Thursday, December 23, 2010

Idea: The Shivery 30 Blanket Run

I visited National Cathedral today with Daniel. If you haven't had the guided tour, you really should do this. We learned a lot of great things. Daniel was terrific, really curious about everything; he asked great questions of the docent.

After a trip up to the observation deck, we made the obligatory visit to the Gift Shop. We got a couple things, and when we rang up, the sales person asked if we wanted to donate $15 to buy a blanket for a needy DC family. Since I'm not a heartless ogre, I went ahead and ponied up.

Then I started thinking: $15 for a blanket. Every time I run, I see homeless guys out there freezing in sweatshirts. And I'd already been playing with the idea of doing another ultramarathon and having people donate blankets. But here is a ready-made mechanism for getting blankets into peoples' hands... just waiting for a knucklehead like me to drive people to it.

I'm not thinking of doing another 46 miler for this... first off, Sònia wouldn't have it. And second off, Sònia wouldn't have it! But I already do 30 mile training runs pretty regularly. I could just do a 30 mile run, get people to sign up and send money to the Cathedral, and voila: cold homeless people get warm! A dollar a mile pledge would equal two blankets per donation. And the block around National Cathedral is just at one mile and a bit... I could actually run the thing around the Cathedral! So I'm giving some actual thought to this. I'm not saying it's a done deal... I'm just saying it sounds do-able. Really. Hmmm.

Friday, November 12, 2010

$1075 raised by Daddy's Crazy 46-Miler!

The Oyster-Adams Community Counsel folks have added up the donations made for the Daddy's Crazy 46-Miler, and so far we have raised at least $1075 for Oyster-Adams Bilingual School. You can still donate! Click here to make a donation. Thanks to all who have donated so far.

IMPORTANT: If you make a donation, please put "Daddy's Crazy 46" in the description. If not, the school won't know the DC46 was where the funds came from.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I ran 46 miles! Daddy's Crazy 46-Miler

Yesterday morning at 3am, I started running. Eight hours and 42 minutes later, I finished-- and I had covered 46 miles. We did it! And when I say "we", I really mean it. No way I would have completed this without a great deal of help from some very good friends.

Friendship can be defined in a lot of different ways. One of the most beautiful examples I can think of was Sancho Panza's friendship for Don Quijote. Sancho didn't ignore that his friend was crazy-- Sancho knew that Don Quijote was crazy. Sancho supported him anyway:
"God's will be done," said Sancho. "I'll believe all your worship says, but straighten yourself a bit in the saddle...."
No one tried to talk me out of tilting this windmill. On the other hand, plenty of people helped me stay straight in the saddle! Maybe I should call you all my "enablers" instead of my "supporters"!

Thanks to all of you. Andrew, Pedro, and Fabricio who met me at mile 31 and paced me for the next 15 miles. Claire and Marcia ran with me on Adams track, and way back in August did not ask me whether I was going to do this-- they just asked me "when?" And Phoebe, who helped me steer through the details of permissions, and who got me through the OCC board last year. Jerome, Dana, Joy, and Gina, who don't even have children in the school came and cheered me on. Ibis and Karen and Maria who cleared me to use the track for the last ten miles of the run-- and thank you, Ibis for opening up and cheering me on as well. Donna, David, Maricarmen, Paco, Susana, Scott, Elisa, Diego and Marta came and ran a few laps and helped out Sonia-- you guys are our constant friends and we're always grateful for you. And thank you to everyone who contributed to the OCC-- Oyster-Adams is a better school because of you. If you're still thinking about donating, you can click here to do so.

And of course, thank you to Sonia and Daniel. What kept me going was knowing you'd be at the finish line.

It went so much better this year than last. It mostly was just better training-- I came a lot better prepared this time, having done more and longer long runs, having tested all of my equipment better, and having been much more consistent in my training. Also, just having the experience of completing the distance last year was a big psychological help. But, whereas last year I had to walk a lot after the 30 mile point, this year I was able to run the entire 46 miles. I even was able to run the last three miles at a pace near 9 minutes per mile.

