Wednesday, November 29, 2006


This is what they call a "classroom." The adult in the front of the room is doing what they call "teaching." The whole thing is called "school." (I'm writing this mostly to remind myself.)

My 7-year-old son used to go to one of these there "schools." But then last Sunday, a foot of snow fell on Bellingham, which was promptly followed by someone leaving the door wide open on the giant fridge that is the Arctic. Our fair city has been blasted into a block of solid ice. We've been freezing our tats off ever since.

Bellingham has no plows or sand trucks--they sold them a few years because it never snows here--so schools have been closed all week. And of course, all this comes on the heels of Thanksgiving break, not to mention this early-release day and that teacher work day, which means that my kid has gone to school maybe twice since Halloween.

But we've made the best of it. We've been sledding. We've enjoyed epic Monopoly games. We've sipped hot cocoa. We've slurped chicken soup. We've enjoyed epic Monopoly games. (Did I already mention that?)

Mount Baker has been a snow globe in permanent shake-up mode--it's been dumped on by 100 inches of powder in the last four days--so a trip to the ski area makes a capital idea. 'Cept we can't move our car. It's frozen in place under a couple feet of what looks like white cake frosting.

It's a winter wonderland out here.

But I want my Bellingham back.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Day 2 of the snow. Or three, I guess. Snowed two days ago. Yesterday was 19 degrees. Today is ... another day off from school for my Baker, my 7-year-old, whose school is two blocks away from our house.

It's a neighborhood school with no bus service; everyone walks. So instead of going to classes, all the kids have been walking and skiing to the schoolyard. There, they build snowmen and have snowball fights, just outside the classrooms in which they should really be sitting quietly and doing their lessons, as it were.

In New Jersey, where I grew up, my school was the one that never cancelled classes. All districts on all sides of us would have three days off if the words "freezing rain" were anywhere in the forecast but not ole Hoval. Instead, we enjoyed a harrowing two-hour bus ride, skidding up and down the ice-coated hills of rural Jersey.

I should be happy for Baker. I want him to have all the things I didn't. And if snow days off from school is one of those things, so be it.

Monday, November 27, 2006


It rarely snows in Bellingham, so when it does we're all stunned and amazed. And we'll get up at 4:30 in the morning to walk the quiet neighborhood streets and take pictures, our fingers freezing since the only way we can focus and shoot is to take off our gloves.

Yesterday, we ran two hours in the stuff up in the Chuckanuts and had the time of our lives. A bunch of us winging snowballs at each other and pulling down on heavy branches that dumped buckets of snow on the person behind. I believe that's what friends are supposed to do.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Scanned this photo from a 1984 edition of the Hunderton County Democrat, a Central New Jersey paper. Why? Well, because it documents that I, at one time, actually led a race. (Note how they spell the word 'triathlon.')

"Garden State Tinman", as the race was called, implies that it boasted some tough competition, a race you had to earn your way into, qualify for, maybe. Hardly. Held the same day as big races in New York and Philadelphia that drew most of the hard-core racers, it was quite small.

The swim was a quarter-mile in Round Valley Reservoir near Flemington, famous for its circles (known elsewhere as rotaries) and outlet malls. (Famous to me, too, for the time when I was a kid and threw up in the movie theater there during "Planet of the Apes". I remember saying, "Dad, I don't feel so good," and then threw up all over him. Even then, I was aware of the importance of not just telling, but also, showing.)

Back to the race. Back in '84, before triathlon wet-suits were commonplace, I had a tendency to wimp out in cold water. So just to be safe, I rented the upper half of a scuba diving wet-suit for this early June race. Thing is, the water was knee-high at the deepest so we just ran the entire swim. I bet I looked pretty cool running in knee-deep water wearing a wet-suit for my upper body.

