Monday, December 27, 2010

Winter Rupture, er, Break

Well, at least I wasn't alone on the trail!

The dreaded achilles tendon rupture did indeed occur, during the Umsted Bowl, our annual family football game usually played on Thanksgiving but postponed from then till yesterday. Fortunately, I have awesome step-brothers and cousins...all were involved in literally carrying me to the car, and my step-brothers Scott (with his son Nicholas) and Jay (with his son, Jack) accompanied me to the ER and hung out with me until reinforcements (ie, my mom and later my brother) arrived. Thanks, guys!

Technically, I have not yet received the diagnosis of a ruptured tendon--I won't be able to see the orthopedist till Thursday morning--but I am unable to put any weight on my right foot, and to the touch it feels, well, like I'm a puzzle with a piece missing. The immediate pain is kept at bay by a boot and the occasional Ultracet.

Since running will be out of the question for the foreseeable future, and since I'll limit (and maybe outright stop) my beer intake in the absence of the ability to exercise much, I've decided to put this blog into hibernation until one or both of its foci are again part of my daily life.

Till then, God Bless, and thank you for reading!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"...and this last beer bottle"


On Distinction

We won’t pretend we’re not hungry for distinction
but what can ever distinguish us enough?
This country, this language won’t last long, the race
will die, later the cockroach, earth itself,

and last this beer bottle: silicon fused by man,
almost indestructible, like a soul:
it will go spinning ever farther from the nearest thing
until space, continually deepening, drowns in itself.

Yet we keep a hungry eye on old schoolmates
and everyone born in the year of our own birth,
and spend the nights in ranting over them,
their money, fashionable companions, pliant critics.

To live just a little longer than they do:
that would be triumph. Hence exercise and diets,
and the squabble over who will write the history
of this paradise of demons casting each other out.
by A. F. Moritz. H/T Molly Sabourin.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Marcus Takach Memorial Run, Tennessee Chapter

Date: December 12, 2010
Location: The Trail at Herb Parsons Lake
Time: From just after 2 p.m. till around 3:15 p.m.
Distance: About 8 miles
Intended distance: About 6 miles...though losing one's way and then finding it again did not seem inappropriate somehow.

Photo from here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Do You Beer What I Beer?

H/T FuzzyBrew

You can read more about the Bowen Beer Bottle Band here.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Out: Star Wars Cheer Gear

In: Root Like a Pirate!

I now know why Cindy braves the crowds and weather every year to watch the St. Jude marathon. Sure, I ran in it the last two years, but my brief run-by (or, in 2008, walk-by) doesn't explain the long stretches of time she stands, waves, holds signs, and cheers runners of all ages, sizes, and speeds. Having run and exhausted myself in such races, I can't begin to describe how much I appreciate any little thing that makes me smile along the route, be it a goofy costume, a bad joke on a sign, live music, or simply a hearty "Way to Go!"

Those little things can bring a big boost, and I was thrilled to work with Cindy to help provide that same lift to others at this past Saturday's race.

Way to go, runners!

ps: The "Go, J, Go!" sign refers to little Josiah--you can read his story here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Some Damn Fool Idealistic Crusade

Cindy and I plan to cheer on the runners in this Saturday's St. Jude Marathon and Half Marathon. Cindy supported me the last two years, and since I'm not racing this year, we decided to pool our collective rooting resources.

Cindy has had fun making signs to hold during the race. Last year, she surprised me with this sign, a less-than-subtle reference to our favorite music video:

Given my older nephew's burgeoning love for all things Star Wars (we're planning to buy him a blue lightsaber for Christmas this year), I thought it'd be fun to riff on that theme for this year's signage. Here are a couple of my ideas so far:

Cindy did say, moreover, that she might be willing to wear her hair in the traditional Organa honeybun style, so we may very well go with something like these ideas. We'll see.

Monday, November 29, 2010

In Memoriam: Marcus Takach

While running the Tulsa (Williams Route 66) Marathon last Sunday, I passed a young man lying supine just to the right of the road, receiving chest compressions from the EMT who had just arrived. After I finished the race, I learned that the young man, 27-year-old Marcus Takach, had died shortly after collapsing. Several of us who passed Marcus mentioned to each other that we were praying for him; I trust that those prayers can be credited by our merciful God to the rest of Marcus's soul. May the Lord have mercy upon him and us.

The Tulsa Running Club is organizing a silent run in honor of Marcus Takach starting at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 12 at 15th and Riverside--the place of his repose. All of those participating will run the final 3.1 miles of the Williams Route 66 Half Marathon (which ran concurrent with the marathon), finishing the race in honor of Marcus. Although I will be in Memphis rather than in Tulsa, I plan to run 3.1 miles that day at 2:00 sharp, rain or shine (or snow). I'll most likely be driving in from Liturgy at the skete in Grand Junction, Tenn., early that afternoon, but my hope is to make it to the North Trail by then--my favorite lonely place to run.

Marcus and I both woke up early on race day, planned our races, made the trek downtown. We even both took photos of our bib and number; only one of us lived to tell of the day's events. I really would like to write about my own experience in Tulsa sometime, but right now just doesn't seem to be that time. 

Here's a link to the article in the Tulsa newspaper reporting on Marcus's death. I think I can safely say that he was healthier than I was entering the race.

May his memory be eternal. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

The Greenline, early morning Saturday, September 18, my first day back running after recovering from my achilles tendon injuries. As noted at the time, my celebration of recovering from one set of injuries led to my acquiring a new one.

The Greenline, late afternoon Wednesday, November 17, the final taper run before Sunday's Williams Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, OK. After originally planning to run three miles at the park after work yesterday, I thought I'd better enjoy returning to the scene of my first hesitant run after two months off. I was not disappointed...a cloudy sky and threat of rain made for a sparsely crowded path, yet those of us who did venture out were treated to the still-lovely, surprisingly brilliant fall foliage along the tree-lined trail.