Now I get to think about what to do next. Sonia has already started talking about next year-- so I guess I have the most important permission already! Now that I've done two of these, I know that it's not just a fluke. If I do a third one, I suppose I can consider it a habit. With it going so well this time, I'm wondering if I shouldn't try to get in at least one official ultramarathon a year besides this one. Hmmm.

But for now, I guess I should concentrate on recovering to the point that I can go downstairs without gritting my teeth!

Friday, November 5, 2010

My checklist for the Daddy's Crazy 46-Miler

So much to remember. Here is my checklist of essentials for tomorrow's 46 mile run:

Lactic acid pills
Lip balm
Toilet paper
Credit card, metro, license
Chalk or 16 spoons, whiteboard

Vamos T-shirt
Arm sleeves
Knee band
Camelback (Put Electrolyte in H2O)
Headlamp, tail-lamp

Finish bag:
Warm clothes for finish
Towel for finish
Potato chips
Something sweet

Plug in HRM tonight
HYDRATE tonight!
Breakfast morning
Take ibuprofen morning

Stock house for recovery:
Sonia, Daniel, Sparky
Ice cream, chili, pyjamas

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Daddy's Crazy 46-Miler: One week to go!

I'm down to seven days until the Daddy's Crazy 46-Miler. I feel like I'm ready: my training has gone well, I have my route well thought out, I know what my strategy is for the run. I even got interviewed by the Washington Post Express-- it should be on the newstands next Tuesday, I think. And yet it doesn't feel very real for me yet. When I did this a year and a half ago... it just feels like my life has changed so much since that time. We bought a house and moved from Woodley Park to Glover Park. Sonia started working at the State Department and I started walking Daniel to school in the mornings. The big snow came. I got a big promotion at FEMA. We adopted Sparky.

My dad died.

I suppose life was just different. And last time, I really wasn't certain it was possible for me to finish the run. This time, I know it's likely I'll finish it. And I'm pretty sure I'll get through it in a lot better shape this time.

One thing that keeps running through my mind is the question Vicky Hallett asked me last week in the interview: "Why are you doing this?" I don't remember my exact answer, but it was something like, "because I have to... I can't imagine not doing this." Even when I told Vicky this, I knew I wasn't fully satisfied with the answer. I wish I had said that I love the feeling of running for hours in the dark by myself. Or that the way I lived my life sixteen years ago, I used to dream about doing things like this but never could have. Or that running a long way, for me, is kind of a celebration of the fact that I'm free to do this kind of thing now.

I did explain that my head clears when I'm out there running. That running is like meditating for me, and that when I'm having a good day, the monkeys in my head stop chattering for a while. I didn't tell her that it's like a long prayer for me; it is. I wish I could explain that better. But it certainly is true, and it's a big reason for my running.

Anyway, seven days to go. And really, I can't wait to get out there and start running.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Daddy's Crazy 46-Miler: One month to go!

I'm down to one month to the day until I run the Daddy's Crazy 46-Miler. I think I'm a lot better trained this year than I was for last year's 45. I've done a lot more long runs, and my longest training run was 35 miles. I found my biggest trouble happened last year after I got over my longest training run distance.

I've had some patellar tendinitis problems in my left knee, probably due to some of my poor technique in parkour. I've been using The Stick, and that seems to be helping, and I just got a foam roller today. I tried it out on my IT Band-- man, did it hurt! Apparently, that pain is a sign that I really needed it.

