Archive for the ‘CATCH-ALL’ Category

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.
– Victor Hugo

For my 50th birthday on November 20, I was supposed to be on the East Coast preparing for the Philadelphia Marathon, one of the few races I’d registered for this year before a microscopic virus with a nasty disposition knocked the world off its axis.

When that race was (predictably and rightfully) canceled in July, we shifted our focus to one of our favorite destinations and the Queenstown International Marathon, happening Nov. 21 in New Zealand. Unfortunately, the New Zealand government had (predictably and rightfully) communicated in no uncertain terms that potentially contagious Americans were not welcome, even those willing to quarantine upon arrival. So there went that idea.

(On the topic of pandemic control, Queenstown ended up hosting 8,330 finishers on race day—1,374 in the marathon, 4,418 in the half marathon and 2,538 in the 10K—making it significantly larger than any American race held in the past eight months. Clearly the Kiwis are doing something right whereas we… are not.)

With nowhere to travel, no one to visit and no place to race, I decided instead to take advantage of our beautiful SoCal surroundings and postcard-perfect weather to spend my 50th birthday doing what I love—running. And though running your birthday in miles can be pretty cliché, I don’t know many runners older than 30 who choose to “celebrate” in this way. (In fact, I briefly considered quitting myself at the 50 km = 31.1-mile mark; luckily, my brother Chuck was running with me at that point so quitting wasn’t really an option—that is, until he quit at mile 35 after we passed the point of no return. Shrewd Chuck, veeeeery shrewd.)

And so, with Katie as my seemingly omnipresent and omnipotent support crew, I set off from Marina del Rey just after sunrise, my only goal being to reach Fashion Island in Newport Beach by dark and under my own power. That gave me roughly ten hours to cover a largely paved & flat course at sea level including refueling stops, rest breaks and traffic negotiation, plus any unforeseen challenges. No problema.

Best of all, unlike my usual A-to-Z race report, I’ve managed to encapsulate ten hours of high-energy, edge-of-your-seat shuffling athleticism in just 2+ minutes of video, courtesy of the Relive app. Join me on a speedy virtual tour of SoCal beach cities:

Crunching the numbers and analyzing the data yielded an average pace for my 2020 birthday run of 1 mile/year — assuming my parents and birth certificate are to be believed, ‘cuz I know my Garmin is.

Not bad for a young’un, eh Mr. Hugo?

Birthday weekend brunch c/o the Griddle Cafe at Yamashiro Hollywood, an LA favorite—if you squint, you can just make out the white Hollywood sign between palm fronds

FINAL STATS:
Nov 20, 2020 (start time 7:16 am, finish 5:24 pm)
50.3 miles from Marina del Rey, CA to Newport Beach, CA
Total elapsed time: 10:08:01 (12:05/mile)
Sunrise/sunset: 6:32 am/4:47 pm
Weather: clear & cool at the start (50°F) and finish (64°F), high of 72°F in Long Beach
Elevation change (Garmin Connect): 586 ft gain, 500 ft loss
Elevation min, max: 0 ft, 194 ft

(Click on the image for a higher-resolution version)

The Thin Yellow Line

Posted: November 18, 2020 in CATCH-ALL

In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.
– Robert Frost

I never imagined I’d preface a blog post this way, but the following contains graphic images (not my own) from an automobile accident along with potentially disturbing descriptions of human suffering. This is the most difficult post I’ve ever written; I double- (and triple-) clutched several times, uncertain where to start, uncertain where to end, and still uncertain of what exactly transpired to change lives so suddenly and so dramatically on the evening of September 23. As unwelcome as the memory is, though, if writing this can save one person’s life out on the open roads of America, then it’s worth it. Thanks for hanging in there with me.


They never had a chance.

Like a swarm of angry bees, the realization buzzed angrily through my head as I tried to verbalize what I knew to the calm, earnest voice on the other end of the line. Grim desperation settled across my shoulders like a lead blanket, my dazed mind trying to find words for what I’d just witnessed.

How could the world suddenly have gone so… quiet? Ironically, it was the search for much-needed solitude that had drawn us out here to Southern Utah, that and its indescribable beauty. And to be sure, we’d found both in recent days in such breathtaking destinations as Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park, not to mention one of the most spectacular views in the United States, the Horseshoe Bend in the Colorado River just outside Page, Arizona.

My atheism notwithstanding, if any place on the planet would qualify as God’s Country, it’s Southern Utah. And the past week had been an incredible road trip I’d not soon forget. Now, though, standing helplessly beneath a vast desert sky, I’d have given it all back just to rewind the world by two minutes.

Like the eye of a hurricane, the sudden quiet in which I now found myself was the calm at the center of an emotional storm, a storm that had broken without warning moments earlier as the most horrific scene of my life played out before my disbelieving eyes. And like the most unforgiving storms, this one was about to get worse.

Google Maps image of US-89 near Kanab in Southern Utah

Every day the dreamers die
Trying to remain calm, I described to the 911 operator what I’d just witnessed on this lonely stretch of two-lane highway outside Kanab, Utah—how we’d been driving west after leaving Arizona when the SUV first passed us, crossing the dotted yellow line at significant speed to do so before accelerating further as we dropped back a safe distance; how that same SUV had then done the unthinkable, blindly crossing the solid yellow line that separated us from the other lane in a reckless attempt to pass a slower-moving semi truck—and then, as we watched in horror, how the SUV had realized its disastrous error and attempted at the last second to retreat back into its own lane, the semi alongside unwittingly acting as a fast-moving wall blocking its path.

In the split second that followed before all hell broke loose, I’d felt like I was living in the Matrix.

No no no no no, this cannot be happening—the panicked thought barely took shape before the {BOOM} of immovable object meeting irresistible force at 80 mph, accompanied by the instantaneous shattering of glass and crumpling of steel, caused my stomach to convulse in horror. The sickening sound, as I remembered it afterward, was strangely muted, unlike the carefully choreographed symphony of destruction we’ve been conditioned to expect by Hollywood.

“Oh, SHIT!” I yelled as Katie pulled over and I immediately dialed 911, throwing open the door of our car and stepping out into a ghastly and deafening quiet. No noise could I hear from within either vehicle—not the movement of a door trying to open, nor the wounded groan of an injured driver, nor the desperate voice of someone crying for help. Nothing. The only sounds I recall were the voice of the 911 operator in my ear and the hiss of steam rising from beneath the hood of the mangled VW sedan, which had absorbed the full impact of the oncoming SUV without any time to react.

They never had a chance.

Fighting back shock, I slowly approached the VW, watching for signs of flames arising from either vehicle—I had no idea what to expect, no idea how I’d be able to help anyone involved in such a brutal head-on collision at such an impossibly fatal speed. I relayed the relevant details (along with several non-relevant ones) to the 911 operator as I focused my attention on the disfigured VW. Both vehicles looked so… beyond help, and I couldn’t imagine my long-dormant CPR skills being of much good to anyone inside. My brain’s instinctive warning signals aside, though, I had no choice.

Steeling myself, I glanced inside the driver’s side window. The tinting coupled with the oblique lighting from the setting sun at our back made it tough to see anything inside the sedan, and neither the driver’s side nor passenger’s side door would budge. Dammit. Helplessness washed over me as I relayed my findings to the 911 operator, admitting I wasn’t sure how many passengers were inside the vehicle and asking her whether I should try to move anyone in the vehicle if it came to that. She told me she’d leave that to my judgment and, before hanging up, assured me that highway patrol and a medical team had been dispatched to the scene. According to my phone log, the call lasted roughly four minutes.

It’s shocking how long four minutes can seem.

Fortunately, passing drivers had begun to stop, and several were now leaving their cars to help assess the situation and clear scattered debris from the road. Circling to the passenger side of the car, I could see a man of approximately college age in the back seat, leaning against the door with a dazed look on his face. And my heart fell with the realization that this meant there was likely another passenger in the front.

Other passers-by were now checking on the driver and passenger(s) in the SUV, none of whom had moved. From my own vantage point I could see only the deployed airbag on the front passenger side of the vehicle, suggesting the driver had at least had time to hit the brakes. But that was as much as I cared to know; no one else here had witnessed the brutal scene unfold as we had, and so still battling a maelstrom of emotions—not the least among them disgust toward the SUV driver—I returned my focus to the VW sedan. And suddenly it occurred to me—the semi was nowhere to be seen; apparently it had continued on its way without stopping.

Once someone else was able to break the driver’s side window, I reached in and tried to access the lever to either recline the seat or move it back, a futile effort given the condition of the vehicle. As I did so, I heard the driver before I saw her.

She was sprawled out awkwardly across the front seat facing away from me, her long blonde hair and slight build the only indications of her gender. In the gathering shadows I couldn’t see her legs—where were her legs?—but her lifeless, incoherent figure resembled a toppled retail-store mannequin.

In a different context, I’d never have imagined the guttural, staccato sound that now filled the vehicle to be human. As awful as it was, though, her labored breathing was at the same time heartening—she was alive, struggling courageously for every breath but still very much alive, despite the devastating blunt-force trauma she must have suffered from the steering column that now occupied much of the driver’s personal space. Alive, but for how long? I had no way of knowing and no hope of freeing her from the wreckage that imprisoned her and her passenger. And what if I could? I dared not risk trying to move her—with my lack of medical training, who knew what additional damage I might do trying to play hero.

