Saturday, September 13, 2014

Souls of My Shoes

An open letter:

Dear Brooks-

See these shoes, the beat up ones off to the sides? They're my ninth pair of Racer ST5s. The box between them? My tenth. I've written about them before, albeit briefly, and this may not be the last time.

I only discovered these a couple of years ago, but man, have we had some good times together. I'd suffered through years of unhappiness with various models of shoe, and then I stumbled upon these magnificent gems. Much more than foot coverings, these lumps of foam and fabric have been a convenient vehicle for my soul. Normally, I'm not concerned about colors, but as long as we're on the path to enlightenment, it's worth mentioning. The orange ones? Epic. Both flavors of white ones? Not so much. These new blue ones? Hot damn.

I've seen night turn to day and day turn to night countless times atop these shoes. I've won races in them and had some spec-TAC-ular blowups in them. They've carried me through 100-mile weeks, and I wear them at Burning Man because they're so comfortable. I've run in these things on three continents, and there'll probably be more.

I've raced in these shoes at distances from Beer Mile to 55k, and in at least one triathlon where they've carried me to the day's fastest run split. Unbeknownst to me, I started Boston in them last year with a stress fracture in my foot. Very beknownst (yeah, that's not a real word) to me, I finished Boston last year with a Racer ST5 full of extra bones.

I've taken them on some steep trail runs (and races) where they probably weren't the best choice, and I've got the blisters to prove it. More than once, they've collected toenails for later removal from my socks. My Facebook friends get angry when I talk about the toenails or show photos of the blisters. I don't complain when they share stories and photos of their ugly babies, so they shouldn't complain when I show photos of mine.

I don't log my miles, and I don't run with a watch. Sometimes I forget how long I've been running in a pair, but they always let me know with subtle clues. That feel of a brand new pair is always justification that it was time. When one pair gets retired from running duty, I wear them around the house for a while, and then they get donated. I imagine them serving another lifetime in some capacity on someone else's feet, bringing that person happiness like they brought me, before they eventually go to the Great Shoe Pile in the Sky.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not my shoes. I'm also not my job or the car I drive (thanks Tyler). I readily acknowledge that I'm a transient soul, currently inhabiting a fragile sack of meat and bones. But every so often, that fragile sack floats a little more swiftly through this world because of your work.

So, thanks. Three years ago, I never thought I'd be waxing poetic about something as pedestrian as running shoes, but here we are. Now that I've exchanged roughly a thousand hard-earned dollars for ten pairs of these things, it's time that you know that this shoe has been around for some pretty amazing moments in my life, more so than your corporate accountants could possibly let you know with profit/loss statements. Oh yeah, and if you change them or stop making them, I'll burn your factory to the ground.

It's funny how an assembly of stitched fabric, molded foam, and industrial adhesive can be the one constant through thousands of miles. Fast, slow; healthy, sick; light, dark; these shoes have been quiet and faithful observers to my yin and yang. Running reflects life, and it's kind of cool when you think about how going with the flow and running against traffic aren't mutually exclusive.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ireland XI: Forest Fairy

Not too far off from home in Wexford rises Slieve Coilte, the tallest "mountain" in the area by a healthy margin. There's a road to the top, and on a clear day, one can take in a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.

On our various trips to Ireland, I've run up the mountain, a lovely ~12mi roundtrip from home. While running up it this time, I paid more attention to some of the stands of trees (it's part of the grounds of the JFK Arboretum). What's cool about each stand of trees is that they're very homogeneous, and then a couple hundred meters down the road is another stand of different trees, again homogeneous.

As I careened down the mountain this time, the two remaining non-running-related synapses in my brain clanked off each other and made a spark of inspiration, and I vowed to return to the forest with my traveling model.

It was New Years Day before we had reasonable enough weather to go back, and "reasonable enough" was just another way of saying "light drizzle." With d^2 as faithful assistant, we wandered from tree stand to tree stand and let nature be our inspiration.

Even though it may appear that the weather continually improved through these photos, that's not the case. When it started raining hard again, we packed up, ran for the car, and retreated for tea. As you do.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ireland X: The Shed

Ethel's dad has a pretty awesome barn, filled with all manner of machinery, tools, vehicles, and cats.

During a brief break in the rain, I felt obligated to go make a photo that paid homage to the vastness of the space and the jewels contained therein.

Toys abound (late for bigger!)

And while her dad built it, maintains it, and does the work in's the cats (9 or 10 of them) that really run the show.

This photo took a good while to create. Lately I seem to be enjoying putting more time into subjects that wouldn't even garner an iPhone snapshot from a passerby.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ireland IX: Exactly Enough Information

If this doesn't tell you everything you need to know, you've got problems.