A couple miles into the 20-mile bike ride, it was me and the other guy in the picture at the front. We took turns drafting off each other. (Drafting was legal in the old New Jersey Tinman; the guy without a helmet is a race official, I think.) At some point, I asked the other lead guy what his 10K time was and he said 34-something. Rats! Mine was close to 39 minutes so I knew I had no chance of winning. But I still wanted to enter the bike-run transition with the lead so that my girlfriend at the time could at least see me in front. Which I did and that was quite thrilling for both of us. I started the run with a little lead and over the first couple miles, I kept turning and looking for the other lead guy, practically slowing to a stop and waiting for him: "Come on, when are you going to pass me, let's get it over with." (How's that for a killer competitive instinct?)

At some point he did run past me, as did one other guy, so I ended up getting third which was beyond anything I could've hoped for. The next day there was a little story about the race in the local paper and the guy who won (sorry I don't remember his name) said something to the effect that he knew he'd win because he was a much stronger runner than everyone else out there. (Actually, it wasn't even that arrogant sounding, he was just confident in his abilities; he wasn't, for instance, turning around looking for, and practically begging people to hurry up and pass him.)

My aforementioned girlfriend was really rankled by the story and called him up semi-anonymously to give him a hard time: "I guess you think you're some pretty hot stuff, fastest man in the world, huh? If you're so fast why aren't you in the Olympics?" that kind of thing.

Wonder where he is now.

Her too.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


So I've decided to become bike race boy. Or BRB. I've never raced though over the past 25 years I've done my share of triathlons (including two Ironman races), duathlons, 10Ks, 50Ks, and the like. But never bike racing, wherein you shave your legs and, from the looks of watching the Tour de France on TV, ride uncomfortably close to a large group of other men wearing tight Lycra shorts. I can't wait!

Looking forward to being part of a team too. Fanatik Bike Co., a shop here in Bellingham, Washington, is sponsoring the team and being mucho generous in doing so.

I haven't been on a team in a long time. Probably since my high school baseball team, when I broke my arm in the first game of my senior season. Batted second, singled up the middle, stole second and heard an odd crack when I slid into the base. I had a habit, I guess, of putting my left hand down when I slid and when I hit the dirt I cracked my whatever that bone is just above the wrist. Super bummer, not just because I couldn't play, but the day before I broke my arm, I'd bought a beautiful black Stratocaster that played like buttuh. Rich, creamery buttuh. No matter, I waited a couple days then cut the cast so I could finger the fretboard.

Sunday was the second team ride. In absolute pouring, the old man is snoring, close to freezing rain. We rode in a paceline--about 10 of us with me trying not to be the new guy who screws up this group of mostly experienced racers. We had two lines of five, side-by-side, with the riders rotating slow-motion like in a counter-clockwise direction the whole time. Riding this way, the group can maintain high speeds for long periods of time, blocking the wind super efficiently.

As soon as we started doing it, I realized that this is what I always see them doing on the Tour de France on those long, flat days where they’re covering lots of ground in the peleton. I'd never ridden in anything like this before and to me it was a thing of real beauty. The miles flew by which was great because with the rain and cold, we were drenched. It was nice to have something to concentrate on.

Apropos of nothing, my cell phone rings on the ride down to Lake Samish. Rachel and Kylie, two second-grade cuties, are calling to see if my seven-year-old son Baker could come out to play. Some guys just seem to have it made.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Rode my bike about 25 miles this morning with Glenn Gervais and John Clark. In the rain. And cold. About 42 degrees and pouring rain most of the way. How pleasant is that? NOT AT ALL.

I take that back. It was fine. Once you reach that point where you're as wet as you're going to get--say 30 minutes into it--but you haven't yet started to get cold, it's OK. Fun even. But when you get cold, say 90 minutes in, that's it. You wanna be home. Like 10 minutes ago. And you can't stop thinking of all the other things you'd rather be doing. Like cleaning out the gutters. Or pulling out your own fingernails.