Though it's hard to discern from this snapshot taken with my low-res camera phone, the billboard--an ad for the Memphis Grizzlies--reads, "We Believe in the Greenline." I know it's a cheesy attempt by a pro sports franchise to try to connect with a certain secgment of the populace (and thus sell tickets to us), but seeing the sign always makes me smile.

Just when I think work on the Greenline has been completed, up sprouts yet another improvement. The path now boasts markers denoting every half mile--a really nice bonus for folks looking to run, walk, or ride specific distances. I was thrilled to see these yesterday.

The Wolf River bridge remains my favorite stretch of the Greenline. I ran either over or under this bridge during all of my long runs (15+ miles). I was somehow comforted yesterday to see the river level rising from its low point earlier this fall.

The spur connecting the paved Greenline (at the east end of the Wolf River bridge) to the unpaved North trail, which winds alongside the Wolf River. I love being able to add variety to a run by leaving the pavement for a few miles. Like the Yellow trail that runs along the Wolf south of Walnut Grove Rd., the North trail suffered a good bit of erosion during this past spring's flooding; even so, it's a beautiful trail. It's also a bit lonelier than the other Wolf River trails, and I sometimes seek it out on days when my mind races more swiftly than my feet.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Nice Surprise

After searching (unsuccessfully) for a 6-pack of Schlafly Dry Hopped APA, I was still in the mood for a pale ale of the citrusy variety to accompany last night's band practice. Since the price of Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA runs in the double digits at my neighborhood Schnucks, I took a chance on what I hoped would be a similar beer--Bridgeport India Pale Ale. I was not disappointed...pleasantly (but not overly) bitter, relatively light ABV (5.5%, not too stiff for an IPA), and with a citrus flavor reminiscent of several of the Americal Pale Ales (including but not necessarily limited to IPAs) I've favored lately.

Oh, and while not exactly cheap, the Bridgeport IPA sixer was still several dollars cheaper than Dogfish Head's.

Cheers, Oregon!

Monday, November 08, 2010


Who: My lovely wife, Cindy

What: Race for Grace 5K

Where: The neighborhood around Shady Grove Presbyterian Church

When: Saturday, November 6, from 9:00:00 a.m. to 9:34:27 a.m.

Why: Just because she could

How: With a steady pace for the first 3 miles and a crazy mad sprint for the last 0.1, Cindy finished 12th out of 30 in her age group and generally kicked ass in her first 5K. Go Cindy!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

In Heaven There Is No Beer

"Is this heaven?"
"No, it's Iowa."
     --Field of Dreams

In heaven there is no beer
That's why we drink it here
And when we're gone from here
Our friends will be drinking all the beer
     --from the "Iowa Victory Polka," played after victories by the U of Iowa football team

In Iowa, there is plenty of beer. In addition to the annual RAGBRI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa), a weeklong group ride across the state in which beer drinking plays a prominent role, Iowa also boasts several microbreweries. One of the newest--if not the newest--of these is the Peace Tree Brewing Company, which opened last year in Knoxville, IA. Knoxville happens to be the home of my Uncle Mike, Aunt Connie, and cousin Stephen as well as the hometown of Stephen's two older siblings, Courtney and Andrew, both of whom now attend college elsewhere in the state, Courtney at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and Andrew at Wartburg College in Waverly.

I spent last weekend in Knoxville along with my mom, her sister, and her middle brother (Mike is the baby of the family). Actually, we started and finished each day in Knoxville, but spent the bulk of each day on the road across the state. On Saturday, we attended Andrew's football game in Waverly; Andrew is a senior safety and led the Knights in tackles last year (good for his stats, but having a safety lead in tackles usually means the defensive line and linebackers are not making those tackles); this year, the Knights are 9-0 and have qualified for the playoffs for their division in the NCAA. I was surprised at how different rooting for a family member changes the way I watched a college football game...rooting for an individual first and the team because of him changes the emotional tie to the outcome: sure, I was still hoping the team would win, and I was "into" the game as much as I've been into one for my own alma mater, but I found myself wanting the win for him first and for me (as a fan) second. I'll come to no general conclusions here about the nature of fandom; I did find the contrast interesting, though.

"If one could run without getting tired I don't think one would often want to do anything else." 
     --C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle 

I 'm still training for the Route 66 Marathon, which will take place two weeks from today. To maintain the abbreviated training schedule that will hopefully allow me to complete that race, I did a couple of moderately long runs in Knoxville, getting up before breakfast so as not to interfere with my family's overall plans. I ran on Saturday and on Sunday, enjoying both the physical challenge (Knoxville, and much of that part of Iowa, is pretty hilly) and the quiet beauty of my surroundings. I took a fairly similar route both days--I ran past my youngest cousin's high school, the football stadium, the town square, and the Peace Tree Brewing Company, as well as through my family's neighborhood. I was mainly alone, passing only a couple of other runners. In those moments, it's easy to think things like, "I'm the only one out here doing this...the locals may be kind of impressed!"--easy until I remember the story my uncle told me of the local man who ran 100 miles in 24 hours, ending his trek at the football stadium at the start of one of the high school team's games. If running is a competition, it's with oneself, mainly. At least for me it is.

Running on a Sunday morning is not something I'd done since, well, before I became an Orthodox Christian. I find it impossible to run without breaking the fast (with both food and water) preceding receiving the Precious Gifts at the Divine Liturgy; even if I were to somehow wait till after Liturgy to eat or drink, though, I think that running beforehand might dilute my focus and add extra "busy-ness" to the morning. Not that I'm trying to pontificate: I'll miss church altogether the morning of the marathon. But running before church seems to be trying to have things both ways, to avoid making a decision, a commitment. 

I really do love to run. If I had to choose only one or the other, I'd give up beer forever and re-title this blog, "Run/Run." Well, maybe, anyway. 

When I was not yet a catechumen but had started attending Inquirer's Class fairly regularly, my (to-be) pastor, who was leading that session, asked each of us, "What is your favorite activity on earth?" Having just finished my first marathon 3 days prior, I blurted out, "Running." Father then stated, warmly but firmly, "Well, you know eternity is not going to consist simply of running over and over and over." Of course I knew he was right. His words reminded me of C.S. Lewis's regarding chocolate, sex, and heaven:

"…I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No’, he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it."
      --C.S. Lewis, Miracles (p. 160)

In heaven there is no beer, as far as I can discern; there may be no running, either. That may or may not be why I give so much attention to them here. 

