Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Persistence vs. Diligence


“Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much more restful.”

~Mark Twain







Because they care so much, the fine people in charge of this place I work sent me this letter this morning. Thought I would share with everyone.

"Dear Aaron,

As we approach a new year, I want to take this time to discuss briefly your status in the Pharmaceutics doctoral program. As you know, you entered graduate school at the University of Washington in the fall of 2004, which puts you into your 6th year in the program. This exceeds the 5 year limit of guaranteed RA tuition and stipend support that the department provides to its students, as described in our Policy and Guidelines document. We recognize that individual progress to the PhD degree varies and is dependent sometimes on factors not completely in the control of the student. Nonetheless, we require that a student demonstrate “progress towards the degree” in order to continue receiving financial support beyond the 5 year limit. Provision of this evaluation is charged to the thesis advisor and the thesis advisory committee. With this in mind, I want to encourage you to meet regularly with your advisor and the committee to keep them apprised of your progress so that they can help you achieve your career goals and to discharge their duties. In your case, a meeting at least twice a year would be appropriate.

I am confident that you are working as diligently as possible to complete all of the requirements for the PhD degree and I look forward to the day when you can achieve that goal and plan for the next phase of what I am sure will be an exciting and rewarding career in the pharmaceutical sciences.

I would be glad to meet with at any time to discuss your status in the program, and even your thesis work, if you feel that my input might be helpful.

With best regards"


Now. Doesnt that feel good?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas


“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family”

~Anthony Brandt







Whether or not he was "pleasant" about it is debatable, depending upon the perspective from which you observed it, but my grandfather valued his family above everything else. It is obvious to me this morning on Christmas. It wasn't necessarily "fun" for him but it was important. Having the family together was important.

I am still probably too young to understand a lot. Ok, I AM too young to understand a lot. However, this morning, I miss my family. All the ridiculous emotional drama hasn't changed from the past, but I have also not spent a holiday with any member of my family for years. And each year I feel the pull getting a little stronger.

It was the eve of Christmas Eve, 367 days ago, that my grandparents, on the phone at the same time, called me. I was at the bus stop at school, on my way home. They called me and shared the news of my grandfather's lung cancer and he told me he had decided to give me his car. More than anything I remember wondering if I had missed my last opportunity to spend thanksgiving or christmas with him.

And as it turns out he is spending it with me still. I will take his car out for a drive today in the sunny Seattle christmas air, and remember the holidays in the past that I am fortunate enough to have shared with him and the rest of my family. And remember them fondly even if they weren't as fun as I think they ought to have been at the time.

Because I can't get them back now. And it can never happen again.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mel 'n' Collie


“It is one of the paradoxes of American literature that our writers are forever looking back with love and nostalgia at lives they couldn't wait to leave.”

~Anatole Broyard






Its a little bit frightening to admit, but I feel a little nostalgic about school today.

Its Monday before Christmas, and I have a lot of work to do. The lab is completely empty except for me. Its a double-sized lab, with two full labs connected into one big giant lab (by graduate school standards), which means it feels two-times as empty right now.

Graduate school hasn't been, most of the time, the greatest experience for me. However, being here alone, now, it is a little sad to me. The quote I chose for this blog entry I believe sums up my own experience and feelings perfectly.

I remember joining the prestigious Unadkat Lab. I remember it was packed with people to the point that there was no room for me to have a desk in the lab. When there finally was (another year later) I crammed into a nook and watched the machine whirring around me. It was impressive to say the least.

The lab is still prestigious, but now it stands mostly empty. I am getting ready to graduate. The people I knew over the years have either left for faculty positions or graduated. The science machine that we call Unadkat Industry is now little more than a messy storage space.

It is noisy with silence.

And as bad as things have been, I miss the buzz of activity, the pressure to work because everyone else is working, the lab meetings with standing room only.

This too shall pass.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Science of Bathroom Stalls.


“If there is a God, atheism must seem to Him as less of an insult than religion.”

~Edmond de Goncourt







I do not condone vandalism. However, here at the UW, the bathroom stalls have become the "philosopher's media of debate". And you rarely see a blank stall wall anywhere in the health science building. I really do not support it...

But in the name of research, 1 year ago on this day, I started a little, um, debate...


I did it after seeing that the entire bottom of this little bathroom stall wall was crumbling onto the floor in a rusty pile, and therefore will probably be destroyed under its own weight soon or replaced.



You notice in the upper left a few words written in a very dark pen.. "Math is God." I chose this for a lot of reasons, mostly because it is highly inflammatory and guaranteed to start good debate.

I wrote this on December 17th, 2008. The wall was completely blank. Follow the action.






I particularly enjoy the correction to "Math is God's Creation" followed by ""for that" would be an unacceptable construction in the eyes of the lord."





And, perhaps not surprising, it inevitably becomes a contemplation of God's fecal qualities.






But eventually someone decides that a probability algorithm should be created to solve using logic the question of math and God.

Doesn't that just prove my point???

Oh well.






Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Agenda


"The new Siddhartha felt a deep love for this flowing water and decided that he would not leave it again so quickly."

From Siddhartha page 81, Hermann Hesse




Are we the flowing water or are we the rocks against and over which the water flows?

I am both.

One day I am immovable and determined, like the rock. Time and life must move around me, I stand firm and strong. But over time, the water eventually wears and shapes me, often without my recognition, until I crumble and am swept away by the water. The music of the water leaves its signature upon me, the song ever changing.

Another day I am the water. I flow with time, adapting and bending to the situation in order to find the path of least resistance. But the easiest path is not always the shortest or best path, and my way, while easy, is subject to the whims of the rocks.

Does the water become shaped by the rocks, or are the rocks shaped by the water flowing across, around, above them?


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Google Car Effect


"Man is rated the highest animal, at least among all animals who returned the questionnaire."

~Robert Brault






If you see a camera, what do you do?


Let us say, hypothetically, that you are walking down the street in your city. You suddenly see a news reporter from a local TV station (gosh that sounds archaic when I read it--are their still "local TV stations?") giving a report in front of a cameraman.

What do you do?

Some people make a concerted effort to NOT move in the view of the camera.

Some people make a concerted effort to MOON the camera, or do something idiotic to be noticed. (For reference, I fall in the middle somewhere, but look idiotic anyway.) This behavior is deeply rooted in us all, and regardless of the media, will surface to some degree. Streakers at football games (that's soccer to us in the US), the crowd outside of the morning TV news show, it is always happening. But now, there is a new phenomenon.

Google Street View.

The newest craze is to get your picture in the google street view display. For example, my canadian friend Marc took the picture of the google car you see at the beginning of this post. At the same time, it was taking this picture of him:

Pic of Marc by Google

That was just an accident. But it's becoming a sort of contest.

"Man drops his pants to moon Google streetview car from his own front porch"
http://bit.ly/5ocGpw
http://buzzup.com/jga6


So far, one of the best I can find is this:

@Bestguitars on twitter proclaimed:
"I successfully predicted where the google car would go next "
http://ff.im/-ckIvf (click on the quote about the google car)
http://buzzup.com/jfmq


So, the next time you see a regular looking car with a giant 360 action camera mounted on top, do something silly. You might be famous.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday.


"I love Thanksgiving turkey... it's the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts."

~Arnold Schwarzenegger





I dont remember when I stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, or even God for that matter. I do know that I must have been very young when this happened, because I never remember actually believing in any of them. I think the cerebral nature of me as a child, the propensity to over-think everything, even as a 5 year old, combined with the violent way our house celebrated these days provided little room or incentive for believing in little more than survival and self-preservation.

What do you believe in? When you think of holidays (not the english, snooty way to say "vacation"), do you think of Santa Claus, family, and being thankful for what you have?

I don't.

