Friday, January 28, 2011

Patty: We're not crazy. Really.

The reaction to our decision last weekend to rappel down Lansing's 23-story Boji Tower in June (and to Wednesday's announcement of said decision) has been mixed, although current sentiment is leaning heavily in favor of "You guys are nuts."

A couple of points of clarification:

1) We're not crazy. Really. The thought of rappelling down a tall building scares the hell out of us, too. That's kind of the point, though.

2) Jef didn't rope us into this (pun intended). Actually, it was my idea.

We're gratified that, two days after telling you about our decision, Team Dope on a Rope is already a third of the way to our fundraising goal. (We need to raise $1,000 for the Team Lansing Foundation, which is working to make the Greater Lansing region a better place. And we think Lansing's a pretty cool place to begin with—after all, we lived there for 20 years.)

If you want to see what we're getting into, there's a three-minute video from last year's event on YouTube. And if you're interested in making a donation to the foundation on our behalf, please visit our pledge page.

Time for me to get back to my to-do list...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Patty and Jef are going to climb down a big building for fun

OK. The last time I wrote, I promised I'd come up with something more interesting than an accounting of the items I've knocked off my to-do list. Try this:

Jef and I are teaming up to do something sort of stupid for a good cause.

The last time we decided to do something charitably stupid, we supported Special Olympics Michigan by jumping into a lakein February.

When we did this in 2008, the plan was that multiple members of Jef's familyhis mom, his little sister, her husband and our nephewwere going to join us. But when the Polar Plunge was postponed because of the weather (it was too cold for a Polar Plunge), we lost our teammatesSarah and Steve were going to be in the Bahamas (the Bahamas!), Jef's mom had to play a church service (she's a church organist) and Austin couldn't get there without a ride.

The two of us represented the Mallett family in style: Jef wore a swim-appropriate version of Frazz's janitorial garb constructed by his mom, and I wore a t-shirt that Jef and I had vandalized with artwork and sayings appropriate for the occasion. We waited our turn patiently, and we plunged together.

Once we resurfaced and had regained something resembling our normal body temperatures, we agreed it was unnecessary to ever do THAT again.

It's important to note, however, that we did not resolve to never again do something stupid in support of a good cause.

This year, we're going Over the Edge.

We've joined a group of mildly insane, civic-minded citizens who will be rappelling off Lansing's 23-story Boji Tower in June to support the Team Lansing Foundation. To do this, we need to raise $1,000. We're hoping we can get some of you to cough up some of your hard-earned cash to help us meet our fundraising goal. In return, we promise to regale you with stories. Please visit our pledge page if you're willing to encourage our general recklessness.

Jef finds lawyers to be somewhat slippery

One of the big thrills of training is wondering how it will all come together on race day. You often surprise yourself.

One of the big thrills of training during the winter in Michigan, then, I guess is wondering how it will all come together on that magical day when you’re not running in total crap. You never know when that day’s going to be, nor how thorough.

Saturday, I went up to a park north of town and ran three 6-mile laps around Stony Creek Lake.

(For nerds like me who want details, the plan said to work down to a 7:50/mile pace, ideally in some hills. I ran my first mile at 8:35 and dropped it by 5 seconds each mile until I hit 7:50 and then just held it for the rest of the run. Stony Creek wasn’t as hilly as I’d hoped, but it rolled. The run felt easy. Maybe too easy, but then again, I wasn’t that crushed to see the car after that third lap.)

The weather reports said the wind chill was around -11, and lakes don’t block much wind. That sounds a lot like total crap, but it was my best run all week. The Detroit Metroparks do a great job of clearing their pathways, and when temperatures get bitter enough, what snow remains underfoot actually offers up a little bit of traction.

Earlier in the week, I was probably making some sort of cosmic deal: “I can give you some safe footing,” the cosmos may have said, “but it will cost you 25 degrees plus wind chill.” Deal. And Bargain.

Thursday was my tempo run day.

(Again, for us nerds: Warm up 2 miles, run 8 at 7:25-7:30 per mile, then cool down another two.)

I really don’t like running in little circles, but I should have sucked it up and done so. We had had some weather the previous few days. My town does a pretty good job with snow removal, but it’s surrounded by municipalities that might not have the same level of concern. And there’s the matter of crossing major thoroughfares. That’s no problem in the summer, when you just plan a long stretch where you run along the highway on the sidewalk with an eye on traffic for an opportunity to, well, jaywalk. Doesn’t work so well when there’s a lot of snow. And residents and businesses can be hit or miss with regard to sidewalk care.

So Thursday’s supposed steady tempo run was more like intervals on an obstacle course. The final mile was the worst. I was a little knackered by that point, and running along a busy road with bad sidewalks. Really bad sidewalks. One particular stretch, I found myself asking out loud, “What the hell kind of business cares so little about its customers’ and the general public’s safety that they leave their sidewalks in this kind of condition?”