Consider yourself warned


Monday, July 21, 2014

Ireland VIII: Dunbrodies

As I've hammered home exhaustively in this series of posts, rainy Irish winter weather begets pubtime. Also, catching up with old friends most conveniently happens at pubs. Thus, a trip to Ireland over the holidays results in many evenings spent in dimly-lit buildings, older than the US, taking turns buying rounds of pints. Horrible injustice, that.

Saddle up, cowboys

Your breeches had better fit

The night before New Years Eve, we caught up with a veritable gaggle of Ethel's friends at Dunbrody Country House, which features a regular-people pub next to a hoity-toity restaurant. We opted for the pub. Obviously.

Sneaky selfie

Old window

So cute

On the trip home, a break in the pissing rain revealed another Dunbrody, this time the Abbey. It's currently being renovated but is still a pretty cool spot. Fortunately, it was being backlit gloriously, making for a ghastly silhouette. Unfortunately, that epic backlight happened to be coming from the nearby power plant, a continual sore spot among locals.

Either way, we stopped, and I did what I could sans tripod (idiot) and between sheets of rain (lame) to do it some justice.

Not haunted, they promised

In the last few days of our trip, we had little more to do than take advantage of any breaks in the rain and catch up with as many friends and relatives as possible. In the meantime, however, there was Jameson's to sleep off.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ireland VII: Coolrain House

Tiny backtrack here. Prior to our escape to Wexford, I took the time for a morning photo session at a striking old structure. We had driven past it several times (on the way to the pub, but who's counting), and I was intrigued enough to find out more about it. Michael talked to the neighbors who said it was fine to go check it out, so d^2 and I wander across a mucky field, unload gear, and get to work.

View from the road

The grand old house is known simply as Coolrain House, and it's old and crumbling. Very old and crumbling. Nature is taking over the building, the property, and everything in between, and it's sublime.

So lonely

Wall no more


I improvised a bit with the available gear I had (one light and no tilt-shifts), and I think we made it work pretty well. I wanted to give this the same photographic treatment that I might apply to a $5M home: study the details, be deliberate in composition and lighting, and capture the essence of the place. The only difference is that in the $5M home, that essence is very deliberate and purposeful, and in Coolrain House, that essence is a byproduct of decay and what used to be.

Vines and sky

Next level

While the exterior walls remain standing, most everything inside has collapsed, crumbled, or been scavenged. What remains is evidence of grand staircases, of fireplaces in every room, and plaster as guide for where walls and ceilings used to be.

Stronger than brick

Cellar under front door

Grand facade

Stepping carefully over rubble, we learn the flow of the house, wandering from room to room, sometimes having to take huge detours outside and then in through a window thanks to the biggest piles. Every time an opening in a wall reveals another wing, the house's unknown story grows tantalizingly more complex.

Through the gap

Casting softly into the cellar

More vines

Outbuilding becomes forest

Inviting or not?

It's easy to imagine the place in its full grandeur. A spectacular structure, one can visualize it playing host to kids and cows and horses and chickens and withstanding all manner of exciting Irish weather.

Front wall


Back side

And that's the shitter, really

It appears as though some restoration/rebuilding efforts had begun some time ago, but I think those were suffering the same fate as the rest of the structure: neglected and forgotten. Thanks for looking!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Ireland VI: Hook Head

Well, dang it. How time flies. I think 2 months is my biggest hiatus to date, and that's hot on the heels of swearing that I'd be better. Methinks the dark matter struck again, or rather, more simply, work's been a beast.

Anyhow, I've got a good few more posts to share from our trip to Ireland last Christmas, or else this backlog will suffocate me for good.


After passing through Kilkenny and arriving in Wexford, we have a few days to enjoy the Sunny Southeast before we head home. "Sunny Southeast" is a little bit of a misnomer unless you consider it in the relative sense: if it rains 350 days a year elsewhere, and it only rains 340 days a year here, it's "Sunny." In a land of blind men, the one-eyed man is king.

Actually, we're graced with pretty good weather. The pattern we've been recognizing is that day-and-a-half storms pass through about every 2 days, so temperate half days are very nearly predictable, and must be taken advantage of thoroughly. Our visit to Hook Head coincides (almost) with one of those spells, the only exception being that a storm is on its way, so we're treated to Rowdy Irish Coastline instead of Calm and Inviting Irish Coastline.

Rowdy's always more fun anyway.

Road to Hook

Cliffs and spray

Not so friendly

Seafoam like gooey marshmallow

We wander around in the wind for a while and then I turn my attention to Murphy, who usually makes a pretty good model.


And then I find a spot to combine the burly coast with her, and promptly geek out for a solid half hour, even getting unsuspecting passersby to hold my light for me.

Ka-blast ninja!

There's a chance this is one of my favorite photos in recent history. Satisfied, we return to the homestead for a cup of tea. And wait for the storm to roll in.


Past Detritus