Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tom throws a party

In the spring of 2009, the instructor of my favorite fitness class at work, Laurel, managed to talk me into joining this running/walking group called San Jose Fit. At the time, my knee was dodgy and my walking endurance was pathetic. I remember being really tired after three miles.

San Jose Fit was started more than ten years ago by some guy named Tom. Early every Saturday morning, before heading out on our walk, Tom would do a quick "Tom's Tips" bit. I loved them - they were funny and most often actually useful.

But that was about all I knew about Tom. I'd see him on the trail and he'd always say something encouraging, but that's about it. I had heard that he did a LOT of ultra-marathons, and he certainly looked the part. I had also heard he was having some health issues, but to me he looked like he could still go pretty good.

A bench was dedicated to him along the Los Gatos trail.

The coolest part of the bench was this on the back:

This is his belt buckle for finishing the Western States 100 mile endurance race. This kind of race was still WAY beyond my comprehension.

In any case, I made it through the summer program, and by October I was ready to do my first marathon. One of the coolest things was, as I was heading down that last tenth of a mile, waiting there was Tom. This was a bit surprising since it was late and hot out. Walkers take a LONG time to finish a marathon - certainly way more than twice as long as the faster runners. This meant he had been there for around four hours congratulating runners as they came in.

I loved that he was there and loved his enthusiastic congratulations. I continued on and finished (Laurel was also still there, as were the walking coaches and a few others hanging around for the bitter end) and that was that.

I joined the Fitters again this spring, and there was Tom giving his Tom's Tips again in the morning. He was still perky and funny (his pooping talk was my favorite), but his health seemed to be deteriorating a bit.

And then I started finding out a bit about what he was going through and realized just how amazing he was. I heard about how he had found out in 2008 that he had mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure. And then I found out about how, after he had been diagnosed and had started treatment, he was still determined to compete in the 2008 Silicon Valley Marathon.

He was given permission to do the marathon in bits and pieces over the course of five weeks, doing the final five miles on marathon day. Here is a nice blog post of the day and a bunch of great pictures from the day. Here are him and Laurel, part of over 100 people that were there to support him that day.

If I had known any of this, I would probably have totally lost it when he came up to congratulate me when I finished my race a year later. He would have had to carry me to the finish line. (He wouldn't have though - he would have instead convinced me to not only finish the race, but do it running, and then to go back out and help drag the others to the finish line.)

Tom passed away a little over two weeks ago.  Well before then, he had arranged a BBQ picnic for all of his friends to get together and have a good time.

A course was set up with lots of these sorts of posters and lots of pictures and such. I've posted more pictures here.

I loved this quilt made from a number of his race t-shirts.

There was a ton of great food. (That's his son on the left serving the cake.)

It was a great time. It was also extremely inspiring, which was Tom to a T. He loved running and started San Jose Fit in an effort to get others addicted to it. I heard MANY stories about how selfless he was in helping others during races and workouts. I was reminded about how, before our first long training run in 2009, he led us all in the singing of "Oh What a Beautiful Morning."

So what has Tom's little "social club with a running problem" done to me? It's turned me into someone who loves walking/running trails. Someone who has gone on to compete in a number of trail and road race events. Someone that actually can see one of those belt buckles potentially in his future. (WAY in the future, and only if I squint real hard, but who knows...) And I'm just one person. Think of how many thousands of others he has inspired.

I never really knew him but will miss him a lot. I won't forget him though, and will hear him saying those little bits of wisdom that made him so wonderful.

"If the bones ain't showing, keep on goin'."

"Those of us that finish near the back make the rest of you look good!"

"Run 30 steps, walk 15. The trick is to do this before you realize you need to do it."

That's it - move along...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Riley and Dove steal the show

First, we have this really odd Riley picture.

I'm sure this was his idea, but MAN does that look uncomfortable. (And that is Sophia the Wonder Mutt, Irbua's mop, marveling at the strangeness of that boy.) Mrs Notthat appears to be encouraging this behavior. Weird.

The Boy, in what might come back to haunt us later, taught Riley to use the leaf blower. (He taught him so well that the thing does not work any more. The hedge trimmers and weed whacker are now hanging up a bit higher and out of reach. But then Riley knows about ladders...)

