So, when is a first place finish in a marathon not a first place finish? Apparently when you’re not seeded as an elite runner. Today’s SF Gate features a story about last weekend’s Nike Women’s Marathon held here in San Francisco. Arien O’Connell ran a PR finishing in 2:55:11, but then,

“They called out the third-place time and I thought, ‘I was faster than that,’ ” she said. “Then they called out the second-place time and I was faster than that. And then they called out the first-place time (3:06), and I said, ‘Heck, I’m faster than her first-place time, too.’ “

Read the rest of the story here.

According to the article this isn’t the first time this has ever happened, and the message is obviously this: Only self-described (or registered) elite runners are entitled to any prize money. Apparently, if you line up at the start line and have the race of your life, all you’re entitled to is a pleasant memory, not a share of the prize money. But is that fair?

On the one hand the group of elites in a given race know one another, and there’s a lot of psychological battling that goes on before and during a race. If some mid-packer or someone like O’Connell who describes herself as “a pretty good runner” makes a race of it, the elites are at a disadvantage since they weren’t allowed to psychologically gear up against some new competitor. Conversely, by not registering as an elite, that odd fast runner has the advantage of a clear head unencumbered by all of those head games.

But come on. There’s a starting line, a finish line, and a stop watch. If you cover the distance faster than anyone else, you’re the winner.

I’d love to be fast enough to join that small group of elite runners leading off every marathon. But, for now, a fifth-grade teacher from New York City is my hero.

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment.

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It’s More Fun When They Crash

This year’s Red Bull Soap Box Derby was certainly worth the price of admission, which was free. Great weather, and the chance to see an intrepid group of hapless individuals make fools of themselves brought out an enormous crowd to Dolores Park. It wasn’t Obama in St. Louis numbers, but the place was sure packed.

[rockyou id=125017587]

“She’s a hoot and she’s so talented”

Maybe Saturday Night Live won’t have Sarah Palin to kick around after all. Verne Gay on the Newsday web site reports:

That is, no Sarah Sixpack Palin on this Thursday’s special primetime edition. This, my friends, is the official word from no less an authority than Seth Meyers, whom I just got off the phone with.

Read the post here.

Of course, this report came out early this afternoon. Meanwhile, the AP has just put up a report that holds out a little more hope:

“Saturday Night Live” has a long history of political walk-ons. Michaels prefers keeping this sort of news a surprise until it happens, an opinion reinforced when word leaked that Barack Obama would be on that same show and the Democratic presidential candidate had to cancel at the last minute. “I think we looked stupid,” he said.

Click here for the AP story, and you decide.

Related post: “I Can See Russia From My House!”

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The Green Meal

It just looks healthy.
It just looks healthy.

Since I do my training runs after work, I haven’t been doing as much cooking as I usually do…for about a year now. Because I’ve been laid up waiting for my hip to feel better, though, I have put the old apron back on and gotten back into the kitchen. Of course, then I’m back to putting together two different proteins-meat for me, the carnivore, and fish for Trish, the vegetarian. Oh, I’ll eat fish, too, and sometimes I’ll do pasta for us both, but tossing a rib eye or a tri tip into the broiler is just so damn easy and ends up tasting great.

Inspired by a Runner’s World article, however, I thought I’d join the other side last night and put together a strictly vegetarian meal. Attributed to Scott Jurek an “ultrunning phenom”, I made, Sweet Potatoes with Garlicky Greens. The sweet potatoes were a revelation. A nice crunch on the outside with a creamy and, well, sweet inside is a terrific way to take in a few carbs. The greens, on the other hand, need a little work. They suffered from what I dislike most about vegetarian meals. That is, they looked great, but didn’t really taste all that good. Admittedly I used kosher salt instead of sea salt, which makes a big difference, but I didn’t get any heat from the jalapeno, and I can always go for a little more garlic. Perhaps next time some red pepper flakes or a touch of balsamic vinegar. Anything to perk up something that’s really good for you.

Below is the recipe reproduced without permission from Runner’s World (please don’t sue me guys!)

