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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in the ^zhurnal (that's Russian for "journal") — see ZhurnalyWiki for a Wiki edition of individual items; see Zhurnal and Zhurnaly for quick clues as to what this is all about; see Random for a random page. Briefly, this is the diary of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... previous volume = 0.9913 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ... RSS



Mantra - Awareness, Blameless, Change

Awareness, Blameless, Change

... adapted from Ayya Khema's suggestion in "To Transcend Everyday Consciousness" of "Awareness, No Blame, Change": be aware of faults and try to improve, while not judging. Similarly, in Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation Arianna Weisman and Jean Smith counsel holding oneself in lovingkindness and not shooting a "second arrow" into the wound caused by a first mistake.

It's (not!) ss simple as A, B, C ...

- Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 07:55:32 (EST)


2014-11-19 - Chilly Pimmit Hills

~5.4 miles @ ~9.4 min/mi

Car thermometer sticks stubbornly in the low 20's: no Teen Temp Trek for the MITRE Dawn Patrol, from which I'm the solo rep today. And no joy during scan for friend Amy's missing cat Oliver during zig-zags along neighborhood streets Magarity-Lisle-Fisher-Leonard. DD Gray's gifts of sodium acetate physical-chemistry phase-changing hand warmers are a great success, toasty-warm for 15+ minutes inside gloves. Lab work for yesterday's doctor's appointment shows a high eosinophil (white blood cell variety) count, and hemoglobin levels are high too. Hope the new blood sample taken yesterday doesn't get me disqualified from the Tour de France! Runkeeper records route.

- Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 06:45:15 (EST)


Heartfulness and Mindfulness

Tara Brach, interviewed in the Fall 2014 issue of Inquiring Mind, comments on complementary aspects of body and mind:

... And within our own being, we need to cultivate radical acceptance. This is comprised of the two wings of presence: mindfulness, which is seeing what's happening inside of me, and heartfulness, which asks, "Can I let it be, can I hold it with compassion?" ...

Two weeks ago, a dear friend and Buddha Buddy raised the issue of balance and the question, "Could the opposite of balance ever be good?". That led to musings on transcendence and and whether it might be such an opposite — along with dualities of mathematical algebra vs analysis, physical matter vs energy, spiritual nonattachment vs lovingkindness, ...

0-1, in other words!

(cf. video interview of Jon Kabat-Zinn on the theme of "Heartfulness", Inquiring Mind, ...)

- Monday, December 15, 2014 at 04:33:10 (EST)


2014-11-15 - Stone Mill 50 Miler

~51 miles @ ~15.3 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Stone_Mill_2014_Stedwick_3am_start.jpgSorry, Mr. Brahms! During the later half of my daughter's Friday evening concert I'm dozing, curled up in the back seat of the MINI Cooper. Then drive home, nap a couple of hours, and get up at 1:30am on Saturday morning to prepare. Arrive 0310 at the start-finish zone, take a selfie for evidence, tag the front door of Stedwick Elementary School, activate GPS, and set off.

The 2014-11-16 Stone Mill 50 miler is a blast. I don't have a goal (other than not to have goals, which I fail to achieve) and it's excellent practice for running alone through the woods in the dark. Who knows when that might come in handy?!

My calendars all show the race as taking place on 22 Nov. During a holiday 11/11 Tuesday morning trail run with friends, however, I learn that it's actually this Saturday, the 15th. Oops! DD has concerts to play in on both Friday and Saturday evenings, and as the only night driver in the household my services are required to schlep her to a 7:30pm call time in Bowie Maryland, 30+ minutes from home. Logistics don't compute, given an official 6am start and the need to allow ~13 hours to go the distance, especially on this year's new mile-longer course.

But hmmmmm — if somehow I can only finish by about 4pm, this just might barely be feasible. A quick note to Race Director Barry Hauptman, explaining the situation and promising to take all responsibility for whatever happens, elicits a friendly response: "Free country. Public lands so start when you want." The game's afoot after all — yay!

At 3:15am a fox crosses Watkins Mill Rd. Temperatures are in the mid-20's.Two pairs of glowing eyes stare and then retreat, big deer lurking in the brush by Seneca Creek Trail at the entrance to the initial out-and-back segment of the course. Frozen dewdrops on dry grass glitter in the headlamp beam like tiny gems. "Ten trillion diamonds" would be an alliterative number to use in a poem, I think to myself — but if there are hundreds of glints every second, and only a few hours until dawn, that multiplies up to only tens of millions, six orders of magnitude short. Oh, well ...

A last-quarter moon rises by Jupiter and Orion. The only sounds now are my own footsteps, until near mile 2 a loud "plosh!" startles and sends ripples spreading across the water. Trout? Turtle? Whatever! We're all One out here tonight. I pat tree trunks as I pass to stay in touch with the Earth. But no falling-down, please!

At the Brink Rd-Wightman Rd northern turnaround I cross the intersection and circle the street sign for extra distance, then veer briefly off-course while peering at the phone display to make sure the Runkeeper GPS app is properly activated. Backtrack to find the trail again, and at mile 3 solve the water-noise mystery: a wet-sleek big black beaver turns flat tail toward me and hastily lumbers away at the point where the splash came 15 minutes ago. The same deer as before keep watch from their bushes near Watkins Mill Rd.

Cross the street and proceed downstream at an average pace of ~15 min/mi. At 5am the MD-355 parking lot is empty where an aid station will magically appear in a few more hours. Enter Seneca Creek State Park, closed after dark but with nobody present to enforce the regs. Walk hills and scramble across rocks under bridges that carry I-270, the railroad, and Clopper Rd above the trail. Near mile 12, about 6:30am, go slowly and search for the side path that the race course takes toward Muddy Branch Trail. Once on it, pick up the pace and turn off the headlamp as dawn arrives.