The grandkids and their parents went on a camping trip (with a bunch of others from Darci's school) for the weekend. So we volunteered to watch their uber-hyper dog Dove. Long-time readers will remember our old emergency backup dog, Belle. Dove is like a slightly bigger version of Belle. Sadly, she is no smarter that Belle was.

It was a bit of a trick to get a picture of her resting like this - her normal mode is bouncing off the walls, chairs, tables, legs - anything was fair game.

Now this picture is more like it. (It was fun to throw the ball into the grass - she does not like walking on the wet grass and would do this fun little prancing thing.)

Dove stayed over for two nights, and all in all, it went fine. It was a tough adjustment for us to get used to having an over-cafeinated  ball of energy running around, and she managed to get loose a couple of times, but we somehow managed to survive her.

The one thing this did was convince me that small hyper dogs are not something I want to make a long term investment in - I really like the mellowness of Teddy.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday grab bag

The blog is just catching up with a few pictures from the last couple of weeks...

This has got to be one of the best pictures ever. Weird Haired Mom took it in their backyard. Judging by the patio chair, it looks like Riley tried to climb the tree and, ummm, had an issue. He avoided getting hurt (although it looks like not by much). And I would bet money that, whatever he did to get into this position, he'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Speaking of WHM, here she is with Darci, posing nicely.

And then here she is twirling, trying out her skirt, while Darci moons the camera. Figures.

Meanwhile, here is Riley playing with some Star Wars monster, probably trying to feed it some of his apple.

The Boy got a new toolbox and spent some time trying to consolidate the useful tools from his two smaller toolboxes. He's getting an impressive collection, but it's getting harder and harder for him to lug them back and forth from his classes.

And here The Boy is holding his fierce cat. Note the pinned back ears and extended claws - when the cat's not happy, she's not afraid to let you know. The Boy has scars to prove it. Mostly though, she's fine, although she doesn't like being cuddly unless it's inconvenient for you though.

That's it - move along...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Look, you don't mess with fortune cookies

The grandkids loved riding in The Race Car. (For those of you new to this place, The Race Car was a cute little Miata.) The problem with this was that there are two grandkids and The Race Car only had two seats. As smart and big as Darci is, she could not drive it (but would have loved a shot at it).

In any case, as much fun as The Race Car was to drive, we started to consider moving to a larger version of it - something with a back seat. This was several months ago. I started doing research on what would be the perfect car and we came down to two choices - there really are not many options if you want a non-luxury convertible that seats at least four - the Toyota Solara and a bit surprisingly, the Ford Mustang became our main choices.

As Mrs Notthat will attest, this blog is not known for moving quickly when it comes to dealing with vehicles. The blog seems to always find some reason to put it off for one more week.

But then he got this in a fortune cookie about a week ago.

Wow. Who am I to argue with a fortune cookie. (I briefly entertained the notion that this was referring to a stroller or a shopping cart, but Mrs Notthat quickly corrected those notions.)

So we did some serious looking and found a pretty good candidate at Toyota of Palo Alto. Mrs Notthat did all the work - she went in, made a demand or two, threatened to walk out when they offered a laughable amount for The Race Car (which needed a new top and tires, so we knew it wouldn't get top dollar, but still...), and finally closed the deal. I showed up, signed thirty or so papers (including one that absolved them of any charges should we put on snow chains and take off across the desert, or something like that), and we were out of there.

The thing really is pretty nice looking.

Sadly, when Mrs Notthat went to put in the kid's seats, one of the rear seat belts would not work. After a tiny bit of disassembly, I found this:

This is where the seat belt strap comes out from the top of the seat. Not a big deal, and easy to fix, but it doesn't say much for the thoroughness of Toyota or Palo Alto's service department (which has a lot of bad reviews on Yelp). Needless to say, we won't be going there for service.

The good news is that, this afternoon, the grandkids will finally get to ride in it.

Darci would still like a shot at driving it though...

That's it - move along...

Monday, September 13, 2010

More dragging than flying for me

Mrs Notthat, The Boy, Weird Haired Mom, Irbua (not her real name), and I all got up at 4:30 or so to drive to Antioch for Brazen's latest race, the Drag-n-Fly. This was a normal Brazen race with absurd hills, amazing views, It's-It bars, and a marriage proposal. (Seriously: a guy borrowed the finish line microphone and proposed to his girlfriend at the end of the race. She accepted. No word on who was actually faster though.)