At least I didn't until last year. This year I find myself feeling a little different, a little more comfortable and happy as I contemplate why we as humans feel the need to partake in the recognition of "holidays." Some of the most important people to me are not around anymore to celebrate holidays with. It is sad when this is a motivating factor, but it really does drive home the importance of saying "I love you" when given the opportunity. And now I see that the holidays can be our choice. See, I can make a difficult choice by putting myself in a position to be around some people I feel the world would be better without, if it means seeing just one of the people I love. That is a choice I can make. And I can tolerate the bad for a while to be with the good. Sometimes I have a good enough perspective whereby I can even appreciate them for their ridiculousness.

Why is it so hard? Maybe its the few, very few times we are FORCED to see for ourselves what we have chosen in life. It is the times when we are too timid and polite and despite everything inside of us screaming to go the opposite direction we pretend. We pretend that we really can stand some of those "relatives" who bring the taste of bile to bear. We are forced to sit at the table, face to face with our choices. We stare at each other, perhaps pretending to enjoy it, perhaps not, and realize how we have chosen to live our lives. No hiding anymore; holidays will bring the truth out of you whether you like it or not. At least in my family, growing up, this truth was not happiness. These "holidays" were usually when the truth that surfaced was ugly and bitter. It is not a shock that I resisted these sorts of rituals for greater than 90% of my adult life.

I realized all of this on the Friday after Thanksgiving, just a few days ago, now, when I was driving on the unusually sunny day to the lab because I had work to do. It was beautiful and sunny outside-- strangely so considering it had rained almost 3 straight weeks. I was wondering what was wrong with me for going to work in a window-less lab, on a project that wasn't even really important to me. I didn't really have a choice, if I want to graduate someday...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

See my articles on TriSwimCoach.com


Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.






I am contributing some triathlon training tips to a well read Tri-swimming website. Please go check this site out, and learn!

Triswimcoach Blog

Enjoy!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Volume of Distribution: Part II


"But to me nothing - the negative, the empty - is exceedingly powerful."

~Alan Watts





We are young and our minds are open to everything. Nothing is bound. We make no a priori determination about experience and importance. All is experience. All is important. The volume in which experiences distribute - infinite.

Our first thoughts rarely find their way to binding. They are communication at its basic, primal level. From early communication we experience the reactions of others. These reactions are added to our files from which we build our first meaningful thoughts.

Thoughts distribute into space, occasionally finding--and binding to--an open mind. We are young with open minds ready to be filled, and unknowingly accepting of each and every thing. We age and the ideas and thoughts are following their natural gradient from outside to inside our minds. We still believe we have far less to contribute than we have ability to consume, and consume we do. We collect information and slowly assimilate this into our own ideas, forming them into more meaningful outward gestures. We begin to see the power of our own ideas on others.

Constantly bombarded, spaces to bind become more rare. Also, and perhaps more importantly, we begin to screen the incoming ideas and images and experiences. The rate limiting step becomes our perception. Inside of us is a space between what we form and what we communicate. Zero distribution.

Competition between our own ideas and external thoughts and ideas soon dictate which find acceptance and finally purchase and are assimilated, filed away. Some days we are non-consumers. We only produce. Some other contributors are open to our ideas and our thoughts bind, there, chiseling at the assimilation formed inside of them.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pharmacokinetics meets the Mystic.


"Any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary."

~Mark Twain






The volume of distribution of a drug is the apparent volume into which a drug distributes in the body.

For example:

You have a jug containing one liter of water. Into that one liter of water you place 1 gram of table salt and mix until dissolved. If you were to take a sample from your jug and analyze it, the concentration of table salt dissolved in water would be 1 gram of table salt per liter of water, or 1 g/L. The volume of distribution is one liter, clearly.

Our bodies behave this exact same way with some drugs. We have a certain volume of water in each of us, and some drugs dissolve and distribute only into the water in blood, and between cells, and that is a finite volume. So if you administer this sort of water-soluble drug intravenously and then take a blood sample, the concentration of the drug you measure, like the salt in the jug, will equal the amount of salt you administered divided by the volume of water in the body. That is easy enough.

In our bodies something rather interesting happens to most drugs that makes measuring this volume less straight forward.

Let's say that you have the same 1 liter of water in your jug, and to it you add 1 gram of table salt and mix it like before, until it dissolves. This time when you sample it, however, instead of the concentration of the salt being 1 g/L (which is what you added) the concentration you measure is one-tenth of that, or 0.1 g/L.

What happened?

The salt is completely dissolved. The jug holds 1 liter of water... but the concentration of salt is 1/10 that of what it should be.

In other words, it is as if you put the same 1 gram of table salt into a jug that contains 10 times the volume of water--hence the concentration you analyzed is 1/10 of what it should be. And this is the apparent volume of distribution. The volume of distribution in this case is 10 liters. It is as if some of the 1 gram of table salt dissolved into the liter of water disappeared, or that the jug is magical and can actually hold 10 times more water than it appears.

The same thing happens in the body. Drugs can distribute into the body in such a way that when you sample blood or plasma, the drug concentration indicates that it has distributed into a space 10 or 100 times larger than the actual volume capable for the human body. It seems impossible.

The reason this happens is because drug partitions inside of the body. Few drugs only stay in the water space. Most drugs bind to proteins and tissues, such that the drug in blood gets pulled from there into places that can not be "seen" or sampled. Hence, it appears that drug is missing, or, like the jug of water, the apparent body volume into which the drug was administered is larger than the body can actually hold.

There are some assumptions that go along with this, as well. For instance, we assume that no drug has been removed from the body during that time, that only distribution is taking place. This is because elimination from the body of that drug before it is measured would result in a smaller amount of drug being measured per volume, thus a falsely large volume of distribution.

The volume of distribution is a physico-chemical and biologically based parameter that, in addition to the clearance, defines the half-life, or the amount of time it takes for half of the drug in the body to be eliminated. Now it is possible to see that where the drug goes inside of the body will play a role in how often the drug is administered. A long half life might mean it takes the body longer to eliminate half of the drug per unit of time, therefore adding more is needed less frequently.

There are proteins in the body that are important for processes such as distribution, such as the nucleoside transporters. These are the proteins I have spent the last 5 years studying more than anything else. How can these affect the volume of distribution, you ask?

Those drugs I mentioned previously, the drugs that only distribute into water are hydrophilic. They do not like lipid environments. Therefore these drugs, once in the body, will tend to stay inside of spaces filled with water. This also means they will not enter cells because cells are contained by membranes composed of lipids. Therefore the cell membrane, a lipid bilayer, keeps hydrophilic drugs, or drugs that dissolve and stay in water, outside of the cell. That will significantly limit the volume into which these drugs can distribute, because 80% of cells is water, but the drug can not access this.

What if the drug COULD get access??

The proteins I study, called nucleoside transporters, serve as a way for drugs that can not passively distribute across cell membranes to get into cells and distribute into the water there. They transport drugs into cells. Now a drug that formerly was restricted to plasma water and water outside of cells has a HUGE space into which it can distribute--as long as the transporter recognizes it. Therefore, it is possible that based on which transporter recognizes which drug, the volume of distribution can change more than 100 times!!!!

If the half-life of a drug is partially dependent upon this volume of distribution, then it is possible to see how a little tiny protein on a cell membrane can make all the difference in the world as to how this drug is going to behave, and how often it will need to be administered.


I think drugs aren't the only thing with a volume of distribution effect. I think intangible things have a volume into which they distribute...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hocus Pocus, hard to Focus


"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important."

~Bertrand Russell






Sitting here at my desk, where I have sat with my back at the entrance to the lab for 4 years. Sitting next to the door with the traffic of busy scientists scurrying about, the sounds of conversations and lunch time laughter just outside, the familiar jingle of the bosses' keys as he prepares to make his rounds.

Sitting here staring at my own writing. Getting little accomplished.

Its hard to focus on this now. Its getting to be very hard to maintain the level of integration an enthusiasm I need to finish all of this. I have been studying the same thing extremely hard for several years, and I think its safe to say I need a change. I am feeling burned out.

"Keep the larger, long term goal in your mind," someone said to me. "Remember this is the only way you get out!"
Yeah, yeah. Blah blah blah. I know all that. Right now, though, I am to the point of hearing my inner voice, that little person living inside of me always driving me to meet some impossible, unachievable expectation, now saying "Looks good enough. Pack it in."

