Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"The Kansas of my imagination is a fiercely exotic ocean ..."

I’ve only briefly visited modern Kansas, but the Kansas of my imagination is a fiercely exotic ocean, a warm and savage sea richer than any place still extant. Try mentioning the magic word “Niobrara” to a paleontologist, or any enthusiast familiar with Mesozoic reptiles…their eyes will light up as it conjures visions of the world of 85 million years ago, a world well documented in the incredible fossil beds of Kansas. It’s a powerful, evocative word that links us to a wealth of evidence and a complex, fascinating history.

Reading about the ridiculous anti-evolution trial going on there was rather depressing. It isn’t just that the creationist arguments are so poor, but that they are making them in Kansas, where beneath their very feet are the relics of an ancient world that show them to be wrong.





Read all of PZ Myers's beautiful article about the real context of the Kansas evolution hearings.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Goodbye, Seattle ... Hellooooooo Las Vegas!

I've decided to change my first marathon: I've heard enough horror stories about Seattle in late November: cold, rain, hills, darkness.

Instead, I give you ....
LAS VEGAS!



How can anybody resist this?
Experience the rush of adrenaline on the Start line in front of Mandalay Bay when the gun goes off and a spectacular fireworks display set to Elvis’ “Viva Las Vegas” rocks in this inaugural event.

In other news, my leg is feeling just dandy. I ran twice at the weekend, and I'm feeling all fired up! Check out Sarah, and Naomi - who both kicked running ass at the weekend - for posts that make me want to get out and pound the pavement.

Friday, May 20, 2005

In other news ...

Tomorrow I will give it a shot. My leg is still painful, more so in the morning. Saturday morning will be the test run.

In the meantime, take this short walk off a plank to the cARRRnival of the runners.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Who'd a thunk it?




It took me until my extremely middle thirties, but at last I have an athletic prize, however tiny! I'm almost embarrassed at how delighted I was when this memento of my first race fell out of its envelope this evening. Almost, but not quite.

I'm threatening to wear it to work tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Ouch. OUCH.

So my right calf / shin / ankle has been hurting me quite a bit since the Over the Bridge run. There's a twinge there, and sometimes when I run it feels like my leg might collapse under me. This morning I ended up walking for most of my run.

So here's my plan.
  • Rest the leg tomorrow and Thursday. See how things feel Friday. If still bad, escalate it to a doctor. Note to self: get off arse and find doctor. Before your Pill prescription runs out.
  • Check out different running shoes. My heel feels like it's moving about a bit much in my shoes, even though it's improved since I put insoles in.
I feel like a lazy quitter by not running properly, but I'm in week 4 of my 31-week program, and I want to fix this before it gets worse.

It's the right thing to do, isn't it?

Isn't it?

Monday, May 16, 2005

My morning run


(There used to be more ...)

I run around Lake Union every weekend. Now Matthew Baldwin writes about it, and even shows the goose family I've been watching for weeks. See Kate Bicket's beautiful pictures here.

My Life as a Jock

Lying on the couch, drinking red wine and reading Runner's World.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Women runners arrested in Pakistan

More than two dozen people were detained Saturday after taking part in a foot race that included women, defying a ban imposed after Islamic hard-liners had attacked participants in a similar event.

Read the full article here.

Road Race 2: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

The Beat the Bridge race this morning was awesome. Challenging, fun, sociable, and wet. Here's how it went down.

No sleep the night before, pretty much. It was the same the night before the
Over the Dam run, but then I put it down to horrible mattresses. Is it nerves? I don't understand what I am nervous about - it's not as if I'm out to win this thing, or have a lot at stake - but I lay awake twitching until 6AM, when I got up and went to pick up James and his friend Beth, who were running with me. Neither James nor Beth had slept either, but we were still pretty lively, and the wonderful and beautiful Maggie Tai, James's wife, took a Before picture.


Beth, James, and me - dry and ready for our run.