She’d never had a chance.

My mind was racing as I turned away from the car in frustration. Where was the highway patrol? Where were the medics? Why were they taking so long? Soon several others were able to get the rear door on the driver’s side open to help the back-seat passenger escape the car, and I glanced up to see a young white man with tousled reddish hair, blood streaming down his face from a nasty gash above his left eye. Luckily I’m not squeamish, and though I can’t speak for Katie, the look in her eyes said she too was dialed in and ready to help.

Another man gently guided the stunned passenger away from the wreckage and over to the side of the road, where an off-duty nurse (who’d likewise stopped to help) spread out a blanket for him to lay on. Katie and I agreed to stay with and monitor him while the chaos continued to unfold around us.

Meanwhile, someone succeeded in smashing the front passenger-side window, and our nurse friend reached in to check for a pulse on the motionless form still trapped within the gnarled mess of the front seat. A moment later I saw her shake her head and knew that at least one member of the car was beyond help.

The surreal futility of the moment was wrenching—I knew absolutely nothing about this passenger, no clue as to their age, gender or ethnicity. Moments earlier they’d been very much alive, engaged in a spirited conversation with their companions, on scrolling on their phone, or catnapping en route to who knows where, the road ahead of them paved with sky-high hopes and crazy plans and whimsical dreams. Now those hopes, those plans, those dreams—that life—had all been destroyed in the blink of an eye, strewn across the asphalt like so much broken glass. And they’d likely never seen it coming.

The VW sedan carried the driver plus two passengers (photo: Utah Highway Patrol)

Strength in numbers
Thankfully our young charge, though clearly disoriented, was alive and conscious with no apparent difficulty breathing, a huge relief since neither of us are medical professionals and we didn’t know when they’d arrive. Understandably, he was also in severe shock. As he lay on the blanket, he repeated several times that his tummy hurt and that he had to throw up. We helped turn him on his side, realizing after several false alarms that this was a sentiment he would continue to repeat until the medics arrived.

In the meantime we were advised to keep him talking, and so we asked him about himself. He told us in a quiet, distant voice that his name was Lee; we also learned Lee was possibly a college student in Sandy, Utah. Few other details were forthcoming and we didn’t press; we simply wanted to ensure that his adrenaline kept him conscious and safe until the medics arrived. He kept repeating at regular intervals that his tummy hurt; calmly we tried to reassure him that this was normal, that he was strong and that his tummy would be fine because the doctors were coming to take care of him.

Lee asked us a couple of times what had happened and at one point asked about Annie and another name I didn’t catch, suggesting he’d been traveling with friends and not his parents. Casually we dodged each question and again inquired about his breathing, which he seemed to confirm was not an issue; this allowed us to breathe easier too. Our new nurse friend came to check on Lee and told him he’d been in an accident, which seemed to surprise him—I’d never witnessed shock to this extent, and clearly this was the body’s psychological defense mechanisms on full display. In a way I envied his ignorance at that moment, though I knew his return to reality would be anything but enviable.

Their heroic and selfless efforts notwithstanding, in that moment I couldn’t imagine being a highway patrol officer or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) whose job it is—if not routinely, then far too often—to respond in the aftermath of accidents such as this. My own reaction came from a place of naïve shock at having never witnessed death play out before my eyes in such a jarring and senseless fashion. And as far as my own mental health goes, I hope never to reach a place where inexplicable violence no longer comes as a visceral shock to my system.

“I’m scared,” Lee said softly, his voice wavering slightly as he lay with eyes closed beneath a clear night sky that now shimmered with stars. We held his hand and assured him he was ok, that he was safe, that we wouldn’t let anything happen to him, and that we would care for him as long as we needed to until the doctors got there. Several times he asked us to promise him as much. Our confident reassurances seemed to calm him a bit; fortunately his demeanor hadn’t changed, and his breathing seemed stable. We complimented him on his strength, on his bravery, on how well he was doing and how much better he’d feel just as soon as the doctors arrived. Where were the medics?

With my focus on Lee, I noticed in my peripheral vision the crews that were now laboring with crowbars to remove the front section of the VW sedan, presumably to gain access to the driver and passenger.

Throughout this ordeal, Katie and I were the only ones on the scene to wear face coverings, and unless I was called on to perform CPR—which now seemed against all odds—I saw no reason to remove mine. This was the first time I’d willingly defied social distancing guidelines in more than six months, and despite the circumstances our close proximity to other people felt remarkably normal. And welcome.

As we continued to reassure Lee of his health and safety I noticed his anklet, his painted fingernails, and the metal cross dangling from one ear. I wondered about their significance as a helicopter appeared overhead, landing on the road beyond the demolished SUV. Someone in uniform finally joined us, quickly examining Lee and asking him, “I don’t care what you think of him, do you know who the president is?” Lee answered correctly which was encouraging, and one of the officers now on the scene asked me to don gloves and hold Lee’s neck steady on his side until the medics could apply a brace. Which I did until he began to complain of difficulty breathing, at which point I let him roll onto his back again.

Soon reinforcements arrived and the professionals took over, skillfully wrapping and immobilizing Lee in a sleeping bag-like cocoon before attaching him to a stretcher and whisking him away to Kane County Hospital and our own eventual destination, the nearby town of Kanab.

Then our attention shifted to finding the officer in charge and letting him know we were the only witnesses to the accident. After expressing his appreciation for our help, he told us that medics had intubated the driver to help her breathe and that her legs would never be the same. But she was alive and in good hands, and that was more than I’d dared to hope for after seeing her car absorb the full impact of a high-speed, head-on collision. At this point we have no way of knowing what her quality of life will be going forward, as she struggles to recover from a complete stranger’s wildly reckless and inexplicable decision. But at least she’ll have a second chance, and that’s infinitely more than her passenger got.

Days later a Google search would reveal that the driver, 19-year-old Piper Anderson, had been flown to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George where she’d been admitted to the ICU in stable but critical condition. Katie and I wish Lee and Piper all the best for a robust recovery and lifelong health—and if any of their friends or family reads this, please let them know their strength and courage that evening exceeded anything I’ve seen in my half-century on this planet. Tragically, our hearts go out to the family of 20-year-old Annika “Annie” Jaramillo, the passenger who died at the scene and whose mother lovingly described her as a popular figure on TikTok and “a light to hundreds.”

All we’ve learned to this point about the SUV is that the driver was taken to Kane County Hospital in poor condition while the passenger was flown to Dixie Regional Medical center in critical condition. And so we may never get an answer to the evening’s most burning question: Why? How did it happen? What was the driving thinking? Was he or she distracted? Under the influence? Or simply arrogant enough to think the rules of the road, carefully designed to prevent accidents and ensure everyone’s safety, didn’t apply to them?

The officer in charge kindly informed us that our off-duty nurse friend had spoken very highly of our efforts at the scene, which lifted my spirits a bit since we could take solace in knowing we may have saved at least one life. In fact, before she’d left us (to let her husband know her whereabouts before he panicked), she’d gently assured us that to suffer only one fatality out of five in a high-impact collision like this was “really good.” And another kindhearted nurse, this one a member of the onsite medical team, advised us to take care of ourselves, saying “You’ll need it for a while.” How right she was.

Stepping away briefly, the officer returned with two clipboards and asked us each to fill out a report as to what we’d seen, which we gladly did. During our conversation I’d been wearing my RaceRaves mask, and as I handed back the clipboard he smiled and said to me, “You look like an ultrarunner; you look like you wouldn’t stop at 26 miles.” I smiled for the first time in hours as I confirmed his detective work, and he told me he’d be running his first marathon at the upcoming Beaver Canyon Marathon, with a sub-four-hour finish as his goal. We chatted briefly about his training, and I wished him well while assuring him he’d do great. Afterward it occurred to me that our exchange was probably his shrewdly professional way of introducing a kernel of normalcy into the evening’s chaos, and I appreciated him for it.

There’s no shortage of distractions on Utah’s roads & highways

The Long Road Home
Still in a mental fog but with nothing more to add, we returned to our car and continued on our way, past the long and unmoving line of cars trying to fathom why their evening commute had come to an abrupt stop out here in God’s Country. Fortunately, our 30-mile drive to Kanab was uneventful, though I found myself leaning—as if pulled by an invisible hand—to the right and away from oncoming traffic as I tried to relax in the front passenger’s seat, the same position Annie had occupied two hours earlier. Katie’s a skilled and vigilant driver, but she could have been Evil Knievel and it wouldn’t have mattered—my anxiety on that drive was exceeded only by the next day’s drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the following day’s 500-mile drive home to Los Angeles.

And if I’m being honest, I can’t tell you when—if ever—I’ll feel comfortable driving on a two-lane highway again, something I’ve spent countless hours of my life doing without hesitation on road trips across America.

My own reluctance, though, will be nothing compared to what awaits the driver of the SUV. Even if he or she is fortunate enough to make a full physical recovery (and let’s hope they are), how do you recover psychologically—not to mention financially—from the most devastating decision of your life? How do you wake up every morning under the black cloud of vehicular manslaughter? And how much guilt can one person shoulder? I wish them all the strength and support they’ll need to live a life that isn’t defined by its worst day.