A mile later at Darnestown Rd with water bottles almost empty look through the windows of a Starbucks. Alas, the line stretches all the way across the lobby. Jaywalk to McDonalds on the other side of the street where service is fast, a big coffee costs only $1.68 out of the $5 I carry, and I'm welcome to refill bottles from the fountain. Stow cap in backpack, tie windbreaker around waist, and pause for another selfie to record the impromptu sunrise aid station.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Stone_Mill_2014_McDonalds_aid.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Stone_Mill_2014_Encarnacion_b.jpgTrot down the road, finish coffee, and ditch the cup in a trash can by a bus stop. Somewhere along here a Snickers candy bar that was in a loose pocket falls out unseen, leaving only snack-sized Heath Bars for treats plus a few gel packets and a dozen Succeed! electrolyte capsules. At the Muddy Branch Trail entrance a Montgomery County Road Runners truck is just starting to unload card tables and supplies for the official mile 15 aid station. The fastest runners are due to arrive in less than an hour.

Proceed downstream, looking back at intervals for followers. No falls, but one minor ankle-roll and a couple of arm-waving stumble-recoveries on leaf-covered rocks and tree roots. Cheerful morning dog-walkers pass by in both directions. Water crossings thus far are navigable with dry feet, thanks to stepping-stones and occasional logs.

Good memories abound, as I vector off-course in the same neighborhood where friend Barry Smith and I discovered multiple ways to go astray on a training run last year (cf. 2013-11-02 - Muddy Branch Trail with Barry).




(photo by Paul Encarnación)

At Query Mill Rd I recollect the passing cyclists whom friend Stephanie Fonda heard talking about me during the 2012 Stone Mill race (cf. 2012-11-17 - Stone Mill 75k). A small aid station, just getting set up, offers water.

Near mile 20 the wind rises and I stand under a tree, just to stare upward and marvel as a deluge of ocher leaves swirl down around me. Sometimes the simplest things are the real miracles.

Finally, at 8:40am the leading runner zooms by, moving more than twice as fast as I am. Zowie! He momentarily misses the turn from Esworthy Rd onto the trail, but I shout and he swerves back on course, then vanishes between the trees.

A few miles later Paul Encarnación rings a cowbell and photographs me as I approach River Road. Everybody admires my color-coordinated fashion statement today.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Stone_Mill_2014_Encarnacion_a.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Stone_Mill_2014_Knob_Creek.jpgMore fast runners pass, and at Mile 24 the C&O Canal aid station is doing a thriving business. Ed Cacciapaglia furtively pulls out a bottle (no alcohol is allowed in the park here) and I faux-drink pose for photos. Last year at this point it was Maker's Mark whiskey; this time it's Knob Creek.

Bottles full and pretzels in hand, I trot along the towpath, pausing to admire the rapids on the Potamac River, eye clusters of mallard ducks, and greet a few tourists. Miles 26, 27, and 28 are the fastest of the day, respectively in 10:37, 11:17, and 11:07. At Riley's Lock and the eponymous old Stone Mill the route rejoins Seneca Creek Trail. I snag a hot grilled cheese sandwich and some cookies to begin the journey upstream. Bow hunters abound, about as many here on the southern half of the course as there were deer in the north.

The rest of the day is peaceful, as my pace slows and walk breaks lengthen. I tell runners who pass me their standing until more than 20 have gone by and I lose count. I'm probably not eating enough or taking in enough salts; the Heed electrolyte drink on tap this year doesn't seem to contain much sodium. The kidneys are active though, and whenever I think I'm alone and pause behind a tree, along comes another runner. Feet stay dry until a too-wide tributary stream crossing at mile 40 soaks one of them.

With five miles to go mental math suggests a finish in enough time to fulfill familial taxi responsibilities tonight; no need to drop out and beg a ride back at an aid station. The real question now becomes: over or under 13 hours? Making that final cutoff time is motivation to push the pace up a few notches and run as much of the familiar hills as feasible.

When the end is in sight, following earlier instructions I walk around the side of the finish-line shoe-chip sensor mats. But RD Barry and his volunteers just laugh and insist that I cross the regular way. After a brief argument I humor them. My watch says 12:57:52 before and 12:58:35 after our debate ends. The Runkeeper GPS records ~51 miles in 12:59:07, and the official record reads 12:58:24. Whatever! It's all good, as buddy Caren Jew long ago taught me to say.

I snag a slice of cold veggie pizza, slather a bagel with cream cheese, and head for home to shower, change, and drive DW & DD to the next concert. Drowsiness ensues. Sorry, Mr. Rachmaninoff!

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Stone_Mill_2014_course_map.jpg

- Sunday, December 14, 2014 at 08:06:46 (EST)


Goals and Failure

Walking the halls, eating frozen yogurt, awaiting a colleague who was trapped on the phone, yesterday I saw out of the corner of my eye a poster with a photo of a person paddling a kayak through rapids, with the caption:

If you have no goals
...
You cannot fail

"Wow, how Zen!" I thought. But then I looked again, and discovered I had misread it. The actual words were, "If you have goals, you cannot fail."

But of course, not only is that logically incorrect — it's ...

(cf. LoseTrack (2002-11-11), Buddhism - A Way of Life and Thought (2008-09-30), Processes not Goals (2014-02-20). ...)

- Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 05:22:17 (EST)


Aspiration, not Expectation

From "Aspiration and Expectation" in Charlotte Joko Beck's Everyday Zen:

If we try to make ourselves calm and wise and wonderfully enlightened through Zen practice, we're not going to understand. Each moment, just as it is, is the sudden manifestation of absolute truth. And if we practice with the aspiration just to be the present moment, our lives will gradually transform and grow wonderfully. At various times we'll have sudden insights; but what's most important is just to practice moment by moment by moment with deep aspiration.

When we are willing just to be here, exactly as we are, life is always OK: feeling good is OK, feeling bad is OK; if things go well it's OK, if things go badly it's OK. The emotional upsets we experience are problems because we don't want things to be the way they are. We all have expectations, but as practice develops those expectations gradually shrivel up and, like a withered leaf, just blow away. More and more we are left with what is right here, right now. This may seem frightening, because our expecting mind wants life to turn out a certain way: we want to feel good, we don't want to be confused, we don't want to get upset—each of us has our own list.

But when you're tired after work, that's the tired Buddha; when your legs hurt during zazen, that's the hurting Buddha; when you're disappointed with some aspect of yourself, that's the disappointed Buddha. That's it!