Scott’s Sweet Potatoes with Garlicky Greens


4 sweet potatoes, sliced in wedges
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon rosemary

Garlicky Greens

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, deseeded and minced (optional)
1 bunch of kale, collards, or chard, deveined and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or tamari

Sweet Potatoes: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss potatoes with oil and seasonings. Arrange on a preseasoned baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until potatoes are cooked through and lightly browned. Garlicky Greens: Preheat skillet and olive oil. Sauté garlic and pepper for one to two minutes. Add greens and salt. Sauté for five to eight minutes. Serves four.

Calories Per Serving: 230 Carbs: 38 g Protein: 4 g Fat: 7 g

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Vote For Smith!


Walking through the neighborhood today on my way to pick up a much-needed cup of coffee, I came across the homemade sign above. I couldn’t help but smile at this display of unironic passion, and I could picture the scene as the family put together this example of rousing partisan support. Dad patiently spelling out O-B-A-M-A, while Mom cuts out big pieces of paper. “What color should the ‘O’ be?” asks one child, while his sister carefully paints a big, blue M. The letters, and a couple of attendant stars and flowers affixed to the windows then outside to view the result.

And it was then I was struck with the idea of where our political identities come from. For many people, their college years are the first time they think about politics or political affiliation. For others it may be when they get out into the workforce and, as a result of their particular job, are exposed to the political influence of one party or another. For many of us I suspect it starts much earlier than that. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say your party affiliation is influenced by your parents.

Ours was a union household, and much of the kitchen table talk revolved around construction job sites and paying bills. I grew up in the era of Watergate, and I can remember watching some of the 1976 Democratic convention with my mom. Even though my parents never told me to vote one way or another, and even though I don’t remember asking them what party they belonged to, I’m pretty sure my party affiliation was secured at that kitchen table. In that way, party identification works just like advertising. If a given company can hook us into using their product or service when we’re young, they’ll have a customer for life.

Will the tots who put together this sign with their parents turn out to be lifelong Democrats? The answer may lie in the little extra sign they attached to the right-most window.

Change we can believe in!
Change we can believe in!

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“I Can See Russia From My House!”

Not Sarah Palin
Not Sarah Palin

According to the Chicago Sun-Times:

It’s looking more and more likely that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will appear on ”Saturday Night Live” — to have some fun with Tina Fey.

(Read the full story here.)

When I first heard about this little stunt, I didn’t realize there was a Saturday Night Live connection. Instead I thought this was going to be some painfully unfunny McCain campaign spoof or video like this one. Mercifully it seems the SNL writers will be involved in crafting the sketch.

But does that make it a good idea?

When I was growing up, I was always told to ignore people who were making fun of me. I got so good at it in fact I elevated turning the other cheek into an art form. But getting teased on the playground is small potatoes, and even if I didn’t ignore a taunt or two and got in a jab of my own, the stakes were pretty small. The stakes for spoofing the spoofer in Palin’s case, though, are much higher. Not to mention the fact of what does she have to gain?

If she and the campaign do nothing, all we’re left with are a few devastatingly funny sketches which exaggerate and parody the candidate’s positions. Tina Fey’s mimicry of Sarah Palin, while spot on, probably hasn’t flipped or influenced a single vote one way or another. But if Palin tries to impersonate Fey, even with the help of SNL writers, she risks coming off like a bully who can’t take a little criticism. Worse, she may be unfunny.

Tina Fey’s impersonation is funny because there are so many tics of Palin’s-verbal and visual-which cry out to be imitated. Palin, on the other hand, isn’t given as rich a canvas with which to work. Tina Fey’s writing is witty and intelligent, and her acting on 30 Rock is terrific, but not memorable. You could probably substitute a younger Julia Louie Dreyfus for Tina Fey and end up with almost the same character. So, what will Palin channel to spoof Fey’s behavior? Will she be reduced to rolling her eyes and snarfing?

I have a feeling the cheers will come merely from Palin’s presence on the show, not from her performance. But, by showing up she elevates the importance of the original sketches and their jabs at Palin’s inexperience and lack of ability to something approximating truth else why would the campaign feel it had to respond to them?

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