Later that night I cried—brief but cathartic, and not necessarily for anyone in particular but again for the abject futility of what we’d witnessed, of one life taken and four others shattered so suddenly and so senselessly. Some things you can never unsee. The emotional black hole of my thoughts was overwhelming, and it’s no surprise human beings cope with grief and loss by assuring ourselves everything happens for a reason, while denying the same could happen to us.

Because while we like to think our own ending will be happy, that we’ll have the luxury of living disease-free to a ripe old age before fading away in our sleep surrounded by loved ones, the reality is that few of us will. This year alone, we’ve been confronted with countless sobering reminders of that fact—from Kobe Bryant to Chadwick Boseman to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Eddie Van Halen to the 250,000 Americans who have already died from COVID-19. And as a ubiquitous pandemic assails us with daily reminders of our own mortality, it’s no surprise the number of Americans reporting mental health challenges has risen dramatically in recent months.

“I know I was born and I know that I’ll die; the in between is mine.” These lyrics from another musically gifted Eddie, Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, were the first words published on this blog more than eight years ago. They were words to live by then, as they still are today. And so I try—try to seize every day as an opportunity never to be taken for granted, and to make every second of the in-between count. Try not to sweat (too much of) the small stuff, because it’s safe to say that if in 2015 you’d asked me where I saw myself in five years, my answer probably wouldn’t have been, “Sequestered in my house avoiding other people all day.”

Try always to do what I love and love what I do, even if that means forsaking my comfort zone for something completely different. Try to learn from my mistakes. Try to make people laugh. Try to err on the side of empathy. Try to take care of the people closest to me. Try not to hold grudges. And try to appreciate how lucky I am to be with someone who makes me a better human every day, a goal I certainly couldn’t achieve on my own. To bring this full circle back to Pearl Jam, I’m glad Katie can’t find a better man.

That’s it; that’s all I can do. And while I may not always succeed in my efforts, it won’t be for lack of trying. And if one day I’m out running trails and happen to get gored off the side of a mountain by a cantankerous billy goat—well, c’est la vie. Life is funny, often in very unfunny ways. And at the end of the day Robert Frost was right, though with one important caveat.

Life does go on—except when it doesn’t.

Horseshoe Bend in the Colorado River near Page, Arizona

Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses. It is time for our better angels to prevail.
– Joseph R. Biden, Jr

"How about a cup of Joe (Biden)?" sign

Much like everyone else, my mind over the past several weeks (/months/years) has been a maelstrom of thoughts and emotions, most of them centered on the pandemic and the presidential election. So to help clear my head, I thought I’d do a “brain dump” of sorts and share some of my (many) thoughts on last week’s election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be the next President and Vice President of the United States, respectively. After which I hope to calm my mind and refrain from (overt) political punditry here for a while. Here goes nothing…

+ It took four painfully long years, but with the news on Saturday that Joe Biden had earned Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes to claim victory and become the President-Elect, Donald Trump finally lived up to his promise to Make America Great Again.

+ Or as The Washington Post correspondent Philip Bump so astutely encapsulated The End, “The man who said he wouldn’t play golf as president learned that he would no longer serve as president while he was playing golf. An almost Shakespearean coda.”

+ I look forward to Kamala Harris being a visible and productive Vice President and a much larger, more competent figure than her predecessor Mike Pence. Pence more than lived down to the expectations of John Adams, who once dismissed the VP position as “the most insignificant Office that ever the Invention of Man contrived or his imagination conceived,” while reaffirming FDR VP John Nance Garner’s more succinct appraisal that “The Vice-Presidency isn’t worth a pitcher of warm spit.”

+ I’m excited for empathy’s return to the White House, for images of the president and vice president once again smiling around other people (once we control this pandemic), and for more iconic photos like this one that have their own Wikipedia page:

Hair Like Mine photo by Pete Souza

+ Clearly Joe Biden is a man destined for greatness, which I can say with confidence since a) his Secret Service code name is “Celtic” and b) he’s the first US President with whom I’ve shared a birthday. 😆 ☘️ 🎂

+ If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this tweet is worth at least a thousand more, conveying as it does the abject desperation that comes with suddenly realizing your relentlessly dishonest reality distortion field just lost its mojo at the worst possible time:

Trump "STOP THE COUNT!" tweet

+ At the same time, I empathize with all the Trump supporters in Michigan and elsewhere who showed up to echo his sentiments outside vote tabulation sites, screaming for election officials to “STOP THE COUNT!” After all, three days earlier my Dallas Cowboys had been up 9-7 at halftime and so I’d yelled for them to stop the game, but then they’d gone ahead and played the entire second half anyway, letting the crooked Philadelphia Eagles pull another 16 points out of who-knows-where to steal a win they didn’t deserve. It was a fraud on the football-watching public and an embarrassment to our country. The Cowboys were getting ready to win the game. Frankly, they DID win the game. And I asked myself, what’s the NFL come to when a team that’s won only 2 games in 8 tries can’t change 100 years of league rules to avoid a reality that doesn’t align with its own unhinged fantasy?? So yeah, I could empathize.

+ And speaking of counting votes, huge respect to all the election officials, poll workers and dedicated volunteers who saw to it that democracy was served by diligently counting every vote while MAGAt-driven, conspiracy-fueled chaos swirled around them.

+ To me, Twitter is to social media what that first Presidential debate was to civil discourse. That said, if you’re trying to explain (or understand) America’s two-party system in the year 2020, these election-night tweets from each party’s youngest member of Congress are a great place to start:

Election-night tweets from each party's youngest member of Congress

(This was a day before Cawthorn vowed to “work to bring an end to partisan politics.” Strong first step, Madison.)

+ I’ll leave it to the presidential historians & professional pundits to provide the 1,000+ words to accompany this “mic drop” graphic from Jennifer Bendery of HuffPost:

Venn diagram of presidents that have been impeached or resigned, served one term, and lost popular vote.

+ The longer the president protests the results of the election without a single shred of legally admissible or acceptable evidence, and the longer he cripples the nation’s ability to transition to a new leader by refusing to concede (none of us expect “gracious”), the clearer it becomes that he doesn’t give two f*cks about the country or the Constitution he swore to uphold.

+ And while we’re calling out faux patriots, nothing is more un-American than enablers like South Carolina’s newly re-elected (and re-emboldened) Senator Lindsey Graham parroting the president’s baseless claims of voter fraud, while suggesting that the Pennsylvania legislature (which has a Republican majority) choose its own set of electors to override the will of the voters. As a far-right pipe dream, this is as dangerously undemocratic as it gets, though it may not even qualify as rock bottom for a seasoned sycophant like Graham, who freely admitted on the Fox News Channel on Sunday, “If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again.” It’s the ultimate hubris—the GOP doesn’t need to change, our democratic elections (which already favor Republicans thanks to the electoral college) do.

+ In fact, you can’t throw a pebble without hitting a glaring inconsistency in the campaign’s “voter fraud” argument. If the accusation is true, for instance, then why wasn’t the same underhanded strategy used to Hillary Clinton’s benefit in 2016? And why then is Adrian Fontes, the official in charge of counting those same “controversial” ballots in Maricopa County (Phoenix), currently losing his own re-election bid by a narrow margin?

+ A mandate for hope: Although many progressives (including several friends) with 2016 PTSD quickly turned dark and started thinking in doomsday scenarios as the initially GOP-heavy vote totals rolled in on election night, Democrats ended up winning the White House convincingly with the most votes in US history, plus they maintained their majority in the House of Representatives despite losing several seats, plus they still have an outside shot—with one unresolved Senate race in Alaska and two January runoffs in Georgia as of this writing—to win the Senate. I’m more cautious optimist than election analyst, but I’d call that a successful night.

+ I like to imagine soon-to-be-unemployed White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller’s upcoming résumé: Results-driven racist with a passion for fascism seeks like-minded employer to broadly scapegoat individuals at fault for my own character failings. Problem-solving disrupter unburdened by transparency or accountability. Track record of success in managing cross-dysfunctional teams, kidnapping children from their parents, and jumping into a girls’ track meet mid-race to publicize my deep-seated self-esteem issues. Available immediately.

+ When I consider who is best positioned to carry forward the self-immolating torch of Trumpism and re-energize his followers for the next presidential election, it’s certainly not any current member of the House or Senate (no matter how many shoes Ted Cruz kisses) nor any of the president’s equally unqualified and forever-dependent dependents. Instead, taking into account 45’s reckless disregard for the truth, his carefully crafted persona as a reality TV bully, and his complete socioeconomic disconnect with the demographic he deigns to represent, I’m convinced Tucker Carlson will be the GOP presidential nominee in 2024. Only the power of the presidency could surpass the power and paycheck that comes with being the Fox News Channel’s most popular provocateur. (Disclaimer: I hope I’m wrong.)

+ With nearly 240,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 and those numbers climbing quickly, this was a presidential election in which voting Republican could literally kill you.

+ Speaking of which, why is the media continuing to report on escalating COVID-19 infections and deaths? My president assured me they would stop talking about it on November 4.

+ No matter what an erratic lame duck president does in the next 70 or so days, it looks like Anthony Fauci will outlast his sixth administration and presumably stick around to advise his seventh on how best to navigate this pandemic. Because science always wins, and until our policy reflects that fact, this virus will continue to devastate the nation.