Or, say wearing a leopard spot bathrobe and looking out the window of one's room in the posh Hotel Monaco in Seattle, as this fine chap was spotted doing two years ago. It was our wedding anniversary and we opted for the romantic package and this really nice suite. Among other things (see leopard spot bathrobe) it came with a CD of Barry White's Greatest Hits which we got to keep. We had a super time, my wife and I, and I'll remember that trip for among other things b/c it was when I think I first realized how much I didn't like Ben Stiller. We watched "Dodgeball," on pay-per-view, and I was open-mouthed stunned at how terrible it was. Wasn't there a time when he was really funny? Or am I thinking of someone else?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Racin' in the ' -Woolley!

Here's info on some cool upcoming races in Sedro-Woolley, one of the state's finest hyphenated cities. (And you know, down in Sedro, they love both kinds of music: Country and Western.)

These races take place at Northern State Recreational Area in S-W. See directions below. The contact is the loquacious Dean Taylor: (360) 856-6990 or

Northern State Muckfest 10K
Sunday, December 17, 2006
9:00 am
Details: Cross country type run but without the spikes! Course is field roads, old gravel roads, grassy paths, gravel trail and hopefully some muck (last year it was ice!).
Entry Fee: $3 dollar entry fee covers the hot apple cider, the predict your time $$, the best poker hand $$ and the overall men's and women's awards. Register day of race only.

A Winter Solstice Headlamp 5 Miler
Friday Night, December 22nd
7:00 PM (yes it is a night run!)
Details: Cross country type run but without the spikes! Course is field roads, old gravel roads, grassy paths and gravel trail NO MUCK (different course than Muckfest)! Double loop course. Headlamp or flashlight required!
Entry Fee: $2 to cover food and drink. Register night of race only.

Directions: Meet at parking lot of Northern State Recreation Site, due East of Sedro-Woolley on Highway 20. Turn left on Helmick Road (signed for Upper Skagit Indian Reservation).

Psychologically Crazed

On November 5, I did the Cyclocrazed cyclocross race at Western. I signed up for the Men’s B race which, given the fact that I was on a mountain bike, probably wasn’t the best idea. Ten seconds after the start, I was by myself at the back of the pack, dropped by one and all. This wasn’t going to be a Mount Baker Hill Climb experience where I led for part of the race and eventually finished third. This was going to be a long, potentially unpleasant slog at the back of the pack. Thus attitude was important: have fun.

Naively, I didn’t think there’d be that much difference between my hard-tail bike and the cyclocross bikes that about 90 percent of the people in my race were riding. (Men’s B had probably 50 riders and from the looks of them, many should’ve been Men’s A. But you’re always going to have that; a couple months ago, I probably should’ve done the competitive Hill Climb division.)

But there was much difference indeed. The bulk of riders seemed very cyclocross-experienced, very fast, and much fitter than I. Still the riding was fun. An extremely challenging and topsy-turvy, curvy-swervy course—you rode through that round stone sculpture that’s like something out of some ‘70s music video or album cover, had to hump your bike up a vertical-seeming grassy hill, and negotiate down another vertical-seeming slope that was quickly turning into mud hole.

However, given my huge dinner at the Cliff House before the Sedaris show the night previous, not to mention the aforementioned mountain bike, I found the race a little long. “This is a 24-hour race, right?” I said to RD Ryan Rickerts at one point.

“You telling me my races are long?” he answered, chuckling. He, wearing a clownish gold afro wig.

Forty-five minutes would’ve been time enough for me. I did six-and-a-half laps, I’m pretty sure—10.9 miles in and an hour and two minutes.

I wiped out twice, on consecutive laps and I’m generally not a big wiper outer. The second time was on the steep downhill and I felt like I bent my right knee farther than I’m used to. It wasn’t a good feeling, not a tweak or anything, but it did give me pause as to whether or not this is nec. a good idea. What if I get hurt and I can’t do any of this stuff? With the bike team starting now, that would be disappointing.

Not sure whether I’ll do the Padden race on Nov. 25. Just because I don’t want injure myself. Hard as it is for me to admit it, I ain’t a young pretty thing anymore. But if I do race, I’ll do Men’s C. Unless, that is, a cyclocross bike that needs a new home magically appears on my doorstep.