Christmas 2013

A Dopey Christmas Letter

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– Our Pre-runDisney Training Adventure –

It is Christmas once again. I can tell because Terri keeps saying that I, (Mike) am late, again, writing this letter, explaining how we survived another year. It’s a Christmas letter, she says, make it happy, like a Disney story. I had started the letter off by using the theme of a black Friday event at Walmart. I have changed the direction and written a Disney-ish Christmas letter, but lets call it a late December letter. I have added Disney movie lines along the way to give an authentic sweet sticky feel. Hopefully, you will not be crying at the end of the letter, much like Disney’s movie, Old Yeller.

Here are a few lines from “Old Yeller”:

Arliss: Why did you shoot Rosemary?

Travis: She was sick.

Arliss: Well, you were sick. How come we didn’t shoot you?

Travis: That was different.

Anytime your children misbehave, make them watch this Disney classic. I will attempt to summarize the letter so you have time to watch the movie with your children. I have based our Christmas letter on true stories I have totally made up. We have mailed these letters to you, because as Abraham Lincoln always said, “Never trust stories you read on the internet.”

Christmas lights? Another year without putting up Christmas lights? Over the years, our neighbor, Kevin, has made elaborate Christmas light displays. Each year, like a colorful peacock blessed with electricity, he has put out more lights than the season before, proudly strutting his illumination. This lighted peacock male ritual is to attract a female. I am happy to report that this strategy has worked for him and he has captured a very nice female bird. If she doesn’t fly away, they will be married soon. What I believe happened, much like a moth attracted to a flame, the girl was blinded by the quantity of LED Christmas lights and drove her car into his house. I’m sure she is not tied up and can leave whenever she wants. In the words of Darth Vader, “ All too easy.”

So our other friends and neighbors have joined this nearby epidemic in displaying festive Christmas lights. They have taken a different approach with different subversive motives. Set up in their yard is a small herd of moving lighted Christmas pigs. The pigs are all positioned to stare at my Police car, which is parked in my driveway. I am sure they just like pigs, or bacon, and are no way referring to my job. Either way, I’m happy, because that puts me within six degrees and one block of Kevin Bacon.

On with the story. 2013 was a big year for family running and Terri has reached a new level of running madness. She is dragging us with her into this insanity. And insanity did not come for a quick visit, it came meandering around, getting to know each one of us personally. In fact, it joins me every morning for a mocha and chocolate biscotti as we sit discussing my age and lack of running motivation. Terri explains to me that she does not advocate running insanity for everyone, “but it works for me!” Yes, crazy, with a capital K. And just when I thought I was on the bottom floor of crazy, I found out Terri has a crazy underground garage.

Terri used to be nice to run with. Now she wants to run fast…and far. Of course, she can run faster, she only weighs ___ – sorry, she will not let me put her weight down – its a female thing – but it reminds me of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians. I try and keep running rational and reasonable. I try and impress her with my slow running motivational speeches, “there is nothing faster than the speed of light – so maybe you should slow that chariot down.” My fastest speed is like a tortoise sprinting through a vat of peanut butter. In fact, I am only slogging (my version of slow jogging) so I can eat more chocolate. So children, let me explain, put on your swimming trunks and prepare for some highlights of Terri wading through a pool of running insanity. “Oh look, the water is warm,” she says, smiling, while she clubs a baby turtle in the head.

Early in the year, Terri thought it would be a good idea to combine our annual trek to Disney World with a runDisney event in Florida. That way we could empty our bank account twice as fast. This was the plan. Terri, Gabe and I were to run the Disney Half Marathon together in January of 2014. Gabe and I would then run the appropriately named, “Goofy Challenge,” which would be the Half Marathon on Saturday and a Marathon on Sunday. Two runs, two days, which sounded good and goofy at the time. That would give Terri a whole year to train for her first Half Marathon. But the Disney mouse kick started Terri’s engines and I have been trying to catch up ever since. On February 9, Terri did her longest training run, 10 miles, in Tri-Cities, outside, when it was cold. This is not normal Terri behavior. Terri then signed up for her first long run, the Tri-Cities Half Marathon, at the end of February. Terri was worried at the distance. Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right – I would say – as she clubbed another turtle. Well, apparently she could and she did. It was a good run in the fact that we finished, were alive and still married. Dean Reinke of USRA Sports, the proud director of the run, gave out some small cheap plastic finishing medal. The image on the medal was a running long haired hippie looking hotdog. There were two granola bars left for finish line food for fifty people and a few bottled waters. That was it. I ate them both. I am a survivor. But Terri has never been so proud of a medal with a running hippie hotdog thing on it. Of course, this is more of her accomplishment than a fetish for things that should be covered in a bun. Gabe was in Arizona, at school, so we coordinated to run with him over the phone at the same time. Gabe ran some unofficial miles in the Arizona desert. For a finishing medal, Gabe, picked up a hot dog on the way home. Note: If you ever plan to run an event by USRA Sports – don’t.