+ I’d love to sit here and say with conviction that the pollsters got it all wrong for the last time and that I’m officially over them… but come 2024, I’m sure I’ll play Charlie Brown to their Lucy, taking my running start and trying in vain to kick that football all over again.

+ The ultimate irony to Joe Biden winning Georgia may be that he owes his victory to his opponent’s #1 strategy this election season, voter suppression. Without it, Stacey Abrams (a force of nature if ever there was one) almost certainly would have won the governorship in Georgia in 2018, in which case she would not have started Fair Fight Action to organize, educate and advocate to promote free & fair elections across the state. The tireless activism of Abrams and her team is the single biggest reason Joe Biden became the first Democrat since Bill Clinton in 1992 to win Georgia. How’s that for karma?

+ I grew up a comic book junkie, and while a nearly 78-year-old Joe Biden may be no Superman, it certainly does feel like the country took a heroic step forward this week in its battle for Truth, Justice & the American way.

+ And on January 20, the whole world will watch as the President-Elect transitions into his new role as the 46th President of the United States, while the current president makes his own transition from one-time leader of the free world to classic flight risk. Note to Secret Service: you may want to keep an eye on the back doors at Mar-a-Lago.

+ Bottom line: I love my progressive and conservative friends alike, but we all deserve so much better than the past 4 years. We need the Republican Party in this country, just not the untethered version we’ve seen in recent years that peddles easily refuted lies and cuckoo conspiracy theories, led by a petty, score-settling Narcissist-in-Chief and bolstered by his enablers. Nor do we need the bomb-throwers who rail mindlessly against the corruption and inefficiency of government while doing everything in their power to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Naively optimistic as it may sound, I know huge challenges like a global pandemic, climate change and income inequality can be conquered when we set aside personal differences and agree to work together (case in point, Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act which passed the Senate on a 60–39 vote and which provided an additional 20–24 million Americans with health care coverage). Because Bill Clinton said it best: “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

Now we just have to roll up our sleeves, get out there and prove it. 🇺🇸

Comedy-tragedy masks

With one week to go until what many Americans are calling the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes, I figure the most valuable public service I can perform (aside from voting) is to help educate and inform the Ken Bones of 2020—that is, my fellow citizens who aren’t afraid to rock a red sweater and who, God bless ’em, somehow have yet to make up their mind between the Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his Republican opponent (and incumbent president) Donald Trump.

To that end, I’ve prepared the following easy-to-follow flowchart to help the still undecided/uncommitted voter make a more informed choice based on personal preferences and the issues that are most important to them. Simply follow the green (for “yes) or red (for “no”) arrows to reveal your ideal candidate. Feel free to share this with all your undecided friends—and don’t forget to cast your own vote on or before November 3!

…but no one was interested in the facts. They preferred the invention because this invention expressed and corroborated their hates and fears so perfectly.
­– James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

Just think — Fox News on TV is even less reliable than Fox News online

Ever since Mary Trump’s least favorite uncle first rode his gilded escalator o’ lies into the Oval Office, he and his supporters have wielded the term “fake news” to decry any media coverage that’s not in 100% agreement with their worldview. In fact, the president and his disciples use the term much like the eponymous blue cartoon characters use the word “smurf,” sprinkling it liberally and seemingly at random throughout their communications, though in their case to avoid the overarching reality that, like a reverse alchemist, everything this president touches turns to lead.

Unless you’re looking to get very wasted very quickly, I’d avoid any drinking game during a Trump press briefing that involves the term “fake news.”

Not surprisingly, Leader 45 isn’t the first authoritarian-in-training to exploit the term “fake news” to try to discredit the mainstream media. In 1930s Germany, Adolf Hitler and his Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or Nazi party, commonly disparaged independent media as the enemy of the people and as Lügenpresse, German for “fake news.” (A lot of people are saying that der Führer, who died in his bunker less than 14 months before our current president was born, may have been reincarnated as a dumb, depraved NYC real estate developer.)

And never mind the fact that as of this writing, the president himself had managed more than 20,000 false or misleading claims during his time in office — a mind-bending average of nearly 16 per day, and a number that’s actually increased to 23 per day over the past 14 months as the pressure of being the nation’s worst-ever Commander in Chief has clearly taken its toll.

All that said, fake news is indeed alive and well in America today, and in exactly the place you might expect if you have any sense for the president’s go-to strategy of deflection and projection. I recently happened upon this article from the white-makes-right-wing Fox News Network — it’s a perfect example of fake news and the template for how the GOP’s leading propaganda machine does business. So I thought I’d break down the process in a brief tutorial I’m calling…



Step 1: Grab eyeballs with a misleading headline

As anyone who’s spent five minutes on the Interwebz can tell you, controversy sells. That isn’t just Click Bait 101; it’s the North Star for both the Fox News Network and the entire Trump presidency. So using a headline that promises a “crude remark” leveled against a beloved (to the Fox News audience) member of the administration is sure to command people’s attention. What was this uncouth comment made to the White House Press Secretary? Who made it? And who do they think they are?

If it bleeds, it leads — but don’t be afraid to chum the water to get there. And now that they’ve set up those pins, time to move in quickly and knock ‘em down before they fall on their own…

Step 2: Set the stage: Weaponizing outrage

Two points here:

  1. Choosing to single out a (Canadian) reporter who works for an Arab news network based in the Middle East immediately gives Fox News an essential villain to play against the heroic American press secretary. This is the tried-and-true Fox News strategy of us (the real news) vs. them (the fake news). And no one plays the victim card as shamelessly as Fox News and the GOP in general, led by the head of the party whose presidency can be summed up in his own words: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
  2. Saying that “social media was set ablaze” belies the unspoken truth that the arsonists were largely right-wing antagonists looking to foment distrust and create controversy where none actually existed. As Alfred noted to Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” (But at least the Joker had a sense of humor.)

So then the plot thickens — a crude remark! Social media set ablaze! And OH, the speculation! We’re on the edge of our seats now, assuming this must have been a serious transgression by this rogue reporter from a news network with a foreign-sounding name. With that the stage is set, and the puppet masters at Fox News are ready to watch us dance…

Step 3: Build a case: Guilty until proven innocent

You could be forgiven for thinking here, as any sane non-Foxophile might, “Come ON guys, no legitimate member of the White House Press Corps (and whether Fox likes it or not, Al Jazeera is a legitimate news network) would jeopardize their career by publicly unleashing a profane bomb like that.” At this point common sense dictates that at its worst, this is a misunderstanding that could have been resolved easily and without the subsequent abdication of journalistic responsibility. But of course, this isn’t journalism — it’s another Fox News hit piece, a scaled-down version of what the network did following the murder of Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich in 2016.

And if it’s true that “Many took to Twitter” (how many? MANY) and “The video quickly went viral with people on both sides of the aisle chiming in,” then why are the only two third-party sources quoted in the article from right-wing Twitter? Where’s the damning quote from an equally outraged pundit on the other side of the aisle? Nowhere to be found, because much like Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, no such nonsensical creature exists. This is simply Fox News doing what Fox News does best: fake news and faux (or is that spelled “Fox?”) outrage.

Step 4: If they defend themselves, they must have something to hide

At last, we reach the segment where Kimberly Halkett has a chance to defend herself, something (as it turns out) she never should have had to do, because she was only doing her job — and apparently doing it well by “grilling” the White House Press Secretary (note that defensive wording). That said, Halkett does defend herself quickly and professionally, knocking down this absurd house of cards with — wait for it, wait for it, here it comes — THE TRUTH. The most powerful weapon in journalism, like water to the Fox News wicked witch.

I would say an inconvenient truth, but aren’t they all to this network?

Note too that the alleged slur “lying bitch” is COMPLETELY MADE UP, with no basis in reality. Not only did Halkett never say it, but what she actually said sounded nothing like it. This is a personal smear designed to maximize outrage, and even if its own reporter isn’t the one who cut this idiocy out of whole cloth, Fox News is more than happy to give it wings and lend it credibility. Given the network has no apparent issue with publishing blatantly fabricated sexism, the allegations of sexual misconduct against key Fox personalities (including Tucker Carlson, see below) dating back to 2016 should come as no surprise. Deflect and project.

Step 5: Downplay the truth and never apologize

The final sentence destroys the entire premise of the article and does so with the curt, dismissive nonchalance of an artist who’s been here before, as someone with chronic dandruff would brush away flakes from their shoulder:

You know your journalistic boat has sprung a serious leak when even a normally staunch ally like Daily Caller pulls the plug on your bullshit. Though speaking of Daily Caller, its co-founder and shame-free Fox News talking head Tucker Carlson predictably refused to let the truth stand in the way of a new conspiracy theory, arguing that a White House reporter like Halkett might conceivably (though she didn’t) say such a thing “[b]ecause creating a moment like that, almost tailor made for social media can transform an unknown blogger into a Twitter star in just a few minutes.” Is this really the same slow-witted goof whose public “disemboweling” (to quote his then-cohost Paul Begala) by Jon Stewart 16 years ago led to the cancellation of his CNN show “Crossfire”?

Take-home lessons

So then a quick recap of what we’ve learned here on how to create fake news: 1) concoct a semi-credible lie against the enemy, the more outrageous the better; 2) build on that initial outrage with supporting evidence from questionable sources to put the accused on the defensive, 3) gently (if at all) back out of the lie when confronted with indisputable truth.

