I meet Petra II

I recently ran a 10K race on a cool day, and it rained the entire time. I was chilled to the bone, so I stopped at Thomas Hammer Coffee in Fairwood for a hot drink.

I was soaked at the finish, then I caught more raindrops during the half hour awards ceremony.

I was soaked at the finish, then I caught more raindrops during the half-hour awards ceremony.

A woman seated alone near the counter raised her head when I walked in. She looked like Petra, and though I didn’t think Petra’s beauty could be improved, this woman looked like an enhanced version.

As I looked at her, and she at me for much longer than a pair of strangers should, she showed no expression as this mutual evaluation was going on, nor any discomfort about the prolonged eye contact.

I like these situations because an interaction is more likely. Rarely does anything come of it, but it’s almost always a pleasant encounter.

After ordering my drink, I positioned myself to talk to her, but to my surprise, she spoke first.

“Where’s the swimming pool?”

I doubled over slightly, my smile scrunched up as I worked hard at not bursting into laughter. I was still completely soaked, and I may have been dripping all over the floor.

“I was in a 10K race, and I run so hard I sweat for the rest of the day.”

She gave me a fake ‘eeew’ look.

“My name is Jim Johnson.”

She shook my hand and smiled. “I’m Petra II.”

She had to have noticed my bewildered expression. I’ve written about my pursuit of Petra in many previous blog posts, but in the end, it didn’t work out, and we went our separate ways. To meet someone with that name who so resembled her is mind-boggling.

“Petra Two?” I asked. “That’s your real name?”

“Yes, using Roman numerals. My parents lost their first-born as a toddler, who was named Petra. My parents so loved the name, but they couldn’t legally re-use it. So I was named Petra II.”

My order was up, and though I was going to take out, I wandered back to Petra II. “Is this your favorite coffee shop?” I asked.

“Yes. I come so often, I’ve been appointed table monitor. You may sit here.” She pushed out a chair with her foot.

I sat across from her and as we talked, I was so enchanted by her beauty, her voice, and mannerisms. She is so nearly the original Petra’s twin that I thought maybe she was. But Petra does not have a sister, and though it occurred to me that maybe this was Petra, she would’ve behaved differently. I finally concluded this was a new Petra who was even more fascinating and alluring than the original.

“What was your last name again, Jim?”

“Johnson.”

My mocha was a little short of chocolate, so I excused myself and took my cup to the counter. While waiting, I saw Petra II pick up her phone. It occurred to me she might search for my Facebook page.

I’d guess she’s in her mid-30’s, and I didn’t want her to think I’m too old. I grabbed my phone, quickly went to my Facebook photo albums and tapped the first photo I came to of a younger me.

My new profile pic below was taken when I was a college student living in Pullman, WA.jim-at-wsu

I returned to the table and told Petra II that I often come to this place on late Sunday afternoons. She said she’s almost always a morning coffee drinker.

This is where I met Petra II. Thomas Hammer on Hastings.

This is where I met Petra II – Thomas Hammer Coffee on Hastings.

She was still tapping on her phone and then she looked at me, looked back at her phone, and did it again.

“Jim, I just went to your Facebook page, and you look much younger in your profile pic.”

“I just ran a hard race, and I’m drained and tired. With a shower and a little rest, I’ll look like my old self.”

“When was this picture taken?” she asked.

“Oh…a couple months ago.”

“It looks like a really old photo.”

“I used one of those filters on it. I like the rustic, dated look.”

She stared at her phone for several seconds. “This poster in the background – isn’t that Jaclyn Smith? Wasn’t she in that 70’s TV show Charlie’s Angels?”

“Boy, you are knowledgeable…ahhh…I’m not sure who that is.”

She turned her phone off, dropped it in her purse and pulled out her keys. She had a smile the whole time, but I couldn’t tell if it was favorable to me or not.

“I need to get going.” She got up, put her hand out, and we shook. “It was nice to meet you, Jim.” With that, she was out the door and gone.

I lingered at the table, replaying our conversation in my head. What a pleasant, pleasant woman she is. Yet I was troubled. I shouldn’t have changed my profile pic. I probably blew any chance I had.