Or maybe I have not really learned to desire Heaven for its own sake. Or the one who makes Heaven heavenly, for His Own sake. 

Lord, have mercy.

God Bless you, whoever you are who may be reading this.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Briefest of Running Logs

Nice outing tonight--not as chilly as I'd feared, just humid enough to work up a healthy sweat, and nearly traffic-free. All in all, one of my favorite sorts of runs.

Running log:
Yesterday: 7 sluggish miles on the "dreadmill"
Tonight: about 8.5 miles outside--my usual 6-mile route plus an extra bit added in the middle

Monday, October 25, 2010

Just a Beer

I just poured myself a glass of beer--Schlafly Dry Hopped APA, for those keeping score.

I have a lot on my mind tonight, some of it heavy, some of it shallow, most of it involving neither running nor beer. This blog, however is not the venue for those thoughts. If I'm wise, I'll try to hash them out in writing somewhere, sometime soon; but not here.

I have long fashioned myself a writer, but a "writer" who doesn't write is a wannabe at best and a poseur at worst. I'm not sure I write well; I get by in terms of usage, style, punctuation, and such, but some days I don't have much to say. I started this blog for one reason only: to give myself a reason to write about--something. Anything. The twin topics of this blog are, at least, two things I think about fairly regularly.


I very much enjoyed the beer dinner I attended recently--a feast for the senses for sure. The next day, I received a phone call from someone admitting (to me, but chiefly to themselves) their alcoholism, asking me to support them and keep them accountable. Timing is funny.


I really know very little about beer. I have noticed, however, that I have picked up the unfortunate habit of talking about it as if I have actual expertise in the ins and outs of beer styles, various breweries and brewing regions. Somewhere, Screwtape is laughing.

I do really enjoy trying new beers, and comparing different examples of the same style, and learning about how beer is made. I also have not given up on my desire to brew my own; financial concerns have back-burnered that plan somewhat, but I know I've also probably been reluctant to take the actual step of walking into a shop and saying, "I know nothing. Please help me with this." Know-it-all-ism is a tough habit to break, a difficult posture to drop. Lord, have mercy.


Running has been going well. Of course, a couple of good runs gave me the (misguided?) confidence to resume marathon training. So far, the achilles tendons have held up; my stamina, though, has not yet returned.

(And I'm strongly considering petitioning New Belguim to change the name of their flagship brew to Flat Tire.)

I somehow pounded out just over 17 miles Saturday, hoping for 20 but ultimately happy with my total. The Tulsa marathon is less than 4 weeks away; I'd love to run an even 20 in one go sometime in the next couple of weeks. I figure I have maybe two more shots at meeting that goal--this Thursday evening (the night before I travel to Iowa with my mom and two of her siblings) and maybe the weekend after next.

I'm pretty sure I'm a damn fool for trying to run that distance having taken 2 months off, but my mostly successful recent long runs have given me confidence to at least try. The greater the uncertainty in other parts of life, the more I enjoy channeling energy into attaining a difficult goal.

Sometimes, it seems as if I'm running away from something; other times, towards something. And every once in awhile, I run just for the love of the run. Not usually, unfortunately; but those fleeting times of running for its own blissful sake make all of those other runs worthwhile--if just for the hope that the bliss might return somehow, someday.


In better running news, Cindy did a dry run (pun intended) of the course of her upcoming 5k this past Saturday. She made it just fine. She's ready. I ran the course with her--easily the most enjoyable 3 miles of my 17 that day. A different sort of bliss, perhaps, but most welcome.


And the beer glass is now empty.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Carbo Loading?

I’ve attended beer festivals, beer tastings, beer-and-wine tastings, and wine-paired dinners, but last night’s Schlafly Beer Dinner at Patrick’s Steaks and Spirits was the first meal I’ve had for which the various food courses were selected to pair with specific beers. Already a fan of Schlafly’s products as well as Patrick’s (some of the best home cooking in town!), I expected to fully enjoy the meal. I was not disappointed.

In the company of several friends as well as dozens of other patrons, I was treated to the following menu (descriptions are from the event’s Facebook page):

Hors D’oeuvres
Spicy Smoked Pork BBQ Crostini
Served with Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
A full-bodied, deep reddish amber beer made with pumpkin and
butternut squash and spiced with nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.

First Course
Beer Cheddar Soup
Served with Schlafly Dry Hopped APA
An American Pale Ale with a hearty dose of hop bitterness, flavor and aroma.
Hops are added directly into the finished beer to boost the fresh,
fruity flavor and aroma of American hops.

Second Course
Lump Crabcakes, Wilted Garlic Spinach &
Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade
Served with Schlafly Pale Ale
A rich, amber-coloored, medium bodied British style ale
with a smooth mild hop character

Third Course
Butternut Squash Risotto
with Bacon-wrapped Jalapeno Shrimp
Served with Schlafly Oktoberfest
A malty, full-bodied, deep reddish-amber lager. Traditionally brewed in March
for the Oktoberfest in the fall, this style is also known as Märzen.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake
Served with Schlafly Bourbon Stout
Roasty, rich, and malty, and aged for several months in freshly-emptied
Jim Beam bourbon barrels, where it picks up the essential
character of oak, caramel, and bourbon flavors.

Favorite pairing? Really tough call. I might have to go with the final pairing—the sweet potato cheesecake paired with the barrel aged stout, just because the flavors of both the dessert and the beer were individually very strong, yet they complemented each other really well.

Favorite beer of the night? The aformentioned stout was the most unusual and the pumpkin ale was the more pleasantly surprising (somehow, I did not expect to enjoy it but did), but the dry-hopped APA continues to be my favorite Schlafly offering—nice hop punch in the nose, but not so heavy or bitter that you can’t enjoy the rest of your meal.

