Front yard marathon cancelled

Some readers may remember a post I did last year about how I did away with my lawn and put in indigenous plants. As a follow up project, I made running paths that allow me to go for a run in the country without leaving my front yard.Putting in six miles, all in my front yard

Eric Nelson, a fellow Manito Runners Club runner, suggested I hold a marathon race in my yard. I took him up, got the course Boston certified, and wrote about the event in a post called Basalt and Pine Marathon.

I was hoping to make the marathon an annual event, however, several issues arose during last year’s race that forced cancellation of this year’s race.

  • Over 2,400 runners entered my event. Entrants spent most of the race trying to squeeze past other participants without making much progress.
  • Since the race course was a 220-foot loop, race officials soon lost track of lap counts and placing.
  • Many runners left their warm up clothing in my neighbor’s yard, and I forgot that my event and his lawn-mowing schedule coincided. The shredded outfits left a bitter taste among participants.
  • Because I’ve been injured, plants in my front yard have grown out of control. I estimate it’ll take two weeks to cut a trail good enough for racing.
The native plants in my front yard have really grown and multiplied. Good to look at. Not good for running.

The native plants have really grown and multiplied. Good to look at. Not good for running.

I leave you with a photo of me, gazing among the plants, wondering if I can corner one of the four marmots that live in my yard. The pair of coyotes watching me may laugh, but they haven’t had much luck either.

Jim in yard


Warning: I am desperate

Sitting down to write this week’s post, it became clear that no ideas were coming to me. I became desperate because all I could think of was random things, some that had something to do with running and some that didn’t. I apologize if this post bores you, however, if you have trouble falling asleep, it’s an excellent resource.

In the 2011 Bloomsday 12K, a photo was taken of myself and a couple other runners. Of six feet, none were touching the ground.Jim running Bloomsday

I once read an article about this and was surprised how high the ratio of both feet off the ground is to time that at least one foot is on the ground.

Below is a photo of me watching a track and field race on YouTube.Jim watching race

Non-runners (and some runners too), probably think it’s boring to watch people run in circles over and over, but I find it very interesting.

Here I am standing atop the compost pile in the corner of my backyard.Jim's compost pile

The guy who lives across the alley from me once asked my next-door neighbor if they hate me. My neighbor asked why he would think that. The guy across the alley said because he saw them tossing weeds into my backyard. My neighbors do that because I offered to take their weeds for composting.

I’m going to reveal something embarrassing. Maybe you’ll find it disgusting. I grow lots of tomatoes in my backyard. I eat plenty fresh, but I also boil a bunch down to make spaghetti sauce. I also have a dehydrator that I use to dry more for wintertime eating.

I cut up more than a hundred tomatoes to dry.

I cut up a lot of tomatoes to dry. This is one batch which I repeat a bunch times more.

When I cut bunches of tomatoes, there’s a large pool of tomato juice left on the cutting table. The juice is especially sweet and good-tasting. I put my lips to the table and suck it up.Jim sucking tomato juice

I’m a bachelor, and I live alone. I can get away with this. However, if I start seeing someone, don’t take a screen shot of this photo and send it to her. I’ll come after you.

Drivers! Don’t call me huckleberry boy!

I thought I’d have a pleasant outing in the woods last Sunday picking huckleberries, but there are some very rude people out there.

This years crop of huckleberries is very good.

This years crop of huckleberries is very good.

Because I must run everywhere, I ran from my house to Mt. Spokane, a forty-six mile round trip. Huckleberries, a type of blueberry, grow mostly at high elevation around here, are delicious and even more healthy than blueberries. I eat lots fresh and freeze enough to eat almost daily until late spring. Though quite common, they resist domestication and must be picked wild.

Because many Inland Northwesterners are huckleberry aficionados, good-producing, easy-to-reach patches get hit hard. However, I know of an excellent patch on Mt. Spokane that requires some hiking. I’ve been going there for years, and only once have I seen another picker.

I use a couple milk jugs with the top cut off and when attached to my belt, it frees both hands for picking. As you can see, it was a decent harvest.Jim's huckleberries

I gave myself several pats on the back for coming up with the idea of running home with the containers placed at my hips. Carrying the extra weight will really increase my leg muscle mass.SONY DSC

However, so many people passing by in cars laughed at me. One guy yelled out, “Run faster, huckleberry boy!” Oh, I got extremely angry.