The Boy and I did the Half Marathon, Mrs Notthat did the 10K, while WHM and Irbua volunteered at a couple of aid stations.

Mrs Notthat started her day by putting moleskin on a couple of her trouble spots. At 5:15 we hit the road for the hills near Antioch in the Contra Loma Park and Black Diamond Mines.

We arrived at about 6:30. It was actually a bit cool at this time. Irbua then headed out to her aid station (she and the two others had to walk a bit over a mile, often uphill, to the location where the station's stuff had been deposited the day before). WHM ended up getting to ride up to her aid station, where she monitored the course and made sure the runners went the right direction.

The Boy and I getting ready for our start, putting on our game faces.

Also at the race was Luap (not his real name either) who took advantage of the early hiker's start. (He is wearing a Team Tom shirt in honor of Tom Kaisersatt, a ridiculously inspiring ultra runner who started San Jose Fit and passed away earlier this week. Thinking of Tom helped both of us when we started dragging.)

Finally The Boy and I were off. There was a mild hill not far from the start. At first we kidded ourselves that this was the hill that Mr Brazen said would make us curse his mother. Careful viewers, however, will note the sun-splashed hill off to the right with tiny little dots that are the faster runners WAY out ahead of us. That was the hill that his mother was apparently responsible for.

But before we headed up the hill, we went through the first aid station where Irbua and the others were very busy keeping everyone hydrated and tackling anyone that tried to turn around after seeing the hill.

Eventually we made it up and over the hill to the base of the lollipop - the Half course was roughly like a lollipop with the stick being the out-and-back at the start and finish and a nice loop at the top. WHM's job was to make sure the runners went the correct way around the lollipop and didn't accidentally take a second lap around it.

The lollipop loop was the best part of the trail by far. It had lots of fun single-track, some of which was pretty challenging.

The Black Diamond Mine area was part of the loop. It had started getting very warm by this time, so when we went past the mines, the cold air pouring out of them felt really good.

About this time, The Boy took off and I didn't see him again until the finish line. (I would stop at the aid stations and they would say "He's just ahead of you - you can catch him!" which was very nice of them to say, but I wasn't catching anyone. The heat was wearing me down. Well, maybe the hills too. In any case The Boy ended up finishing ten minutes ahead of me.)

Shortly after I crossed the finish line, WHM showed up and this picture was taken. Irbua was still out at her aid station - not only did she have to walk out to it, but since it was the first station it was also the last station - they had to wait for the last runner and so were the last one to close up shop.

After I rested a bit, I headed back out on the trail to find Luap. Instead, I found Irbua and the other two from the first/last aid station walking back.

I kept going and a bit further up was Luap. He had been going strong, but the heat got to him a bit and he had a rough finish. The cool thing is that he did finish, and was actually pretty strong at the end. (And no, I'm not going to say something about how funny it was that the aid station workers, carrying heavy bags of stuff, beat him to the finish line. I am much nicer than that.)

The shirts were pretty good for this event. If you look at the pink one's lower-right corner, you can see a dragonfly's head; the gray shirt's back shows the dragonfly's butt. Also, you can see Mrs Notthat third place age group medal for her 10K.

If you look at the medal, you can see a runner lumbering up the hill, thrusting arms in triumph at the top, and then flying down the other side. These Brazen people are certainly clever.

And that's about it. It was a great event, but very challenging. I didn't do nearly as good as I had hoped but was thrilled with how well The Boy did for only his second event, especially on such a tough course.

The only disappointment was missing out on the marriage proposal (which Mrs Notthat did not miss, while wearing her winner's medal).

Which just means I have to get a lot faster so that I won't miss out on future proposals.

That's it - move along...

Monday, September 6, 2010

A cat, lots of tomatoes, and a missing tooth

In an effort to torment grandkid Darci, I'm not going to mention her big news for a bit.

We'll start with The Boy's weird cat. She is fascinated with drinking from my water cup. Even funnier is when she dips her paw in it, pulls it out, then licks it. We've ended up giving her her own cup to drink from. Weird cat.

We've been having some warm weather, and our tomato plants are proof. I went out Sunday morning and picked all these (plus two lemon cucumbers). I made a LOT of salsa and gave a lot of them away, and we still have a bunch left. Plus, many more have ripened in the last couple of days so I need to get back out there. I don't remember us having such a tomato bounty before. (And I'm NOT complaining!)