I will have a flyer out tomorrow with details of the run and how to donate to Oyster-Adams Community Council in support. And tomorrow I'll be taking advantage of my day off from work to run 26 miles-- just two long runs to go before I do the 46!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Daddy's Crazy 46-Miler: Date set - 6 November 2010

I just got off the phone with the coach from Oyster-Adam's school: we agreed I would run the Daddy's Crazy 46-Miler the first Saturday of November, 6 November 2010. I'm really excited! And now I have to figure out some logistics: how I'm going to train between now and then (I'm thinking 18 miles Friday, 26 the next Saturday, 25 again the following, then two weeks with no long run, then run it!). I have to pick the route (easy enough: 35 miles out and back on Connecticut and Georgia Avenues, then 15 miles around the Adams track). I have to put together a flyer directing people to the donation site.

Wow, that was easy. Now all I have to do is run the thing!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Memories of my father - Red Kayak

I shared this at my father's memorial ceremony:

Hi, I’m Tim Allen. I’m Dad’s youngest son, and I’d like to talk to you all about some memories that I have of my father. I think of him very often; there are certain actions that I take, that every time I take them I think of my father. I’d like to share with you one experience that I had from when I was very young. This is a poem I wrote. It’s called “Red Kayak”.

I was five
We built it of canvas and wood, and
You let me help paint it
Bright red as my bicycle

Mom and Dad painted. I was actually quite a big boy before I realized that not everybody’s houses smelled of oil paint and clay. Now, when Dad left the Marine Corps in 1973, we came here to Texas, and he became something of a hippy. He grew out his hair and he grew a beard. He designed a kiln, and he and my cousin Donny began to spin pots like madmen. Donny and Dad would pay me eight cents a bat to clean the clay off of the spinning bats. This was the first job I ever had.

It still smelled of paint and glue
When we carried it to the Ocean
Which was and still is
The largest thing I've ever seen

Dad later shared with me that it was most likely not the ocean that we carried the red kayak to, but rather a fairly small creek that was near our house in Cherry Point, North Carolina.

But I wasn't worried (much)
Because my dad was
The strongest man in the world
And smarter than the ocean

I think of Dad every time that I take our dog, Sparky, to the dog park in Washington, DC. Now, Sparky is something of a digger. She likes to dig in the dog park. We used to have dogs here in Texas, and they would dig holes in the front yard. My dad got tired of filling in the holes, so Dad worked out a system. He discovered that he could stop the dogs from digging holes if he would simply urinate in the holes the dogs had dug. And it worked. They stopped digging. I have been tempted to try this system out in Washington, DC. I haven’t done it yet.

You put me in the kayak
Got in behind me
And we began paddling
I could not see over the wave
Until we crested it, and the
Sunlight dazzled my eyes
Across the brown water

Now, I think of my dad when I look at my son, Daniel. I caught my first fish when I was four years old with my dad. We have a photo of that moment. When Daniel saw that photo when he was four years old, he could not be convinced that it was not a photo of him.

I could hear you singing
As you pulled at the water
The biggest wave in the Ocean
Crested before us
I wanted to cry out and drop my paddle

I remember Dad every time that we eat Mexican food. One time our entire family went and ate at a Mexican restaurant. We all ate way too much food, except for my dad, who ate one taco. The rest of us were sitting around, groaning about how uncomfortable we were because we were so full. And my dad said, “I ate just the right amount”. My Sister-in-Law, Liz, and I have not been able to have a meal in a restaurant since then without sharing that memory.

But you had given me a job to do
And a paddle to help keep the boat straight
And you were not afraid

I think of my dad when I make mistakes as a husband and as a father. My dad was not a perfect man, and neither am I. I especially worry during hurricane season, when my job takes me away from home so often, that I am somehow leaving Sònia and Daniel in second place. But I can assure you that I never felt like I was in second place when my dad’s work took him away from home. I knew that what my dad did was very important.

The wave crested in front of us
And we glided over the water
I was close to the world
Close to the water
And close to my father
Nothing could hurt me

I think of my dad every morning when I bring a cup of coffee to Sònia in bed. Every day, every morning that Mom and Dad were together, he would bring a cup of coffee to mom and he would give her three kisses. Every day.

