Friday, May 30, 2008

Off Again

After my big stinking move, I'm heading down to San Diego this morning for the marathon. I'll be performing various coachly duties for Team in Training and otherwise relaxing after a most stress-filled week. More upon my return.

Really digging the new place. Leaf blowers sound outside and I don't have to think about paying the admirable Mr. Kim.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Phantom Home

Nerve endings curl so that amputees often "feel" sensations from ex-limbs. Tonight, as dusk fell on the condo, I felt the need to rise and turn on the outside lights. A few minutes later, a sprinkler hissed and I listened closely for gurgles or other signs that the rain bird needed replacing. Adjustments are occurring.

Yesterday afternoon, my gardener waited in his truck for me to return from errands so that he could say good-bye. Twice a week for eleven years, Mr. Kim managed my big wild yard: reseeding the lawn, loping back sumac, growing ice plants, as well as replacing busted sprinkler valves out of his own pocket. Every Christmas, I left him an envelope with a little cash bonus. In return, he'd leave me potted palms and orchids, in addition to traditional poinsettias. When we met, I was still unmarried and he was not yet a grandfather. Over the years we talked about insects that killed Monterey Pines, the joys and sorrows of his children, and the uncertain nature of my line of work. He had designed a hot-looking bonsai garden that faced the street and still got compliments from passers-by.

And so we stood in my driveway in the warm sun and wished each other the best. We had shaken hands when we had first met. Now we shook hands again in parting. (His were like sand paper.) Grey hair sticking out from under his baseball cap, Mr. Kim shuffled back to his Ford pick-up, bed bristling with lawn mowers and leaf blowers, and drove off around the curve.

As Dorothy said to the Scarecrow, "I think I'll miss you most of all."

Monday, May 26, 2008

And the Move Goes On

On top of it all, I have a slight hamstring pull. But onward we go. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to go online and read next to my mortage: PAID IN FULL. Sweet. Now if I can only avoid serious injury for the next 48 hours I'll be swell.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Downpour Near Devil's Gate

. . . the weather man gets it right. I'd packed all day yesterday, hauled a bunch of stuff to storage, then went running. The sky was overcast and the weather report foretold thunderstorms, but, really, this is southern California in May. Parking at the Rose Bowl, I saw a few drops disturb the dust on my hood. Big deal. I started running.

Nearing mile one, the rain fell steadily. By mile two, hail had kicked in. Reaching a freeway overpass, I took shelter as the sky unloaded like the wet season in Phnom Penh. Rain fell in wavy sheets. Run-off water poured from a big, corrugated pipe into a nearby arroyo, splashing down boulders and splitting into twin waterfalls. Thunder rocked the sky overhead. Sheet lightning flared like a giant flashbulb while a lightning bolt performed an eerie shimmy. A huge branch from an oak tree cracked and fell down a hill side. More hail. This storm was a bit too Midwestern-nostalgic for my taste. Tornado, anyone?

Finally as the thunder grew fainter and the rain slacked, I finished my run, getting only slightly wetter than I already was.

Last Saturday, we had to call practice early because of the heat. Then there was heavy wind on Wednesday, usually a fall/winter occurrence, now a stinking cloudburst. I don't pay high taxes for this. I feel I'm owed sunny and clear with temperatures in the low 70s. Luckily, our legal system is so screwed up I'll have no trouble filing suit against California for unlawful atmospherics. A nice settlement would help pay for the paint job in the condo.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Home Sale and Comic Con Invite

Sometime around 1:05 PM the buyers' loan went through. Sale! We lease our former home for another week. Meanwhile, MDW deals with contractors at the new place while I pack on.

Tiny Toons and Freakazoid DVDs are due to release July 29. In preparation, Warner Bros. has invited a number of the old crew, including Tom Ruegger, Paul Rugg and I, to attend a panel at Comic Con on July 24 between 10:30 and 11:30 AM.

I hemmed and hawed and finally agreed. -:)

Tick-Tick-Tick

Only a matter of hours until we sign the papers that sell our house and buy a condo. There is so much STUFF to still pack-lose-store.

Yesterday evening was our team's final track practice. As a farewell surprise, Coach Katie divided us up for a 200 meter relay race. We used her daughter's dolls as batons. (Bizarre, even by Los Angeles' standards.) Off we ran with the lead swinging back and forth. When my turn came, I had a 15-yard cushion as I bolted with maximum effort. This blazing start flooded my system with lactic acid (by-product of sudden strenuous exercise). Like an old watch, I wound down as my opponent gained. He caught me just as we handed off. Fortunately, our anchor was the fastest guy on either team. After trailing briefly, he kicked in the jets and won, thus saving me from being the oaf who blew a lead and lost it for our side.