And its hard. Its a tug-of-war inside of me; one hand knowing I can do better, the othe hand knowing it really doesn't matter and I am so damned sick of seeing it, why do I bother?

And on it goes. Another day to fight the urge to "pack it in." Another day in the ever growing saga.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Private (and not so private) Parts.


“When did I realize I was God? Well, I was praying and I suddenly realized I was talking to myself.”

~Unknown (Maybe Dog?)





Try to stay with me, here. This is going to sound convoluted (it is) but I swear its the truth.

Where is the best place to have a conversation about the conversation you are going to have with your mother regarding leaving your wife (which apparently the family loves) to marry your cousin (who also is currently married)?

Why, I believe the correct answer is the Metro Bus.

I listened to this guy because that is what you do when people are talking on their phone 12 inches from your ear, with their back to you. What is probably, and admittedly, more amazing to me is what was going through my head during this tell-all. Very public tell-all.

Beginning with discussions of wedding rings. Sounded nice, sort of sweet, you know, newly-wed gibberish.

And then talking about "the conversation" and "are you ok with me saying this..." which included some discussion of "well when she asks 'what about Beth' I will just remind her how she has heard me vent about her so much and I just have made the choice to be with someone else..." Followed by a short discussion comparing the two women and really what good was marriage when all you could think about was this other person who was FAR superior in every way. Oh, and so much better in bed, too.

My attention was clearly locked in on this conversation now. I couldn't actually believe I was hearing these things out loud on the bus, but it got better--much better. Or worse, depending on how empty or full your cup is.

"Well, when she says 'But she's your cousin...' I will just tell her I can't control how I feel..."

SCREEECH goes the record player and everyone on the bus turns and looks, mouths gaping, eyes wide in shock and awe.

That's what should have happened, anyway, after that part. Instead no one reacted although everyone heard it. And why not react? This is great stuff! Now we are really getting somewhere!! A guy on the bus talking to HIS COUSIN about the conversation he is going to have with his MOTHER about leaving his wife for her. Wow. Rich. And I thought the bus ride was dull.

The next thing I heard was "What, that time in the closet?"
Pause.
"So you have had sex three times in the last 8 years?"
Pause. At this point, I thought maybe the cousin on the other end of the phone was single. Until this:
"Oh, so you have had more sex with me than with your husband in the last 10 years?"
Woah, daddy. This is no longer PG-13. Kids, you better go now.

Remember, this is on the bus.

And there is more. Much more sordid, icky details (apparently the Mother with whom the conversation is to be held is very detail oriented, so they had to get specifics straight--barf). However I don't want to share those. What was I thinking during all this? It is kind of an interesting thing to share. Do not worry, I won't be detail oriented. For you business types (the one of you reading this) I will keep it at the 30,000 foot level and use broad strokes.

I started out thinking it was kind of a cute conversation about newly-weds.
--Nice. Flowers and honeymoon and happy new couple getting married,

I was shocked and seriously curious when the fact came out that this guy was discussing the discussion he would have with mom re: leaving his wife.
--Morbid curiosity, voyeuristic weirdness. But stronger still came the searing feeling of why on EARTH is he discussing this in public? He clearly has been having an affair and lying to is wife and others. And he is sitting here talking about it on the fucking bus! And then... it was strange. I dissociated my personal feelings from it and thought of it another way. And please do not read this thinking I condone this sort of behavior. I feel certain people who know me will know this, but I just want to make sure there is NO mistake, I don't like it. However, I started thinking something like 'wow, he doesn't care who is hearing this. He is sitting here making obviously a difficult choice and about to have an intense conversation and he seems so committed and accepting of his choice that he can sit and talk about it freely, with a bus load of people around. And while still in revulsion to the whole concept, I suddenly had this hint of admiration for someone who truly did NOT care for what the people around him thought. And I realized, then, that I have always had that admiration for people who, regardless of the popularity of their choices, can stand up and say what they think.


Its his freakin' cousin.
-Barf.


That conversation (mercifully) ended. He quickly scrolled through his contact list and found someone, a guy, and started talking to him. It sounded very businessy, talking about making deals, working deals, options still in the works, who can swindle who---this guy sounded like a big time business guy. And then I heard the names of several NFL stars.

Fantasy football???

He was talking about trading fantasy football players as if it was a big time business deal, at 6:50 in the morning, fresh off a conversation that I would have been sick to my stomach about for MONTHS. Well, let's face it, my life will never be in a position to have that sort of conversation. If it was, I would be such a wreck I probably would take a swig of some of the fine chemicals we have here in the lab. But I wouldn't hang up and then talk FANTASY FUCKING FOOTBALL.

Head spinning, I got off the bus at the medical center to go through my day of writing and analyzing, this guy walking in front of me. I wondered what he did during the day. I wondered what on earth his life had been like. I wondered, also, what the other people obviously hearing this conversation on the bus thought. I wondered if they thought like I did.

Eventually I stopped feeling unnerved by that guy and settled into work.

I can't help but wonder how that conversation with his WIFE is going to go.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Its ok, little mousie. Not many more of you have to die.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Generalizations



"Calendars are for careful people, not passionate ones."

~Chuck Sigars





I find myself here, yet again, looking back over the time I have not been writing on my blog, wondering why. Well, I know why: I have been working my skinny little butt off at school, in the hopes of finding, in the pitch black, the switch on the wall that makes this carnival ride stop... but its dark in here, and I can't find the switch so easily. The other part of my brain is warning me that the switch does not exist.

My general exam is coming in a few weeks, and I have already had a couple of interviews for jobs--kinda premature at this point, but for fuck's sake, I need something to keep my going. And besides; my general exam should have happened a year ago, so my work is practically done. I am really not worried about this exam--after everything they have thrown at me for so long, I am just trying to make my deadline and get this over with. I do not know what they could possibly do to me now. Besides keep me longer. And I don't honestly think they will.

DId you all read that? There should have been a giant gasp after that last sentence.

"What? You don't think they will keep you any longer just because its in their power?"
No. They would have to pay me. They like money and its too hard to come by. Therefore, its in their best interest to let me out now before I get vindictive.

I interviewed at a large multi-faceted company in North Chicago for what seems to be the ULTIMATE job that am looking for. The job is ideal, the company offers extremely good salary, cash bonus at signing, a pension plan, 401k with matching, and yearly bonuses. Holy shit, in the days of dreary outlook, even for people WITH jobs, HOW MANY COMPANIES OFFER THOSE THINGS???

But the reality of the situation is that I can not see myself living there unless I interview at a few other places and find out that THAT job truly is The One.

So I have been spending my time since that extremely motivating excursion (its motivating to be wined and dined by a large pharmaceutical company that is interested in me liking them as much as I am interested in them liking me) first scheduling and now writing my general exam. Its a beast. Its the sum total of my current value as a grad student. I am not scared, I can look back, finally, and see all the work that I have done and the data that work has generated and understand how it all fits together into a nice package. And it really does. And I created it--no one else on earth can say that they have done what I have done. No one. Thats pretty cool.

And I can not wait for it to be over.

Instead of gong home, playing and training and blogging with the girl, I sit ad write. I work late, I sneak in training while I work at school. I take my computer with me everywhere so I can sneak in a moment to write. I am doing experiments and tissue analysis and data analysis and creating vast incredibly organized spreadsheets that take 5 minutes to scroll through from 7 AM till 7 PM. Then I come home and eat dinner and walk the dog and go to bed and lay there thinking about the work I didn't get done and how best to attack it the next day.

No Seahawks, no blogging, no random bullshit. Work, work, work.

They finally got me, didn't they? And, yes, as a result, now its time to graduate.

But do not fear, the two of you reading this. Do not think that I have become a slave, because its not that at all, really. The end is near, and when it is upon us, we shall throw our hands in the air and party. We shall dance. We shall laugh and look back like everyone before me; with the hilarious rose-tinted glasses covering my bitter eyes, putting wise words of retrospection in my mouth, savoring the sheer moment of completion.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Littering is not cool. Or KOOL.