When the smoke cleared, Fox News got what it wanted from this story — another cravenly disingenuous hit piece on the “fake news” media (with bonus bigotry against a Middle East-sponsored news outlet), along with the lasting impression that a member of the mainstream media may have resorted to calling the White House Press Secretary a “lying bitch” when said reporter didn’t get her question answered. True, it never actually happened and the accusation was 100% fabricated, but that doesn’t matter — another seed has been planted in the receptive minds of the Fox News viewership. And as even the worst gardener will tell you, if you plant and nurture enough seeds, sooner or later some are going to take hold and bear fruit.

To be sure, journalism is a profession practiced by people, and as such it’s prone to human error. Typically, such errors involve harmless typos or misspellings — though I may never recover from the 2004 headline from The Providence Journal that warned, “Rumsfeld’s Pubic Role is Shrinking” — along with the occasional forgivable error of omission or misinformation. What is neither professional nor forgivable, though, is the disinformation and outright fabrication that have increasingly proven to be a feature rather than a bug of the powerful Fox News Network.

Ironically, this Fox News fairy tale just happened to appear on the same day The Hill reported that Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) was seen confronting and overheard calling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) a “fucking bitch” on the steps of the Capitol in front of reporters. (If you haven’t seen AOC’s response to Mr. Yoho on the floor of the House, I highly recommend you check it out.) Thing is, that wasn’t fake news, and Rep. Yoho is now suffering real-world consequences for his sexist outburst. Deflect and project.

Not surprisingly, a search for Kimberly Halkett’s name on either The New York Times or The Washington Post yields zero results, while CNN mentions her only to further discredit the Fox News coverage. Apparently, in the midst of a cratering US economy, nationwide racial unrest and a global pandemic that’s already claimed nearly 150,000 American lives, there is in fact enough real news to cover without having to resort to making up your own.

What’s important to note is that thanks to the stench from this red herring, Kayleigh McEnany once again got off scot-free without having to defend the president’s dangerous, evidence-free insistence that “mail-in voting is going to rig the election” and that “mailed ballots are corrupt” (except, apparently, in his own case). Keep in mind, McEnany is the same individual who, on day one of her current job, stood at the White House podium and promised the assembled press corps, “I will never lie to you.” Which was the first of her many lies since. Still, she has a long way to go to catch her boss.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Or in the case of Fox News distract, disparage, deny. It’s the Fox way — and it’s the very definition of “fake news.” Kids, don’t try this at home. (Seriously, don’t.)

Class dismissed!

(For extra credit, check out this eye-opening chart that shows the outsized influence of Fox News in brainwashing America. In a recent study from the Pew Research Center, only Fox News and ABC were trusted by as many as 33% of Republicans, whereas one-third of Democrats and all US adults trusted nine or more sources. Conversely, Republicans tend to distrust more news sources than Democrats [see original study], including several sources deemed “Most Reliable” by the Media Bias Chart, above.)

News Sources_Pew_Jan 2020

 

You have to dance beautifully in the box that you’re comfortable dancing in. My box was to be extremely ambitious within the sport of basketball. Your box is different than mine. Everybody has their own. It’s your job to try to perfect it and make it as beautiful of a canvas as you can make it. And if you have done that, then you have lived a successful life.
– Kobe Bryant

One month later, the words still don’t belong together, their syntax ghastly and incongruous, as improbable as a man suddenly floating upward toward the sky in defiance of gravity.

Kobe Bryant’s death.

Granted, if I were to cast my vote for anyone as “Most likely to defy gravity,” it would have been Kobe Bryant. And yet today, as the world looks on, 20,000+ mourners gather inside the Staples Center — known here in Los Angeles as The House That Kobe Built — to celebrate the life of Bryant and eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, all of whom died tragically in a helicopter crash January 26 in Calabasas, CA, 30 miles northwest of where I now sit typing this.

Bryant’s untimely death generated shockwaves that continue to reverberate far beyond the sports world. Like so many others, my first response to hearing the news was total denial — there was no way it could be true, no way that Kobe Bryant, 41 years old and still in the creative prime of his life, could possibly be… dead? The news made no sense, and immediately I sought to dismiss it as the cruel hoax of a macabre, or at least misinformed, online troll. Kobe Bryant could not be dead.

And so, ever since that Sunday afternoon — an already gray and gloomy affair that quickly went dark around the edges — as reality set in gradually and painfully, I’ve been racking my brain trying to understand: Why has this affected me so much?

Why, for at least a week after the horrific news dropped on all of us like an anvil, did I feel so despondent? Why did I find it so challenging to shake off a heavy melancholy, as though I were wearing that same emotional anvil around my neck at all times? Why did I find myself shedding so many tears while watching tributes to someone I’d never even known or met?

Why would I find myself in the shower, my mind wandering off to some memory of Kobe as I quickly forgot which parts I had or hadn’t washed? Or likewise, while listening to a podcast on the run, my train of thought would switch tracks to some Kobe-related musing, only to realize moments later I’d lost the gist of the conversation. Why did I feel like a dog with 100 squirrels running around in its brain? And why do I still find myself stopping to take deep breaths as I write this?

For me this was never about hagiography — I don’t hero worship. Years ago, at a restaurant in the Bay Area, Katie and I saw Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, his wife Ayesha and his tiny (at the time) daughter Riley sitting in a corner booth eating dinner. And while other diners apparently felt differently, we were happy to leave them alone to enjoy their meal in peace. Besides, we now live in LA, where celebrity sightings aren’t exactly blue moon events.

So then maybe Kobe’s death was a devastating reminder of life’s ephemerality, which as I approach the end of my fifth decade offers no shortage of shout-outs. Or maybe it was the sudden loss of a larger-than-life talent, a hometown hero and a global icon. Or could it be that the shock of his death affected me more than, say, the self-inflicted death of artists like Kurt Cobain or Heath Ledger in large part because Kobe was one of the greatest players of all time in the sport I’ve loved since childhood? After all, I’d once envisioned a future for myself as an NBA-caliber athlete before a disappointing growth spurt and limited quickness extinguished that short-lived dream.

No, there was more to it still than all that. And at last I realized what “it” could be.

Kobe and daughter Gianna attend a Lakers game at Staples Center Dec 29, 2019 (© 2019 NBAE, Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

For Kobe Bryant everything he did, he did at the highest level. Every challenge he tackled got his undivided attention and his best effort. Halfway was unacceptable, and failure wasn’t an option. Because in his universe, the one that for 20 NBA seasons revolved around a singular, white-hot passion for the game of basketball, there was no such thing as good enough.

Kobe articulated the secret of his success in the simplest of terms: “I’m chasing perfection.” Coming from most other people, such a mission statement might elicit a roll of the eyes or a bemused smirk. Coming from Kobe though, it just made sense.

It’s a mindset that fascinates me, one I admire greatly — and it manifested itself in the gravitational pull Planet Kobe had on coaches, teammates, opponents, fans and even the media. Maybe more so than all the points, wins and championships over two decades, that single-minded obsession with being the best is his enduring legacy for his millions of fans around the world.

It’s also a mindset I can relate to on a personal level. No, I’m not the fourth-greatest scorer in NBA history or an Academy Award winner, but since childhood I’ve tended toward perfectionism in much of what I do. Because as the saying goes, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

If I have one guiding principle in life, that may be it. It may not always be the healthiest approach, but it’s served me well, first as a research scientist and now as an entrepreneur/small business owner. And like Kobe, two of my least favorite words in the English language are “good enough.”

It’s ironic, to be sure. As a lifelong Boston Celtics fan I once hated Kobe Bryant, first when he wore #8 and then later in his career when he sported #24 (both numbers now hang in the rafters at Staples Center). Hated what he did against my Celtics. Hated the five championships he won as the driving force of Boston’s bitter rival, and especially the 2010 title he won against my Celtics while playing with a broken finger. Hated to see his Lakers get the better of my team so many times across the years, as his Lakers slowly but surely crept toward the 17 championships my Celtics boast as the all-time winningest team in NBA history. (That 2010 title, his fifth and final trophy, was the Lakers’ 16th.)

For 20 years Kobe was the face of the enemy, playing a role that at times felt crafted by a Hollywood screenwriter. So naturally, as any passionate sports fans would, I hated him for it.

And he certainly gave his haters ammunition — but then again that will happen when you’re forced to grow up, emotionally if not physically, in the unforgiving glare of the Hollywood spotlight and the nation’s second-largest media market. Kobe hit rock bottom in 2003 when he faced a sexual assault allegation brought against him by a hotel worker in Denver; the case never went to trial, and the charges were later dropped. But it was during this time that Kobe created the “Black Mamba” persona to help him separate his personal and professional lives.

For many non-basketball fans, the 2003 allegation is really all they know of Kobe Bryant, and understandably they treat it as much more than an asterisk on his legacy. In the immediate aftermath of his death, some writers even made the questionable decision to focus their pulpit on that ugly chapter of his life. For my part, as unsettling as it was at the time, I no longer view Kobe’s career through the lens of that period, and I’d be disingenuous to act as though I do.