I tossed my cup into the trash and walked to the car. When I got home, I took a long, hot shower, and it felt really good.

As I pulled stuff from the fridge to make myself a delicious meal, my phone dinged.

I’d left it in the bedroom, so I fetched it, and what a surprise. It was a Facebook friend request from Petra II. And with it a message which contained nothing except her phone number.

Wow.

 

 

Rules and decrees bring success to Manito Running Club

Spokane’s top running club by far is the Manito Running Club. Many members regularly win races or their age-groups. They are also leaders recognized in the running community for their effectiveness and dedication.

This culture of excellence has been fostered by a strict regulatory environment in which layers and layers of rules and decrees have created an atmosphere in which members thrive.

Many policies and requirements that govern the smallest of details in behavior, dress, hygiene and more makes for a cohesive, tight-knit group that is focused on discipline and attention to detail. This creates a winning attitude.

The group appointed a talented individual, Mike Tonkyn, to the position of violations administrator. As head of the Violations Department, his team doles out punishment and enforces the hundreds of regulations. In the below photo, Mike is delivering a stern glare to a member who used a napkin in a non-complying manner.The violations administrator (1)

Members are required to attend frequent seminars to learn the latest MRC policies and dictates. In the below photo, which I explained about in a previous post, members are learning to run in the latest, club-approved formation.SONY DSC

Even parking your car is monitored by the watchful eyes of MRC enforcement personnel. Though Manito Park is public space, parking spots are assigned for our Saturday morning runs, and there is zero tolerance for parking in the wrong spot.

In the photo below, I’ve just pulled out of my assigned spot, and I’m heading home with the satisfaction and fulfillment of being part of a system that brings order, structure, and a big brother warmth to my life.Jim-driving (1)

Recently, myself and fellow club member Lensa Etana were singled out for a near 100% adherence to club rules and policies. It was a truly wonderful moment, and we were very, very happy.Jim and Lensa (1)

Unfortunately, shortly after this, Lensa committed a major violation, and her membership in MRC is in doubt.

 

Online registration sucks!

I rarely fly into a rage and shoot steam out my ears, but when filling out online forms, it happens sometimes.

I recently entered a race in which I missed the deadline to register by mail. I know it’s archaic, old-school, and uncool, but I use it as often as I can because it’s S-I-M-P-L-E.

So I go online and right away I’m blocked from registering because I don’t know my password. Apparently I registered for a previous race through the same race registration company and was forced to get a password.

The steam inside my head is starting to pressurize.

SONY DSC

I have to have a new, temporary password emailed. Sometimes this takes longer than you’re told.

I finally get in, and here’s a list of several free newsletters that will be emailed to me. I don’t want these newsletters, but all the boxes are checked. I have to uncheck each box.

Next…what’s with this list? I can pick three magazines to try free. However, I have to supply my credit card number, and I’ll be charged for the free issues plus a year’s subscription if I don’t cancel promptly before the trial period ends. I see a hassle if I take advantage of this offer, and…..why is this even here?

Can I finish up? No. Now I’m being offered registration fee insurance. For $7.99, one-fifth the $40 entry fee, I’ll get a refund if I’m unable to make the race. Maybe this would make sense if it was a very high entry fee and such a tough race that preparing for it could lead to injury, but buying insurance to cover forty dollars?

All I want to do is register. Can’t I use a paper form? Pretty please. I promise I’ll make it hard on myself by carefully reading the liability waiver.

Finally, I come to the payment section. Fetch my credit card. Enter sixteen digits. Enter expiration date. Enter my top secret security code. Double check to make sure there’s no mistakes.

Oh goody! For using this time-consuming, on-line debacle filled with amazingly valuable offers, I get to have $3.95 added to my race fee.

To top it off, I missed out on another benefit of paper registration – getting in a run to my mailbox for pick up.

Jim running to mailbox

Encounters with wild animals while running

Satirical and absurd describe most of my posts. Sometimes I write of true events. This time is a sometime.

As a high schooler, my parents had a remote lake lot with a travel trailer, and I frequently accompanied my dad to spend a leisure working day there. One time I arranged to leave early to get in a run, and he’d pick my up on his drive home.