Favorite food course of the night? Gotta go with the sweet potato cheesecake, by a nose. Each dish was excellent, though, and for sheer comfort-food indulgence, I’d pick the beer cheddar soup.

Learn anything new? The Schlafly Bottleworks (their second, larger brewery in the St. Louis area) is housed in a former Kroger store. My wife is a Kroger pharmacist, and my first job was at Kroger. Is this a sign to us regarding a potential career upgrade?

Swag? A keychain bottle opener as well as two tulip glasses (score!) 

Overall observations

1. The beer serving sizes were really just about perfect. At first, I assumed (incorrectly) that we'd get a full bottle of each of the five selections--which might've been fun in theory but would've ultimately spoiled a nicely balanced meal (and spoiled the next day at work as well!). Instead, each beer serving was around 6 ounces; given that two of the beers were "big" (in alcohol content), that was just about right.
2. If you're going to attend a beer dinner, it's a total bonus perk to be able to sit at the table with the brewery representative--not only did we get a couple of extra refills (not so many as to negate the point made in #1 above), but we also were able to chat with him about all things beerly and St. Louis-related.
3. According to one of my dining partners, the best bartender in town can be found at Billy Hardwick's bowling alley, just down the street from my house. I don't bowl but once a blue moon, but I may have to stop by there more often--turns out I've had a neighborhood bar without even knowing it!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicago, Milwaukee, and Thereabouts

Running back toward the Lake Front Path. This was the second of two pain free runs!

Chicago is one of the more running-friendly cities I've visited. In addition to the glorious Lake Front Path, which offers mile after mile of automobile-free space to run, walk, or bike, the city really seems to throw its support behind the Chicago Marathon, signs and banners for which were everywhere during our visit (which took place about 3 weeks before the race). 

The Millenium Park bean. The next time we visit Chicago, we may not visit as many tourist-specific places, but this was my first time there and I (as did my wife) wanted to see the Bean.


Regional beer flight at Mity Nice, Water Tower Place. From left to right: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald porter (a Cleveland beer, actually), Goose Island Green Line pale ale, Metropolitan Brewing Krankshaft Kolsch.

Eliot Ness Vienna Lager (Great Lakes Brewing), enjoyed with pizza at Lou Malnati's. This was one of my favorite beers of the week--another from the Cleveland brewery. Cleveland = Beer Mecca? I love learning new things! 

Hangin' with the Fonz on the Milwaukee Riverwalk. Both Cindy and I were surprised/impressed at how liveable Milwaukee seemed to be.

The original giant mug into which a designated diver slid every time the Brewers hit a home run at their old stadium. Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee now boasts the mug, which we saw on our brewery tour.

The Beer Trifecta!
Beer cheddar soup, beer-battered cheese curds, and the local pale ale at a brewpub, southern Wisconsin.

"How does it feel?"
Thrift store, southern Wisconsin, where thrift stores lack the must and funk I usually associate with them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Grace and Work

It's official! My wife, Cindy, is now registered for the Race for Grace 5k, to be held November 6. She's really working hard in making the transition from treadmill-only running to running outside, and I think she'll be more than ready. I can't wait to cheer her on!

Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest

With my good friend Billy, I attended the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest Saturday afternoon. Here's my quick take on this very enjoyable event:

Beers I tried
Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company: Ninja Porter
French Broad Brewing Company: Gateway Kolsch
Yazoo Brewing Company: Summer Ale, Sue
Vino’s Brewpub: Goldcrest 51
Mid-South Malts/Memphis Homebrewers: English IPA
Abita: Andygator, SOS

Overall Thoughts
The CYRB was a pleasantly manageable size, allowing attendees to try products from all (or at least most) of the breweries represented without getting sloshed. The focus on breweries within a day’s drive of Memphis was a nice theme (that said, Sierra Nevada was represented, too; they were an obvious outlier, but I don’t think anyone complained). The afternoon on which the festival was held, however, boasted a record high temperature for the date (some 90-odd degrees); the lack of humidity meant that we were not exactly uncomfortable, but I altered my beer selection strategy to accommodate the heat (ie, more Kolsches and lighter beers, fewer dark and/or heavy ales).

Pleasant Surprises
1. Andygator, Abita’s double bock. This was the first beer I tried, and it was a hot day, so of course this one seemed extra refreshing. But I think I’d like it in a different setting as well…crisp, not watery, not bitter for the wrong reasons (ie, skunky), just refreshing and thirst-quenching.
2. Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company’s Ninja Porter. After only a few minutes at the beerfest, I knew the unseasonably warm temps would probably lead me to lean toward the lighter beers (in body and color) rather than the heftier ones that I often prefer. The Ninja Porter, though, was the right beer at the right time—a complete contrast to the others I’d tried heretofore, yet surprisingly thirst-quenching for a porter. Nice chocolate and coffee overtones, and light carbonation. Winner!
3. The Goldcrest 51. Unlike the lightweight imposter that was marketed and sold here very briefly in the mid-90s, this version of the flagship beer of the old Tennessee Brewery does indeed follow the recipe used in brewing the original. Although the new/old 51 is not a beer I'd crave, it is much more flavorful than most mass-produced beers and (like #s 1 and 2 above) proved to be eminently thirst quenching.

Yazoo’s famed Sue—wrong beer at the wrong time. I’ve been a bit turned off by rauchbiers/smoky beers (maybe it’s an acquired taste?), but I’d heard good things about Sue. Unfortunately, the smoky flavor, full-bodiedness, and high alcohol content led me to cut bait after only a few sips (for shame!). I don't really blame the beer--the taste matched the description--but I guess I'd hoped I'd be more ready for it. I wasn't.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pride Cometh Before...

It was really more of a stumble than a fall...

I made it to the Memphis Greenline around 8:45 this morning. The air was beginning to warm in the sun, but the shady spots were still deliciously cool. With a near-balance of anxiety and excitement, I walked the half block from my car to the High Point Terrace Greenline entrance, reset my stopwatch, and started my slow, easy run.