Finding out was a simple matter of looking up, of course, and there was the sign on the building. No joke: It was a law firm specializing in personal-injury litigation.

If the experts are right about laughter and stress, I should have checked my heart-rate monitor. I bet the temperature wasn’t the only thing that plummeted.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jef says Big Wheel Keep On Turnin'

Planning the summer’s racing schedule in January seems a little like deciding what you want for dessert before you’re even done with your aperitif. Then again, maybe planning your summer today, when I’m putting off my run until the temperature approaches double digits, is like perusing the dessert menu while your aperitif kind of tastes like dirt.

I already had a couple of races on the books: The Boston Marathon and the ironman-distance Rev3 triathlon in Cedar Point, Ohio. I just needed to fill in the ample gaps.

Last year was a bit of a challenge. Not only was the summer filled up with the fallout of moving eastward, but I had signed up for a good amount of triathlons, all of which involved multiple days and only one of which was actually in this state. I promised Patty I’d keep this year’s racing a little more conservative and a little closer to home.

Then I qualified for, and got into, Boston. Oopsie. Then I signed up for the Rev3 because I wanted to see how well I could do that distance a race when I wasn’t finishing up a book at the same time. That’s outside Michigan, too, but close enough to home that it was fine.

Among other races, I really wanted to include a half-ironman in my buildup (also because that’s my favorite distance). I know there are a lot of good half-ironmans out there, but my two very clear favorites are the Musselman and the Savageman. I guarantee you will not find a better triathlon experience anywhere (bonus: Musselman is where we painted the giant Frazz mural along the run course). I’ve raced both multiple times, and I even kind of raced both of them multiple times last year, since they were both kind or cruel enough to offer shorter races on Saturday before the main event Sunday.

The Musselman is ideally timed. And the only reason I’m not listing it as my favorite race ever is because I’m not foolish enough to make absolute claims, except when I am. But the Musselman is also out of the state, in upstate New York, and I was a little hesitant to suggest it to Patty.

When I did, Patty’s response was, “DUUUuuh.” So I need not have worried. She knows how I feel about that race, and she knows that a good contingent of my team here in Metro Detroit (shout-out to Infinite Multisports!) has discovered it as well. And that our new address puts it within an 8-hour drive, which seems to be some kind of arbitrary magic number.

But even without all that, I think she’d have sent me anyway, and here’s why: The microMussel. In addition to the half-iron and the sprint, last year they added a Friday evening race that really is a sprint. It’s pure fun, though taken plenty seriously. You swim about 100 yards, bike maybe a K, and run perhaps a quarter mile. Last year, they had to cancel the division where you used your regular race equipment because of flooding on the course. But they were able to pull off the shorter, and you’re reading this right, tricycle division. This year, there shouldn’t be another freak storm, and they’ll run both the standard micro and the tricycle micro. And a new addition, the unicycle division.

And the answer is yes.

It’s been more than 20 years since I’ve owned a unicycle, but I’m sure I’ll find a good one. And I’ll re-learn it in short order. Thanks to the mighty squirrel-herding dog walks, I’m already something of a goofy novelty in my new neighborhood.

Funny. This past fall I finally acknowledged I was too interested in fall marathons to take up cyclocross. Huzzah! Maybe I was finally done lusting over expensive, time-consuming new sports. And I promised my wife no distant races. Half a year later, a one-wheeled toy is making me into a two-time liar.

I have a good wife. DUUUuuh.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Patty's still getting stuff done

Yet another update: I spent most of the day cleaning out (and shredding) old files, which was seriously needed and seriously overdue (Did I really need to continue to keep our copies of paid bills from our car insurance policies from the early 1990s? I'm thinking not...).

This allowed me to remove not one, but TWO items from the Post-it® To-Do list hanging on the cabinet above the desk. (FranklinCovey® Planners have NOTHING on the Post-it® To-Do list. Seriously.)

And while I haven't yet finished excavating the desk, I found several papers we were missing in the piles and, yes, filed them.

I cooked today, toohomemade chicken soup with rice.

So I'm making excellent progress on the stuff I threw out there for all y'all to see so I could embarrass myself into staying on task. I even swam once last week. (I didn't swim today as planned because I was making too much progress on the files to want to stop, but Jef and I will head to the pool tomorrow.)

So there you have it. And by next week, my goal is to have enough brainpower left at the end of the day (and far fewer undone tasks looming over me) that I might actually be able to write something interesting for you to read instead of just telling you about all the items I've been able to remove from my To-Do list.

Again, thank you!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Patty accomplished a few more things today

Thanks for staying on me and cheering my progress! The box of books we were planning to donate finally went to the Huntington Woods library today, and I'm hoping to get to the pool tomorrow.

I've also made good headway on another of my to-do lists—a collection of 15+ Post-it® notes stuck on the cabinet above the computer. (Since this "list" includes helpful tasks like FILE STUFF and EXCAVATE DESK, I haven't bothered to post it here, although I will if you want me to.)