Running through a heavily wooded area, I saw a small animal on the gravel road ahead, running away from me. I caught up and slowed to its pace, keeping a buffer of several meters. Never before had I run in tandem with a skunk.

He ran a lot further than I thought skunks could run before stopping and facing me. He stomped his front feet which I knew was a warning that he’d spray. I didn’t react because I was a good twenty feet away, but when he turned and backed up toward me, I backed up, too.

Eventually he ran into the woods – a smarter escape route than sticking to the road.

During my college days I worked summers at a YMCA camp north of Spokane. Running alone on an old logging road one morning, I rounded a corner, and in front of me was a coyote and a badger, facing off, about to fight. It’s the only time I’ve seen a badger in the wild.Badger

(From Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Yathin S. Krishnappa)

Seeing me, they immediately fled. I ran a short distance past the spot, stopped and looked for them. I was hoping they’d come back together and resume their scuffle. I would’ve enjoyed watching a coyote-badger fight. But I apparently ruined that possibility.

Though I wasn’t on a run, my most perilous encounter occurred in a remote area of the Colville National forest in northeastern Washington a few years ago. I was doing a solitary ten-mile hike because overtraining caused a partially torn meniscus a couple weeks earlier.

I awoke an animal sleeping near the trail, and as it got to its feet, I thought it was a moose. As it galloped toward me, I saw it wasn’t a moose, but a bear.

I’ve done a lot of hiking, and several times I’ve crossed paths with bears. In every instance they fled as if I was very dangerous. I waved my arms and yelled loudly which didn’t deter him one bit.

Evasive action wasn’t an option because my torn meniscus wouldn’t allow it. I gave one last deep-throated yell and waved my arms in the most aggressive way I could. It was as if the bear was completely deaf. He closed in at a full run.

The bear skidded to a stop, his snout nearly touching my legs. I could have patted his head. Then he turned and trotted away.

Though I was concerned and hyper-alert, I didn’t experience great fear. The bear wasn’t especially hostile – no growling or baring of teeth. I believe he was groggy, and his first reaction was to run at me. I figured he finally identified I was human and did what bears normally do when they encounter people.

Thankful the situation ended well, I continued my hike, but made noise just in case the bear was still nearby.

If you find yourself wanting to read more instances of “amazing” wildlife encounters, I described a very unusual one in the previous, farcical post, “Camels vs. Humans“.

The fluke incident that started Bloomsday

To celebrate the 40th running of Bloomsday next week, I’m re-posting a May, 2013 post about the circumstances which led to the founding of Spokane’s biggest road race.

The nation’s second largest run by number of timed finishers, Bloomsday was founded by Don Kardong, the fourth place finisher in the 1976 Olympic marathon. I watched 1976 Olympic marathon gold medalist, Frank Shorter, win the very first run in 1977. Don Kardong finished third in that race, and he’s currently the Bloomsday race director.

Don Kardong leading Steve Prefontaine in a 1970 race. (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Don Kardong leading Steve Prefontaine in a 1970 race. (Photo credit: Creative Commons)

The idea for Bloomsday was hatched by Don Kardong the same day as a long line of people were waiting at the Spokane YMCA for handouts of surplus cheese on a cold November morning in 1976, which the United States Department of Agriculture arranged frequently back then.

As the time neared for the cheese to be distributed, a YMCA official appeared and announced that there’d been an error in the newspaper. The cheese was not at the YMCA, but at the YWCA, located just a few blocks away. The crowd broke into a run.

Mr. Kardong, enjoying a quiet, contemplative stroll, was surprised to find a sprinting mob coming at him. To avoid being trampled, he ran a short distance and turned into the first parking lot, which happened to be the YWCA. Merely wanting to escape, he somehow ended up first in line, and was given two large bricks of cheese. A reporter covering the event wrote a front page story the next day vilifying Kardong for taking advantage of a program for the needy and as well, using his running ability to get to the front of the line. Kardong says, “I got a bum rap for that, but man, was that cheese good! I ate an entire brick as I walked home. I saved the other, and today it’s on display at the Bloomsday Hall of Fame.”USDA cheese

Inspired by the sprinting mob, Kardong started the Race for Surplus Cheese. Over time, a more dignified name was sought. Thus, Bloomsday.