When we have aspiration we look at things in a completely different way than we do when we have expectation. We have the courage to stay in this moment since, in fact, this moment is all we ever have. If the mind wanders off into expectations, having aspiration means gently returning it to the present moment. The mind will wander off all the time, and when it does, simply return to the moment without worrying or getting excited. Samadhi, centeredness, and wholeness will develop naturally and inevitably from this kind of pratcice, and aspiration itself will grow deeper and clearer.

(cf. Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Expectations vs. Possibilities (2013-08-13), Processes not Goals (2014-02-20), ...)

- Friday, December 12, 2014 at 04:30:38 (EST)


2014-11-12 - Taper

~3.2 miles @ ~13.3 min/mi

"Remember the Rule!" I admonish Amber, David, Kerry, and Kristin at the loading dock where we're about to start our trek at 5:45am. "If I'm not here by 0547, don't wait for me!" Today I barely make it on time, what with taking out the trash, catching up on correspondence, and heavy traffic on the highway. "When the Big Hand is on the Seven," David replies. Kristin's hip flexor/psoas is still recovering, and I'm tapering for the 50 miler that I just learned is THIS Saturday, not 10 days away. So the two of us take it slowly and turn back halfway to the W&OD Trail, bidding farewell to those who plan a ~9 mile morning. Trail talk ensues, along with delightful stories of Kristin's kids and how they admonish each other to be more enlightened. Good lessons for us all! Runkeeper records route.

- Friday, December 12, 2014 at 04:17:43 (EST)


Mantra - Good but Different

Good but Different

When things change, they can still be fine — but clinging to the past may hinder recognition of happiness today. It's still good, but now it's different than it once was ...

(cf. Good, But Different, 0-1, ...)

- Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 04:26:18 (EST)


2014-11-11 - CJSVT and Attman's Deli

~6.6 miles @ ~15 min/mi

"What are you doing in my 'hood?" Karen Donohue asks as she and a friend encounter the Gang of Four on the Cabin John Stream Valley Trail. Barry Smith, Emaad Burki, and Ken Swab lead the procession, with a pause for me to take a selfie with a Frank Lloyd Wright house in the background. Apparently the Stone Mill 50 miler is this Saturday, not 22 Nov as I had written on my calendar? Oops! Breakfast afterwards is at Attman's Deli, where we amaze the staff with our ability to eat mass quantities. Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 04:15:53 (EST)


2014-11-10 - Psoas Pstretch

~3.1 miles @ ~13 min/mi

Kristin is back after taking off a fortnight to let her left hip flexor/psoas recover from strain. The Dawn Patrol, led by Amber and Kerry, loops east through Pimmit Hills again in hopes of spotting friend Amy's missing cat ("Ollie"). No joy, though Kristin does see two big rabbits In front yards on Fisher St. My right ankle is twinging a bit, so Dr Kr and I stop at ~3 miles while Kerry and Amber drop off flashlights and head out for bonus mileage toward a lovely pastel sunrise. Runkeeper records route.

- Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 04:09:38 (EST)


Winter's Tale on Truth

From the chapter "Aceldama" in Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin:

"... The beauty of the truth is that it need not be proclaimed or believed. It skips from soul to soul, changing form each time it touches, but it is what it is, I have seen it, and someday you will too."

- Tuesday, December 09, 2014 at 04:33:14 (EST)


2014-11-09 - Balls Bluff Battlefield Park

~5 miles @ ~22 min/mi

With Mary Ewell leading, we take a fun run/hike/ramble around the trails and over the hills of Ball's Bluff Battlefield and National Cemetery in northern Virginia above the Potomac River. It's the third smallest national cemetery in the country, with 54 Union Army dead buried there, all but one unidentified. Afterwards, Mary introduces me to "Not Your Average Joe's" in Leesburg, an excellent restaurant.

Runkeeper plots the course, a tangle of loops that reflects occasional wrong turns we take among the polychromatic trail blazes.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Balls_Bluff_Battlefield_Park_z.jpg

- Monday, December 08, 2014 at 06:26:03 (EST)


Running with the Mind of Meditation

Tibetan Buddhist lama Sakyong Mipham is head of a chain of "Shambhala Centers", enterprises devoted to mindfulness, meditative retreats, etc. He has also finished several marathons. Mipham's PB (personal best) is quite fast, a bit over 3 hours. His 2012 book, Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind, is likewise fast — though unfortunately repetitive and mystical, needlessly obscure and jargony, and in places selfish and boastful (jarring, especially for a Buddhist, to repeatedly roll out credentials from past lives, no?). It's also coyly oblique about Mipham's running history since 2008, when the last marathon of his appears in the Athlinks online records. (His interview in the August 2014 Runner's World magazine likewise glides by that topic.) Has he been injured? Lost interest in longer distances? Avoids official races?

But set aside those issues. Mipham, though not poetic in his language, often raises excellent themes including:

For example, near the end of Chapter 1:

... We need to exercise both our body and our mind. The nature of the body is form and substance. The nature of the mind is consciousness. Because the body and mind are different by nature, what benefits them is different in nature as well. The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness. When we give our mind and body what benefits them, a natural harmony and balance takes place. With this unified approach, we are happy, healthy, and wise.

And a few paragraphs later, in discussing the experience of ultramarathon runners, the lovely thought:

After you run for a while, what do you find in there but your own mind?

More quotes worth remembering to follow ...

- Sunday, December 07, 2014 at 08:43:42 (EST)


Mantra - Notice the Music

Notice the Music

... and "music" includes the breath, the trickle of water over stone, the rustle of wind through leaves, the chirping of birds, ... as well as the glimmer of starlight, the scent of cedar, the touch of a friend ... it's all about noticing ...

- Saturday, December 06, 2014 at 14:30:22 (EST)


2014-11-09 - MCRRC Candy Cane 5k

~3.1 miles @ ~7.5 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Candy_Cane_City_2014_trombatore_z_0.jpgPushing hard, at the MCRRC Candy Cane 5k I finish in 23:15, 59th place, 47th of 190 men, 2nd of 11 in the 60-64 year male age-sex group, and more than a minute behind 8-year-old nemesis-rival Jason Parks.

