  Women have not always shared the same societal place men have enjoyed and even today are a long ways away from gender equality.  

So why the trend to the classic?  The economic downturn of the last decade has left many of looking longingly into the mirror asking the big questions.  Who am I?  Why do I "blank"? or alternatively why do I not "blank"?  Our consumerism, flagrantly displayed in the late 80s and 90s, is not sustainable so we collectively sought the things that worked for those that came before us.  This seems to me as a a substitution for what we were already doing; cherry picking.  All us us tend to look to the past as a springboard to the future and in times of uncertainty we simply go further and further back. 

The inquiry into what a gentleman is or what is appropriate for a man to be or do makes us all philosophers.  We can make lists ad infinitum and never get it right or complete.  A gentleman dresses appropriately, is chivalrous, well read, loves family, is opinionated but not closed minded, etc, etc.  The "old fashioned trend has focused heavily on these ideals and made them marketable.  We see fashionistas and trend riders profit hand over fist by capitalizing on our need to look into our past for answers.  Five or six years ago "vintage", "tarnished", "organic", "reclaimed" were words reserved for antique roadshow and architecture students and now are all over everything and everywhere.

A few days ago I used my girlfriend's nickname while speaking to my mother.  It was an unconscious slip of the tongue.  However, reflecting on the slip I realized it was no mistake.  Subconsciously I hold both of these women with the same respect and the care reserved for those closest to me.  I realized it is more a function of how I went about doing things rather than what I went around doing things with.

Being a gentleman, old school, old fashioned or an old man is not about what you do or what you have but rather about how you do it.  I admittedly cherry pick.  For example, I am not going to use a rotary phone nor am I likely to develop my own film, etc.  The trend things of things "old school" in my opinion should be tempered by an awareness of context.  Is our love for the old genuine or simply a substitution for avoiding that long look in the mirror? 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Headlands 100 - 2013 - DNF Report

Headlands is a place where lessons come to me even if I don't want them.  The trail strings together 5,000 ft of climbing per loop that humble the best climbers and destroy the rabbits.  Nutrition (Tailwind) and mood were spot on, heck I could even string together complete sentences, but a tweak on the downhill from Rodeo Beach to Tennessee Valley on the third loop sealed it.

Buff Visor (really like)
Salomon Vest
Oakley Radar Sunglasses
Garmin 310xt
NorthFace Better than Naked Shorts
MoBen Arm Warmers
Ultimate Direction Handhelds
Drymax Trail Socks
NB MT110 Trail Shoes
Badass Attitude*

Re-Cap - Thoughts
Let me be honest for a minute.  This is going to sound like complaining but the fact is I planned on running 100 miles and I did not accomplish my goal.  My participation in ultra running is a blessing and a privilege.  So please do not look at my frustration as complaining but its a tough pill to swallow to know that I did the best I could and it was not good enough.

The first loop in 5.5 hours was too fast for my goals.  Sub 24 was never the game plan for this race, just to finish strong and see the sunrise on Sunday.  The plan was to come into Rodeo Beach, the 25 mile mark, around 6.5 hours.  I took advantage of the cooler temperatures early and was able to put together a few good stretches, particularly coming into Tennessee Valley where the descents are not as steep.  Unfortunately this threw my hydration off.  I was around Sam Adams level by the end of the first loop which is not where my body needed to be so early in the race.  

I took a long break at the end of the first loop and patiently endured the second loop, hiking the hills and making sure I was hydrating.  I had plenty of energy to run up the grades but knowing my hydration was off I was patient and sat back.  I swapped positions with a friend Starchy a few times so it was nice to see a familiar face a couple times during the day.  However, by mile 38 ish I was still running with a lot of 50 milers and I knew I needed to throttle back.  Finally getting back to a Stella hydration level my mood dramatically improved because I was able to process more calories while taking in significantly more water.  

The first loop I was averaging 24 - 30 oz per hour and the second loop I increased the amount to 45 - 50 oz per hour.

While on the 2nd loop I had to focus and it took a lot of talking to myself.  I reigned myself in when I felt that I was getting carried away with the pace, I practiced patience and tried to hold off any feelings of angst or discomfort.  The first descent to Vista Point (Bottom of Golden Gate Bridge) left my hamstring clamoring, but the second loop easing was just was the doctor ordered.  By the and of the second loop I was feeling energized and my hamstring was all but healed.  Any hard harding downhill meant throbbing pain but light steps and the pain was minimal.

3rd loop - ish
I left Rodeo Beach in the dark.  I set out with my headlamp and 2 additional layers.  Halfway up the hill I removed one of the layers; overheating.  During the paved section of that hill I turned off my headlamp and let the moon guide me, it was beautiful.  The mist had not rolled in and the night was actually pleasant.

Climbing out of Rodeo I was excited !  No mist blinding my headlamp, winds were mild and temperatures held steady.  This was going to be a good night for a little jog.

I felt connected and really at peace with my effort on this uphill.  I began running again once I hit the single track at the top.  Suddenly I felt a rip in my left ankle.  You know that sound...the one that happens when you are quartering a chicken and something just makes that crunch/rip noise...yeah that was it.  I immediately stopped, hobbled, tried running but that was not going to happen.  It was a different kind of pain.  I felt a sharpness running up the back of my calf to the back of left knee whenever I placed pressure on the mid foot area.  Without the mid foot I knew my race and maybe my running days were done.

I worried I had done something permanent or something that would require weeks if not months to heal.  I came into Tennessee Valley with a panic look.  I told C., "I am not good."  My face was all panic. I thought that I may have really messed something up.  

At TV aid station my pacer met up with me.  We checked my ankle…the knot was gone.  I had a knot on the left ankle for months and it was now smooth, for the first time in a long time.  No swelling, but just sharp pains up the back of the calf.  D. my pacer was awesome, he was trying everything to help me out of TV.  I took a tylenol and headed out into the night.  Any pressure on the forefoot or mid foot was just not possible.  I walked like a pirate, leaned like a cholo, did the stay cat strut….you name it…but nothing helped.  We left TV and made it about a mile out, but turned back.  

There was no way I would make Pirates Cove or the Muir beach decent or ascent without a mid-foot.  My race was over.

My last few races have been less than stellar, but I have taken valuable lessons from them.  The Headlands is no different.  One day it may be mental space that beats you, other days it may be an injury completely out of control.  Regardless, the fact we are out there doing it for the love of it just goes to show how much this sport means to all participants.  

When I started ultra running I consumed a lot of literature about the sport.  I nerd out, just the way I am.  Everything I read talked about this place.  The magical place where (blank) happened and runners saw everything from the white light at the end of the tunnel to that cheeseburger of legend only reserved for last meals.  After hitting that turning point, reality would focus and feats of amazing happened.

The place where epiphanies happened did not happen to me.  I don't think I have reached that place yet.  I have searched and searched but that bottom of the barrel has not revealed itself.  I am scared as hell about what I may find there since this moment tends to be life changing.  Maybe my search is different..  Maybe I am not meant to get that AhAh moment...  Maybe I am meant to plug along until the moment becomes a string of moments, a continuous timeline of working hard and being better.  Naturally only time will tell, but cheers ….here is to getting to the bottom of the barrel.