Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A great race

Pre-race, The Great Race of Agoura Hills / Deena Kastor 5K
[This post also at http://runwendeerun.blogspot.com/; this version with additional embellishment commentary]

I find myself looking at these pictures of  me in orange and thinking three things:
- 'Wow. I look like a pumpkin'
- 'Gee. If I went with an all-black ensemble, maybe it would make me look taller'
- 'Hm. I wonder if I can get away with wearing just the tights. Would that be worse? Oh, I just don't know.'

Oh, here's a fourth:
- 'Ooo, okay.At least they're nicer than the pictures of me running!'

I'd been worrying about the weather: Would it be too cold? Would we get rain? At the 9am start, temps were still down to 45 - 50F. Pretty chilly for Southern California (see those gloves?), but great weather for running!

We got there early, wandered around the fitness expo at the finish line, then walked uphill to the start. I'd forgotten how steep that hill was (the walk uphill is a pretty decent warm-up) and commented that if the finish was up *that* hill, I'd probably be pretty cranky.

J agreed, knowingly.

While we were waiting for the start, the announcer briefed us on the course terrain (I was glad that I'd checked elevation maps before, to be prepared for the uphill parts) and the history behind the course:
The Great Race is proud to name its 5K after former Agoura High School standout Deena Kastor, who set the 5K WORLD RECORD at 14:54 in 2002. Deena grew up running in The Great Race. She won the bronze medal in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics and holds U.S. records for the 5K, 8K, 10K, 15K, half marathon and marathon. (from race website)

Deena rocks!

Crossing the starting line. Note: The start is in the middle of a quiet neighborhood, inflatable starting arch,  loudspeakers and everything. 

They say the Great Race is a fast race, and it is. The start is downhill. Then there's a gentle incline for about a mile, then a good looong downhill stretch. The turn up Thousand Oaks Blvd just before Mile 3 is uphill for a little bit, then the finish line is all downhill. The last time I ran this, 5 years ago, I PR'ed, without having trained very deliberately. This time, I'd set my pace and finished about 20 seconds or so early, as well. If we were to designate my current running phase as 2.0, this race would be again be a PR.

I stayed back far enough to not get trampled by the speedsters and got into my groove. Like the Rose Bowl race, at about a Mile 1, I could pick out others that were running at about my pace, and they kept me company along the way. Never mind that I was keeping pace with two gentlemen who were 30 years my senior; Slow and mellow gets it done. I let myself get frustrated thinking about how quickly others are going (not while I'm actually running, fortunately, but afterwards), but if I can still be running at this pace in another 30 years with my original hips, knees and ankles, I'll keep to my wog (walk/jog) routine.

Note to self: Don't give in to the temptation to check on friends' times. Just know that they're FAST.

The after-race party is fantastic. Dole is a major sponsor, so there's lots of fresh fruit, juice, fruit cups. There were lots of booths, lots of food. I understand that Whole Foods has a breakfast buffet as well. By the time I'd finished, caught up with a friend I ran into after crossing the finish line ('small world' moment), collected my medal, and found my BigBear, we realized that it was more busy than we were up for. And since J hadn't run, he really couldn't have any of the food. And you just don't go nomming down food in front of hungry bears!

Race time: 41:40
(3:40 run / 2:00 walk) 8x

We had booked a room for that night, so I showered and we hit our favority restaurants in the area. We drove out to Zuma, where I'd spent so much time before and watched the surfers for a bit. The sunny Sunday never materialized, so we napped. Our trip out to Santa Barbara will have to wait for another weekend...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I'd been thinking of cherry blossoms, as I usually do this time of year, and had an idea that needed to be acted upon. So I ordered sakura paper punches ...

... that arrived on the 11th or so. Wouldn't you know.


And where I might normally let new art toys sit a while, to get acclimated to their surroundings ...


there was a flurry of punching and gluing and sewing that just absolutely needed to happen...
as a salve for the sadness. Of all that happened, March 11th, 2011.