Jim Rich reminisces and tells beard stories before the race. As we line up, Don Libes and Ken Swab taunt each other. Cindy Cohen and John Way discuss their recent long runs. Singlet and shorts are chilly to run in, with gloves forgotten in the rush to arrive on time after dawn conversation with DW. Runkeeper records the GPS trackfile.

(photos by Ken Trombatore, outbound hair halo in the rising sun and return-trip combing out the beard to look good for the camera at the Rock Creek trestle, mile ~3)

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Candy_Cane_City_2014_trombatore_z_1.jpg

- Friday, December 05, 2014 at 04:22:53 (EST)


Snack Attack

From Chapter 31 of A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie:

It doesn't take two people to end war in a marriage; it takes only one. And if two people have ended it, life can be twice as beautiful.

I come in after work and open the refrigerator door. My favorite snack is waiting for me. I know the exact place where I put it: on the top shelf, to the right . . . It's not there! He ate it! I feel an inner chuckle. There are no stressful thoughts, such as "He's inconsiderate, he knew it was mine, I was so looking forward to eating it, and he ruined it all." Not a snack attack: a thought attack! If I had these thoughts and believed them, I'd begin to feel annoyed at Stephen, maybe even angry and resentful. The reality is that I instantly understand it's better for me that he did eat my snack. In fact, I'm glad he ate it. I can't help smiling. Even thought I wasn't aware of it at the time, it turns out that I bought it for him. I'm delighted to know that I was so considerate. And I'm also considerate to myself in seeing things this way.

When Stephen comes home, I tell him. We both laugh. He says he didn't realize I had bought the snack for myself. I tell him how glad I am that he ate it, and I also ask him to check with me next time, to see if in fact it's for him. He agrees. I realize that he might remember this and he might not. I'm thrilled to see that what I planned fell short of reality. I had imagined eating the snack myself, and something even sweeter happened.

- Thursday, December 04, 2014 at 04:15:36 (EST)


2014-11-08 - College Park Evening Trek

~6.5 miles @ ~8.6 min/mi

Whiff of perfume from a flock of chattering young ladies leaving their dorm for dinner ... rattle of railroad equipment working on the tracks ... honking geese take off toward sunset from the surface of Lake Artemisia ... a fawn creeps across Indian Creek Trail, and a four-point buck nibbles weeds at the east end of the main runway at College Park Airport ... "Good job!" salute from a trio of young men on the sidewalk near Marathon Deli ...

It's a brisk evening loop around the University of Maryland while DD attends a friend's piano recital. Important Safety Tip #1: don't try to carry heavy keys in loose-fitting shorts! And Tip #2: consider wearing two layers, or other extra insulation, when temps are below 50°F! Runkeeper records route.

- Wednesday, December 03, 2014 at 04:19:55 (EST)


Ultrarunning Result Analysis

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/UltraSignup_Visualizer_schwartzbard_z.jpgUltrarunner-photographer-programmer Aaron Schwartzbard, recently idle for a few hours, wrote and shared a neat "UltraSignup Visualizer" to take results from UltraSignup.com and graph them.

In my case, after a decade of 40+ ultras there's a clear 50%-70% performance zone. The unique high-side outlier is for the 2009-10-10 - Andiamo 2009 where among the baker's dozen finishers I arrived in 6th place, at a pace 87% that of the winner. The other two 70%+ data points are the 2010-10-09 - Andiamo 2010 and the 2013-03-16 - B and A Marathon, where I managed to qualify to enter the Boston Marathon ("BQ") by 31 seconds. (Since Boston was over-subscribed in 2014 I didn't actually get in, as it happens.) All three high results are on relatively flat, fast courses, paved pathways, not real "trail" runs.

On the downside, the ~45% bottom result is the Tussey Mountainback 2004, my first-ever 50 miler, in which I set a course record for slowness. Otherwise, lots of ups and downs on the chart but no obvious long-term trend to my eye.

- Tuesday, December 02, 2014 at 04:24:21 (EST)


2014-11-07 - Pimmit Hills Cat Scan

~5.2 miles @ ~10.7 min/mi

Cat Scan! Dr David & Dr Kerry & I meander around Pimmit Hills at sunrise, eying the underbrush in hopes of spotting friend Dr Amy's missing white-and-black kitty, "Ollie" (no PhD yet). We shine flashlights at bushes and spy soccer balls, stone lawn-ornament rabbits, and a variety of other white-and-black objects, but sadly no Oliver during a double-loop through Pimmit View Park where he is rumored to be hanging out. A nearly-full moon sets over Tysons Corner as we return, reminding Kerry of one of her favorite Ansel Adams photos. David reports on his recent vacation in Panama to a handkerchief-sized private island. He woke up early today and invested the spare time in bleaching his dish drainer. Kerry has a 5k local race on Sunday, and David plans the 10k run across the Bay Bridge. Runkeeper records route.

- Monday, December 01, 2014 at 04:14:17 (EST)


2014-11-05 - McLean-Langley Ramble

~9 miles @ ~10.9 min/mi

"My kids would kill me!" Kerry says, as we run past Langley High (that they both attend) and I suggest doing laps on the track there. Amber and Kerry reminisce about their HS mascots ("The Mustangs"!? "The Whippets"?!) and I ask the meaning of the small boulder splattered with red paint in front of the school. We admire the Kennedy estate ("Hickory Hill") and smile for security cameras at former Vice President Richard Chaney's mansion. Runkeeper records route.

- Monday, December 01, 2014 at 04:10:22 (EST)


Mantra - Notice and Return

Notice and Return

All of meditation in essence is noticing the absence of mindful attention and then returning to awareness. So — kindly, patiently, gently, non-judgmentally — "Notice and Return".

(cf. Jok Hae in Notice and Return (2013-03-11), Jon Kabat-Zinn in Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), ...)

- Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 06:17:23 (EST)


2014-11-03 - Dawn WOD Loop

~7.4 miles @ ~11.1 min/mi

Kerry wants a drink from the W&OD water fountain, and suggests reversing last week's orbit. A white-and-black dog on the trail crouches down flat, perhaps pointing at another dog. A cat eyes us warily from its perch on high ground by the path as we pass. Amber tells of carrying her daughter trick-or-treating when she falls asleep early on Halloween evening. I share anecdotes from yesterday's long trail run. With the return to standard time flashlights are only needed for the first miles. Pastel clouds frame the northern horizon. Runkeeper records route.

- Saturday, November 29, 2014 at 19:21:48 (EST)


Winter's Tale on the World

From the chapter "Aceldama" in Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin:

If she were correct, it would explain why the world sometimes seemed to be a stage behind which was a strangely benevolent, superior, and indifferent power. The suffering of the innocent would be accounted for, if, in ages to come or ages that had been, the reasons for everything were revealed and balances were evened. It would explain destiny, and coincidence, and his image of the city as if he had been looking from high above at a living creature with a pelt of dusky light. It would explain the things that called to Beverly from a far distance and a far time. It would suggest that Athansor, who could leap high into the air, was leaping toward something he already knew. It would explain the strong feeling Peter Lake had that every action in the world had eventual consequences and would never be forgotten, as if it were entered in a magnificent ledger of unimaginable complexity. He thought that it might explain freedom, memory, transfiguration, and justice—though he did not know how.

- Friday, November 28, 2014 at 04:06:53 (EST)


2014-11-02 - Potomac Heritage 50k

~30 miles @ ~20 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/PH50k_2014_z_Gayatri_Ken_Delia_Maureen.jpgOn a beautiful autumn day, why not take a walk (with a bit of running) in the woods, with friends new and old? The 2014 Potomac Heritage 50k is put on by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club. The "Official" results for this free event are basically whatever you write down and claim on the sign-out sheet at the finish. In my case, that's 9 hours 54 minutes. The iPhone GPS Runkeeper app says ~30.3 miles at an average pace of ~19.6 min/mi.

The PH50k nominally begins at 8am, but since it's all for fun some of us decide to take an early start at 7am, to avoid cut-off pressure and enjoy the scenery to the max. We pause where the course enters Rock Creek Park for a group photo: ^z, Gayatri Datta, Ken Swab, Delia Edelman, and Maureen Rohrs.

This is Delia's first trail experience, and she does well. Her friend Maureen, who has finished the Vermont 100 and is a long-distance swimmer in the Annapolis area, sticks with Delia and me for the first half-dozen or so miles. Gayatri and Ken trot ahead on the C&O Canal Towpath toward Georgetown. We regroup at mile ~8.5, the Teddy Roosevelt Island aid station, where I skip rope (click here to download short video). Then Ken runs onward solo.

After some rough terrain along the south bank of the Potomac, Delia decides to stop at the Chain Bridge aid station. Gayatri, Maureen, and I carry on together, meeting Ken on his return trip from an out-and-back segment. Under the American Legion Bridge at mile ~18.5 we pose for a friendly hiker-photographer at a graffiti-clad pylon. (see 2014-03-01 - Icy Potomac Heritage Trail with Barry for imagery from a visit to that same point 8 months earlier)

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/PH50k_2014_Maureen_z_Gayatri_bridge.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/PH50k_2014_finish.jpgThe rest of the run is pleasant and uneventful. Ultrarunner Cindy Cohen joins us for a while, runs ahead, misses a turn, and is reunited with us at the finish, where Ken has been waiting for an hour. We pose on the front steps at the finish line, the Woodley Park (DC) neighborhood home of Kerry Owens and Doug Sullivan.

Past results for this race are 8:27 (Potomac Heritage 50k 2007), 7:45 (2009-11-01 - Potomac Heritage 50k 2009), and 7:14 (2010-11-07 - Potomac Heritage 50k + Potomac Heritage Trail 50k 2010). It's a lovely day and I make some lovely new friends — and that's what life's all about, eh?!

- Thursday, November 27, 2014 at 13:06:35 (EST)


Mantra - Soften Into Experience

Soften into Experience

... or perhaps simply ...

Soften

... a reminder to relax and remain aware, especially when times are stressful and the tendency is to harden, push back, or otherwise resist reality ...

(cf. Softening into Experience, a quote from Phillip Moffitt's book Emotional Chaos to Clarity: How to Live More Skillfully, as well as Gentleness, Sensitivity, Compassion from Wolfe Lowenthal's There Are No Secrets, and Aikido Spirit from Greg O'Connor's The Aikido Student Handbook ...)

- Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 04:23:16 (EST)


Nonattachment to Emotional Thoughts

From "What Practice Is" in Charlotte Joko Beck's Everyday Zen:

... A thought in itself is just pure sensory input, an energy fragment. But we fear to see thoughts as they are.

When we label a thought, we step back from it, we remove our identification. There's a world of difference between saying, "She's impossible" and "Having a thought that she's impossible." If we persistently label any thought the emotional overly begins to drop out and we are left with an impersonal energy fragment to which we need not attach. But if we think our thoughts are real we act out of them. And if we act from such thoughts our life is muddled. Again, practice is to work with this until we know it in our bones. Practice is not about achieving a realization in our heads. It has to be our flesh, our bones, ourself. Of course, we have to have life-centered thoughts: how to follow a recipe, how to put on a roof, how to plan our vacation. But we don't need the emotionally self-centered activity that we call thinking. It really isn't thinking, it's an aberration of thinking.

- Monday, November 24, 2014 at 04:18:58 (EST)


2014-10-31 - Halloween Loop

~6.5 miles @ ~11.0 min/mi

Happy Halloween! Amber's 5-year-old daughter Sophie loves her witch costume so much that she doesn't take it off yesterday evening; Kerry just shakes her head thinking about the parties her teenagers may be going to tonight. We try a new route, reversing the Kirby-Birch-Old Chesterbrook loop of a fortnight ago. A magnificent skeleton display distracts us and we miss a turn, adding a few bonus blocks. I start off too fast, which perhaps provokes a side-stitch cramp for one of us, who tries to send the others on ahead. No way: "We started as a unit and we'll finish as a unit!" Five flashlights prove to be ample for three trekkers on this last weekday of Daylight Saving Time. I pause to take photos of the "screaming eagle" house on Birch. From Runkeeper rough splits are 10.2 + 9.3 (sorry, my bad!) + 11.1 + 13.4 + 10.2 + 11.4 + final half mile at 11.1 min/mi pace, including the 50 foot walk after I tag Kerry's car that makes "6.49" roll over to "6.50" miles.

- Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 21:18:15 (EST)


Zimmermann Lane

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Zimmermann_Lane.jpg

... from a visit to my Father's farm on road FM 609 near La Grange, Texas ...

- Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 06:20:46 (EST)


2014-10-29 - Pimmit WOD Trek

7.4 miles @ ~10.4 min/mi

"We beat the sun!" Kerry observes, as we close the loop and approach our starting point. Clouds are just tinging lavender-pink in the east. Our route is the same as three weeks ago, 2014-10-08 - Lunar Eclipse on the WOD, but the pace is ~30 s/mi faster. A big bunny rabbit eyes us when we pause at the water fountain. Kerry's son Fletcher, a high school senior, has received another acceptance letter from a college — yay! Runkeeper captures path and pace.

- Friday, November 21, 2014 at 04:46:11 (EST)


2014-10-25 - CCT Trek

~18.8 miles @ ~11.2 min/mi

"Grammar Police! Pull over!" I order Santa Steve, whose shirt reads, "Yep. It's really him." He and Joyce are out for a final run before their Marine Corps Marathon attempt tomorrow. I'm doing 10+ miles with Gayatri Datta, talking about the VHTRC Potomac Heritage 50k on 2 Nov. It's a clear cool day, and for most of it my hands stay retracted inside long sleeves.

At 0615 I set out from home, testing the cyclist backpack that my brother Keith gave me. It feels great, with bladder removed and a water bottle in one zippered pouch, a Snickers candy bar in the other. Without a headlamp I trot cautiously for the first few miles. A red light in front of me on the CCT turns into a lady whom I almost collide with when she abruptly turns back at Connecticut Av. Dog-walkers and joggers are shadowy silhouettes except when they pass under streetlights.

At the downtown Bethesda meet-up in front of Barnes & Noble a flock of MCRRC XMP trainees gather. I pause the GPS until Gayatri arrives, and then we set out southward. At Fletchers Boathouse I buy a bottle of Gatorade and gulp it all down. The final four solo miles home feel good.

A sudden awakening: this isn't about "training" for some future run, and it's not about "cashing in" past investments in building speed and endurance — it's simply now, today's happy moments. Whee! Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 04:10:19 (EST)


Beautiful Beyond Description

From the end of Chapter 30 of A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie:

... You can't free yourself by finding a so-called enlightened state outside your own mind. When you question what you believe, you eventually come to see that you are the enlightenment you've been seeking. Until you can love what is—everything, including the apparent violence and craziness—you're separate from the world, and you'll see it as dangerous and frightening. I invite everyone to put these fearful thoughts on paper, question them, and set themselves free. When mind is not at war with itself, there's no separation in it. I'm sixty-three years old and unlimited. If I had a name, it would be Service. If I had a name, it would be Gratitude.

You may find that you don't need to navigate a future at all—that what appears now is all you've got, and even this is always immediately gone. And when you've stopped making war with reality, you are what changes, totally without control. That state of constant change is creation without limits—efficient, free, and beautiful beyond description.

- Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 04:39:34 (EST)


2014-10-20 - Limping through McLean

~3.5 miles @ ~15.8 min/mi

We are the walking wounded: Kerry's back is troublesome after her workouts pumping iron on Saturday and Sunday, Kristin's hip (psoas? flexor?) hurts since last week, and my cold has me sniffling and achy. So under the circumstances we're sensible: run two miles to warm up, admire an old crescent moon and crisp stars, observe the lights at McLean HS track, give thanks that we can enjoy being here without judgment or expectation, share stories of family events from the past weekend — and when things still feel crummy, walk back. With temps in the low 40s, a hot shower feels good! Runkeeper tells the tale.

- Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 05:33:31 (EST)


Local Flower Garden 2

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Flower_array_1.jpg

- Monday, November 17, 2014 at 04:10:04 (EST)


2014-10-19 - Sunday Silver Spring Sprint

~8 miles @ ~9.5 min/mi

When the ugly head cold that hits yesterday doesn't flee upon attack last night by veggie hot-and-sour soup plus General Tso's pseudo-chicken, it's double-down time: a brisk afternoon dash to blow dust out of the pipes! Speed north along Georgia Ave to Wheaton, cut through a corner of the park, then pause the GPS at New Place for a glass of ice water and a pinch of salt thanks to kind DS1. Ramble back via neighborhood streets, with a bit of natural-surface trail in the stream valley behind Flora Singer Elementary School. Admire Halloween decorations taking shape in front yards along the way. Runkeeper record shows consistent splits, 9:03-9:45 min/mi range.

- Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 14:56:20 (EST)


Winter's Tale on Change

From the chapter "On the Marsh" in Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin:

But something had changed, or was changing. Everything always did, no matter how much he loved what he had. The only redemption would be if all the tumbling and rearrangement were to mean something. But he was aware of no pattern. If there were one great equality, one fine universal balance that he could understand, then he would know that there were others, and that someday the curtain of the world would lift onto a sunny springlike stillness and reveal that nothing—nothing—had been for nought, neither the suffering of all the children that he had seen suffering, nor the agony of the child in the hallway, nor love that ends in death: nothing. He doubted that he would have a hint of any greater purpose, and did not ever expect to see the one instant of unambiguous justice that legend said would make the cloud wall gold.

- Friday, November 14, 2014 at 05:45:38 (EST)


2014-10-18 - Downtown Baltimore Ramble

~13 mies @ ~11.3 min/mi

"Who the #%*% plans this $@%#?" shouts a pick-up truck driver stuck in traffic near the Baltimore Marathon route. DD has an audition in downtown Charm City, so I undertake a random-walk down to the harbor and around the neighborhood. As we approach our parking area near Meyerhoff Symphony hall the leader of the marathon cruises past, at his mile 25, escorted by police motorcycles

Today's trek begins by following a lady runner for a few blocks. She seems to know the neighborhood, but reverses course abruptly in what looks like a rough neighborhood. From there, it's south to the Inner Harbor, join the marathon course for a few cobblestone blocks near mile 13, take the bayside path down to Fells Point, then follow the boardwalk to Canton Waterfront Park, beyond which "it gets pretty industrial" as a fast young runner tells me.