There aren't many things that are universally cool, and it's cool not to litter. I'd never do it.

~Matthew McConaughey





I really don't understand people. First, people actually still smoke, despite the overwhelming evidence indicting cigarettes as the harbingers of death they are. Second, littering. What the hell? Wasn't that the theme of the early 80's--don't litter? Before global warming became vogue, littering was the hot topic.

And Bette Midler running around on Earth Day in a goofy outfit.

Ok, maybe Earth Day isn't the most credible reference.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You can't get there, from here...


"Many who would not take the last cookie would take the last lifeboat."

~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960








This morning I walked across the overpass that leads from the bus stop towards the health science building just as I would any other morning, but sort of deep in pharmacokinetic thought. I know, its shocking. I will get to that part later.

Let me set the scene for the following fable.

There are always a few buses unloading at once, and thus a good-sized armada of bus-riders walking along with me, at varying speeds and with varying levels of apparent discomfort.

There are two hideous double doors ensconced into the side of the large, drab concrete building at the end of the overpass that lead into the bowels of health science land, and an important difference between them. The right side doors have a button that launch the door open in a couple of long seconds--something for disabled people or people with "hardware" (wheelchairs, etc) to use but is generally used by everyone because people are lazy.

These days, in addition to being incapable of doing anything without an iPod or cell phone attached to their skull, few human beings can open a door under their own power. So this door provides them the necessary comfort of automatic opening at the push of a button.

The other door is normal. Or what I think is normal.

This particular morning I was sauntering across the overpass considering the pk of gemcitabine, and the compartmental model I would use to solve for the various rate constants. What I came up with looks like this:




I was engrossed in how the differential rate equations would be set to solve from some of the transfer rates, and at the same time I walked to the door on the left--the human powered door. I do this naturally because 99% of the people I see walk to the automatic door. Poor weak people. I am amazed they can walk all that way if they can't even open the door.

I see in the reflection, as I get to the door, that people are coming behind me. I open the door and, continuing with my mental mathematicals, I turn and hold the door for the next person. The next thing I know she is inside the door and turns to look at me and says, through a rather rotund face framed by over-permed, over-colored trailer blond hair, "You don't have to be so grumpy about it."

"What?" Was I all I could muster as she trundled away through the NEXT set of doors. This time she went with the automatic doors.

I was baffled by this "exchange." What on earth was she referring to? I held the door open, didn't I? What did she want--a hug and a kiss and a compliment on her disgustingly over-styled receptionist-do?

I gather my expression reflected one of unhappiness. After all, I was doing calculus/pharmacokinetics in my mind while holding the door for her royal pudginess, and I expect that because I didn't smile and make insipid, polite conversation as she gathered herself through the door that I fit into the category of grumpy.

Many mental notes based on this fun little event.

1) She only saw me as a means to not have to open a door and also not stand in line for the real automatic door--thus doubling her laziness in my estimation.

2) If you are doing something out of courtesy, it is simply unacceptable to just perform the act. You must show the person to which courtesy is being bestowed upon that you are sincerely thankful to them for allowing you the opportunity to bestow said courtesy.

3) Mathematics make people look grumpy.


I could have just kept walking. I wonder if she would have used the other door, then.

That is all.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Someone is out to get you. YOU.


“Last night I dreamed I had insomnia. I woke up exhausted, yet too well rested to go back to sleep.”

~Bob Ingman






A small wooden rowboat. Colorless but made of thick, rich wood from long ago. Shapeless but endowed with the character of an eon of riding steady, open waters. I am rowing into stacks of waves, barely moving. It could have been raining, but I felt nothing.

I was on a journey to accomplish something, it was something important. The sky was dark and angry, and the boat was rocking heavily in the waves. The waves were black like ink, and the tips of each wave were gray and foamy. The wind was blowing the tops of the waves a hundred feet away, past me, to a place I could not see. I strained to keep the little boat upright.

The wind was ripping against me. At the same time, the wind was silent.

I rowed for all I was worth, and I never grew weary. My muscles would not scream as they do running uphill. Yet as hard as I strained, I wasn't gaining on the waves.

I turn around and see a rope tied to the stern. I drop my oars and swivel around on my wooden bench seat, noticing the fine, finished mahogany color for the first time. The thick, old rope is attached to a small loop carved into the wood of the boat's hull, just on the transom, and it is stretching at an angle down into the dark water where it disappears. Somehow the rope stays tight, even when I stop rowing against it, as if I were being dragged in reverse.

Motionless, all.

I pick up my oars and row, feeling the resistance of the rope. I can't budge this invisible anchor. I row the opposite direction and nothing happens. The boat is paralyzed, dead in the water, but held still. I realize the boat is completely immobile.

Could it be the very thing preventing my progress is the same thing keeping me from losing balance?


Maybe it wasn't a dream, really. Maybe it was a sleeping metaphor of real life. How often is my vision so narrow that I fail to see what is so obvious? How often are my obstacles and advantages the same, yet I am unable to see them because of perspective (or lack thereof)?

I rely on my brain to get me through a lot of difficult situations. Yet my brain, I believe, is often the biggest obstacle, the most difficult barrier I have to overcome.

Pride. Tough to swallow. I can be great, I remind myself.

Doubt. Easy to fall into. I could have been great, I scold myself.

Laziness. Comes from doubt. What's the point if I keep screwing it up? I ask myself.

Persistence. Comes from experience. I will learn from the last time I screwed up, remember I can be great AND make mistakes, and remove doubt by getting it right at least once. I smile inward at myself.



If I would only let it, that rope would push my boat for me.





Thursday, August 13, 2009

Let it be.


"And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be."

~Paul McCartney






The memories of Lake mornings break into a thousand pieces like the sun reflecting off of a million tiny waves. All of them beautiful, some brighter than others.

Unlike the night previous (the fire-fly like sparks rose well into the sky, danced with the billions of stars visible, and disappeared)-- which coagulated the deepening red of the evening into a bluish ink sea, fading to black-- a pale gray/blue stirs in the east, over the mountains.

The rain stops, but the sound echoes in my thoughts. Pine cones falling through tree branches, a squirrel voicing its displeasure (or pleasure). The roof shakes with the wind and the creaking of loose boards sets me into a hypnotic state, alternative to sleep, something of a meditation. The light is soft and dramatic, a silky, flowing river of light upon my hand, which I have outstretched toward the drawn curtains. The dull roar of not too distant waves crashing on the beach are a metronome, soothing and constant.

I hear the sound of my grandfather coughing from the floor below where my bed is; his trademark cough in the morning.

It was always strangely comforting.

The heavy, cast-iron lid of the wood burning stove clangs into place after its morning feeding of tamrack. Popping and hissing as the pockets of air and pitch are released by the ensuing flames. Grandpa clears his throat, the TV clicks on, my grandmother scuffs into the kitchen.

Chatter, now. The simple morning chatter repeated a thousand times, with similar questions, similar answers. I maybe roll my eyes, but it's like mom fixing your hair. You love it and hate it all at once. Smells from the kitchen are now making their way up the stairs, and my stomach responds affirmatively. I roll over, excited for another wonderful day of lake things with my favorite people and favorite sights and sounds, and plant my feet on the floor. Cold, unfinished wood. Sand in the grooves.

And with each step down the old, steep stairs there is a groan and a creak, signal (and warning) to those already awake that the kid has arisen. Quiet time is officially over.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Use your head!!!

Some things are too funny NOT to put out for everyone to see.

Behold, the test of manliness in the Unadkat Lab.

Doctor.


“Beware of the young doctor and the old barber”

~Benjamin Franklin







Just looking at that picture above--man, I have a funny shaped head.

I find it to be interesting that I have a lot of distrust of people with PhDs or MDs. Funny that I decided to go get my PhD, isn't it?

