Seattle Marathon Training Update

After a few solid weeks of Seattle Marathon training I’ve hit a serious speed bump in the form of a bottom of the foot soft tissue bruise. Bad timing since last week was supposed to be my longest week. Had to pull up after a half mile one day, rested the following day, and ran 3 miles the third day. As a result, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to hang with the leaders over the final 10k.

It seems to be improving thanks to DG’s wise counsel, ice water, a tennis ball, new shoes, and flat trail running. And so I hope to put a little time into Subway Jared (New York Marathon time, 5:13) and Edison Pena, the Chilean miner/Elvis singer (5:40).

Monday’s predawn workout on the Olympia High School track was a setback of sorts too. Before hitting the track, Dano and I ran four miles with the right wing nutters. Dano only had time for 400 meters before heading home, but he can vouch for the veracity of the next paragraph.

As Dano and I rounded the first corner, one of four or five women stretching on the football field hollered, “Hey Ron!” It was dark and since I didn’t know which of my female fans it was I uttered a simple “hey” in reply.

Apparently women do love the strong silent type because once Dano peeled off the adoration, like my pace, picked up. 800 meters, “Looking good Ron.” 1200 meters, a reprieve because now they’re hopping on one leg across the width of the football field. 1600 meters, “Nice work Ron.” 2000, they’re hopping again. At 2400 meters I’m feeling part human, part gazelle. A legend in my own mind. This is how Pre must have felt.

Then it all came crashing down in one decisive ego shellacking blow. 2,800 meters, “WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO START YOUR INTERVALS?!”

“I’m nursing a soft tissue bruise.” That had to impress them don’t you think. I spent the last 400 meters thinking about how I should have replied. “I just got back from a training camp in the Rift Valley where I took it to the Kenyans. Today is a recovery run.”

Montana Grizzlies Stand Pat

The University of Montana Grizzlies will stay in the Big Sky Conference and not move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision, school president Royce Engstrom said Thursday.

“It was a complex decision with many pros and cons,” Engstrom said in a statement. “In the end, the better course is to stay with the conference we helped establish in 1963 and to continue building on its solid foundation.”

Engstrom said there were three keys to his decision — he wanted to maintain the cross-state football rivalry with Montana State; he wanted the Grizzlies to compete against institutions with similar academic missions; and he wanted to maintain the prestige and integrity the program has demonstrated.

Talk about enlightened leadership. Stories like this help me battle cynicism. In a day and age where the default is to constantly grow, continuously generate more money, and routinely increase one’s profile, the Grizz said, “We have a very good thing going and we don’t want to risk losing it.”

No doubt many Grizz alum and fans don’t see it the same way as me which makes his “no thank you” to the bright lights and big bucks of big time college football all the more remarkable.

Maybe Engstrom drew strength from this Emmylou Harris track.

I’ve felt adrift lately. Lost even. At times I wonder if some radical changes might help me feel less adrift, less lost. So far at least I’m following Engstrom’s and the Grizz’s example, looking within, finding lots to appreciate, and standing pat.


From the newswire. Boeing Halts Flights of Dreamliner Jet. Test flights for the 787 Dreamliner were halted a day after an onboard fire forced an emergency landing.

If you’ve followed this story, you’re well aware the Dreamliner desperately needs a new name. I hope someday it truly becomes a Dreamliner. Until then, some other possibilities, Screamlander, Emergencylander; Hindsighter; Costoverrunner, and my personal favorite, JETtisoned.

Where Your Federal Tax Dollars Go

This table shows where US citizens federal tax dollars go. The largest single expense? Entitlements. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid make up 38.5% of the first sample family’s federal taxes. The second largest? Nine military subcategories that total 22.5% of the sample family’s federal taxes.

Over one half of the sample family’s federal taxes fund entitlements and military expenses. That can’t be sustainable.

It’s only a matter of time until both the social security retirement age and means testing increases. As a result, well-to-do people will receive reduced benefits later in life. And we’ll be forced to reduce the size of our military and our commitments abroad. We can’t afford the status quo any more.

Teaching and Texting

Starting five or so years ago, the student teachers I work with really started wrestling in earnest with what to do about their students’ cell phones that started bubbling up in secondary school classrooms everywhere.

Despite a range of school-wide “no cell phones in class” policies, the typical secondary student continues to send over 3,000 texts a month from behind textbooks and under desks.

Now, some of my twenty-something student teachers, who’ve come of age during this era of inveterate texting, are doing it in my classes. As a result, we’re at the point where many texting school administrators are asking texting teachers to enforce no cell phone policies. And they wonder why they aren’t making any headway.

A first year writing student of mine told me that he and his football teammates recently volunteered in an elementary classroom near campus. He was amazed at the way the teacher capitalized on their help—by texting away on her cell phone throughout their entire time with her students.

Consider two contrasting texting schools of thought. One is the “embrace change, why fret about new forms of communication” school. These people point out that you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube and that interpersonal communication has been forever changed. Within schools the onus is on educators to adapt to this new, permanent reality. Work with not against incessantly wired young people. In fact, figure out how to use texting, cell phones, Facebook, and social networking for academic purposes within the classroom. To do otherwise is to risk becoming even more irrelevant.

While I’m sympathetic to that argument, I embrace a “model for and teach young people how to use cell phones and related personal technologies so that face-to-face interactions aren’t indelibly compromised” school of thought that’s really more about electronic etiquette writ large than just texting in schools. I’m not willing to take a laissez-faire, “texting in classrooms is way too pervasive to do anything about” approach.