Having already logged three miles at practice, I was sagging. That was the fastest I'd run in many years, recalling high school memories of my brief track career as a 400 meter fellow. Nostalgia aside, I'll be glad to resume less-speedy marathon training.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pitching Movies with Paul Rugg

Paul Rugg and I shall once again craft a feature film idea and go a'pitching. We've done this twice. Back in 2002 we worked up a live-action idea about a group of actors undergoing military training in preparation for an upcoming war film. However, they are accidentally dropped off in a jungle and mistaken for real American troops by guerrillas. As I was preparing to leave for Cambodia at the time, we conducted a sales blitz, hitting nine production companies and studios in a little under three days — a blur of smiling faces, couches and bottled water.

In 2003 we prepared an idea about two tornado-chasing geeks sucked up by a twister and deposited in an Oz-like world where they blunder into a quest that changes their lives. A live-action idea, we pitched it around, here and there. (Eventually, I wrote it into a script.) Retooling our tale as animation for a 2005 Dreamworks meeting, we finished the pitch only to have the executive suggest we take it around as live-action.

Now we have an animated concept about dogs and honor and doing what is right, regardless of circumstances. We'll start building a story as soon as I get back from the San Diego Marathon. I have a most excellent feeling about this one, as it is just silly enough to warrant a sale.

UPDATE: Someone else had the same idea around the same time re. actors mistaken for real soldiers. In 2008, someone else's idea became a film called Tropic Thunder. Such are the cards of Fate.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Animation Update


Had a long chat with my agent yesterday. After a prolonged shake-up, the TV animation industry is settling down. New execs and/or new directions have emerged from the swirling uncertainty of the last six months. That said, very few new projects are in the works and an industry slow-down continues.

But that may change soon. TV animation shares many traits with real estate: it's cyclical, expensive, and often involves a septic system. In any case, we're long overdue for another boom. I can't wait.

MDW and I need an expensive vacation.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gala Parade of Contractors

Decks and dry rot and termites, oh my. Like mile 20 of a marathon, we near the finish of our house sale, but the going gets slower. Our new place has its own contractor caravan lined up for the close of escrow.

Soon . . . it . . . will . . . be . . . over.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Sundry Notes

Breaking four hours took me 17 months, a torn calf, and a scrubbed marathon.

Each of my four marathons has finished in a different hour:

1. Honolulu 2005: 6.01

2. Phoenix 2007: 4.21

3. Chicago 2007: 5:48 (Unofficial)

4. Eugene 2008: 3.59

Don't look for "2" anytime soon, and I hope you don't see "7."

Post-marathon recovery has been slow. Following an ice bath Sunday, I felt fine. But Monday we drove two-hours to Portland, followed by a two-hour flight to LA, then a 35-minute drive home. The next day my quads were testy and sore. However, walks and the foam roller have struck soreness a telling blow.

The Summer Team runs 20 miles tomorrow. I'll be out there assistant coaching, but not running. I see my role more as a "go get 'em"-type guy. At least for another week.

My next goal is to run a 3:45 marathon and qualify for Boston. That means I'll need an 8:36 per mile pace. Which, in turn, requires pruning 34 seconds from my current pace. This can be done if I'm patient; more importantly, if I'm patient and unemployed. Work has ruined more peoples' running dreams. Sure, it pays, but look at the hit your training takes. Balancing full-time employment with marathoning requires careful thought.

Don't be hasty. Ha-hooom.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Eugene Marathon Notes


Looks like I finally caught a break on the climate. Eugene offered perfect marathon weather. Temperatures stayed down all morning, thanks to a chill breeze that felt rather refreshing several miles into the race.

Peter appreciated the tribute to Rosina. He closed an email with: "The only marathon I've participated in recently was watching all three Indiana Jones movies in a row with my son. Which, by the way, started out Okay, but took a lot longer than 4 hours and was ultimately just as painful as running."

A few words about chips. Pretty much all marathons use running chips. These plastic objects attach to your shoe laces with skinny plastic ties and contain various codes. According to an article by Douglas Fruehling: "When runners run over mats placed at the starting line, an electrical current in the mats creates magnetic fields that charge the chips. The mats have receiving antennas that send the codes on the chips to a nearby controller box and computer, recording data for the runners."

In monster marathons such as Chicago with 45,000 participants, a runner might need a half-hour just to cross the start line. Pre-chip (1996), that meant 30 minutes of dead time tacked onto your finish. Nowadays, runners begin their marathon the instant their chip passes over the starting mat. This is known as "chip time" or "net time" and measures how long runners run regardless of the official clock.

In a small race like Eugene, it took me about 20 seconds to cross the start line. As I ran the last kilometer, I mention seeing the official clock inching into four-hour territory. Thus I knew I had a few more seconds to reach my goal.