I am trying to decide which is worse between two hypothetical situations:

The someone who thinks they are always right, or the someone who is always afraid to be wrong. And I think there is a difference. Something inside of me feels that the latter of the two is more dangerous. Especially with aforementioned MD after their name.

The belief that we are "right" is annoying, and certainly is not true for anyone. At least anyone that I ever knew. In side of my feeble brain, when I consider these two options, the first strikes me not as dishonest or with mal-intent, but with a sort of arrogance and piety that drives me nuts because they always have something to say. Holy crap, I think I am pretty darn close to describing ME, here...

The second option, always being afraid to be wrong, is different. I find myself feeling distrustful of this person because in their fear of being wrong they may choose inaction or silence, which often is the same as dishonesty. I don't know. I really could say a lot more about this but I haven't thought it through very well, it just sort of struck me as I thought about the last few years and my dislike of the established medical profession.

And, more pertinently, perhaps, being here in grad school-- I get to see both options... sometimes, I think, in the same person. Imagine that.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Life is a blues scale.


"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?"

~Satchel Paige



One day, not so different from any other day, you wake up.

Knees are stiff.

Eyes are out of focus.

Back is achy.

It just hurts to be awake.

I think to myself; is THIS how life is going to go from here on out? Wasn't it just a few years ago I could handle just about anything and wake up feeling terrific?

Aging is not easy. And it's funny; we don't really think about aging until we feel it inside ourselves. It makes me wonder about people my grandparents age. The perspectives and the history and experience all conspire in different ways for different people. The aches and pains and difficulties could certainly and for good reason slow you down to the point of not wanting to move, surely. And few would begrudge you that at 85 and older, it might just be that way and it's ok. Society seems to accept it.

Then there are some people who as long as they can move are making the most out of their time; traveling, enjoying their lives. That is what I want to be. Or I don't want to be alive.

I feel like in the last 5 years I have aged so many more years than that. I don't enjoy as much as I used to, in general. I find myself being more negative. I am angry, virtually all of the time, angry. I feel overwhelmed. Tired. Beaten. I loathe going to the lab every day.

How can I be ok with what mediocre results I have when those before me made so much of what I look forward to possible out of sheer hard work, determination, and stamina through difficult times? Am I just weak and undeserving?

How can you possibly enjoy aging when it feels so awful to wake up and look at yourself in the mirror and be so utterly disappointed and unsatisfied with what is looking back at you?

One morning at a time, I suppose.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another meaningful blog post!






The Bacone: A cone made of bacon filled with scrambled eggs, topped with gravy and a biscuit!!

Ok, this is tailgating food. Whats not to love?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jungle Fever



Any time you can stay in a room that has a view of a sunset over jungle mountains behind a palm tree--your life is probably ok.

Bars in front of the palm tree? Probably a bad sign.

Status: Quo


“God may forgive your sins, but your nervous system won't”

~Alfred Korzybski





I haven't felt so unconfident, if that is a word, about a race shorter than a half-ironman for a long time. But here I am, in Pearl City on the majestic island of Oahu, feeling rather tenuous about my first Hawaiian triathlon tomorrow. The Tinman Triathlon, a long running, large triathlon off the beaches of Waikiki that includes an ocean swim of 800 meters, a 40 km bike ride, and a 10 km run.

I have done this sort of distance and much, much longer for 12 years, numbering close to 90, and I sit here feeling extremely underwhelmed about the whole thing. What gives?

A lot of that most likely has to do with the fact that I am in an unfamiliar place, it's ridiculously warm outside (we have to get up at 2:30 AM. It will be 77 degrees already. That in itself is insane) and I don't have the "comforts" of home races. I have spent the last few days hydrating so thoroughly that I am a walking sports drink dispenser. I probably have urine that tastes like Gatorade by now. Yeah, that was uncalled for. Sorry.

My wave starts at 5:30. I think that includes all the people who look like me (male, skinny, shaved legs, beginning to bald) but who will mostly go much faster than me until the run when I plan to demolish the field. And about these ocean swims: I love salt, like salt on my french fries, salt on my tortilla chips, and some nice kosher salt on my medium rare steaks. But I don't regularly guzzle salt water, and that is what I will be doing for 12-13 minutes in the morning while getting my heart rate up to about 90% of max. Mmm, that ought to make the tummy feel good.

And, did I mention that the sun doesn't even rise until 6:05? For you mathematically challenged blog-fans, that's 35 minutes AFTER MY SWIM START. Should I have an underwater LED for safety? A blinky bike light around my head so no one mows me down?

One thing is for certain, I will not be setting any records. My plan is to go easy on the swim, go easy the first whole half of the bike, and then from there on, deposit my muscle and liver glucose stores out on the highways of Honolulu. Hopefully it will be fun. Hopefully there will be no Ironman-esque flat tires.

It could always be worse; I could be at school.

When I think of it that way, I feel like a complete moron. Who on earth would complain about doing a triathlon in Hawaii?

Apparently me.

Anyone seen my cup of salt water?

Novel race gear transportation in Oahu...yikes.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Memory serves me right.


“You never know when you're making a memory.”

~Rickie Lee Jones







That might be one of the more meaningful quotations I have ever come across.

It is scary to consider this. It truly, at least for me, brings home the importance of our actions.

We have our version of memory, but so does everyone else. Their versions may be different from ours, but we have no way to know. Of course we are not in control of how they decide to remember something, but we do have some control over how we handle every situation.

I have gone through my life making memories, impressions, with, for, and about other people. Things I have done and said are indelibly etched into the pages of countless others' life stories. For better or worse, I make memories whether I realize it or not. And that is startling. What stupid, mean, dumb-ass things have I said or done in my life that are now the way I am remembered?

It seems to be a bit like politicians speaking to the press. It might be helpful to myself to be reminded that all of this is going on the record. Honesty is always good policy; regardless of how you may be persecuted for being honest, one thing that memory will never accuse you of is falsehood. And that is powerful in itself.

Intentions are one thing, but being true to yourself, first, is probably the most difficult thing we can strive for. Ego is the biggest wall we as humans must hurdle before we can truly be happy in our own skins and truly approach each and every situation Honestly.

Do we really ever attain this? He who does is truly the champion of us all, for they have little or no fear.


At the instant they happen, memories may not be wonderful. Technically they are memories as soon as they occur, though the information we obtain and life we experience once the memory is sketched alter our perception. It is only through the lens of time and retrospection that we can see the value in them. Good and bad alike. We continually re-use our canvas of memory to paint and re-paint our vision of the past.

For now, I have memories of Grandpa Dick. I try to be objective and realize that I can cherish this stack of memories for what they are. Imperfect, of course, but they are mine forever. He was not a perfect person, and for much of my life my memory of him was one of fear. But that changed as he changed, and I believe the combination makes him even more remarkable in my mind.

I wonder how he remembered me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What will we become?


“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

~Maria Robinson







We are born into the light of the world in the same fashion with which a fighter jet is launched from the deck of an aircraft carrier. Harsh, loud, violent and not yet ready for what is ahead of us. Somehow technology manages to save us early and often.

We bumble through life as only an arrogant, blind creature can, with barely enough sense about us to keep from dying. Soft and fragile in a world of predation and sharp edges, we can not smell, see, hear or feel anything as keenly as the other creatures around us. We have ruled the planet far too long. Our awareness is diluted by our status at the top of the food chain and our comfort there. Our lack of senses allows us to thrive, rather than being forced to assimilate into the world and risk sub-exponential reproduction.

As we grow, what senses we did have as children begin to diminish even more, and the world becomes less like the playground we enjoyed, and more like a giant virtual shopping mall. Our sensory stimulation comes to us in the form of flashing colors and videos of other humans sent through energy waves into our private boxes in front of which we sit for hours on end. We call it work. We are lazy and pre-occupied, and we have forgotten that we came from our world. Instead we create new ways to enhance our distance from reality and consider ourselves clever for making our lives so much easier.

The ultimate irony: Humans believe they are superior because they create ways to escape the world around them. Is this truly superiority?