My physical therapist OK'd this run, but instructed me to note any stiffness or soreness in either achilles tendon, especially the extra-vulnerable right one. My first glance at the stopwatch was about 30 seconds in. All felt fine. Along the way, heading east from High Point Terrace, I met numerous cyclists, several other joggers and walkers, some in pairs, some with pooches. It was a lovely morning to continue the Greenline's "soft" opening.

Three, four, five, eight minutes passed pain free. I paused a couple of times to snap a few photos (one of which is shown above)...just a nice, relaxed jog. At about the 12-minute mark, I came to the Waring intersection and decided to turn around (my therapist OK'd "one or two miles," so 24 minutes total would probably push me slightly over that limit, even at the easy pace).

My time totaled 15, then 18, then 20 minutes, and my tendons still felt fine (though my other joints began to feel the effects of a 2-month layoff from running!). At about the 21-minute mark, I began to approach High Point Terrace. After all my worry about "failing," I'd passed my first test in my recovery. I was pleased, maybe even a little cocky. I stepped off to the right to snap one more photo to preserve the moment, to bask in the glow of victory and the warmth of the morning sun.

Then I looked down at my camera phone, misstepped, and promptly sprained my ankle on the edge of the newly laid asphalt.

At least now I won't be tempted to run further than prescribed...

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I completed my third round of physical therapy today. I can honestly say that I've never in my life stretched more than I have the last week. It's a mental challenge completing my three rounds each of multiple sets of multiple stretching and "eccentric" exercises (ones that serve to lengthen tendons rather than contract them) every day.

Compared to my daily rounds of on-my-own assignments, the actual PT sessions are quite pleasant. My therapist is originally from South Africa, and I enjoy listening to her accent as she speaks. Also, in addition to reviewing old and introducing new exercises, my sessions also include ultrasound and icing therapy. The former is essentially a foot massage with the warming ultrasound cream (there's probably a correct, technical name for it), and the latter involves not actual ice but a cold pad or wrap that is placed over the backs of my feet for about 8 minutes. Heretofore, I'd heard of ultrasonography only in the context of obtaining scans of unborn children in the womb; I didn't know I could "have an ultrasound" as well. (ps: It's a boy!)

I have one more session scheduled, for next Monday. At that visit, my therapist will let me know if she recommends that I return to my sports medicine specialist for a follow-up exam. At this point, I'm willing to accept pretty much anything--recovery short cuts ultimately prevented me from running, and since the ultimate goal is to get back out there, I want to make sure I'm really ready when I am finally cleared to run.

As a possible harbinger of that day, though, my therapist asked me to go on a short run--on a flat road, slowly--sometime this weekend to see how my tendons will respond. I'm planning to run for 15 or 20 minutes this Saturday on the newly opened Memphis Greenline paved path (pictured above), noting if and when pain arises and then how long before any such pain subsides after I finish my run. Having resisted the urge to run countless times over the past several weeks, I'm both thrilled and nervous about the idea of actually going on a run--and doing so with the therapist's blessing.

Most Saturday races here in town start at 8:00 a.m.

I wonder if I'll be able to wait that long...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Back in November 2007, I ran in the Race for Grace 5K.

That race was special for me for at several reasons: (1) the Race for Grace serves as a fundraiser for the Church Health Center--a most worthy cause you can read about here; (2) it was my first race after many years of not running; and (3) the course wound through the neighborhood in which I lived for most of my childhood and teen years.

Now, I wasn't really "ready" to run that race; in fact, I did it in response to a request from my mom, a nurse who, at that time, volunteered regularly at the Church Health Center. Accepting her challenge, I experienced side stiches, shortness of breath--and the joy of crossing the finish line. I can really look back at that day as the one on which I started to become a runner.

If my recovery from achilles tendonitis goes as planned, I should be more than ready to run by the time the Race for Grace arrives this year.

But I'm not signing up for it. Instead, the 2010 Race for Grace may very well mark my wife's racing debut.

Unlike me in '07, Cindy wants to be extra prepared for her first race. By her reasoning, if she's able to run 4 miles on the treadmill (her "comfort zone"), she'll be able to handle 3.1 miles on the road. I think she's already more than ready for any 5K she'd choose, but I understand the need to feel psychologically as well as physically prepared.

I'm planning to cheer her on, hold a sign, play auxiliary percussion instruments, and generally make a fool of myself on her behalf. She'd do the same for me; heck, she's done so more than once. In fact, Cindy has been more supportive of--and patient with--me in my running obsession (er, endeavors) than I could reasonably expect someone to be. A closet full of stinky shoes (and shirts and shorts) and a husband who crawls out of bed in the morning dark time and again are only a couple of the inconveniences she endures patiently, calmly, sweetly.

She may officially run in that 5K for the first time in November. For me, though, Cindy has run, and won, the Race for Grace many, many times over.

What's Up, Doc?

I finally sought medical advice for my aching achilles tendons.

It was a big deal for me to do so: I'm not afraid of doctors or medical care per se, but like many folks I tend to avoid them unless I have no other recourse. After several weeks sidelined from running, I felt I had no other recourse. Fortunately, my primary care doc is also a friend and fellow songwriter--and his office is within walking distance of mine. A quick exam of the tendons yielded his recommendation that I see a sports medicine specialist, who happened to be a distance runner herself.

After accidentally arriving an hour early for my appointment (a bit eager, Dave?), I had x-rays taken (negative, no surprise) and then was introduced to Dr. L, who has to be one of the most energetic, enthusuiastic people I've ever met. Noting my rather wide calves and tight achilles tendons, she commented, "You must've played field sports growing up, eh?" She was right, of course. Turns out that, while I'm "built" well for sports like soccer and football that require quick shifts and turns, I'm not exactly the ideal physical specimen for distance running (no real shock there).

My treatement, then, will consist of two related arms: (1) reducing the pain and swelling in the achilles tendons themselves and (2) loosening my tight lower legs. For the former, she gave me a cortisone shot just above my right achilles tendon (the left one is much less tender and swollen), provided me with an air cast for that foot, and sent me home with topical anti-inflammatory cream. To address the latter, she referred me to a physical therapist, whom I'll visit for the first time tomorrow.