So no, Kobe certainly wasn’t perfect, a realization that only drove him harder. In his 20 years as a pro athlete, through a ruptured Achilles tendon, a fractured knee, a torn rotator cuff in his shooting shoulder and myriad other injuries that would’ve derailed most careers, he never gave in, never gave up, never stopped battling, never settled for less than 100% effort. He was uncompromising in his demand for excellence, both from himself and from everyone around him. He pissed off, intimidated, and drove away many a teammate with his relentless will and laser focus.

And he never cared. Because in Kobe’s world there was no such thing as good enough.

“If somebody’s not obsessed with what they do,” he once told ESPN senior writer Ramona Shelburne, “We don’t speak the same language.”

Kobe is the only NBA player to have two jersey numbers retired by the same team (John Shearer/Getty Images)

He made it clear he had every intention of taking that “Mamba Mentality” into retirement with him when, despite a recent history of season-ending injuries, he scored 60 points on 50 shots in the last game of his career. To put that in perspective, his 60 points was more than twice as many as any other Hall of Famer had scored in their last game. (By contrast fellow Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the league’s all-time leading scorer, managed just 7 points in a loss to the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals. Michael Jordan scored 15.) Because giving anything less than everything he had would not have been good enough.

Or, as former teammate Lamar Odom so eloquently put it, “That motherfucker is cold-blooded.”

On that same night he retired from professional basketball, Kobe thanked the fans, famously proclaimed “Mamba out,” and walked off the floor with a towel draped over his shoulders as he had so many times before. And for many pro athletes, that night would have signaled the start of a cold, hard reality check, of an unnerving transition into a day-to-day existence without the comfortable camaraderie of the locker room or the reliable adrenaline rush of game day.

But not Kobe. To him, “Mamba out” meant turning the page on one creative and productive chapter of his life and seamlessly moving on to the next. He was ready to reinvent himself, this time as a storyteller. It was an ambition he quickly turned into reality, when in 2018 he became the first pro athlete to win an Academy Award for his animated short film, “Dear Basketball.” (Matthew A. Cherry followed in Kobe’s footsteps this year, becoming the second pro athlete to win an Oscar while dedicating the award to Bryant just two weeks after his death.)

An Academy Award. And two months later, a Sports Emmy Award. Because if you’re going to be a storyteller, well then be the best storyteller. In Kobe’s world, anything less would not have been good enough.

Like an angry scab that’s been scratched away, his death lays bare an unsettling truth. If Kobe Bryant can die so suddenly and senselessly in the prime of his life, then so can any of us — today, tomorrow, maybe next week. As in everything he did, Kobe worked so hard to craft the lasting narrative of his life, to shape his personal legacy, and to tell the story he wanted to be remembered by once he was gone.

But the one thing he couldn’t craft was a happy ending.

And that, I think, is what hurts the most — that unlike so many pro athletes who happily ride into the sunset of retirement, Kobe refused to rest on his laurels, though he had every right to do so. Along with the eight other passengers on that ill-fated helicopter, he still had too much to offer the world. And now we’ll never know what might have been. Because all we’ve gotten is all we’re getting. And this time when Kobe says “Mamba out,” he means it.

Kobe Bryant was many things, but he was never complacent. And it’s both utterly amazing and deeply saddening to think that an 18-time NBA All-Star, 5-time world champion, 2-time Olympic gold medal winner, Academy Award winner, Sports Emmy Award winner, and father of four was just getting started on a second act that, by all indications, promised to be just as successful and entertaining as his first.

And that will forever have to be good enough.


Much love and respect Mamba, you’ll be missed… I know that somewhere you and Gianna are chasing perfection together, and that teacher has become pupil as Mambacita schools you on the intricacies of the fadeaway jumper.

Like Kobe, my fellow Stanford alum and ESPN senior writer Ramona Shelburne is one of the best at what she does, and I’d recommend her excellent profile on Kobe Bryant written in the immediate aftermath of his retirement.

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
– Booker T. Washington

Los Angeles runner Dr. Frank Meza

(photo: FinisherPix)

I was saddened to learn of the death of Los Angeles runner Dr. Frank Meza earlier this month from an apparent suicide. Dr. Meza, a retired physician well respected within his community, had recently been disqualified from this year’s Los Angeles Marathon (in which he’d won the 70-74 age group in a time of 2:53:10) after clear-cut evidence surfaced that he’d cut the course. Dr. Meza repeatedly denied the allegations, despite the fact he’d also been DQ’ed by the California International Marathon in 2014 and 2016, and officially banned from CIM after 2016. In light of his most recent disqualification, Dr. Meza’s other marathon results from recent years have now been called into question.

To be clear, cheating in any sport is unconscionable, unacceptable and should be dealt with appropriately. And the available evidence did support the conclusion that Dr. Meza cheated. However, to ensure the continued well-being of our sport and its participants, in situations like this we should all take a deep breath and allow the data and the events themselves to be the final arbiter of guilt or innocence, not the court of public opinion. Which is why I was admittedly dismayed by the chain of events in which high-profile media coverage led to relentless online harassment and a striking lack of empathy from some members of the running community toward Dr. Meza.

Apparently for many of his critics, some of whom continued to defend their tone-deaf position in the aftermath of his death, it became more important to “put him in his place” (often anonymously) and to burn him publicly, as a child with a magnifying glass would an ant, rather than to step back, recognize the deeply troubled pathology of a serial cheater, and let the race organizers handle their business privately and professionally. Yes, Dr. Meza refused to accept responsibility and repeatedly denied the allegations, but then again what would you expect from a proud but flawed man who’d been treated like a hardened criminal by the social media outrage machine, and who’d been publicly shamed into a corner with no graceful way out?

I’ve read all the arguments from the outraged masses eager to step up and take a swing at the Frank Meza piñata: “The damage he did to the running community will never be fully calculated.” “He deserves all the blowback he will receive, and a lot more.” “He took the easy way out.” If the damage done to the sport by one cheating age-group runner is indeed irreparable, then I’ve badly underestimated the strength, integrity and resilience of a community that’s survived far worse over the years. It feels like just yesterday we were all reeling with shock after two bombs exploded at the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line, so a little more perspective and a little less melodrama is in order.

Not only that, but the overheated online outrage felt less like concern for the running community and more like a small segment of vocal armchair psychologists who felt personally wronged by Dr. Meza’s actions or who were simply rubbernecking, as drivers here in Los Angeles do for even the slightest fender-bender, hoping to see — what, exactly? Before Dr. Meza’s death, one online commentator admitted as much in saying, “I’d binge-watch a Netflix series on [Meza].” To many onlookers, Dr. Meza’s downfall was must-see reality TV, and the opportunity to be part of the action was too good to pass up.

And to those same armchair psychologists: the only one taking the “easy way out” is the self-appointed judge, jury and executioner who so casually and callously dismisses the devastation of suicide. Fortunately I’ve never been in such a position, but I can’t imagine anything harder than making the decision to end one’s life. I don’t claim to understand how anyone — and particularly someone who reportedly did so much good for so many people throughout his 70 years — could cheat himself and his sport to the extent Dr. Meza allegedly did, much less find himself in a place where suicide feels like the only viable option. Unfortunately, mental illness doesn’t boldly announce itself like measles or a broken bone; more often than not its symptoms are elusive, insidious and misunderstood. And we all have a high tolerance for each other’s pain.

As ambassadors for the sport, Katie and I love the running community because it’s just that — a community. One with the same foibles and flaws as many other communities to be sure, but one that’s far greater than the sum of its parts, and one whose members lift each other up in the toughest of times by appealing to our better angels. Where else outside your pet bulldog can you get that kind of unconditional acceptance and appreciation? We’re firm believers in the power of positive thinking and positive people, and no collective group of individuals personifies that belief like runners.

So I prefer to err on the side of empathy, because the alternative is counterproductive and leads to no positive outcome for a community that prides itself on busting its backside to chase positive outcomes. And in the end, Dr. Meza and his family suffered a far greater punishment than any race organizer, indignant critic or overreaching blogger could ever dole out.

Though his disqualification(s) may crown deserving new age group champs, there are no winners in the Frank Meza saga. His story is unfortunate, but it wasn’t the first of its kind and it won’t be the last. And hopefully the silver lining will be that this opens the door to a productive dialogue around cheating in the sport.

For the rest of us, now more than ever the Golden Rule is worth its weight in gold. So maybe we can all calm our thoughts, take a step back together and remember: words matter. Words have power. And whether you recognize it or not, your words may someday be the difference between extending someone a lifeline and pushing them off a cliff. The high road may feel like a steep climb at times, but the view from the top is worth it.

Be good to each other, y’all.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
– Dr Seuss, The Lorax


Running is an inherently selfish sport — which honestly is one of the biggest reasons I embrace it. Running lets me get out, get away, get moving and get in sync with my overstimulated brain in an overstimulated world. It’s the quiet time I frequently need to retreat, recharge and reset. I get some of my best thinking done at 7 mph. And being able to do it a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean doesn’t hurt, either.

My RaceRaves Staging Area page says it best: I run because it always gets me where I want to go.

But to (mis)quote JFK — who does, after all, have the country’s oldest ultramarathon named after him — the real power of running comes in asking not what your running can do for you, but what you can do with your running.

With that in mind, I’m asking now for your support as I launch my own version of the Texas Two-Step: Running and Recovery. On Jan 14, 2018, I’ll be running the Chevron Houston Marathon to raise funds for the disaster relief efforts of the Houston Food Bank in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Harvey unleashed the most extreme single-storm rainfall in US history, wreaking devastation across Southeast Texas. The flooding has been catastrophic, particularly for individuals already struggling to provide for their family’s basic needs. And once the daily news coverage subsided, the hard work of getting the nation’s fourth largest city back on its feet began.