Terri had this half marathon behind her and turned ultra confident and was immune to my witty sarcasm and kryptonite. Digging deep, I thought I found a chink in her armor when Disney opened registration in April for their January 2014 runs. Disney was offering the brand new, “Dopey Challenge,” in addition to the “Goofy Challenge.” The Dopey Challenge is a 5k on Thursday, a 10k on Friday, a Half Marathon on Saturday and a Marathon on Sunday. That is 48.6 miles of pain and that is why running a Dopey is more stupid than running a Goofy. At first Terri crumbled, weak knee, under the sheer nonsense of it all. I had no problems signing up for something and then regretting it later. Terri eventually said she could do it and signed all three of us up for the Dopey Challenge. That makes us Dumbo, which may be a category lower than Goofy or Dopey, and being that dumb is no challenge at all. Terri wanted to train right away, even though we had close to a year to go. That is when I began to think she is trying to kill me – running me to death. She tries to put me at ease, much like a spider tells a fly to just lay down and take a nap. I yell at her in my best Buzz Lightyear imitation: “Spare me your lies, temptress! Your emperor’s defeated, and I’m immune to your bewitching good looks.”

In March for training, Terri and I marked 15 miles of the 50k Badger Mountain Challenge course. That was 3,000 feet of running up and 3,000 feet of running down three mountains. It was even snowing as we made our way up Candy Mountain. The only complaint: I had to tape her feet because the rocky terrain was causing blisters at around mile 11. We finished, which then got Terri to her longest distance, a respectable 15 miler. Then we ran in the actual event, not the 50k, but the 15k Badger Mountain Challenge.

In May, we hosted and directed the increasing popular Sage Rat Run Half Marathon. With the help of a lot of friends and volunteers, we had 855 runners during the two day event. The people make us happy, but we do not like the three days of no sleep. We had Tara Costa of the TV show, The Biggest Loser, come to speak, run and inspire others to get going at the event. She was a nice friendly person and did a great job motivating runners. Terri had a lot of fun hanging out with a famous person, like herself, and riding in the Limo to practice her parade wave.

The following week after Sage Rat Run, we arranged a night run up the Horse Heaven Hills, into the desert and wheat fields, near Prosser, Washington. We invited the Sage Rat Run participants to join us. We had 105 people that apparently had nothing better to do, show up and run with us, which was great. We started when the sun began to set on the hills with a full moon rising to the southeast. It was WOW. Unfortunately, we lost a few to a roving band of werewolves. Poor things were hungry.

In early June, Terri and Gabe were invited to attend the SubPlot Trot in Tri-Cities, Washington. It was a 5 mile event. I was happy I had to work. We all participated in the Pacific Crest Half Marathon, SunRiver Oregon, June 29, 2013. This just happened to be our 22nd wedding anniversary. It was quite memorable crossing the finish line, hand-in-hand, as they announced our names. I felt sick, just like on our wedding day which made it that much more anniversary-ish. Gabe also ran in the half marathon, but being so much younger, he was ahead of us old folk, and had already crossed the finish line 30 minutes earlier. But he was there cheering us on at the end! Gabe then escorted us into the large covered tent where they had lots of water, salad, rolls, desserts, fruit, etc. for all the finishers. Much better than the USRA Half Marathon.

During the early summer, Gabe and I attempted a Mount Rainier summit. Our first attempt was going great until we got to Camp Muir. The weather forecast had been great. We set up a snow camp among 20 or so other people on the glacier. We were at 10,000 feet waiting for our summit window when it got a little breezy. I could tell it was windy by the number of tents that were blowing away. We dug a wind shelter, added numerous anchors to keep ourselves on the hill. Apparently, the jet stream dipped down in elevation causing the breeze and a few jet liners to pass by us. The rangers came around and explained the wind at Camp Muir was 58 mph and 80 mph on the summit. The rangers told us the other climbers were getting mad and to stop sprinkling the people and their tents, 100 yards downwind, when we went out to pee. You try and use the bathroom in that kind of wind and not have a little fun. We waited a couple of days for the wind to stop with no luck. The tent flapped non stop in the wind allowing no sleep for a couple of nights. My fun meter was maxed and we planned our next trip.

In late summer, we tried Mount Rainier again. We made our way through a couple of active avalanche zones with rocks the size of beach balls rolling through the trail. Everything was fine until we got to about 12,000 feet. We ran into some late season crevasses and monster seracs. The crevasses had no bottom and the seracs were as big as a school. Scary. We ran into a couple of Army Rangers that turned around a thousand feet higher due to the wide expanse of the crevasses. I thought we could make it, but I did not want to hear Terri nagging when I didn’t bring Gabe back home in one piece. Next year, we will go again and politely ask Mount Rainier if we can approach her summit without killing us.