Perhaps the best part of the visit, though, was Dr. L's empathy. "You miss running, don't you? And that makes you sad, huh?" I could only nod my head affirmatively. "Well," she concluded, "we'll have you out there running again within two weeks."

I wasn't wearing my iPod, but that was the sweetest running song I'd heard in a long, long time. I hope she's right.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Past Week's Beer Log (Illustrated), and Brotherly Beer

Not a bad week (so far). All of the larger bottles shown above were shared with my brother; I can't think of a better way to enjoy a good beer. (I think we both liked the Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary best.)

If I could start all over, I'd spend, say, 10-15 years learning how to brew beer and brew it well. Once I had achieved a proper level of brewing expertise and expanded the scale of my production just a bit, I'd try to talk my brother into partnering with me in setting up our own brewpub. 

It's a pipe dream, especially since (1) I have no restaurant experience other than working at the Starbucks-Lite at a local bookstore back in grad school, (2) my business acumen is on par with my restaurant experience, and (3) I've yet to even brew my first batch of beginner homebrew (though September still looks promising).

But it's fun to think about it. 

"Twombly Time, All the Time."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pucknation on Keeping "Perspective" About Running

"But at the end of the day, it's nothing really special. It's not profound. It's just running. That's it. In fact, if a person looks at the big picture of life, it's merely one morning out of three hundred and something. Right?"
--Pucknation, in a moving blog post in which he reflects on seeing a series photos of fallen U.S. soldiers posted along his running route this morning. I've caught myself feeling sorry for myself a few times since I began my forced break from running a couple of weeks ago; this post provides a good corrective to those feelings. 
Puck "gets it"; may I do the same someday.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wolves Dressed as Sheep, Sheep Dressed as Wolves--Beer Ephemera

My brother, Stephen, and I often chat about the local beer distribution scene. As a general manager of a locally owned restaurant, Stephen is privy to the coming and going of beers into and out of the market, and he has a pretty good take on how trends within the industry affect us locally.

One trend we discussed recently was the diluting of the craft beer market by giant commercial brewers. As craft breweries are enjoying increasing success even as larger breweries are reporting slumping beer sales, the latter have begun to introduce faux-micros, beers that are intended to match--or at least intended to convince consumers that they match—the quality and variety of beers crafted by local and regional breweries. The marketing and branding of these beers range from the up-front (think of the recent batch of Michelob-branded specialty beers) to the deceptive (micro “imposters” brewed by the macrobreweries but without obvious disclosure of their origin, such as Blue Moon, Killian’s Red, even “Memphis Brown”; see this article for a great write-up).

To be fair, some of these imposters taste pretty good; I’ve enjoyed a nice Amber Bock as an alternative to watery lagers more than once. But the move is a deceptive one, aiming to capitalize on a market trend (and charge near-craft prices to boot). I’m not going to assume that the goal is to Wal-Mart the smaller breweries out of business (and there are too many upstart craft breweries making great beer for that to happen, I think), but the trend does raise an eyebrow.

Conversely, I’ve also recently tried beers sold only at Costco and marketed under the ubiquitous Costco “Kirkland” label. Enjoying the beer way more than I thought I should, I looked at the label and noticed Kirkland beer is brewed in Utica, New York—which just happens to be the city in which Saranac beer is brewed. A little Internet research confirmed that, sure enough, Saranac (more specifically, the FX Matt Brewing Co, which brews Saranac) brews the Kirkland beer sold in the eastern US (Gordon Biersch brews the beer sold in the western half of the country). I only recently tried and enjoyed Saranac beer, which has just recently entered the Memphis market. Since it’s sold for around 7 bucks a six-pack, and since a case of Kirkland beer is available for about $18 (roughly $0.75/bottle), the latter is obviously a much better deal.

So am I contradicting myself by eschewing the macros-sold-as-micros while embracing the semi-micro disguised as a macro? Perhaps, though if the choice is between a cheap tasty beer and an expensive not-as-tasty one, I’ll choose the former every time.

Fortunately, though, options other than those two exist, and the best option—buying fresh, locally brewed beer—is readily available to me in the Ghost River family of beers. Cheers to them!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Church of Beer?

Photos of the Church Brew Works, a brew pub housed in a former (and deconsecrated) Roman Catholic parish in Pittsburgh, PA.

I'm fairly conflicted about this one. (I think the placement of brew kettles in the former altar area bothers me most.)

If the repurposing of churches as museums of atheism in the Soviet Union parallels the nightmare of totalitarianism described in 1984, then maybe the Church Brew Works embodies the death-of-personhood-by-amusement described in Brave New World.


Then again, I've had my share of beer in our church's parish hall on feast days--even beer homebrewed by a fellow parishioner.

(Really, really good beer.)

And I pray in bars, if nothing else, to ask God's blessing on and to give thanks for the beer.

R.E.M. played their first gig in a converted* church building in Athens, Ga. I'm pretty pro-R.E.M.

(*Pun intended.)

Maybe I'll just choose another battle.

But...I just can't support this 100%.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stubbornness and The Whole Ass

Running log:
Distance: 1.36 miles
Achilles tendon straps on? Yep.
Pain? Oh yeah.
So....So I'm going to have to take a real break from running, not half-way: to quote my buddy Jim, I'll "use the whole ass" and go all in with this hiatus. I've already started asking around about physical therapy. I've made peace with the fact that I may just have to count my Tulsa marathon entry fee as a "donation."

And it's OK. I still love running...I just can't enjoy it first-hand right now.

Second-hand is good, too. Cindy ran 30 minutes straight today. 5K, here she comes!!

ps: Bike ride, anyone?

The Perils of Stubbornness

So the Achilles tendon straps arrived Saturday. Because I was a dunderhead and--in a fit of impatience--ran way too far the day before they arrived, I was a little too sore to give them a proper go till Sunday.

The verdict?

Still out. I still feel some soreness when running, though not too much. The straps are, however, a bit clunky and tight; trying them on reminded me of the first time I tried on ice skates when I was 9. I’m planning a short indoor run after work today and will see how they feel then.