I shook my fist at the mean driver who called me huckleberry boy. I don't like that.

I shook my fist at the mean driver who called me huckleberry boy. I don’t like that.

Later, another driver honked his horn, and I waved, thinking it was someone I knew. But no, he laughed and yelled, “Wash up, huckleberry hands.”

You can't pick huckleberries without getting purple hands. In my case, I usually  have purple lips, cheeks and chin too.

You can’t pick huckleberries without getting purple hands. I usually have purple lips, cheeks and chin too.

Then a problem developed. I glanced behind, and on the road was a trail of huckleberries as far as the eye could see. My berries were bouncing out.SONY DSC

However, I solutioned this issue very brilliantly. If I ran home in only half the time as my normal pace, only half as many berries will bounce out. So what to do was obvious:

Extreme Speedrunning!



Unfortunately, when I arrived home, the huckleberry bounce rate apparently increased during my extreme speedrunning. I had so few berries left.SONY DSC

I became incensed about the wastiture of precious huckleberries. I was seething for hours, and not being able to get hold of my anger management counselor didn’t help either. Finally, as I’ve done before, I vented my anger in a non-destructive manner.SONY DSC

So next week I’ll have to make another trip to Mt. Spokane – by car, which actually is how I got there today. I didn’t really run to Mt Spokane and back. :)



The saddest day in American track and field

I was a high school senior when I walked into the kitchen as my mother prepared breakfast on May 30th,1975. On the radio was news of the death of America’s top track and field distance runner – Steve Prefontaine.

This poster I purchased forty years ago is pinned to a wall in my basement.

This poster I purchased forty years ago is pinned to a wall in my basement.

He was only twenty-four years old, and I was truly struck by his death in a one-car accident in Eugene, Oregon. I couldn’t help thinking how such a talented, charismatic runner was going from setting records to being buried in the ground.

He was a young college student when I watched him on TV challenging for the lead with a half lap to go in the 1972 Olympic 5000 meters, only to get edged for a medal by the older, more experienced favorites.

When I was in high school, before Pre’s death, a teacher assigned a collage project which I have little memory of. Among the hundreds of magazines we had for cutting out photos, I came across a 1971 Sports Illustrated with Pre on the cover. I pilfered it, and after reading it over and over, I eventually boxed it and put it in my closet with other mementos where it sat for years.pre magazine 2

Because Pre is the track and field equivalent of movie-star James Dean, his untimely death has made this edition valuable. I only recently discovered that ones in excellent condition can sell for up to $500.

I saw Pre but once in-person – when he won the NCAA cross-country championship that was held in Spokane in 1973.

Looking good (and fast) while running

Most people when out in public want to look good, even while running. This can include not only the way you dress, but how fast you’re going.

A slow warm-up is a good way to start a run, but it doesn't impress.

A slow warm-up is a good way to start a run, but it doesn’t impress.

Women are especially good at choosing outfits that are attractive and eye-catching. From form-fitting outfits to yoga pants and short shorts, I like it when women dress nicely.

Some guys also have an eye for fashion, but for the most part, we guys don’t make it a priority.

When I run, I choose routes that have little traffic, are uncongested, and it’s often after dark, therefore, I wouldn’t impress many people if I wore a stylish outfit.

However, the long days of summer allow me to get in a run after work when there’s still light. Living in the city, I cross arterials now and then, pass by or through business districts, or cross paths with other runners or walkers.

I get the notion sometimes to pick up the pace if I’m in these situations. I think a runner looks good running at a brisk pace.

If people are around, I like pick it up to impress.

A group of women ahead, and I’m ready to impress. Estimated pace per mile: 5:15-5:20.

However, if I maintain a brisk pace too long, I’ll have a price to pay.

Good thing no one is around on this side street. Estimated pace per mile: 20 min.

Good thing no one is around on this side street. Estimated pace per mile: 20 min.

In some situations where I run a really fast pace for too long, I experience total collapse.

Please keep a watchful eye if you're out for a walk. Please step around me instead of on me.