We turned to shore
And landed the red kayak
I don't recall ever going out in it again
But I've returned to that Ocean many times
Grasped my paddle and pulled the water
And knew that you were behind me
The first man I ever met
And still the best man I ever met
Singing and pulling the water with me.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Things Change: The final edits are finished

I finally finished editing and re-recording the 14 songs I wrote in February. They form an album called "Things Change". You can listen to the songs with the player here, or on the following page.

This is a song cycle about recovery from addiction: what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now. The 14 tracks are built around this three part structure:

Track 1. What it was like

What happened:
Track 2. Step 1: Well I admit it
Track 3. Step 2: Always there
Track 4. Step 3: Things Change
Track 5. Step 4: I was a drunkard
Track 6. Step 5: This with me to the grave must go
Track 7. Step 6: What does it mean to be ready
Track 8. Step 7: Pawn shop
Track 9. Step 8: Rewrite history
Track 10. Step 9: Just some papers we had signed
Track 11. Step 10: Wrong wrong wrong
Track 12. Step 11: You as I understand you
Track 13. Step 12: Fully awake

Track 14: What it's like now.

The songs a really very varied. In talking with a few people, it has come up that the first song ("What is was like") is a bit sad-- as it should be. Things look up as the cycle goes along.

My favorite tracks are "Always There", "I was a drunkard", "Pawn Shop", "Fully Awake", and "What it's like now", although I really am pretty happy with all of them.

Monday, March 8, 2010

New Song: Always There

This is a work in progress called "Always There" from a 14 song set I'm working on called "Things Change". I'm still working on editing and re-recording the entire set. This is a rough version of the song I put together yesterday afternoon; I have some ideas for it that I still want to write up. But I thought it would be interesting to let people hear what what it is like along the way.

I don't mind if you didn't create everything
I don't mind if you're not always there
I don't even mind if you let me down sometimes
I just need some help with this one thing

I don't mind if you aren't always perfect
I can tell from the look of the world that that doesn't mean a thing
And besides, perfect for me can intimidate me
All I ask is that you be good enough

Cause when I'm falling down
Just need your hand to be there

I don't mind if you didn't create everything
I don't mind if you're not always there
I don't even mind if you let me down sometimes
I just need some help with this one thing

I don't mind if you aren't always perfect
I can tell by the look of the world that that doesn't mean a thing
And besides, perfect for me can intimidate me
All I ask is that you be good enough

Cause when I'm falling down
Just need your hand always there

I don't mind if you didn't create everything...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

BigBrainz Timez Attack RULES!

I originally became a computer programmer because I loved video games. About 500,000 lines of mostly business intelligence and database code later, I'm at peace with the fact that I'll never be a professional game programmer. But I still love a good video game.

Fast forward: I'm a dad now, and my 3rd-grade son is learning his multiplication tables. I'm pretty good at math, but I remember this being a struggle for me. Rumors of a secret weapon have been floating around my kid's school, and I finally got the scoop from one of the parents: Timez Attack.

Timez Attack looks and feels a lot like, well, Quake. No monsters being liquidated against the walls with a BFG-9000, though. The weapon here is your kid's mind: he or she blows away the baddies by answering multiplication questions correctly! As ghastly as it sounds, it works, and my kid is choosing to practice math as a result!

I, of course, had to give it a spin for myself. You'll be happy to know there is a way to test out of the lower levels-- but I found that the higher levels were surprisingly challenging. This isn't a walk in the park; you will be required to produce each math fact in about three seconds or forfeit the point. I fat-fingered an answer and crushed the monitor with my bare hands! (okay, I actually did not do that-- though I considered it!)

There are free, standard, and deluxe versions of the game. The free version is really quite fun! The upgraded versions add more environments so you aren't playing in the same dungeon every time. It's well worth a spin to see if it will work for your kid (or for you, for that matter!) Check it out here:

Multiplication Gamesmultiplication games from Big Brainz.