Weird Haired Mom and the grandkids came over Sunday afternoon. Naturally we had to mow the back yard, with them taking turns sitting on the mower. I keep thinking they will get bored with this, but they still fight over who got the longest ride. I don't get it (but then I get very little that the grandkids do).

Darci tried her best to spin this chair swing and get WHM sick, but it didn't work.

Riley went back to setting up the tubes and kicking them over. I love how he is protecting his face in this picture - the kid has learned!

OK, the big Darci news - she lost her first tooth on Saturday! She was very excited about it (judging by how she would say things like "I can't believe I lost a tooth!" every five or ten minutes), but a bit bummed it didn't happen at school, where they apparently make a big deal out of it. (In a fun coincidence, her friend Camren lost her first tooth today!)

Riley proving he still has all of his teeth. And a weird haircut.

We all then took Teddy for a walk at Bayfront park. We started by walking along the bay inlet, looking for rocks to throw into it.

We then spent a fair amount of time climbing around on the various rock formations that have been cleaned up a bit and had explanation signs added. Fortunately they are not close enough to the water to be tempting to toss in.

Apparently they were not tired enough after the long walk, so they set up an obstacle course in the backyard and ran a few races.

That seemed to wear everyone out finally.

Mostly me.

That's it - move along...

Wild women in wine country - what could go wrong?

Mrs Notthat, along with a group of friends, spent the weekend visiting Arabrab (not her real name) up in the wine country. Since I wasn't there, I had to make some guesses about the pictures that ended up on Mrs Notthat's camera. (Yes, I expect to spend the night on the deck after this, but some of these pictures I couldn't resist doing some speculation about.)

This is most of the group in front of the Vino Van. From left to right (and not their real names - probably my only hope for avoiding the deck tonight): Einnob, Adnil, Yduj, Ydnas (the ring leader), Aehterod (the troublemaker), Adnerb, Arabrab (the one they were all visiting), Yekcim, and Mrs Notthat.

That same group standing on Arabrab's front porch.

And then they were all off to hit the wineries. Adnerb and Arabrab are sisters. They are both card sharks as well - I have LOTS of memories of them winning LOTS of Hand and Foot card games, with many "rules" being remembered at convenient times. I'm just saying...

Here are Ydnas, Aehterod (NOT the designated driver!), and Arabrab's daughter Eus wandering out of a winery and heading towards the next.

Mrs Notthat, Ydnas, and Aehterod posing in front of some random trees (note that Aehterod is keeping a keen eye on her wine glass).

I'm sure this hog sculpture provides a great clue as to where they are.

Ydnas posing in a scenic area. You can't throw an empty wine bottle around there without hitting something scenic.

The group hanging at a tasting bar. I'm pretty sure none of them did the sip, swish, and spit thing that snobby wine tasters do. Also, hopefully none of them asked about where they could find that Boone's Farm place that made that fine Strawberry Hill stuff from when they were younger.

OK, maybe one of them did ask since they look awfully grumpy after being kicked out of that tasting room. (I blame Yekcim, who after Aehterod, would be voted Mosty Likely to Cause Trouble.)

Mrs Notthat, who won't touch wine, posing in front of a scenic area. Love her hairdo!

I wasn't going to add this picture - the next one has more of the group - but I loved Ydnas's hair (and am pretty sure Yekcim had something to do with it looking like this).

Same view with more people (Adnil was squatting for a better picture composition and not due to enthusiastic wine tasting - probably).

The evening was spent annoying the neighbors with karaoke. Here, Nod (husband of Eus and the sacrificial male member of the group and designated bail poster) belts out a stirring rendition of Purple Haze.

Einnob joining in on the chorus. The bright lights by Yekcim's head were the spotlights from the squad of police cars that were eventually brought in to break up the party. (Instead, Ydnas convinced them to join in with thirty minute long version of Friends. That's an extremely inside joke, but the thirty minute thing is probably true.)

And that's about it. I believe they all had a great time but it's great to have Mrs Notthat back. (When I picked her up I passed out bags of tomatoes to the others - our garden is hitting it's stride as far as providing tomatoes.)

That's it - move along...