I knew I would have a hard time keeping the running fast. I'm pretty sure pride, ego, and vanity are all jumbled together with the "good" reasons I like to run...but I'm not going to rule out plain ol' stubbornness either.

Running log:
Friday: 6 painful (and sweaty) miles outside (OK, 2 relatively pain free miles, 2 fairly uncomfortable miles, and 2 really, really painful miles…I can still hear “You Big Dummy,” Fred Sanford-style, ringing in my ears)
Sunday: 2.55 (less painful but still really sweaty) miles outside

Beer log:
Friday: Fat Tire at Soul Fish and Schlafly Kolsch later at home
Saturday: Ghost River Brewery tour! I sampled the Golden, Hefeweizen, Red (twice), Pale Ale, and Brown Ale; I later had a McSorley’s Black Ale at home. Ghost River rocks.
Sunday: More Schlafly Kolsch while practicing music with my cousin (who is now a Schlafly fan himself) for our show next Saturday
Monday: I wasn’t planning to have a beer, but I shared a Bud Light with my good friend Bryan Hayes during practice for HIS set Saturday

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tuesday Musings on Running and Beer

  • Today marks my 7th consecutive non-running day. The achilles tendons are still a little tender to the touch, but all other pain is gone. The achilles tendon support straps I ordered should arrive this week. The temptation will be to put them on and then run as if I haven't been hurting. I'll need to resist that temptation and take it easy; that's easier said than done.
  • My wife can now run 28 minutes without walking. Methinks her long-desired 5k may be a possibility this fall. Go Cindy!
  • Deep water pool running is as easy or hard as you make it. Don't think you can sweat while up to your neck in a swimming pool? Think again.
  • Said pool running is even more difficult when you try to do it during peak pool usage hours. I tried to carve out about an 8' x 5' nook for myself, but even those tiny borders were trespassed. 
  • Upland Brewing Co. in Bloomington, Indiana, makes some mighty tasty beers. Thanks to our good friend Ashley, I now know that first-hand.
  • The folks who make Red Stripe also make a stout--Dragon Stout. It's delicious, mon.
  • I'm planning to return to Ghost River Brewery for a tour this Saturday. Anyone interested in going who has not yet heard from me should contact me by noon Thursday so I can give a head count to the brewery.
  • Initial reviews of Sierra Nevada's Tumber Autumn Brown Ale are not as favorable as I'd hoped. I'm still planning to give it a go, but I may wait a bit.
  • Replacing a home AC and a full set of tires and having a smorgasbord of other auto ailments repaired--not to mention the crazy heat and humidity--have pushed back the Great Homebrewing Experiment of 2010. Mid-September is looking realistic now.
  • If one attends an Antiochian Orthodox parish, can one observe the Slavic fasting discipline as relates to beer? I'd like to think so, but I may be deluding myself here. Forgive me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Substitutes and Alternatives

As an Orthodox Christian, I try to follow the Traditional Fasting Discipline on designated fasting days as well as during fasting seasons: with exceptions here and there, that discipline involves abstaining from all meat, dairy products, olive oil, and "wine" (really, all alcoholic beverages).

Generally speaking, keeping the fast is difficult, though not so burdensome that it's undoable. And it's supposed to be somewhat "uncomfortable"--we're not doing penance or trying to earn Divine favor, but we are attempting to practice self-denial, or at least avoid overindulgence, to remind ourselves that, ultimately, eating and drinking--and all other activities--are opportunities to give thanks to the One who provides for, sustains, and loves us.

That said, I've found that there are roughly two ways to abstain from certain food categories: eating foods outside of those categories for their own sake, and eating foods that technically don't violate the fast but that fool the taste buds (and eyes and nose) into thinking a "forbidden" food is actually being eaten. I'll call the former foods "alternatives," and this category (to oversimplify profoundly) includes vegetables, fruits, many breads, and most foods found in their "natural" or raw state. The latter foods, which I'll call "substitutes," include veggie burgers, soy dogs/nuggets/crumbles, soy milk, and other foods and beverages that mimic the look, smell, and flavor of non-vegan originals.

I'm not sure that the alternatives have any intrinsic spiritual superiority in comparison with the substitutes; I'm fairly certain that the use or negligence of moderation in eating from either category is of greater importance. But sometimes, I can't help but feel that I'm "cheating" when I allow the substitutes to dominate my diet, following the letter but not the spirit of the fast. Is there anything remotely ascetic about drinking vanilla soy milk--or, my favorite, "very vanilla" soy milk? Am I really "denying" myself anything when I eat that gourmet black bean burger?

Those questions have found a permanent home in my mind. Today, though, they also remind me of my present running-related dilemma: my Achilles tendons have forced me into another running "fast," or at least a time of running moderation. And the fast presents me with a choice of non-running activities: "alternatives" that I'd engage in for their own sake, such as bicycling or swimming, or else "substitutes" that more closely mimic running, such as using the elliptical or stair-step machines.

Because I've already started training for a fall marathon, I'm sorely (pun intended) tempted to do the latter, since I'd like to fool my muscles into thinking I'm still running, even when I'm not. Problem is, the substitutes force me to put weight on my tendons—the very thing I’m trying to avoid by cutting back my running. Conversely, swimming, probably the best form of exercise I could choose and the one that would put the least strain on my tender tendons, is not something I enjoy as exercise--it's the workout equivalent of beets and celery. Worst of all, I know that I'll be tempted to "cheat" outright--as I am in my food-fasting times--and run on days when I've planned to not do so; in fact, I’ve already done just that. Self-control is not a spiritual fruit I always cultivate with success.

By no means am I trying to equate the discipline of fasting with making choices based on exercise preferences. And, ultimately, it probably matters little what non-running activity I choose, over the next few weeks, or ever. It is, perhaps, a poor analogy.

But the analogy does cross my mind.


The obliquely spiritual nature of this post may, in part, stem from my thoughts about Fr. Matthew MacKay, an Orthodox priest serving in Houston, Texas, who reposed today. Only 54 years old, Fr. Matthew collapsed while running this morning.