That said, there is finish line video of me at RunnerSpace.com If you click on the 4:00 - 4:05 Hour Finishers, check the extreme far right of screen between :38 and :50. After checking my watch, I raise both arms in celebration. There's more, but it's blocked by two very oval half-marathoners who stroll through frame.

On the subject of weight, Horizon Air was apparently the first airline designed for anorexics. The seats were very narrow. Airline staff cautioned passengers to please keep their shoulders out of the aisle so they could maneuver the drink cart.

Eugene is such a green town our hotel room had a special recycling wastebasket. I'm all for recycling and being good stewards of the Earth, but if a place gets too green it makes me nervous and I start thinking Wicker Man. Eugene borders on that.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tales from the Eugene Marathon


Light shifted subtly over the Willamette River. You sensed God working the sliders on his heavenly lighting board, blending shade and tone while sipping coffee from an immense mug. As marathon day began in Eugene, temperatures hung around the low 40s. I was reluctant to leave the warmth of our rented Rav. But MDW (My Darling Wife) pointed out that no man ever raced crouched over a hot air vent. So it was out into the cold near Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus. MDW vowed to meet me at mile 18. There I'd planned to leave my water belt: a symbolic act to "lighten the load" for the arduous last miles where head games are mandatory. Meanwhile, I lined up behind other shivering runners at a Port-O-Potty.

Back in January, around the time I began training for this race, the wife of a friend died battling leukemia. I asked Peter if he'd mind my dedicating the marathon to Rosina. He and the kids were cool, but I had forgotten to bring anything. Fortunately, MDW grabbed some art supplies and cobbled together a fine inscription for me to wear. As I ran that day, spectators called out Rosina's name, encouraging me to keep going for her. In those moments, it seemed Rosina was present but just out of sight, as if she'd gone to fetch something from the car.

As to the course, imagine a drawing of a bolo tie such as gentlemen might wear in a square dance. Now imagine that same bolo tie drawn by an angry man. This will give you an idea of the route's shape. The opening miles led out from the campus, up a hill, down another, then into a park area where the metal tips would be if it really were a bolo tie. Doubling back to the U of O campus, the course led up another long hill, down to the Willamette River and across. Instead of a turquoise clasp, Autzen Stadium provided the center piece around which the race swirled, looping along bike paths around the Willamette. Tree-lined and tranquil, the river flowed under quaint foot bridges. The finish line was just outside the stadium where you could purchase bolo ties and other treasured souvenirs.






Finally, we go. Despite last-minute wavering, my goal was to break four hours. That meant a pace of 9:10, 49 seconds per mile less than my previous best in Phoenix. Since January 2007, my only marathon had been an extended walk in Chicago. The night before, I'd phoned coaches Jimmy and Kate for a little advice. They told me many useful, savvy things that I promptly forgot. But what I recalled was to stay on pace and save something for the end.

The first mile led uphill. I ran way too slow (9:40). I wanted to sob like a weepy old man, but didn't.

Mile 2: Mostly downhill.

Mile 3: More downhill. Now I was almost a minute ahead of pace. Cool.

Miles 4 and 5: Running the dangling string section of the bolo tie. Ate some yummy goo.

Mile 6: Doubling back to campus through Amazon Park. Still slightly ahead of pace.

Mile 7: Up a long hill. I slowed again, keeping my heart beat even. Runners blasted by, huffing and puffing. I smugly watched them pass.

Miles 8 & 9: Back through the campus, then across the Willamette on a foot bridge. At one point, I thought my legs were buckling. But it was only the bridge wobbling from impacting runner feet. Still, I hurried across.

Mile 10: On the bike trails along the river; more yummy goo with double caffeine.

Mile 11: We'd been running mixed in with a half-marathon. Now the half-marathoners veered off to finish their race. I remarked to a woman next to me, "I thought they'd never leave."

Mile 12: MDW surprised me at 12. I was still ahead of pace, feeling great. Perhaps I'd made too much of this marathon business? We confirmed our date for 18.

Mile 13.1: Half-way assessment. I was at 1:56:52, about an 8:55 pace. A little brisk, but no strain. Figuring I could hold it a bit longer, I decided to press on.

Mile 14: I encountered the Clopper. A lean man in his 60s with short, silvery hair, he slapped the ground loudly with every stride like a farm horse walking on cobblestones. Whock-whock-whock-whock! The sound grated. I sped past. But since I was walking a minute every seven minutes, there was no escape. I'd prepare to run again when I'd hear whock-whock-whock coming up behind.

Mile 15: What was on the menu? Surprise, it was another double-caffeine goo! (Damn the Clopper!)