Gabe flew back to college in the middle of August. We knew we had to keep him training through the fall, so we signed him up for a half marathon, Groom Creek Classic Run, in Arizona in September. “Hover Dam,” Gabe said. How nice is it when someone surprises you with a 13.1 mile run? It claimed to be the hardest half marathon in Arizona. Good thing I did not have to run it.

October – Terri and I ran the Dog Lake Half Marathon. They hand out very nice safety orange tech shirts prior to the run. Why? Because its elk rifle season and we are running through the game area. That’s comforting. This is one of those runs that you do not wear cute hats that have antlers. The run starts at the summit of White Pass and goes downhill until you reach a lake. Then you run around the lake to the finish or you get lost. We got lost. “Shitake Mushroom!” We kept seeing hunters along the way looking for elk. To keep from getting shot, I put a tag in Terri’s ear, claimed her as my elk, and drug her out of the woods by her feet. Our half marathon run turned out to be about 15 miles. The good news is other people got lost too, so we did not come in last. The bad news: the missing runners were later recovered in a hunters living room, their heads mounted on the wall. The hunter was later arrested for shooting over his limit.

To continue our preparation for the madness of the upcoming Dopey Challenge, Terri and I signed up for the Tri-Cities Marathon (26.2 miles) in November. This would be Terri’s first marathon. For slow runners like me, they offered an early start, at 6 am, two hours before the official 8 am start. It was dark and very cold and we were wearing our running jackets. One guy, wearing too tight of shorts, strips his shirt off to impress the small crowd of early starters. The mat of hair on his back sparkled in the street lights. “Sasquatch,” I yell. Terri held back a little nausea. The runners then began to discuss the merits of Bigfoot sightings and matted hair. I enter the debate with statements like, “I am of the same opinion as Graham Joyner (1984): if there is a genuinely cryptozoological basis for any of the wild man Yowie stories, a wombat is quite certainly what it is.” The crowd grows silent and the start gun goes off. We follow hairy back wombat guy, through the dark, as his musk develops. We keep our distance. Wombat boy only made it a quarter mile before he put his shirt back on. Loser. We plodded on and got to see the sunrise along the Columbia River, which was very nice. Around mile 13, the first and second place runners zoomed past us. We had a two hour head start and they just acted like we were not even a threat to their podium finish. We were coming up to an aid station at the time and the crowd was yelling to us, “you’re in third place.” I leisurely indulged in the aid station offerings, letting the crowd think I wanted to give the two runners ahead a fair chance before I started to really run. What sportsmanship they would say. I ignored them and snubbed their peasant comments in the tradition of first place runners. Terri kept running to avoid me embarrassing her. I spent almost all my energy catching up to her – teenage mutant ninja turtle speed. An additional 30 runners had passed us now.

Then Terri and I came up to the next random crowd of cheering strangers. “You are the first place couple,” they were shouting, admiring our superior running family genetics. We gave them the customary parade wave and continued on. After pretty much everyone else from the run had passed us, we could not fool the crowds any longer. It was pretty obvious, I was slow and holding Terri up. The marathon was made up of 70 percent female runners and I would hear them whisper as they pass. Why is that wombat running with that pretty girl – she is way faster?  I would growl and say the other guy is a wombat, I am a running wild man, or at least a mean turtle. Terri and I finished together – we were not last – and she got her first 26.2 marathon medal. It was a very nice medal and in no way resembled a hippie hotdog.

December – We went to Portland for the Holiday Half Marathon. Gabe was home for Christmas break and joined us for the run. Terri liked the cold weather because she got to wear all her running accessories, like her Garmin watch in neon green, her multi colored Mizuno Wave Ascend running shoes, stylish SPIbelt, a Nathan backpack, a FuelBelt handheld water bottle, her SlimFit Buff in burma blue, SvForza Wild Style Arm Sleeves and her Pearl Izumi breathable running coat in mint green. I decided to wear pants.

This was the biggest run we have every participated in. There were 2,500 people dressed as Santa Claus, reindeer, elves, toys, presents and other Christmas stuff. We were met by singing Christmas Carolers along the route. By the time we got to mile 10, things turned ugly. We were following a trail of Christmas debris. It looked like the Grinch had taken an old pickup through the crowd of Christmas runners leaving their reindeer parts and jingle bells to rot in the road. But the Grinch was too busy for such mayhem, so I had thought, as I sat there listening to him ramble: “The nerve of those Whos. Inviting me down there – on such short notice! Even if I wanted to go, my schedule wouldn’t allow it. 4:00, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me – I can’t cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing… I’m booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear?” We continued with our run, stepping over various body parts and finished. We found most of the reindeer had survived.

Its a week or two before January, or, as we have to call it: Terri-anuary, and we will be off to the death run in Disney World. This will be our last letter, unless by some miracle we survive. If we do not live, you can read about our latest ventures (which involve Disney and running) here and on our other website, Painted Toast. Terri will make me work on these projects whether I am dead or alive. If Gabe survives the run, he will head back to one more year at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona.

We hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Mike, Terri & Gabe (20)

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