I did not know Fr. Matthew, but several of my fellow parishioners did, and my pastor counted him as a close friend (and had just spent the past week with him at a clergy conference). My prayers are for his repose, and for strength for and mercy on his wife and two sons, the rest of his family, his friends, and his assisting clergy and parishioners.

May his Memory be Eternal.

And may I appreciate every run, not as an end in itself, but as a means of expressing thanks to the One who provides for, sustains, and loves me.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Achilles heel is my...


I mutter that word (or its equivalent) sotto voce (or louder) at some point during almost every run.

And that's really OK. My wife and I both take odd comfort in the fact that running is--per my buddy Glen--all about "managing discomfort." Neither of us is a teenager, and over the last nearly three years, I've learned that many aches and pains are not true injuries but simply the body's pouting at the loss of its cherished inertia. A little soreness, a little tiredness? No big worry.

Of course, our running is occasionally halted by actual injury: IT band pain kept me off the roads, trails, and treadmill for nearly two months early last year. Nagging knee and ankle injuries sometimes sideline my wife. But those setbacks have been rare and short-lived. Most of the discomfort we manage is more annoying than debilitating.

But what about discomfort that somehow falls between those poles?

I've been experiencing soreness in my Achilles tendons for several months now. Not every run, and not during the duration of any run...but it's there. I originally thought the pain was due to a switch to a softer-heeled shoe early this year, as I felt the pain more while wearing that pair than when wearing the older, slightly stiffer one. But despite a recent shoe upgrade, the tenderness persists. I've read horror stories of exacerbating Achilles tendon injuries; just the term rupture makes me shudder.

The prudent decision would simply be to replace running with, say, cycling for a few weeks. But because I'm a stubborn ass, I've refused to simply take an extended break from running, especially now that I've "officially" begun training for my fall marathon. Fortunately, increasing distance (I ran my first official long training run this morning) doesn't seem to irritate the tendons; running fast, however--and especially running fast up hills--does.

So while I've committed to a training plan that includes more speedwork than previous plans I've followed, I think I'm just going to have to focus more on the distances themselves than on the specialized speed training (intervals, hill repeats) that seem to hurt more than help right now. Maybe I can reintroduce those runs in a couple of weeks. But the short-term goal is to prevent discomfort from degenerating into something more sinister.

Running log: 10.3 sweaty miles: 4.8 alone and 5.5 with the Breakaway training group

Thursday, July 15, 2010

At the Cutting Edge of the Interface of Stout and Whisky. And Burnt Stinky Pork.

The second of the two BrewDog Paradox Whisky Barrel Aged stouts I received as a Joe's Beer Nutz member, Smokehead--on paper--followed the same formula used in making the Isle of Arran stout, which I really enjoyed. Raving about the latter to my brother, I brought the bottle of Smokehead to his house last weekend to share it with him. It poured a thick, opaque black, and I just knew it'd be at least as good as the Isle of Arran.


I know that some folks like the essence of smoked pork products infused into their beers, and I know that Smokehead has garnered rave reviews among beer enthusiasts, but I found it nearly undrinkable. My brother (no beer sissy) was able to stomach only a couple of sips as well before giving up on it. And my wife, who is not a beer drinker but is a cook, compared it to Kikkoman soy sauce; it's just too bad that we didn't have a stir-fry going, I guess.

No ham-beer for me. Call me a weenie. (Or don't.)

Much more enjoyable that night, though, was the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale, which we also shared. Hoppy and malty, it was a thoroughly tasty brew.


(For a spirited take on the madness of BrewDog's methods, go here.)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Tulsa Time!

After planning to do so for a few weeks, I finally registered for the Williams Route 66 Marathon, to be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this November. This will be my third marathon, but my first outside Memphis. (Since the Memphis race takes place only 13 days after the Tulsa marathon, I’m not planning to run the full marathon here this year, though I am hoping to at least jog the Half Marathon.)

Why Tulsa?

My Dad lives there; running in this race gives me a nice excuse to go see him and my stepmom for a long weekend.

Do you know anything about the course?

The length—26.2 miles! Nah. From what I’ve read about it, the only relatively hilly sections come in the first 14 or 15 miles. The race ends with a several-mile out-and-back along the Arkansas River (which bisects the city), which, while perhaps not offering much in the way of scenic variety, should at least be nice and flat.

Do you have a goal finishing time?

Sure—3:15, which would qualify me for Boston. But since I’ve yet to even finish under 3:30, I’m really hoping to do at least that this time. In my first marathon, I was probably prepared to finish in about 3:30 to 3:35 but got greedy on race day—after 16 miles or so at the pace for 3:15, my legs completely wore out and I struggled to reach 3:42; last year, I ran at a 3:30 pace but experienced a leg cramp at the 22.5-mile mark and had to run/walk to the finish (at just under 3:39).

Any strategies for improving your time and experience from the first two?

First of all, I’m going to build in a little more speedwork into my marathon training. Hal Higdon’s Advanced training schedule does just that, substituting some focused speed- and hill-related running for a few of the “regular” runs. The actual total mileage should be about the same as in the Intermediate plan (which I followed last year).

Second, I’m going to go back to my less-is-more preference regarding clothing and such. Last year, I bought compression pants and also wore an IT band strap above both knees; the pants were fine, I suppose, but the strap on the left leg may have been the culprit for my cramping. This year, even if it’s cold outside, I’m planning to stick with regular running shorts, a single technical shirt (hopefully short-sleeved), familiar shoes and socks, a thermal headband to keep my ears warm (if needed), and light gloves (if needed).

Any other thoughts as you get ready to start your “official” training?

A couple of things. I think I’ll experiment more with hydration and energy/food options during the long runs. My wife has leant me her Camelbak, which I’ve already started using on longer runs in the heat. I also might give Gu (and similar products) a go, though I’d prefer to find something that more closely resembles actual food. Also, I'm going to try to get my weight down just a little lower than it was for the other two races--not too much lower, but just low enough to make a little less work for my joints and muscles (hence, the beer-post-to-running-post ratio may need to decrease!).