We focus on what our "quality of life" should be. We worry about how we compare to other people and their stack of things. Our vision becomes our greatest asset as we forget how to smell and hear and feel life. Somewhere this person so alive has become another drone. We are already dying.

This goes on for years. The majority of our time is spent "building" something, but do we ever know when it's finished?

We age. We begin to lose the ability to focus clearly on the stream of media with which we are assaulted, and we turn away. We can not follow the flashing images and words any longer, and we are forced back into the world which we so long ago turned our backs upon. The earth is different than we remember, what little we remember, but we find joy again in simply being.

Perhaps we look around and see things, truly, for what they are. Perhaps not. Perhaps we are bitter. Perhaps we see that even one more day to breathe the smells and sounds of the earth is better than no more days.

And as the shroud thickens, and our consideration of our ego fades, do we remember the tickle of the cold water on our feet, and the smell of the forest? Are we scared because of our frailty? Are we confident because of our humanness? Are we calm?

What will be important when nothing is important?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

So true, so true.

Family, I love to hate you.


"The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy."

~ Sam Levenson







I was sick, having spent the entire previous night heaving my guts out. My leg muscles hurt and I couldn't really do anything at all besides lay on the couch and mope. I couldn't even properly mope.

I decided to call dad, and then, because I hadn't talked to her in a while, I would call my mom.

Insert ominous music here.

Dad informed me how poorly my grandfather is doing, health-wise, now. His condition has worsened so severely that they have begun the process for home hospice care. He has been in the hospital this week and growing increasingly difficult to work with. He is in momentous amounts of discomfort I am sure and, like anyone in a situation of this kind, is sick of the poking and prodding that happens when you are in a hospital for any real amount of time. Dad says the morphine drip did wonders for his mood--when he let them use it.

All in all it was a good conversation with dad, nothing special, but good considering how many years my father and I went without a real, decent talk. Now we are going on several in a row.

So I called my mom. It is painful to even begin to think about it, but it went something like this:
"Hello?" A rather loud, already perturbed sounding voice.
"Hey mom, how are you?"
"I'm fine, how are you?" Already I don't get a good vibe from her voice.
"Oh, I got really sick."I start and then debate how much I really want to say. "I threw up all night and today have a lot of muscle pain and feel generally crappy."
"Oh, wow, what do you think it is, some sort of bug or food poisoning?"
"Yeah, I think it's salmonella."
"Oh, god, where do you think you picked up THAT from?" Again, her voice gives away a lot. If I was wise I would have just said I needed to go and hung up. But no.
"I don't know, I have to think through everything I ate, it could be any number of things."

We talked back and forth about how I should take care of it a few more sentences, then it was quiet.

"Grandpa Dick is going into Hospice. " Wait for some reaction. Finally she said something.
"Oh, that's too bad."
"Yeah, he isn't doing really well, his lung cancer is really advanced." I say a couple more things about it I don't remember now.
"Well, he is pretty old, so that's the way it goes." This is already sounding bad. Loving confrontation, I continue.
"Apparently this week dad says he has been in the hospital and has been pretty belligerent with the doctors, but I think that's normal." This was the beginning of the end of this horrible experience. One moment later and I wished I never would have called.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I am going to leave this here. I don't even want to regurgitate what was said beyond this point.

Sorry to leave the audience hanging, but this is just another sordid episode in the battle everyone I have ever met has had with my mother. And its title as a movie would be something to the effect of:

"You owe me"

or

"What have you done for me lately"

Or

"I have never been treated well, poor me."

I have had it. I am officially finished being judged, being the subject of passive aggressive self-fulfilling guilt trips, being told how much has been done for me and how unappreciative I am, and blamed. It's over and you know? I don't care anymore that it is my "mom" because there are plenty of people in the world who DO care, and treat me like a human being and don't hold things over me to be used later.

So Mom, have a good life and be careful how you treat people. Although I doubt you will ever let anyone get close enough to you to worry about it.

Some day, you will be alone in your world of hate, facing the end of your own days, swamped in judgment and feeling sorry for yourself... and then, well, I hope you are happy, finally. Because no one will be there to tell you you are wrong when you use your last words to once again blame the world for your faults.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ironman: Part Four


"There's no such thing as bad weather, just soft people."

~ Bill Bowerman





Ironman: It's not about facing your fear, its about challenging it to a footrace... and WINNING.




I was weary, but oh, so happy as I jogged into the transition tent. In the morning, when I left the trauma of the deep, dark lake-o-doom, the tent was dark, extremely crowded, and just makes you feel crazy. You feel like there is no way you will:

a) Leave wearing the appropriate gear--that you own
b) Leave having placed your swimming gear into your bag

But somehow it happens and you run off to fetch your bike and enjoy 6 hours of pain. I mean pedaling.

As opposed to the "morning transition" the "afternoon transition" is pleasant. It's quiet, bright, warm, and I am SO 'TARD HAPPY to be off the freaking bike that I am the worlds happiest kid on Christmas. I love everyone. Unfortunately, not everyone shares my enthusiasm (when you feel terrible nothing can make you smile) though I think they appreciate my smile.

I hope.

I found a seat in the middle of the tent that was very open, and set about my business:

-Off with helmet.
-Off with bike shoes.
-Off with bike shorts.
-Off with glasses. Wait, those have to go back on, better start making a different pile...always room for Virgo.

Now, dump out the run bag.
-Put on running shoes.
-Put on running hat.
-Put the glasses on. Yeeeeeah.
-Grab fuel belt of life saving juice.

NOW GO!! Creak, creak, creak, as I slog out of the tent. It's such a great day.

It was very easy this time to transition, and I was out in a couple of minutes. It seems after that point I always wish I would have enjoyed sitting there "transitioning" more... how weird. It is a fleeting, good, SITTING moment. The volunteers make it happen, and I kinda miss them a little.

(It took me a mile of running to remember I did not want to be wearing my arm warmers any longer, and I slipped them off and balled them up, planning on tossing them to the girls as I ran past. Which I did. And surprised the HELL out of them.)

Later, in the rain, I would dearly miss those arm warmers. Aaarrrrrrr....


The sun was behind clouds, this time, and I did not stop for any sunscreen (or leg rubs, which I received impromptu last Ironman). It was a decent temperature outside at this point, and I left the tent feeling reasonably well for how HARD I had pedaled. As I pushed into the first little out and back west of the park, about a half mile into the marathon, I was relieved. My training WAS good after all; after that hard of a bike ride, when I got finished and handed my bike off I was certain that my run would be doomed to a half marathon walk. It is one of those things where you start running and within a few steps you know.

You know if you are going to RUN the marathon or SURVIVE marathon.


Today, if I was going somewhere... I - WAS - RUN-NANG!!!!


I told myself, as I began the marathon, that I wasn't going to take anything from the aid stations until 10 miles, or if I had my own liquid left, 13 miles.

I had eaten and hydrated well enough on the bike, and I had my fuel belt with the same mix of Sustain (from Melaleuca) in 3 flavors that I had trained with. I also had clif Shot blocks with caffeine (my secret marathon weapon) and Endurolyte tabs just in case. My plan was to finish the fuel belt bottles by halfway through the marathon, and if I for some reason went dry too early before I reached the special needs bags (where I had full replacement bottles), I could supplement at the aid stations. But O wanted to avoid the weird stuff this time.

My last Ironman I overdid the cookies and coke a bit. Heh...

But then again, I had very different goals in 2007, my first Ironman. This time, I stuck to the plan because I wanted to RUN the marathon. I passed through the aid stations, with their tasty looking assortment of foods and beverages being offered, and instead sucked down half a bottle of Orange Sustain. I popped in a Shot block and sucked on it for a mile. I felt tired, as I should, but good. I felt ready to run.

The other part of my plan was simple but more difficult. 9:00 minute/mile for the first 3 miles, and then steady 8 minute miles as long as I could after that, and if I was really doing well I could throw in 7:30 here and there. Just like training. I had my heart rate monitor/watch on and was tracking my time. I had been through this so many times mentally that I had the times memorized, and even had "contingency" times memorized. And I was sort of in between at this point.