Now I want to help Houston recover. And it should come as no surprise to those who know me that I want to use running to do it.

Why Houston? I grew up in Texas, and my four years as an undergraduate at Rice University (go Owls!) strongly shaped who I am. As a Texan and an Owl, I’ll always have Houston’s back — even if the Astros did beat my dad’s Red Sox and my hometown Dodgers to win this year’s World Series. #NoMoreDisastros

But since you can’t spell “fundraising” without the “fun,” here’s the twist: I’ll be starting the marathon at the very back of the pack. And I’m asking you to contribute based on the number of runners you think I’ll pass in the 26.2 miles between the time I start and the time I finish.

How many runners might I pass? Approximately 5,000, an estimate based on past finisher results and my targeted finish time of 3 hours, 30 minutes. The math: (5,000 runners) x ($0.01 per runner) = a donation of $50.00.

I’ve chosen to join the Houston Marathon’s “Run for a Reason” program to support the Houston Food Bank for several reasons:

  • No one should ever have to wonder where their next meal is coming from.
  • Every dollar donated provides 3 full meals for a child, adult or senior.
  • The Houston Food Bank receives an overall score of 97+ out of 100 and a four-star (highest) rating on CharityNavigator.com, so you can be confident every dollar you donate will go toward Harvey relief and recovery.


You can support my oddball endeavor by donating
in either of two ways:

  • a “performance pledge” based on the number of runners you think I’ll pass along the 26.2-mile course.
  • a flat amount up front, if you’d prefer.

NOTE: This is not a World Marathon Major like Boston, London or Tokyo, where fundraising is often a prerequisite for race entry — I’ve already registered for the race, so your donations do not go toward my entry fee.

With everything the country has been through recently, I realize there are a lot of worthwhile individuals and organizations vying for your dollar$. And I’m proud to Run (and dodge and weave) for a Reason to earn your support.

Thank you for helping to rebuild lives and keep the Bayou City #HoustonStrong.

See you at the finish!

Screen Shot 2017-11-19 at 11.46.21 PM
Additional resources:
Houston Food Bank Hurricane Harvey relief page
Houston Marathon Run for a Reason page
Houston Food Bank page on Charity Navigator

A Texas flag flies in flood waters caused by Hurricane Harvey on Aug 28, 2017 (photo Ralph Barrera / Austin American-Statesman)

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’
– the current President of the United States

Impeach graphic

Dear Mr. President,

I’m glad you asked! As a fellow countryman who shares your end goal of making America great, I thought I’d take a moment to answer the rhetorical question you posed Friday night in Alabama, in case you hadn’t already gathered the correct response from the unified wave of protests by NFL athletes and owners that you sparked over the weekend.

The answer in fact is NO, because I don’t simplistically equate exercising one’s freedom of expression with disrespecting the flag — quick history and civics lesson, that’s not how the United States works. Call me old school, but I actually equate threatening someone who exercises their freedom of expression with disrespecting the flag.

(And honestly, on that note, why does every professional sporting event start with the national anthem? To my knowledge, no other live performance does. Would we all be less patriotic without it?)

But since you ask, I would like to see a few things happen:

When somebody legitimately does disrespect the flag and our military by cowardly faking bone spurs in his feet to avoid military service, then years later ridicules a true wartime hero and a Gold Star family like the tough guy he’s not, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody who is supposedly the leader of the free world can’t open his mouth without showcasing to the world a brain that resembles a 10-year-old string of Christmas lights hopelessly tangled together and with most of the bulbs burned out, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody desperate to legitimitize his tainted electoral victory uses his presidential powers for evil rather than good, focusing his outrage and resources — and our tax dollars — on combating imaginary voter fraud rather than the clear and present (and proven) danger of Russia hacking our elections, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody blatantly fans the flames of racism to score a few political points with simple Southern snowflakes whose favorite buzz word is “libtard,” I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody who is supposed to represent all Americans routinely conducts himself on the world stage as though he’s role-playing from the white supremacist handbook, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody with the authority to fire the FBI Director exercises that authority to obstruct justice and then openly brags about it, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

(Of course, when the Republican candidate for President of the United States openly brags about grabbing women by their naughty bits, I’d love to have seen the American people say, “Send that son of a bitch back to Mar-a-Lago, out, he’s fired!” But then again that assumes, as Thomas Jefferson warned, a well-informed electorate — sorry Tom, we’ve definitely let you and your fellow Founding Immigrants down.)

When the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military on the planet treats the podium at the United Nations like open mic night, launching an infantile and ill-advised campaign of personal insults against the “Rocket Man” of North Korea, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

(I half-expected you to follow up your puerile name-calling at the UN General Assembly with “Don’t forget to tip your waitress!”, then drop the mic and walk off the stage.)

And when that same Commander-in-Chief has Americans nodding in agreement at said Rocket Man’s spot-on description of their leader as a “mentally deranged US dotard,” I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

And speaking of insults, when somebody in a position that traditionally commands global respect provokes a Twitter response of “U bum” from one of the world’s most popular athletes, a response which in turn elicits an outpouring of support and not a hint of real outrage, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

White House_out-of-business_BCH

My expectation, if this administration is indeed being run like a business

When somebody who’s made a career of shoddy, tasteless workmanship and shady real estate deals promises quixotically to build a “big, beautiful wall” between the US and Mexico (at the latter’s expense), then promises to equip that wall with solar panels, then promises to make the wall transparent because “you have to see what’s on the other side” so “large sacks of drugs” thrown over the wall don’t land on anyone’s head — here I’m envisioning large sacks of drugs with “ACME” written on them, like “Narcos” meets Wile E. Coyote — I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody who never met a lie he didn’t like has the unconditional love of an entire network of professional liars like Fox News, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody who holds human life in his hands threatens constantly to let nearly 1/5 of the American economy implode — damn thing won’t implode on its own! — while clearly having no clue about the American health care system and confusing health insurance with life insurance, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody in the ultimate leadership role apparently measures progress by how many of his predecessor’s executive orders and forward-thinking policies he can effectively reverse, no matter the consequences, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

And on that note, when somebody who once regularly criticized his predecessor for the amount of time he spent playing golf flaunts his hypocritical plumage by playing even more himself, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody makes Frank and Claire Underwood look like paragons of morality and ethical leadership, and leaves the writers of “House of Cards” talking to themselves because truth really is stranger (and more incredible) than fiction, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody in possession of the nuclear (not “nucular,” sorry Dubya) codes has a Defense Department Spokesman named Dana White in the Pentagon vouching for his foolhardy behavior, and I have to look up said spokesman because I’m legitimately curious whether he’s the same Dana White who runs the Ultimate Fighting Championship, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

And when the President of the United States treats American values such as freedom of expression, diversity and tolerance like a dog treats a fire hydrant, and when he uses his bully pulpit like a bully — to divide rather than unite, to preach hate rather than love, and to open new wounds rather than heal existing ones — I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

To help make my dreams come true, I’d love to see the morally bankrupt mess that is the Republicans in Congress stand up and say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!” Unfortunately for us but fortunately for you, Mr. President, this is the most incompetent and ethically challenged group of money-worshipping sycophants to occupy Congress in my lifetime. Luckily, when it comes to governance, they’re like toddlers with their shoestrings tied together, or we’d all be in trouble. #swamplife

No, Mr. President, if you somehow manage to survive your own attempted political suicide by a thousand cuts (and a few machete blows) long enough to run for re-election in 2020, I will love to see a reawakened American electorate, tired of being represented in front of the world by a mentally deranged US dotard (not my words), say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!” This despite the fact that the Democrats are their own hot mess and Putin’s minions are undoubtedly looking to use our future elections as a tryout for “Russia’s Got Talent”.

So thanks bigly for asking your rhetorical question, Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to get that off my chest. And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s almost time for Monday Night Football, and this non-football fan has a professional sports league to support.

But I’m sure not getting up off my couch for the national anthem.

Life (and running) is not all about time but about our experiences along the way.
Jen Rhines

Let me just say that 2016 was another bigly year in racing for me. I ran some really really great races, believe me. And I ran them with great people, tremendous people, some of the very best people. I mean, some of the people I ran with are unpresidented—though of course I won’t be saying that if they don’t compliment me on their own blogs. A lot of clowns didn’t run the races I ran this past year. Sad!

Yes, 2016 was off-key in some notable ways, while hitting all the right notes in others. As for my own year in racing, I’ve been told by many many friends who are excellent runners that it was a phenomenal year—I don’t know, but that’s what people are telling me. So clearly 2016 deserves a quick look back before we get on with the better business of looking forward—after all, nobody knows the past year better than me, which is why I alone can recap it. Trust me, this is going to be amazing:

Mike Sohaskey & Paul Ishimine post-LA Marathon 2016
February
brought one of the year’s “must see” sporting events—the Olympic Marathon Trials—to our hometown of Los Angeles. On a sweltering winter day in SoCal, Galen Rupp dominated the Trials field in his marathon debut, Meb qualified for his fourth and final Olympic Games, and Shalane Flanagan willed herself across the finish line in 3rd place thanks to the unwavering support of teammate and eventual winner Amy Cragg. The next day I opened my own 2016 race season and renewed my love-hate relationship with the Los Angeles Marathon. LA is a fantastic big-city course I’d recommend to any road runner, though the organizers at Conqur LA need to do a better job of attracting more runners and showcasing the city’s historic landmarks to the runners they already have.

