Post-storm run scenes

Recently I saw some unusual things when I went running. Less than two blocks from my house, I came across this.Wellesley & Washington

One tree came down on the house, and the other blocked a major arterial. I continued my run and after a couple more blocks, I saw this.smashed car 2

A storm hit Spokane on Nov. 17th with winds that hit 71 mph. Two people were killed by falling trees in separate incidents, and so many fell onto power lines and into power poles, that of the 272,000 households in the two counties in which Spokane and Coeur d’Alene are located, over 200,000 lost power. That’s over 73% of all homes.

A few days after the storm, I was at a Starbucks and Stephanie Moran-Kuest, a fellow running club member came in. Her house was cold and without power, her car had been smashed by a tree, and a news crew was in front of her house. She wasn’t too thrilled with her situation, as you might guess. The car in the below photo isn’t Stephanie’s, but perhaps hers was roughly in the same shape.smashed car1

Among other running club members that suffered damage, one couple had a single tree that smashed both their cars, and another guy had a pipe burst in his freezing home, leaving a few inches of water in his basement.

I was without power for several days, but I have a wood-burning fireplace insert and was able to stay comfortable, I don’t have any large trees in my yard, so my house was undamaged. However, my neighbor across the alley from me took a hit.neighbor's house

Utility crews worked 16-hour days in sub-freezing temperatures, and by Nov. 27th the last home without power in Spokane had it restored. I thought it was an admirable effort. I’ve never worked a 16-hour day in my life. Nor have I been outside in sub-freezing weather for 16 hours straight.

Some residents face bigger problems that will take longer to resolve. I have sympathy for this homeowner on Spokane’s northside.smashed house2



My No. 1 ranked Ethiopian friend

So few people have the chance to become friends with a top-ranked runner. I don’t mean top-ranked in the U.S, or one of the top-ranked. I’m talking No. 1 in the world.

I am fortunate that such a person happens to be active in several Spokane running clubs. Lensa Etana, an Ethiopian runner, trains for her races here in Spokane.Lensa racing

Though easy-going, warm, and likable, she often boasts of her top-ranking, even going as far as wearing outfits in races to let her competitors know who they’re up against. Take a look at the below photo.Lensa - WSE

All right, Lensa isn’t top-ranked for quickness, but you have to agree she’s pretty good at self-deprecating humor. She adopted the moniker, World’s Slowest Ethiopian, after fellow running club members chided her for race times that are very modest for someone from a country known for its outstanding distance runners.

I can relate to Lensa because she seems like someone with a similar background and upbringing, and with no discernible accent, one would think she has lived in Spokane her entire life. But her background is more interesting.

We runners often get together. Lensa, myself and others have breakfast after a very cold morning run.

Lensa, myself and others enjoying breakfast after a very cold morning run.

Her parents, both Ethiopian, met in Ukraine while studying when the Soviet Union and Ethiopia were allied prior to the breakup of the Soviet Bloc. Lensa was born there, but when an opportunity arose to go to Sweden, Lensa’s mother elected to return to Ethiopia where Lensa lived until age nine. She moved to Sweden where her dad, a soil scientist, taught at a university. She attended Swedish schools and graduated from high school there.

Ultimately she came to the U.S. and graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle. She works for a medical reference lab in Spokane.

She is fluent in Swedish, two languages used in Ethiopia, Oromo and Amharic and, of course, English.

Lensa enters plenty of road races, so if you’re ever doing the same in the Spokane area, perhaps you’ll have a brush with fame and run past The World’s Slowest Ethiopian.

Running + sunglasses = cool

Have I been accused of trying to be cool by running with sunglasses? Yes, but instead of admitting it, I said my head swelled during a long period of never taking them off, and I couldn’t get them off.


It’s only in the past few years that I’ve regularly worn sunglasses. I just didn’t think to buy them even though there were occasions I could’ve used a pair.

Now that I wear them regularly, I’ve found that sunglasses and I have extremely short relationships. My longest one lasted almost two years, which is a record by far. Most of them last only a few weeks. My current relationship is the fourth I’ve had this year. I’m not about to hook-up with an attractive, head-turning pair that’ll cost me lots of money. I’d likely walk out of a restaurant, leaving them on the table.

The only problem I have running in sunglasses is the eye pad, the part that rests on the bridge of your nose, sometimes gets slippery when I start perspiring, and they begin to bounce. I find myself adjusting them frequently to prevent it.

As well, when I’m doing a running club run, I’m more likely to leave them behind after the post-run get-together. I lost two pair in quick succession this summer.

However, my newest pair look so good, and I feel so cool running in them, my head really swelled again, and I can’t get them off. Even though this is a little inconvenient when sleeping and showering, the tradeoff is that I’m not losing sunglasses anymore, and I look cool all the time.


I don’t look forward when they go out of style though. I’ve been told that surgery is the only way to have them removed.

The plus side of running injuries

I smugly claimed in a past post that I rarely fall down while running, even in icy conditions. But last month, I took a spill and gave myself a bright and colorful scrape.Arm burn

I was on a trail with Diana Crabtree during a Manito Runners Club run, and as she was telling me about the scar on her knee, suffered in a fall on the trails we were on, I tripped and went down. Diana rushed to assist me, but I was able to get right up and continue my run.

When I got home I poured hydrogen peroxide over my wound. It never got infected, but over the next couple weeks the hydrogen peroxide provided an unexpectedly wonderful experience.