I ran along, passing so many people it was shocking. I was not running fast yet, but as I ran back by the transition area in the park, realizing Brian indeed was not right behind me, I had already probably passed 50 people in the first mile. They were walking out of transition, these same people who had ridden the fighter jets on wheels past me earlier. Interesting.

As I started into and through downtown Coeur d' Alene, I saw Jan and Shawna on the sidewalk, totally unprepared for my arrival. I lobbed the arm warmers at Shawna who screamed with surprise, and they started cheering for me instantly. I love the marathon leg--I am always running so much faster than the people around me (at least through the first 18 miles).

To LOOK better really does help you FEEL better, I think. That is, if you can see yourself. So much of this thing IS mental, after all.

Case in point:
A guy who I caught up to and was about to pass was doing the same thing I was at the big corner at the end of the main street in downtown: looking at his reflection in a big store window as he ran past. We saw each other doing it, and he beat me to the punch by saying "FORM CHECK! Yep, I look GOOOOOD!!" It was hilarious.
I told him "The most important thing in this IS looking the part, after all. Keep it up!" And I ran past him. It was a joke, but it is kinda true. You can control a lot by imagining yourself "looking like a pro" just like the Golf ads on weekend cable television say.

Bounce bounce bounce. I felt so bouncy and strong. Like, if I have enough energy to run like this, I owe it to all the people who DO NOT to run as fast as I can.

I sped out of town, imagining myself running like a pro, trying to do all of the things I tell Jan to do when she works on her running. I don't really have to think about them except for during Ironman, when I am tired and have heavy legs.

As I trotted along past the 5th mile, I watched the runners around me. I felt out of place as they plodded and walked. I realized how now my bike riding was the lagging sport of the three. It used to be my (gulp) swimming...

(Insert "shocked hero" music here.)

I saw startlingly few "runners" out there. At mile 8 I started seeing the difference between "first lappers" and "second lappers". The seconds lappers are on their way to the finish and are just flying along, in momentous amounts of discomfort, but really running hard. The first lappers, like me I suppose, are in less discomfort but just hanging on for dear life to get through the first lap.

Jan really needs to see this--I think she would really take heart to see that it is true: if you can run the end of a triathlon that is longer than a sprint, you really are doing pretty good.

I saw how many people pushed too hard on the bike because now -- I was making the fighter jet sound as I ran past them.


I will never stop the rain by complaining...


The turn-around east of town is 2/3rds of the way up this evil hill that goes around a lazy right swooping turn. Its a tough hill to ride a bike up, and during the marathon its really tough. When I got to it during the first lap, I felt ok, but wondered if I could actually run up this thing. I started at the bottom by shortening my stride a little, staring just in front of my feet, and increasing my cadence. I forced myself to lift my knees a little--just like in practice. I started increasing my cadence a little more. I pushed off a little harder. Hey, this is going pretty well, I thought to myself. I was passing people like crazy--most everyone around me had started walking. I was feeling pretty good about things, and starting to think it was going to be a relatively easy run, all things considered.

Remember what I said about feeling cocky at Ironman?

That's is PRECISELY the moment the rain really started to come down. It had been sprinkling off and on, and the wind was really whipping, but it had not yet hit that point of making me want to stop running, point at the sky with my extended middle fingers and start swearing at the top of my lungs. At least not until that moment. And believe me, the thought crossed my mind.

"BRING IT ON!" I think is what came out of my mouth, followed by a few more words. Stupid rain. It wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the 25 mph gusts coming off the lake. It was really getting chilly out there. And dark, I couldn't believe it was only 3-4 in the afternoon and it looked so dark.

I was at mile 10 and holding 8:30 per mile pretty steadily. It didn't really hurt so much, but it didn't feel good. It just... did.

People started showing up in space blankets. The steam from the chicken broth out on the course started to make me feel like it was winter time. Everyone was looking miserable, like a cat being dunked into a cold bath. I was no exception, and my legs were tired as I rolled back into town. I wanted to look good when I passed Shawna and Jan. One foot in front of the other.

I see Brian as I run down the long, slow hill. He looks good. He is jogging. He asked if this was my second lap, and I think he really must need more blood to his brain because his math is REALLY bad. And then I say "No, no way!"

I see Mark Kendall as I go into town. He is walking. I am surprised. Always being a great buddy, he cheers me on, pats me on the back and tells me I am looking terrific. I feel for him and hope he can recover soon enough. I pick up the pace a little into town, probably to 8 minute miles. I know I can't hold this long, but I am really itching to get this over with now. My hands are pretty numb and I am missing my arm warmers, which I wished I had not thrown away. But I can't stop now.

I turn the corner into downtown... I start looking at the people lining the street, hoping to spot Jan and Shawna, knowing I have to be on the lookout because I always see them before they see me. I am flying along, much much faster than the people around me, and I realize I am being cheered on by the poor rain soaked spectators. I throw my right fist into the air, A-LA Jeremy Gerking Ironman Canada at the beginning of the bike leg, and get a round of screams. I love this shit.

Still no girls.

I ran into the park and slowed-up a little. "I have to ease up or I am done." I tell myself. I settle back to probably an 8:45 pace as I go through the little turn around west of the park. I swear I should have seen Jan and Shawna. Oh well, they were probably on the other side of the street. I will catch them on the way out. And that will force me to keep running strong through town. Don't want my cheerleaders to see me mopey.

Looking back on the situation, now, I realize just how miserable I was in that rain and wind, and how much I was looking forward to seeing them out there for a boost. That is NOT to say I would be upset or angry if they weren't, because I know firsthand from all of the Ironman watching I have done just how hard it is to keep track of the times. But on a totally selfish and personal level, I really wanted to see Jan.

Ironman is a pretty selfish thing, you know.

I made the turn and started back towards the park. As I hit the first bank of Honey Buckets I felt my tummy tell me it was time for a break. I had only stopped once to pee on the run so far, but my GI was feeling less than thrilled at my pace and had started complaining about it. Of course the potties are all full, and there is a line. I have to pee pretty bad, I realize now that I am standing there, and I know I can't hold it too long out there. Crap, what to do...

I decide to press on. I stop at the special needs bag hand off and pick up my bag. My fingers are completely gone. Useless. Somehow I manage to do what I need to with the help of a volunteer. Its amazing how you do not realize how far gone your mind is until you have to SPEAK to someone, and then at that moment you hear your own voice you think "oh man, I am really out of it!"

New bottles all around, fresh Aquaphor for my under arms, and I am off. Oh, man, stopping was not so good for my legs. There was a really big alarm going off in my head now, that one that says "YOU IDIOT! What are you DOING OUT HERE?? You can't do this!!!"


There WILL be a fight for your soul before this is over.


(CONTINUE...)

Even though you know its going to happen, its still awful when your body starts to tell your mind that no matter how determined you are, it ain't gonna go down so easily.

I ran through the park. Raining harder. As I pass the beach of the swim start I remember to give the swim a mental "fuck you". Ha. I felt a smile on my face as I realized that, like in 2007, I had arrived at the realization that I was going to finish this thing. It was much less satisfying this time, but it was still a relief. I decided to pick up the pace through downtown, and resumed my Jan watch.

No Jan.

I hoped she and Shawna were all right. I hoped they just had retreated from the rain because I knew Jan did not have rain gear. I suddenly felt horrible for her and wished we had prepared better for the weather. Now I really wanted to finish faster, to make sure she was ok. My legs told me it wasn't going to be that way, and I held my pace. Oh well.

I stopped at the first aid station I come to and grab a chicken broth. HOLY SHIT that is tasty stuff, and WARM. It feels really good going down and I decided that will be revisited later. It is amazing how much better that made me feel. I ran a bit faster, bumping it back to 8:30 per mile.


I passed Mark Kendall. He gave me a big pat on the back and cheered me on. He was wearing a space blanket, like almost everyone else. Only us real psychos were still running without any sort of protective gear. I didn't care, I was on the Ironman survival run mission 2009.