When it comes to assessing my graduate student teachers’ class participation and professionalism, I ask them to help me assess themselves on these eight points:

1) I was prompt and attended each session.

2) I communicated as far in advance as possible about any class time missed.

3) My cell-phone never distracted anyone.  It never rang and I never text messaged during class.  I didn’t surf the net or catch up on email on my laptop.

4) I was careful not to dominate discussions.  I listened carefully to others and was attentive during my peers’ presentations and class discussions more generally.

5) My questions and comments often deepened class discussions.

6) I was conscious of others’ learning and purposely contributed to positive group dynamics.

7) [If applicable] I directly and constructively communicated any concerns I had during the course.

8) The course was better than it otherwise would have been as a result of my participation.

The most recent student I asked to stop texting could have argued that despite her texting, she’s excelling at 7.5 of the 8 points, so what’s the big deal. The big deal is this half point, “I listened carefully to others and was attentive during my peers’ presentations and class discussions more generally.”

She did argue that she’s a skilled multitasker and that she has no problem keeping up with everything. She’s unaware of recent neurological research that shows there is a clear multitasking cost in terms of divided attention.

For me there’s two issues, divided attention, and most importantly, eye contact is integral to a successful seminar. I design and teach the seminar to help students realize, for some of them for the first time ever, that they can in fact learn from one another. For that to happen though, they have to continuously and conscientiously track whomever is speaking. No matter how skilled the texter, texting inevitably compromises that.

It’s fascinating to me that each of this semester’s texters had no clue I was aware of their texting. One seminar has ten students, the other sixteen, and we sit around an oval table. As a result, it’s extremely easy to detect because heads dip and eyes go straight down.

I wonder what percentage of my students would say I should just chillax about in-class texting. I’m hopeful it would be a minority and that the majority appreciate my efforts to preserve the classroom as one of the last bastions of direct, eye-to-eye, interpersonal communication.


As these new entries in the 2011 Webster’s dictionary illustrate, the English language continues to evolve. Remember, to truly learn new words it’s important to integrate them into your speech as much as possible.

• dinorossi—to repeatedly come up just short of one’s objective. Also rossied or d-rossied. I hit the jump hard and caught major air but rossied the landing.

• notredame—of or pertaining to a once great individual or group that is loathe to accept its obvious decline. Also notredamed; notredamenation. Like Ancient Romans, 21st century citizens of the United States were caught off guard by their collective notredamenation.

• christopherhitchens—the incessant turning of events and topics into unmitigated negatives. Also c-hitched. I enjoyed Lester Brown’s newest book until he returned to form and c-hitched half way through.

• obamathon—something doomed, over time, by unrealistic expectations. Also female-obamamama; conservative-obamanation. It became clear early in the season that Jake Locker’s Heisman Trophy campaign was an obamathon to the voters.

• tigerwoods—to forego one’s family and reputation for extramarital sex. Also tdub; tdubbed; tdubbing. The South Carolina Governor said, “The hell with it, where’s my hiking boots and map of the Appalachian Trail? I’m tdubbing it.”

• claybennett—1) to say one thing and do another; 2) to steal. Also cbennett; cbenn; cbenned; claybennetted. 1) Whenever I call her, it’s someone else, think she cbenned me? 2) I didn’t have my wallet and was really hungry, so I claybennetted some powder donuts.

• nancypelosi—to fake smile even when deeply angered. Also nancypelosied. Despite the auditor’s obnoxiousness, I nancypelosied my way through the IRS interview.

• hailegebreselassie—to dominate opponents at different times and in different contexts, also gebb; gebbed; hgebb; hgebbed. Again, Ron gebbed Dave and Lance throughout the 2010 cycling season.

Anywhere Anytime

Visited the derm recently. My fair skin is giving out. Way too much sun early on. Living in Washington State means I won’t get that much more exposure, but I’m afraid the damage is already done. I’m supposed to go in for an annual check up, but didn’t seem to get around to it last year.

Dr. Derm was like a kid in a candy shop with the liquid nitrogen. Arm, forehead, back, leg. “Mind if I just. . . ” “No, go for it.” I could have timed it better since I’m in full blister mode days after Halloween. She added two biopsies for good measure. Have to go back next week to have a couple above the eye stitches removed.

She said it might leave a scar. Cool.

When I was twenty, I did a summer-long internship in inner-city Boston. Day two I was voted MLM, “Most Likely to get Mugged,” by my fellow interns. Was it my fault I had a safe, suburban, youthful mug?

Now though thanks to Father Time and Dr. Derm’s knife maybe I’m finally going to start looking like a bad ass.

In the middle of my internship, near the end of a hot and humid summer day in the Jamaica Plains section of Boston, I walked from a food bank where I volunteered two days a week to the nearest subway station for the trip back to Dorchester. Walking alongside a large housing project, I thought to myself, man, that’s a large water fight up ahead. Wonder how they get the hydrants open? Look at all the girlfriends on the porch.

Suddenly, the water fighters turned their attention to me as if I had a sign on that said “Help Ron Win the MLM”. And by “turning their attention,” I mean they started running after me with buckets in hand.

I’ve run fast maybe four times in my life. Three times in Louisville, Kentucky before age eight when I was deathly afraid of dogs and tried to outrun a few and that day in Jamaica Plains. Long story short, barely made it to the “T” unscathed. Those scoring at home recorded it as a near mugging.

Now, there will be no more running. I’ll be able to walk anywhere, anytime, Clint Eastwood Gran Torino style. I’m trading in my MLM for a BBA, “Biggest Bad Ass”. It’s about time.

Don't Mess With Me