So off to Husky Stadium we went. There was a real party atmosphere - and man, it was crowded. Out in front of the stadium, three women led the crowd in an aerobic warmup. It was like Jane Fonda in North Korea. We werer there ridiculously early, so we got to hang around and people-watch (I mainly passed the time visiting the bathroom repeatedly. It's a hobby, I guess).

But around 30 minutes before our wave was due, the heavens opened. I mean, it poured. I don't know how I've done it - in Seattle, and all - but in the last few months I have run in the rain exactly once. And then it was a light drizzle - a soft day, as they might (allegedly) say in Ireland. This morning, it bucketed down in cold grey sheets. But once we were off, it didn't really matter.

Now, if you don't know the Beat the Bridge race, it's got a pretty cool format. It's an 8K, and about two miles in, it reaches Seattle's University Bridge. It's a drawbridge, and exactly 20 minutes after the final wave starts the race, the drawbridge is raised. The aim is to get across the bridge before that happens. So we'd agreed to push it for the first two miles, and take it easier after that.




This experience was hugely different from the Grand Coulee run. For one thing, I hadn't thought about running in a really big field. Just weaving among other runners was tricky, especially when you're splashing through ankle-deep puddles. It was pretty hard, but I had my trusty Forerunner 201 (still flatteringly increasinging the length of every run by about .15 miles), so it was useful to pace with. James and Beth were a little ahead of me, but we pushed it, and we all got across. I'm so glad we did, because standing in the rain waiting for the drawbridge to be lowered would suck (even though they have DJs there to entertain the crowd).

(Poor Phil got to stand in the rain for quite a while - he promised to go and watch us at the bridge (it's very, very close to where we live), but when I got there I was so glad not to see him: standing about in the rain is way worse than running in it. But when we hooked up later, it turned out that he was waiting earlier on the route, and so we both missed each other, and he stood out in the rain anyway. What a star.)

Then it was a 3-mile run back to the stadium, and it was so much fun to finish right in the middle of the playing field.

Wow, we were wet, but it felt so good to have finished! My final time was 47:23, and I am really pleased with that. Sometimes my 4-mile daily runs take that long, so I was running 20% faster than usual. It feels like progress. On the down side, I've got a real twinge in my right shin / calf ... I'm going to rest it tomorrow to see if it gets better, but that area has been troubling me for a while. Beth and James both finished in about 45 minutes - awesome.


Tired, drowned, and ready for pancakes.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

To hell or to Connacht



I'm getting ahead of myself - my first marathon is many months away - but the Connemara Marathon is the race I want to run afterwards.

The west of Ireland - behind the bainín curtain - can be the most beautiful place on earth. Much of eastern Washington, though desert, shares its wild bleakness, and I think that's why I love it so much. But look closely and it's not so bleak: the hills blaze with rhododendrons and heather and bright yellow furze.

I was last there on New Year's Eve, 1999, driving down from Achill with my friend Therese, and though I love Seattle, and am glad to live here, sometimes I miss this scenery so much my chest aches.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"Welcome to domestic life on the farm..."

Neal Horsley is an anti-abortion extremist who posts the names of abortion doctors on his website. To make it easier to target and kill them.

Newshounds gives a transcript of his interview on the Alan Combs radio show on Fox.


Horsley said, "You experiment with anything that moves when you are growing up sexually. You're naive. You know better than that... If it's warm and it's damp and it vibrates you might in fact have sex with it."

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Back from my first race.


Things I learned when running my first race

  • Preparation is key. Lay out all your equipment the evening before.

  • Best to leave the hunt for safety pins till the very last minute, though.
  • You can run faster than you think. Break away earlier and run a little faster.
  • Only after starting a little slower, though. I was overtaken by just about everybody as the field dashed off downhill, but soon started passing people.
  • Adrenalin will push you on.
  • Tie your laces.