I don't remember a lot of the rest of the marathon, to be honest, up until mile 21. I kept running, and I managed to maintain 8:30 to 8:45 per mile, somehow. I was really hurting, but this was a test. This was not just a race I wanted to finish, I wanted to GO, this time. It was a test of my will, and a test of just how much I could push it. I could not run faster, I don't think, but I could maintain. I don't remember--I had the blinders back on and was staring at the ground 15 feet in front of me.

I remember passing the cemetery right when we turn into town, and all the motivational signs people made on the lawn across the street. I never saw Jan's , but I looked for them even this time, backwards and over my shoulder, as I ran by. I am still a little sad that she put all that effort in and I didn't get to see them. I ran by and around the corner, expecting to see Brian at any moment.

I passed mile 21. I was ecstatic. I was going to make it, and I was going to run the entire marathon--my first and most important goal. I decided to walk through the aid stations as a reward, and it was OK at that point. I didn't care what it did to my time anymore. I would run and then allow myself to walk just a few steps every aid station for the last 4 miles.

I ate a handful of cookies, too.

I couldn't control the emotions after this point. I looked at my watch, it said I was at 10:55 total time... So close, I realized, so close. Does the time even matter in a race like this, really?

I was laughing and joking with people on the sides of the streets cheering. I felt wonderful and terrible all at once. Typical.

I saw Brian, two turns before my finish. He looked tired, but determined as always. He was just heading out for his second lap. I walked by him and slapped him on the shoulder and told him that no matter what, he had to finish, because it would be the greatest feeling he has ever had. He assured me he would, probably a little wierded-out by my sudden End-Of-Ironman emotion, but he appreciated it, nodded and smiled, and told me good job. "Go finish!" He yelled at me as we parted. He was having a long day, but he learned a lot, I think, and really enjoyed it.


Finishers left, First lap, right. I GO LEFT!!!


I made the magical turn to the left for FINISHERS ONLY and ran up to my favorite corner on earth.

I made the corner, and it was PACKED with people, standing in the freezing cold and rain. I was all alone, this time, there was no one around me. I didn't think it was possible after 2007 to enjoy the finish more, but now I know I am wrong.

I cruised down the hill, waving my arms like a madman, pumping my fists. I dont know what I was doing, I was so tired, and so overwhelmed and happy. I really felt like this was a world apart from Ironman 2007 in terms of how hard I pushed and how much I overcame.

The finish chute in front of me. Tears in my eyes. So crowded compared to 2007, and it feels so much more alive. Slapping as many hands as I can reach. Pumping the fist. I see Shawna on the side and slap her hand.

All pain disappears.

I got to the finish line and stopped, and then leaped across it as my photo was taken. I landed with my arms in the air and looked at the sky, rain falling into my eyes.

I did it. Again. And this time, I really feel like I deserved to hear the words:

Aaron Moss, you are an Ironman.

Ironman: Part Three







You mean I still have to ride 50 miles???



That was my grim realization when I started riding after my second flat tire at Ironman. I mentioned in Part One how quickly the complexion of the day changes. This is not to say I was suddenly feeling awful about life, it was just that stark, cold slap in the face by reality saying "wake-up".

What was worse, I had not even ridden out of town to the hills yet. Gulp.


Digression:
I must say, here, that there is a very important distinction regarding the hill climbing in 2007 and in 2009. See, a few weeks ago, I finally got smart. If you go back and read about the bike ride in 2007 you will notice my comments about the gearing on my tri bike being poorly suited to hill climbing. It is a big gear time trial bike.

A few weeks before Ironman, after doing a 110 mile ride in the heat with over 4000 feet of vertical climbing, I decided enough was enough. I bought a new Shimano Dura Ace cassette. My old cassette was an 11-22 (I know, and I waited 9 years to change that???) and the new one is an 11-25. I swear that I have never felt such love for 3 gear teeth in my life. It is WONDERFUL--compared to what it was like. It still is not a granny climbing gear, but let's be honest--it is nice to climb a hill in the saddle without fear of falling over backwards because you can't actually keep the pedals turning over.
End Digression

So there I was riding north, feeling ok, the wind at my back, occasionally looking at the watch. It was cloudy; the wind was gusting now to the point that I was fearful of being shoved off of the road at times when I was crouched in my aero bars. My legs felt very heavy. The burning was not my issue, it was that heaviness. Out at Hayden Lake the hills started, and the heaviness was a big problem.


I had been playing the passing game with a big 43 year old kahuna named Tom who was riding a beautiful black Cervelo P2C with deep dish Carbon Zipps and a "who's who" of finer carbon components scattered about his ride. Essentially, his bike was worth more than my car(s). It made the sound of an F-18 when it passed me, roaring down the hills. (As happened with so many people, he would pass me on the downhills and I would inevitably lurch by him on the hills. The old game of Gravity vs. Efficiency.)


One hill in particular is up above the lake after you have been swerving around, just before you head away into the country. Its a very steep, sustained climb that is really punishing. Here is the difference between the first lap and second lap--I didn't even remember climbing it the first lap!! I turned to Tom, looking deep in personal anguish and disbelief (as was I) and snorted "Tom, why does it have to be like this?"

He gave a sort of grunt and replied very plainly as he glanced back at me briefly, "We paid a lot of money for this pain."

That was it in a nutshell. We volunteered and the course delivered.

I trudged past him, up to the top, which actually turns out is a false top, and littered the countryside with expletives inappropriate for this forum.


Behold! Vanilla Thunder hath Vanish-ed!!


When I made the FINAL turn around on the bike and was heading back around the long swooping, gradual uphill turns, I fully expected to see Brian RIGHT there, still, clinging about 10 minutes behind me.

But I didn't.

It is selfish, I suppose, to say/feel this, but I was happy I didn't see him. First I was happy because it meant I had not fallen off my pace too much. Second I was happy I did not see him because it may have meant he got smart and held off the pace a little, given the crazy gusting winds out there. I didn't yet consider the third possibility, that he was having problems. Later, when I was riding into town, that thought occurred to me. I think I had had enough problems for us both, and maintained that he had just slowed down for his own benefit.

I saw the sign for 100 miles. 12 miles left. I mean... 12 MILES LEFT!!!! How awesome is that?? I swear, no matter how hard you train for this bike ride, and how well or poorly it goes, there is no better feeling than getting finished with the Ironman bike leg. You can not help but instantly feel better.

Of course I still had 12 very windy miles left. And it was DI-RECTLY into the southwest wind. Of course. How else would it be today?

I decided to go for it back in to town. I knew I couldn't hold the fastest tempo I wanted to, but I could push a little, spin faster... do something to feel energy in my legs which at this point were not energetic. I increased the tempo just a touch and started passing some of the people who had been with me. When we rode back on to the last long straightaway towards the "roundabout of tire-death" I really pushed it, getting up "on the rivet" and feeling my quads burn a little.

Soon there was a large opening in front of me. It was odd. I looked behind me and there, to my surprise, was a string of about 8 cyclists drafting off of me. They were not wheel to wheel, but they were definitely not legal, either. But this is Ironman and you have to be pretty damned blatant to get a card. So there they were. I chuckled--this is not how I saw myself from the inside, but apparently I was worth drafting off of. Or maybe I just smelled pretty.

I couldn't hold the pace all the way in. Some of the little ups and downs were too much and I backed off--unleashing the flood of fast 40 and 50 year olds behind me. It was amazing the whooshing sound it made as they all glided past, legs enormous and chiseled, bikes at least 3 times as expensive as mine. What a fashion show.

I just held on enough into the last small out to really stomp on it before rolling into transition -- where I was just disoriented enough that, when I got off my bike, I started running it back to its rack. DOH! In Ironman you just hand the sucker to the volunteers and they usher you directly into the tent.

The volunteers quickly corrected me, I felt stupid, and then happily scurried in moderate amounts of discomfort to what feels like heaven to me: the transition tent.

The GOOD part of my race was about to begin. Finally.