Tonight, I balanced four months' worth of statements for Jef's business checking account (not one of my favorite activities, as Jef sometimes forgets to record things and often doesn't get around to actually doing the math in his check register), and I balanced two months' worth of statements for our savings account. I'll do a little more banking stuff tomorrow. Now, though, I think I'll get some sleep...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Here Jef goes again

Singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty died Tuesday after accomplishing what we can all hope for: a life interesting enough for an obituary with a trivia item. When he was with the band Stealers Wheel, Rafferty co-wrote and sang a song called "Stuck in the Middle with You." I knew the song well - I'm the right age to have both rolled my eyes after hearing it too many times as a pre-teen and again to have retched a little as an adult while it played in the background of perhaps the most gratuitously violent scene in movie history†. I even knew - eventually - that it wasn't Bob Dylan who wrote it or was singing it. What I didn't know until the remembrance on NPR (now I've thoroughly revealed my demographic) was why I and the rest of the world thought it sounded a lot like Dylan. It was Rafferty's idea of a joke. Apparently he'd been taking some flak about his voice and style, and he figured goofing was preferable to fighting, so he wrote a song that didn't acknowledge the similarity so much as roll in it. He was as surprised by the hit as a lot of us were by the facts.

People misunderstand songs all the time. I was pushing middle age before I realized the lyrics to "Winter Wonderland" didn't go, "In the meadow we can build a snowman and pretend that he is parched and brown." And I suspect there are still Republican Party members out there who believe Springsteen's "Born in the USA" is the uplifting, patriotic anthem they thought it was when they attached it to Bob Dole's presidential campaign.

So let it be known that I'm fully aware I'm missing the mark while, these days, I've been humming Todd Snider's "Long Year." The song's narrator stumbles into a 12-step meeting and takes a seat at the back. When it's his turn to speak, all he can come up with is, "It's been a long, long year; How did I get here?" While I think the world of Todd's music and Todd himself (he was kind enough to spend a little time with me and I enjoyed it immensely) and can very much relate to most of his music, I've never been much of a drinker or addicted to any chemical or even activity that society deems problematic beyond the colorful Lycra and tendency to talk too long about training and racing.

But if you pick, choose and parse a song the way (say) Dole's camp did, you can find the right words and tone to meet your needs and ignore the rest for a while. And oh, that chorus. It has been a long year, and sometimes I still find myself wondering how it happened and marveling that I hung on. But it's the song's final lines that ring truest. Going by the admittedly arbitrary calendar, my long year is over and the new one is already 1.9 percent in the bag and - just for starters - I'm only now resuming my blog duties and no farther ahead on other work than I was this time a year ago. "Long Year" ends with the narrator heading from the AA meeting straight to the bar to tell his old friends about his awkward day. One of them mentions that all he needs is another drink, which he accepts, tosses down and sings,

"… I thought to myself, 'Well, here we go again' …"

It sounds profoundly sad in the song. When I sing it to myself, it's with a certain amount of apprehension, to be sure. But not sadness. There might even be some eagerness. There's another line coming up in the popular media that seems highly appropriate here, and I doubt that I'm misinterpreting it because it's in a comic strip and I'm the one who wrote it. The line goes, "I don't think he's ever confused comfort with happiness."

I hope that gets a few people through their day with a little less creative editing.

In fact, if that's the best NPR can mention in my obituary, I'll be quite fine with it. But they'll have to wait a while.

Here we go again.
† "Reservoir Dogs", of course. I highly recommend the opening scene in the diner; stick with the movie beyond that and I won't be held responsible.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Patty's grumpy again (it won't last)

The latest update on the to-do list I posted here on December 20:
So I followed Verizon's clear-as-mud instructions for backing up my cell phone contacts. The overwhelming majority of said contacts are now gone. (This is why it's so easy to avoid doing things like this.) Was the fickle finger of fate zapping me for failing to complete this task by 12/31, as was my stated goal? (I was only three days offsheesh!)

Our highly overdue Christmas letter is now written, but the box of books we're donating to the library hasn't yet been delivered to the library. That means I'm batting .800 (.600 if you ding me for backing up my cell phone contacts three days late and largely unsuccessfully).

Also did lots of laundry on my days off (so laundry's no longer on my laundry list of stuff to do) and, in lieu of alphabetizing my spice racks, bought some really nice pull-out shelves at The Great Indoors, got Jef to install them, and got our small pantry cupboard under control. (This was not, in fact, a form of the productive procrastination I'm so good atit was very needed and is a huge improvement.)

Jef and I took the day off today and went to the Detroit Zoo. The last time we went there together, it was hot and crowded. Today, it was cold (29°F or so) and sparse. We spent most of our time in the Arctic Ring of Life, an extremely cool (literally and figuratively) exhibit that houses polar bears, Arctic foxes and seals. When we went to the zoo in August, we saw neither polar bear nor Arctic fox. Today, we saw both. It was terrific—we almost felt sorry for the summer-only zoo visitors.

Happy New Year, everyone.