After a loop through a Korean War Memorial I head back, pausing for photo ops on the bay, at the National Katyn Memorial, and the Washington Monument. Then pause at the car to get water, pay another $1 for two more hours of parking, and head northwest climbing toward Druid Lake. After a wrong turn I miss the chance to circle the hill, and instead loop across high bridges over I-83. My return is just in time to meet DD and head for home. Runkeeper maps the route.

- Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 04:25:47 (EST)


Listen to the Traffic

From "Practicing This Very Moment" in Charlotte Joko Beck's Everyday Zen:

Our Zen training is designed to enable us to live comfortable lives. But the only people who live comfortably are those who learn not to dream their lives away, but to be with what's right-here-now, no matter what it is: good, bad, nice, not nice, headache, being ill, being happy. It doesn't make any difference.

One mark of a mature Zen student is a sense of groundedness. When you meet one you sense it. They're with life as it's really happening, not as a fantasy version of it. And of course, the storms of life eventually hit them more lightly. If we can accept things just the way they are, we're not going to be greatly upset by anything. And if we do become upset it's over more quickly.

Let's look at the sitting process itself. What we need to do is to be with what's happening right now. You don't have to believe me; you can experiment for yourself. When I am drifting away from the present, what I do is listen to the traffic. I make sure there's nothing I miss. Nothing. I just really listen. And that's just as good as a koan, because it's what's happening this very moment. So as Zen students you have a job to do, a very important job: to bring your life out of dreamland and into the real and immense reality that it is.

The job is not easy. It takes courage. Only people who have tremendous guts can do this practice for more than a short time. But we don't do it just for ourselves. Perhaps we do at first; that's fine. But as our life gets grounded, gets real, gets basic, other people immediately sense it, and what we are begins to influence everything around us.

We are, actually, the whole universe. ...

- Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 04:22:01 (EST)


2014-10-27 - Lewinsville Park

~6.4 miles @ ~10.9 min/mi

Owl? Kerry and Amber shine flashlights up just in time to glimpse a huge gray shape swooping back to the trees above our heads. The eastern horizon is starting to glow as we cut through Lewinsville Park. It's crisp, clear, and calm, with temps in the low 40s. We accelerate in the home stretch as we try to get the average pace down below 11 min/mi. Yesterday Kerry's teenage son expressed disbelief that she can run a marathon. Challenge accepted! Amber is back from visiting family at the Pennsylvania farm, where a barn party was great fun. Splits by the Runkeeper GPS: 11:15 + 11:17 + 10:55 + 10:58 + 10:57 + 10:43 and final half mile at 9:22 — nice "descending" pace!

- Tuesday, November 11, 2014 at 05:46:26 (EST)


Glass Ceiling

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Mi_Rancho_bar_glass_ceiling.jpg

At the downtown Silver Spring branch of Mi Rancho, a Tex-Mex restaurant chain, glasses hang above the bar ...

- Monday, November 10, 2014 at 04:14:20 (EST)


2014-10-24 - Scotts Run Nature Preserve

~12.5 miles @ ~12 min/mi

OK, so I lied!" Kerry says, as we climb yet another ridge on the trail in Scott's Run Nature Preserve, just after she promises, "It's all downhill from here!" The sun is rising and we turn our flashlights off. Kerry knows the route well, since she walks it with her daughter many weekends. Even so, earlier in the dark we go off-course at one point as I chase white blazes. It's a lovely brisk morning. Long sleeves get rolled up and sweatshirts come off, then go back on as the wind picks up and our pace slows. We do a lap around the elementary school track to enhance the GPS map.

Today is a mini-adventure run, meant to gently taunt a colleague who isn't with us as he rests up for Sunday's marathon. "Gentlemen in England now abed / Will think themselves accursed they were not here," I quote Henry V as we start out. Conversation is beautiful and wide-ranging, including discussions of favorite childhood reading, family, health, running, statistics, weekend plans, computer hassles, architecture, and dozens of other themes.

Dog walkers are out in force, both in the park and along the sidewalks. One dog does the classic wrong-side-of-the-post leash trick on its owner, provoking chuckles. I manage not to fall into the water off concrete stepping-stones at two stream crossings. We sprint the last mile, sun in our eyes. Kurt Russell's line from Big Trouble in Little China comes to mind: "I'm just thrilled to be alive!" Runkeeper records the route, with a gap at Starbucks where we stop for iced coffee (tnx, Kerry!). An hour after the run I get an ocular migraine visual disturbance (a slowly growing blind spot) but no headache follows.

- Saturday, November 08, 2014 at 07:02:35 (EST)


Suffering is Optional

From Chapter 30 of A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie:

At forty-three, after ten years of deep depression and despair, my real life began. What I came to see was that my suffering wasn't a result of not having control; it was a result of arguing with reality. I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn't believe them, I didn't suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always. When you question your mind for the love of truth, your life always becomes happier and kinder.

Inquiry helps the suffering mind move out of its arguments with reality. It helps us move into alignment with constant change. After all, the change is happening anyway, whether we like it or not. Everything changes, it seems. But when we're attached to our thoughts about how that change should look, being out of control feels uncomfortable.

Through inquiry, we enter the area where we do have control: our thinking. We question our thoughts about the ways in which the world seems to have gone crazy, for example. And we come to see that the craziness was never in the world, but in us. The world is a projection of our own thinking. When we understand our thinking, we understand the world, and we come to love it. In that, there's peace. Who would I be without the thought that the world needs improving? Happy where I am right now: the woman sitting on a chair in the sunlight. Pretty simple.