 

My public lecture is a huge success

A couple weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I gave a lecture, open to the public. It turned out very, very well.Jim's lecture2

The six-hour lecture event focused on insects I’ve seen while running. Not once was there any chatter or conversation among attendees as I spoke. It was obvious that everyone was very interested as I described the bugs I’ve seen flying around or crawling on the ground as I run past.

I sneaked a photo about halfway through, and I think because of the sheer wealth of information presented, the audience is trying to digest it all.Dave bored

In a different area of the lecture hall, I set up a table and a sign for attendees to get in line for autographs. The gentleman above, David Blythe, apparently forgot my mention of the post-lecture autograph session, but quickly got in line when I reminded him.Jim autograph line (1)

After getting my autograph he rushed out with nary a good-bye.

I couldn’t help beaming as I sat at my little autograph table. When people rush away, obviously intent on getting home to put the autograph in a secure, safe spot, I can’t help but be proud.

With this success, I scheduled another lecture, this one eight hours, entitled, “Descriptions of Jim’s many t-shirts acquired from entering races over the years.”

I suggest making arrangements now to ensure you get a seat.

 

Spokane’s first sub-4 minute miler

When I was a junior in high school, I qualified in the mile at the All-City Meet. The program, which I still have, listed the All-City record for the event. I’d heard of Rick Riley, but it was the first time I’d seen how fast he’d run.All-city meet program

The same year he set the All-City mile record, he won the state meet two-mile in 8:48.3. No one in the 50 years since has run that fast in a high school track meet in Washington. Still a high-schooler, he qualified for the United States Track and Field Championships that summer and did well enough to make the U.S. National Team.

Rick attended Ferris High School in Spokane and then Washington State University where he ran track and cross-country.

Rick dueling it out with Steve Prefontaine at a WSU-Oregon track meet.

Rick dueling it out with Steve Prefontaine at a WSU-Oregon track meet.

I recall seeing the below photo and reading a news article as a kid when Rick won the Pac-8 mile championship in 1970. His coach quipped, “I never thought I’d have a four minute miler.”

Rick out-leaning Roscoe Divine of Oregon at the Pac-8 track championships.

Rick out-leaning Roscoe Devine of Oregon.

The first sub-4 minute mile was done in 1954. In 1970 they were still fairly rare. In winning this race in 3:59.2, Rick became the 32nd American and first Spokane runner to go under four minutes.

In 1976, my second year of running at Spokane Falls Community College, a new distance coach was hired – Rick Riley.

Rick was no hardcore coach. He was knowledgeable yet easy-going and likable. Though an accomplished runner who’d been one of our country’s top performers, we didn’t think of him that way. However, huddling with our team at Seward Park in Seattle prior to the state junior college cross-country championship race, another team was next to us, and I overheard their coach point him out and say to his runners, “See that guy – he’s a sub-4 minute miler.”

I remember the look of awe on their faces as they looked Rick over. Such is the status of someone who can run a mile that fast.

We runners got along well with Coach Riley except for one incident which escalated so dramatically that it ended in a shooting that I witnessed.

Apparently there’d been a conflict between Coach and one runner on our team, Russ Roadruck. One day, myself and a few other runners were in the locker room getting ready for practice when Russ burst in and ran toward us, shouting, “No! No! Don’t!”

Right behind was Rick, chasing him, and as they reached us, we saw Rick had a gun. He fired several shots, and Russ fell to the floor at our feet, silent and unmoving.

Normally, in such a situation, you’d scramble away to avoid getting shot, or attempt to disarm the shooter. However, we just stood there, smiling, waiting for whatever came next.

Russ came back to life and got up. Rick had a starter’s pistol which can only shoot blanks. It was a neat little skit they’d concocted for our amusement. It wouldn’t be a good idea these days with all the real-life workplace shootings and mass murders, but back then, they were almost unheard of.

Last September, there was an event in Pullman, home of Washington State University, in which Rick was inducted into the WSU Hall of Fame.Rick at Hall of Fame (1)

The official reason for his induction was to honor his outstanding running career at WSU. However, I believe the real reason was to pay homage to the entertaining skit he performed in the SFCC locker room.