After the injury scabbed over, as with previous scrapes, I was tempted to pick. Oddly, I also find that giving my picked scabs a thorough look-over is very interesting. So, I abandoned self-discipline and restraint and picked away.

Then I discovered something great and took things up a notch.scab pieces are tiny

scab pieces-small2

Scab-picking provides entertainment during those times of the day when not much is going on and you’re bored. I really liked it when I could peel off a large, unbroken piece of scab. Plus, having a delicious treat at the end was a super fringe benefit.

As I ate the scabs, I was delighted to find they had pleasant hints of hydrogen peroxide. I didn’t know an external-use-only medication could impart such wonderful flavor.scab-big piece

The scab has nearly healed, and I’m facing an end to my self-produced tasty snacks, I’m considering falling once more, intentionally. If I run at a very fast pace on rough terrain, I can get a much larger scab which would mean a big supply of enjoyable treats.

Perhaps you think it’s strange that I eat my scabs. I do, too. What I’m really eating is pictured below.Scabs really b. jerky

Hopefully, next time you eat beef jerky, this post won’t cause you to associate it with scab-eating. I apologize in advance if that happens.


How not to die while running

We’ve had very hot weather in Spokane lately. A local airport, Felts Field, recorded ten straight days of highs over 90 degrees, and one day it was 107 degrees (42 C.). This raises an important safety question for runners: When running in very hot weather, what is the most common way that runners end up dead?

If you answered heat stroke, good guess, but you’re wrong. The correct answer is heavy sweating stings the eyes so badly that runners can’t see very well, they go off course and plunge thousands of feet off a sheer cliff.

I lived in southern Japan for a couple years, which has a summer climate similar to the Midwest. The hot and very humid weather causes heavy sweating, and the evaporation rate is so slow. Here’s a photo in which I re-created a finish to one of my runs in Japan.Sweaty JimHonestly, after finishing a run, I was so soaked, you’d think I jumped into a pool. My adversely affected eyes caused me to plunge over a cliff twice, but both times I fortunately got snagged by a branch just below the ledge.

Though I don’t get totally soaked in Spokane’s dry climate, high temps cause me to sweat heavily. I often use sunscreen, and that makes it even worse on the eyes.

For those of you at high risk of heavy sweating and cliff-plunging, here’s a solution I pioneered that keeps perspiration out of the eyes.Jim's headband sponge

Though sponges are cheap, I use the same one for washing my car. And they’re great at cushioning the blow whenever you run into something.

So, don’t let the summer heat stop you from getting in a run!

I dominate running group photo

Last week the Flying Irish did its annual group photo portrait in Riverfront Park. Even though a lot of people were going to be in the photo, I wanted to make myself stand out with a perfect pose in the perfect spot. So, a few days beforehand, I went to the site of the photo shoot and scoped things out.

The Flying Irish group photo site at Riverfront Park.

The Flying Irish group photo site at Riverfront Park.

Since being in the right spot is paramount, I analyzed the scene and divided it into quadrants to evaluate for optimal positioning.SONY DSC

Distance from camera is also a crucial factor. Most people may think being in the front row is the best place. Not necessarily so! I used a tape measure to arrive at the ideal camera-to-subject distance. I found out the best place to stand would be toward the back of the group.SONY DSC

Afterward, I spent a few hours practicing a variety of poses, each conveying one of my many different moods and attributes. Below are the ones that made the final cut. I spent the evening before the shoot evaluating them before making my final choice.

Happy and friendly Jim.

Happy, friendly and jolly – that’s me.

I'm one tough running hombre.

I’m one tough running hombre.

I'm having a great time.

I’m having a great time.

I salute you, Mr Photographer

I salute runners everywhere.

Hi! How are you? Let's play.

Hi! How are you? Let’s play.

I'm a proud soldier of the Flying Irish Army.

I’m a proud soldier of the Flying Irish Army.

Below is the 2015 official Flying Irish group portrait. It turned out great, and I think I look just dandy.flying irish group portrait

I’m in the middle back. Email this to a movie theatre and have them project it onto the screen to see me.

Running for pleasure

A fellow member of the Flying Irish, Speed Fitzhugh, recently described the long run he did. He’s not training for a marathon or any race in particular, and he’s not a high-mileage runner during the week, but he enjoys a long, easy run on the weekend that’s 20-30 miles long.

He once invited me to join him on a 30-miler. Unfortunately, I don’t have the stamina and durability to run that far, even at a slow pace without feeling wiped out for a couple days, or getting injured, or both.

But I like the concept of running purely for pleasure with no thought of maintaining a sustained brisk pace or preparing for a race.

I used to live in Ventura, California, and on Saturday mornings I’d run down to the pier near my apartment and get on a trail that ran north along the shore. It was only two miles out and two miles back, but the turnaround point overlooked a popular surfing area, and I sat on a rock and watched the surfers. Sometimes I spent more time sitting on the rock than I did running.surfing


In Spokane, there was a basalt outcropping that used to overlook downtown until it was developed into an office building. It was the turnaround point for a five-miler that also involved sitting on a rock. The tall buildings, with windows lit in the early evening, the passenger jets flying over on their final approach to the airport, and the dull roar from the bustle of an urban environment made a great scene depicting the excitement of city living.

Many times while traveling or visiting out-of-town friends or relatives, I’ve enjoyed running just to explore. Sometimes these turn into long runs because I’ll come to a neat area or road, and I want to explore more instead of turning back.

Maybe, my fellow runners, it’s the same for you – sometimes the highlight of my day is the run I did.