Peace Love Run San Diego 2016 with Mike Sohaskey, Katie Ho, Alan Nawoj
March was the calm before the April storm, the latter of which led off with the low-key Peace Love Run Half Marathon in San Diego. This would be my final tuneup for Boston, and what a non-groovy tuneup it turned out to be—a 15.1-mile half marathon, thanks to my running an extra loop on the pleasant but poorly marked course. The silver lining was that I still managed to finish 4th in my age group. And in all honestly I probably could’ve run 20 miles with no worries, so strong was my anticipatory buzz. Because as promised, two weeks later I’d be lining up on the other side of the country to run…

Boston Marathon 2016 Mike Sohaskey post-finish family hug
… the 120th Boston Marathon. My Boston debut took place on a warm Patriots’ Day that saw me struggle mightily in the second half of the race. Somehow, approaching mile 16 in the Newton hills where my father grew up, my body suddenly lost all interest in running—right in the middle of the most prestigious marathon in the world, with nothing I could do to convince it otherwise. And THAT in a nutshell is running. Not that my finish time (which luckily still began with a “3”) mattered, since this was Boston… and if I were looking to name my firstborn I’d still consider “Right on Hereford, left on Boylston” Sohaskey. As the cherry on top of my victory sundae, Massachusetts would be state #11 on my 50 states quest. Wicked pissa!

Mike Sohaskey & Krishna Keelapatla at start of Big Sur Marathon 2016
Less than a week later, to close out April and as part of the bicoastal Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge, I came together with fellow B2B’er Krishna (above) and completed my second Big Sur International Marathon in winds that topped out at 40 mph. In the process I regained my running joie de vivre and and finished with a faster time than I had six days earlier. And I earned what (aside from Boston’s iconic blue-and-gold unicorn) stands as the hands-down coolest finisher medal in my collection, the clay Boston 2 Big Sur medallion. If/when I run Boston again, you can bet I’ll be lining up in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park the next week.

Ice Age Trail 50 finish shot - Mike Sohaskey, Dan Otto, Dan Solera
After an April featuring Boston and Big Sur, I could have been forgiven for thinking the rest of the year would be anticlimactic. Oh, how wrong I would have been. In May, thanks to some gently applied peer pressure, I joined Dans Otto and Solera in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest for what would prove to be not only the most ambitious challenge of 2016 for each of us but, ironically, my most successful race day experience to date. On a chilly day that Disney couldn’t have scripted more perfectly, I knocked out my first 50-miler in less than ten hours at the verdant Ice Age Trail 50. Turns out Ice Age was an endorphin high that would keep me buzzing on cloud nine for quite some time. And it just so happened to be state #12 on my 50 states quest.

Mike Sohaskey & Katie Ho Hatfield McCoy Marathon finish selfie
With such a front-loaded 2016 schedule, I’d planned to take some time off after Ice Age to rest my legs. But that was before June fired a shot heard ’round the world. On hearing of Muhammad Ali’s passing, Katie and I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to fly to Kentucky to pay our respects at The Greatest’s memorial service in Louisville. Appropriate justification for this last-minute trip came in the form of my running the excellent (albeit sizzling) Hatfield McCoy Marathon across the state that same weekend. For me, it’s not the medals or the miles or any OCD desire to cross items off a bucket list, but rather once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like Kentucky that fuel my 50 states quest (state #13).

Omaha Marathon finish shot - Dan Solera & Mike Sohaskey

With the fall racing season shifting into gear, in September I joined fellow heartland lover Dan Solera at another start line, as together we triumphed over the “Anytown USA” ennui of the Omaha Marathon. The race start was delayed for an hour after someone started shooting at passing cars near the course—and on further review, that was probably the highlight of an otherwise nondescript event. At the end of the day, Nebraska would represent state #14 for me and state #45 for Dan on our 50 states mission.

Mike Sohaskey at Brazen Goonies with RaceRaves Lunatics
In October I excitedly returned from a 4-year hiatus to run with my favorite Bay Area race organizers at the Brazen Racing Goonies Half Marathon. I even managed a sub-7:00 mile on the downhill, hair-on-fire mile 12. As much as I enjoyed another top-notch Brazen experience, the race itself paled in comparison to the thrill of meeting friends old & new in Lagoon Valley Regional Park, many of them united in sporting their RaceRaves gear. If you’re ever looking to run some amazing (and challenging) trails in the Bay Area with equally amazing people, you can’t go wrong with Brazen.

Mike Sohaskey at Ragnar Napa and Golden Gate Half finish lines

Ragnar finish line in Napa (left) and Golden Gate Half finish line in the SF Marina (right)

November led off with a reason to be thankful: an epic three-day running weekend, starting with 22 miles in 26-ish hours at Ragnar Napa Valley and concluding with another 13.1 miles of quintessential San Francisco at the Golden Gate Half. Two races with two groups of running friends (plus Katie) in one of the world’s most beautiful locales—weekends don’t get no better than that. And I’m never one to turn down a chance to run across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mike and Chuck Sohaskey at finish of Toughest 10K in the USA
Last but not least, no better way to round out another memorable year than by convincing my brother Chuck to join me in December for the Toughest 10K in the USA, a tour-de-force of steep hills in nearby Newbury Park. And yes, the Toughest 10K would boldly live up to its name, with only the winner managing to finish in under an hour (barely). I even managed to max out my heart rate at 183 bpm. One ignominious asterisk to my final effort of 2016: having never run a timed 10K in my 76 career races, my 1:22:22 (13:17/mile) finish time now stands as my 10K personal best, less than 12 minutes short of my half marathon PB {yikes}.

So there you have it! While I don’t have the time or interest to blog about every race I run, my RaceRaves reviews fill in the gaps nicely. And now, with 2016 in the rearview mirror, I can happily look forward to 2017 and what’s already shaping up to be another amazing year. Not that I’ve mapped out my schedule in gory detail—in fact I’ve only committed to three races so far this year, with the first coming up next weekend in state #15.

No, the reason I have such high hopes is that the sun around which my 2017 training revolves is a race which once looked like a distant star—a celestial impossibility gazed at longingly by a boy through his bedroom window. Not many foot races could legitimately lay claim to the title of the “Ultimate Human Race”. But this one does, and rightfully so. And it’s a race that will require me to run stronger and more strategically than any I’ve run so far.

comrades-logo
This June will see Katie and me strive to add continent #4 to the racing résumé as I tackle the celebrated Comrades Marathon in South Africa, where I’ll have exactly 12 hours (and not a second more) to run 56 hilly miles at the world’s largest ultramarathon. It’s an awesome challenge that already has every neuron in my body crackling with anticipation. And it’s one I slot in difficulty above all but the toughest 100-milers, since the strict 12-hour cutoff means that—after factoring in aid station breaks—a runner can’t walk or even power-hike an appreciable distance and still have any hope to finish. Because at Comrades, to borrow a line from noted non-ultrarunner Ben Franklin, if you fail to plan you are planning to fail.

Now that is a race.

To help prepare my quads for the hills of South Africa, in March I’ll be joining Bay Area friends at one of the most popular and scenic ultramarathons in this country, the Way Too Cool 50K. There I hope to improve on another of my questionable personal bests, a 6:33:45 at the scorching hot 2013 Harding Hustle 50K. Not to mention the real reason I’m running WTC—their signature frog cupcakes!

Thanks so much for following along on my (mis)adventures here, in 2016 and always—the fact you take the time to do so (especially if you’re not related to me) is the ultimate compliment. My wish for 2017 is that you live strong, be healthy, run well, inspire others, laugh freely and celebrate often. I look forward to sharing my own revolution around the sun.

Trust me, it’s going to be YUGE.

Mike Sohaskey beachside motivation_bch
Other 2016 blog posts worth a read:

Through the (crack’d) looking glass: post-election thoughts on the state of America
Child’s Play: our silly sport as seen through a child’s eyes

Looking for the best races around the world? RaceRaves.com makes it easy to find, track & review races you’ve run or want to run, and connect with other runners—you can also follow RaceRaves on Facebook and Instagram, though honestly the website is much more fun than social media.

And as you plan your 2017 race schedule, check out our RaceRaves spotlight featuring “7 quick picks for 2017”.

FINAL STATS for 2016:
2020.5 in 211 days (and on the 366th day he rested), 9.6 miles/day average
0 days lost to injury
248.5 racing miles
11 races (one 200-mile relay, one 50-miler, 5 marathons, 3 half marathons, one 10K) in 5 states (CA, MA, WI, KY, NE)
Overall race percentile: 72.2 (down 22 from 2015, excludes the Peace Love Run Half and Ragnar Relay) → 15,763/56,786 total finishers
Fastest race pace: 7:21/mile (Peace Love Run Half, despite running two miles too far)
Slowest race pace: 13:17/mile (Toughest 10K in the USA)
8 blog posts & 9 RaceRaves original articles written
My Staging Area (profile page) on RaceRaves