Keep a watchful eye if you’re out for a walk. Please step around me instead of on me.

When I really overdo it in these situations, my legs are so tired that I can’t even get up. I’m reduced to walking on my hands and knees.


Since this has happened several times, I carry a medium-sized swatch of fabric in my running shorts pocket. Yes, it’s a strange sight, and embarrassing, but at least people can’t see who I am as I crawl home.


Greeting other runners

When you see a runner approaching as you’re putting in mileage, what options are there for acknowledging him or her? Or, should you even acknowledge?

This is a trivial issue which really doesn’t need addressing, however, my runners blogging license mandates that I cover this or lose my web presence.

A runner focusing on a fast pace or who has that look that they don’t want to be bothered obviously should not be greeted.

For all others, there are several greeting styles available. I’ve come up with a list of scenarios and the appropriate greeting. Please feel free to add your own twist.

A friendly nod is often the best greeting.

Jim nodding

If you’re running in a rural area where cowboy values hold true, a tip of the hat and a friendly “Howdy” will earn you points.

Jim tipping hat

If you cross paths with that runner who sprinted madly past you at the very end of last week’s 5K race and knocked you out of an age-group award, this is appropriate.

Jim sneer

Some runners out there are just so friendly, smiley, and nice that you absolutely have to reciprocate.

Jim waving

If you happen to run through a neighborhood where gangs rule the streets, random finger positioning like below will show that you’re one of them.

Jim gangsign

If you happen to cross paths with a very beautiful woman, don’t be shy or subdued. Show her how you feel.

Jim happy

Petra needed for home visit

It’s been three months since I suffered a stress fracture in my foot. I’m still waiting for it to completely heal, but when it does, to celebrate, I’d like Petra to join me on my first run.

I wrote in an earlier post about how Petra and I negotiated having a relationship that I described as intense realism, which means being a couple and being fluffy with others.

This blend of wandering and staying put can be an exciting lifestyle, but it’ll only work if the couple has a great love for one another, a recognition that wandering reduces the possibility of a relationship becoming stale, and a priority for each other which exceeds that for the fluffees.

However, instead of intense realism, my daily routine remains the same. Besides my job, a lot of my time consists of:

Working in my garden. It takes up about 2/3 of my backyard.

Working in my garden. It takes up about two-thirds of my backyard.

Going to a coffeeshop to work on the next I Must Run Everywhere post.

Going to a coffeeshop to work on the next I Must Run Everywhere post.

Making my daily dinner - salad with ingredients from my garden. Harvesting, chopping and freezing produce  for winter use also takes much time.

Making my daily dinner – salad with ingredients from my garden, and harvesting, chopping and freezing produce for winter use.

This is okay because I rather enjoy my daily life, however, intense realism would be more fulfilling, and I need to get on the stick.

After Petra and I discussed what kind of relationship we’d like, she wanted a little more time being unattached as her breakup with Byron left a bad taste in her mouth.

It’s been a few months now, and Petra has commented a couple of times lately about getting started, yet inertia has a grip on me. I’ve decided it’s time to act.

I know that bachelor pads are infamous for their clutter and filth, and even though I keep a neat place, I really want to impress Petra. So, I’ve been knocking myself out raising the cleanliness level from good to outstanding.

I scrubbed the oven for hours and hours. Another ribbon for my outstanding performance.

I scrubbed for hours, and the oven sparkles. An outstanding performance that deserves a medal.

I used a toothbrush to scrub the floor and clean the bathroom. Then I absent-mindedly brushed my teeth with it.

I used a toothbrush to scrub the floor and clean the toilet. Then I absent-mindedly brushed my teeth with it.

How's this for multi-tasking. I'm dusting a tabletop and the floor at the same time.

How’s this for multi-tasking. I’m dusting a tabletop and the floor at the same time.

Petra, I know you read this blog. I invite you to come over. Start me up, and I’ll start you up.

Left side or right side? Your choice. Sheets have the scent of a mountain meadow bursting with wildflowers.

Left side or right side? You get to choose. You’ll notice the aroma of a mountain meadow bursting with wildflowers with notes of tangy citrus and a hint of pine.