- Friday, November 07, 2014 at 04:11:09 (EST)


2014-10-15 - Roadkill Raccoon

~6.4 miles @ ~12.1 min/mi

"Watch out!" Flashlight beams reveal a roadkill raccoon on the side of the street for Kerry, Kristin, and me to detour around. We're experimenting with a new loop, involving Old Chesterbrook, Birch, Kirby, and Westmoreland Rds. As usual, my distance estimate is 10-20% low. Oops! But the neighborhood is nice, though frugal on streetlights. I find a shiny 2014 Lincoln cent glittering on the asphalt.

A giant screaming eagle statue perches on top of a mansion, glowing in a spotlight. Lightning flickers low in the southwest, humidity is high, and winds gust, but heavy rains hold off. A last quarter moon peeks through, then vanishes. Near the McLean HS soccer field a rabbit scampers across our path, then pauses to eye us. Outbound we do a loop around the track, to enhance the GPS map. We take "Kerry's Cut-Through" to save a few steps on the return trip. "I like having paths named for me!" Kerry comments. We hear crickets, and during cooldown stretches Kristin notes golden treetops and pink gleams in a cloud gap. Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, November 06, 2014 at 04:12:53 (EST)


Local Flower Garden 1

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Electric_flower.jpg

- Wednesday, November 05, 2014 at 04:36:35 (EST)


2014-10-13 - McLean Mansion Loop

~10 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

"Whoa!" Kerry dodges as the squirrel leaps past her face on its way from fence to tree. At first glimpse it looks like a low-flying hawk to her; I mistake it for a bat. Kristin, in the lead, sees it scampering toward us along the top bar of the steel railing by the path. Apparently the critter didn't notice the two of us running behind her. We take a walk break to let the adrenaline subside.

Today's pre-dawn trot along Benjamin St includes a couple of big deer feasting in a front yard. We come up with more than a dozen words for "walk" — including amble/shamble/ramble, saunter, stroll, strut, etc. My shirt comes off during the middle miles: "Don't look back!" I warn the Drs K. We debate the value of getting badges or name tags for us to show to concerned citizens, who might wonder why we're out so early. "McLean Mansion Society" loses the vote to "Neighborhood Watch". Runkeeper records our ramble.

- Tuesday, November 04, 2014 at 04:00:18 (EST)


Winter's Tale on Justice

From the chapter "Lake of the Coheeries" in Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin:

"Who said,"lashed out Isaac Penn, "that you, as a man, can always perceive justice? Who said that justice is what you imagine? Can you be sure that you know it when you see it, that you will live long enough to recognize the decisive thunder of its occurrence, that it can be manifest within a generation, within ten generations, within the entire span of human existence? What you are talking about is common sense, not justice. Justice is higher and not as easy to understand—until it presents itself in unmistakable splendor. The design of which I speak is far above our understanding. But we can sometimes feel its presence.

"No choreographer, no architect, engineer, or painter could plan more thoroughly and subtly. Every action and every scene has its purpose. And the less power one has, the closer he is to the great waves that sweep through all things, patiently preparing them for the approach of a future signified not by simple human equity (a child could think of that), but by luminous and surprising connections that we have not imagined, by illustrations terrifying and benevolent—a golden age that will show not what we wish, but some bare awkward truth upon which rests everything that ever was and everything that ever will be. There is justice in the world, Peter Lake, but it cannot be had without mystery. We try to bring it about without knowing exactly what it is, and only touch upon it. No matter, for all the flames and sparks of justice throughout all time reach to invigorate unseen epochs—like engines whose power glides on hidden lines to upwell against the dark in distant cities unaware."

- Monday, November 03, 2014 at 04:41:55 (EST)


2014-10-12 - RCT-BTT-CCT Loop

~13 miles @ ~10.7 min/mi

In the flashlight beam, eight deer along Rock Creek; at dawn, four rabbits by the Trolley Trail on the NIH campus; as the sun rises, one more of each next to the Capital Crescent/Georgetown Branch. At 7:01am, a minute behind schedule, I meet Sam Yerkes and Gayatri Datta in downtown Bethesda. We walk back to the parking lot, Gayatri drops off extra layers, and Rebecca Rosenberg soon arrives. Near Meadowbrook Stables we see Barry Smith's eye-searing orange shirt as he awaits us. I fist-bump him in the middle of East-West Hwy, hand over escort duty, and head upstream for home.

Approximate mile splits by GPS: 10.4 + 10.9 + 11.3 + 11.4 + 9.7 + 9.2 + 13.2 (Bethesda meet-up) + 10.6 + 11.5 + 11.2 + 9.9 + 10.4 + 9.0 — as recorded by Runkeeper.

- Sunday, November 02, 2014 at 04:17:09 (EST)


Functional Thinking versus Ego Thinking

From the chapter "Coming to Our Senses" of Charlotte Joko Beck's Nothing Special: Living Zen:

... There is a place of rest in our lives, a place where we must be if we are to function well. This place of resting—the arms of God, if you will—is simply here and now: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting our life as it is. We can even add thinking to the list, if we understand thinking as simply functional thinking rather than ego thinking based on fear and attachment. Just thinking in the functional sense includes abstract thinking, creative thinking, or planning what we have to do today. Too often, however, we add nonfunctional, ego-based thinking, which gets us in trouble and takes us from the arms of God.

A life that works rests on these six legs: the five senses plus functional thought. When our lives rest on these six supports, no problem or upset can reach us.

It's one thing to hear a dharma talk on these truths, however, and another to live by them. The minute something upsets us, we fly into our heads and try to figure it out. We try to regain our safety by thinking. We ask how we can change ourselves or something outside ourselves—and we're lost. To reestablish our lives on a secure foundation, we have to return to these six legs of reality, over and over and over again. That's all the practice we need. If I have the faintest thought of irritability about anybody, the first thing I do is not to begin figuring out in my mind how to fix the situation, but simply to ask myself, "Can I really hear the cars in the alley?" When we fully establish one sense, such as hearing, we establish them all, since all are functioning in the present moment. Once we reestablish awareness, we see what to do about the situation. Action that arises out of awakened experience is nearly always satisfactory. It works.

(cf. Two Kinds of Thoughts (2014-09-10), ...)

- Saturday, November 01, 2014 at 05:03:43 (EDT)



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