Mile 16: Holding steady two and three minutes ahead of pace. I was looking at a solid finish. I uped my run/walk ratio to 8x1.

Mile 17: Something happened here but I can't remember.

Mile 18: MDW took my water belt after I washed down the last of my salt.

Mile 19: I finally ditched the Clopper. Hurray! Oh, God, hurray! First little twinges of leg pain.

Mile 20: Back across the Willamette. We're now running on the south side bike trails. I was still ahead, 3:00:06, but my pace had dropped to 9:00. My legs were beginning to feel a tad thick.

Mile 21: Now began the Track of Broken Dreams, better known as the last miles of a marathon. I dropped a full minute.

Mile 22: Dropped another minute. The same effort took tons of energy. My calves felt like iron knots. The four-hour pace group leader, whom I hadn't seen all day, breezed past with several runners in tow.

Mile 23: Leaking seconds badly, I dropped intervals and ran. All around, marathoners were breaking down: a young, bearded guy fast-hobbled on an injured foot; a husky Asian man cramped out in pain; a girl in tangerine shorts ran backwards to ease the ache; a guy in a floppy hat staggered off the trail and heaved a great spray of liquid. He heaved again and again. Meanwhile, sunlight shone through the trees and the Willamette flowed serenely.

Mile 24: For the moment, I'd plugged the time leakage and was almost exactly on pace, but fading fast. My hip flexors felt as light as a parking structure. Walking at a water station, I ate jelly beans and realized I enjoyed walking. Forcing myself to run, I focused on a large man in a red T-Shirt and passed him.

Mile 25: On pace, but maintaining the effort brought a bonus hurt. A side stitch arrived as I passed a balding runner in a blue and gold singlet. His feet quickened as he tried to catch me. Pretending I was in the Olympics staving off a Kenyan, I moved ahead to the next runner.

Mile 26: Reaching the shadow of Autzen Stadium, I was roughly on pace, but gassed. MDW waved and cheered. All the blood in my upper body had migrated to my legs. Woozy and light-headed, I lumbered along on auto pilot.

Mile .2: An orange snow fence lined the final kilometer. On the race clock ahead, red LED numbers inched into the four-hour district. I tried recalling how many seconds had passed before I crossed the start mat. However calculations were oafish folly as I lacked blood north of my waist.

I made it by six seconds: 3:59:53.

MDW helped me to a curb where I sat and stared at nothing for several minutes. I was fortunate to have reached my goal. Nevertheless, I finished what I set out to do. Plus, I honored Rosina and pumped money into the Eugene economy so they might purchase yet more commemorative bolo ties.

It's been two days since the marathon, we're back home and life proceeds. We have to move in a few weeks. And there's still the TNT Summer Team and preparing them for their first marathon. Oh yeah, and finding a job. And jury duty.

But today I'll rest and eat pizza and think about running another marathon in a few months.

That'll be fun.



(Start line photo by Rick Russell. All others by MDW Joy.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Sam Plenty: "Hat of Doom"

Sam Plenty wears one and sings in Episode Seven, now up and available for your viewing pleasure.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Hyperspacing I-5

Early this morning, my wife and I exited I-5 Freeway in Burbank, parked, and flew to Portland. Enroute, Horizon Air held a contest: the passenger with the oldest penny would win a bottle of wine. Half-asleep, I watched my traveling companions rummage through pockets and purses. The winner produced a 1942 penny and was awarded a large bottle of wine wrapped in gray paper.

A few hours later, we're back on the northern branch of the same interstate 5, driving south to Eugene. Green countryside everywhere, with small hills rising in the background. Oregon appears to be a teenage version of Washington.

As Oregon has legalized assisted suicide, my wife and I joked how any public expression of discomfort is interpreted by state employees as "suffering" and you are summarily executed.

Our hotel is only ten minutes from the finish line at Autzen Stadium, (home of the University of Oregon Ducks.) I picked up my race number (1116) and goodie bag. I've gone from nervous to excited. Now, out for the traditional pre-pre-race meal of Chinese food.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Going Up

In Eugene, Sunday's temperature is now forecast in the low 70s. I'm going to ask the weather to stop. The mercury has climbed high enough. Let's not sully a fine marathon with excessive heat as was done with certain other races.

A few notes:

A brief four-mile run today wraps-up my marathon training, begun in late January.

April marked the third consecutive month of 100 + mileage. This was a large amount of running for me, aided by steady, persistent unemployment. Sunday will tell whether greater mileage equals faster times.

My goal is to break FOUR HOURS! There. I've used large attention-getting letters. As race day approaches, my nerves have been gnawing on me like rats in a town house made of peanut butter. I've caught myself telling other runners how stressed I've been over moving, thus advancing an alibi for failure. Enough! No! I commit to breaking FOUR HOURS!!