Things I loved about my first race

  • The ladies who put their chairs up front to cheer on people they didn't even know
  • PBJ afterwards!
  • Meeting and chatting with great fellow runners
  • Finishing respectably: 19th place, 3rd in division, just over 34 minutes. Considering there was an 8% grade for almost a mile (yikes!) I was pretty pleased. But I will do better in the next one!
  • The fact that 3rd in Division sounds a lot better if you don't know that there were only five women in my age group
  • The view from the top of the dam
  • The cops cheering us on from their truck
  • The people in Grand Coulee being, without exception, the nicest, friendliest people I have ever met
  • Seeing Phil stand up to meet me as I rounded the finish line


Heading to the starting line

Things I will not eat the night before my next road race

  • Chinese food reminiscent of that served in Castlebar, Co. Mayo, sometime in the mid-seventies.

Animals we saw by beautiful Banks Lake:




  • Quail
  • Mallards
  • Canada geese
  • Swifts
  • Black-billed magpies
  • One very small trout
  • Robins
  • Frogs
  • One small field mouse, trapped under the bed
  • One deer (dead).

What I did when I got home

  • Registered for more races.

Thanks to Sarah and Silvia for good wishes!

Friday, May 06, 2005

We're not in Kansas any more

... and unlikely to ever go there if this kind of nonsense keeps up.

Tom Scharle's Frequently Asked But Never Answered Questions to put to creationists.

Talk.Origins has some great information about this preposterous debate. Also recommended: Panda's Thumb (which is doing a good job of rounding out the coverage of the Kansas hearings).

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Clearly it's not in the genes

So my family, we don't talk a lot. It's not that we don't get on - in the main, we do - but in the 20 years and more I've lived away from home, in Ireland, London, and Seattle, I reckon I've gotten maybe three phone calls from my parents. So it's hard to keep up with the news.

But I was psyched yesterday when my mother told me that my cousin Paul McNamara was on the Irish men's senior team for the World Cross Country championships! Mind you, I found out about it more than a month after the race itself (March 27), but still - go Paul.

One time I was living with his cousin Kieran in Dublin. He announced he was going back home for the weekend, because his baby sister had won an all-Ireland medal. "It's her first," he explained, as if otherwise it wasn't worth mentioning, "so it's a big deal for her."

They're the athletic branch of the family.

Desert Song


Phil and I at the Dam in 2001. Posted by Hello


... So I've kept on track for two weeks (though I missed the gym). Only 29 weeks to go after this! And Sunday is my first road race, a 5K at the Over The Dam Run at the beautiful Grand Coulee Dam.

I think this dam, along with the Golden Gate Bridge, is one of the most beautiful of all human constructions. Every time I'm in San Francisco, I walk across the bridge, and am continually awed by the scale, the setting, the extraordinary engineering of it.

My dad is a civil engineer. When I was growing up, I didn't like his job. He was always designing roads or bridges or water treatment works, none of which seemed very glamorous to me. But now, if I had my time over, I think I'd become a civil engineer. Is there any other profession that has contributed so much to the human race? Doctors can do their best to cure disease, but until people have clean water and sanitation, they're just fighting a losing battle. Scientists can genetically engineer crops, but unless there's irrigation, people will still go hungry.

I hear people talk about the benificence of nature, but at best she's indifferent. Everything humankind has done has been in defiance of nature.

Tomorrow we'll be in eastern Washington, an arid dustbowl until the Grand Coulee Dam made the desert bloom.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Infallible blogger

The Pope, that cutie, is blogging.


I have been thinking about naming Axl Rose as the Patron Saint of Malt Liquor. His intoxicating voice has always entranced me. Like a drunken Che Guevara, he moved masses of people to follow him and believe his words.

Monday, May 02, 2005

"I Am Surrounded By Idiots."

Feel the goodness that is Darth Vader's blog.


Up yours, Obi-wan Kenobi. You will never pretend at anything again. You hid from me the one truly beautiful thing I have ever made: a baby boy. And you have corrupted him with your lies. (At least the green worm Yoda is dead. For this I am grateful. Trained as Jedi young Skywalker shall not be. Ha!)