Puncha puncha puncha.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Wistful Wednesday

Mosquito punk

Last night, I sat through the presentation of my school's new mission statement and strategic plan. I've been involved with writing mission statements several times in my past, individually and as part of a group, and you know how that tends to go, don't you? You end up with lots of words. Paragraphs with lots and lots of words that talk about 'this is what we do'. You start waving your hands in the air, as if to abbreviate words with gestured circles in space. There comes a point where the words smother the energy of purpose and intent, and all that's left is a wispy strand of smoke – – you could try to capture that, but in grasping at it, you completely break up its form and energy. Eyes glaze over.

Luckily, what we have, from a flashing spark of inspiration and a flurry of energized email messages, is a message that seems to resonate with the school.

Learn to Create. Influence Change.

I like it. I don't have to refer back to my employee handbook to recite it. Would anyone actually make me recite it? Is that what it would come to? I don't think so. But I can rely on it to guide me. I can push and pull at it to meet changing demands and situations I run into with my students; it can be a steady compass pointing to our True North. And beyond the words themselves, I am even more appreciative of the collaborative, passionately creative spirit in which this phrase was crafted.

For the record, its subtitle, one that I really liked, sadly did not make the cut: Nothing rhymes with Orange.

Oh well.

So, I was sitting there, listening to the ideas and pillars, the plans, the challenges, the call to challenge ourselves as an institution, as we challenge our students, to be doggedly rigorous in tackling the task at hand.


And there's the mission statement, that is plain and strong, yet, as our President commented, leaves plenty of room to breathe.

Room. To. Breathe.

And then I sat there, listening to the words, thankful for our president's background in theater, the passion and conviction, the pauses, the tempo and cadence. In a community where we are all so very keenly sensitive to visual expression, what an experience it is to have someone who will speak with as much expression, for us to be delighted in a different way, another path way to our souls.

So, if you come back and find me pondering about how people learn to create and how we can teach to influence change, or musing about how nothing rhymes with Orange, that's where that comes from.

And, for the record, nothing really rhymes with Purple, either.


At Art Center, we have 14–week terms (three per year), and graduate at the end of each term. The beginning of each term is brimming with newness, new students wandering the halls, looking more than a little dazed, learning skills in the machine shop and lugging around oversized drawing boards. The middle of the term is weary: midterm presentations. The last two weeks are a mad frantic sprint: final projects needing to be both physically created and orally presented, the wild, chaotic explosion that ultimately cleans itself up as Graduation Show. The end of the term is anxious with interviews and bittersweet in seeing another group of young artists and designers leave. The 14 weeks seem to go quicker and quicker each term, and while there is a rhythm to the peaks and lulls, let me tell you, it's not like the rolling of the ocean (imagine my hands waving, hula-like, gesturing: 'The ocean") –- it's a rollercoaster. It all starts to blur together, and boy, has the time gone by quickly.

So, for your reference, we're well into Spring term, in the post-midterm lull of week 8.

I've been reading and editing resumes, introductory letters and personal statements, because, well, that's what I do about week 8 of each term. I spend a lot of time asking people to think: What do you really enjoy doing? What do you want to pursue? What can you show as examples of the skills you say you have? How can we help create a compass for you, so you can go out and earn a living and, well, influence change?

I probe and ask 'Why?' a lot. I press and have students dig, to tell the stories —their stories — so that others will remember them. I build trust and comfort, so that secrets can bubble up: 'What I really want to say is this…'. We work so that poignant stories and unexpressed yearnings can find a strong and certain voice.

Right. That's what I do.

Driving home, I smirked to realize that I was wishing for a little bit of that myself: time to sit and think and talk through the ideas – – to someone else. You see the last three paragraphs before this one? I haven't quite figured out how to put those ideas neatly onto my resume. What do you I really enjoy doing? What do you I want to pursue? What examples can you I show? What's the unexpressed yearning?


You can only get so far talking to yourself, driving in the darkness, headed east on the 210.

I know, because, well, that's what I do.