If It Ain’t Right, Make It Right

A couple months ago I finished constructing my first violin. Or fiddle. Or whatever you prefer to call a tiny shoulder mounted cello. I began to learn to play and achieved a few decent phrases in the midst of the bumbling screeching of a man’s first attempts to play the fiddle. The thing is, I could hear that something was amiss. I am so used to listening intently for the way an acoustic instrument is resonating that I couldn’t ignore a certain brashness in the tone. A rawness that seemed inappropriate for the age old singer of melodies. Frankly, it sounded like a stereo with the highest slider on the EQ thrown up to 11.


I realized that just sealing and treating the wood with tung oil is not enough for a violin. I immediately did some research and ordered some proper violin varnish. A couple days ago I finally got around to disassembling the thing and applying the ground coat to the body and headstock.


The varnishing process will take weeks to perform, but here is some photographic evidence of the first step!


Before, with just Tung Oil. I like this finish a lot, not for its ease of application, but because it lets the wood really speak without being interfered with. However, a violin needs a bit of taming.

fiddle before fiddle before 2



And after the first coat of varnish.

fiddle after



I am very interested to find out how this will affect the voice of the instrument!





Ukulele, Baby!

A few months ago I undertook a fun little project. I had always wanted a ukulele to take to the beach or to take backpacking, but never got around to buying one. I suppose I thought of them as toys instead of real instruments. Later on, being exposed to some amazing uke players changed my mind and I decided it was time to add one to my little music family.


What better way than to make one?


Here are a few pics of the process. It was really fun and turned out really well. The mahogany just sings in a sweet, mellow voice. Plus, it’s a scientific fact that a frown is impossible whilst strumming a ukulele.















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“Hey. How’s it going? I want to do something special for this party. There are going to be bands, comedians, fire dancers, a burlesque group, and like over a hundred people. Will you help me brew a special beer for it?”


As I heard my brother’s voice on the other end of the line, it struck me how perfect the idea was. Everyone was encouraged to make or bring something, and creating a keg of unique custom suds seemed like just the kind of unexpected and generous thing we Matzes are fond of. I immediately jumped on the opportunity and we started brainstorming.


The plan ended up to be to use a Lagunitas style IPA as a base and add a bit of herby goodness. The trick would be to add the right amount, just enough to be interesting without becoming like a mouthfull of weird bubbly medicine. We followed a recipe I’ve used many times,  but thinned it out a bit with extra water and added a fresh branch of Rosemary cut straight from the giant mutant bush in my backyard in the last five minutes of the boil and during the cooldown. Later I pitched the yeast and capped it, setting it in the cool shade of my closet to bubble away.


Throughout the next two weeks I enjoyed the aroma of the yeast’s work every time I opened the door. Those little organisms feasting on an abundance of malt extract created their signature scent, which I only hope doesn’t stick to my clothing too much!


When it was time to keg, it was anyone’s guess what it would taste like. I siphoned and strained the golden nectar into a 5gal keg and cooled it for a couple days before tasting. I poured a bit from the tap and tasted. BINGO! JUST RIGHT!


Granted it was quite a strong beer, probably around 9% and with an herby, hoppy punch, but everyone at the party seemed to like it and I heard quite a few say they preferred it to the Racer 5 IPA which was also there. A statement like that will make a brewer’s heart proud! In fact, I went back to retrieve the keg the next day and it was bone dry. The experiment had worked out and my head is swimming with possibilities for the next infusion to try.






A Long Road With a Distant Goal


Recovery is an interesting thing. I mean that in many different ways. It is interesting how it is not given a second thought if one is not immediately faced with the need for it. It is interesting how there are a million different methods of tackling it, and every individual finds their own way through it. It is interesting that it can be a catalyst for change in the person as a whole.


I’ve been going through a period of mixed feelings. On one hand, this feels familiar; there have been countless times during races when things have been low and I’ve had to just keep grinding forward, focused on the upswing to come. On the other, running was such a big part of my life that I do feel an underlying loss, and I think that has to be recognized and accepted as part of finding my way through this. I am going to be out of commission for a while, and I plan to handle recovery with every bit as much dedication and common sense as I normally try to handle training. I’ll try to check in often and share the journey with you, whom I know understand my mindset more than most.


In the meantime, an idea has taken hold and I’m going to move forward with it. Through running I’ve been fortunate to meet a thousand people with different stories. One common theme, at least in the long distance stuff, seems to be long term struggle. In more cases than one would think, the runner has dealt with a devastating injury, a complete change in lifestyle, a serious drug or alcohol addiction, or a plethora of other hardships which has forced them to learn the trait of decisive determination. They then set off on a long road with a distant goal, and fight their way there in a gradual process.


I also know that inspirational stories are often given a “lifetime network” connotation, and are somewhat dismissed as less than relatable. Maybe this is because the experience doesn’t coincide with our own. Perhaps it’s because really taking a close look at hardship makes us uncomfortable. Well, sometimes it is good to be uncomfortable. Sometimes considering something collectively, with its good aspects and bad, results in more meaningful insight.


I’m going to try to bring you these stories, in the runners’ own words so the genuine story is laid out to see. The details are not always pretty, but they are undeniably positive.


A new project!




Run happy and healthy, friends!



Well, I guess this detour is happening.

Hey everyone! It’s been a while!


Things have been pretty static for me. In my last blog, the Double Dipsea RR, I mentioned that the bum hip had never gone away. In fact, it never even improved, so I got it checked out by a dr, then an orthopedic specialist. She diagnosed a labrum tear and ordered an MRI to confirm the diagnosis and determine whether surgery would be needed.


In the meantime, I had gotten seriously stircrazy from not running at all. I am so used to having a lot of miles in my life that my body chemistry goes a little screwy without it. I went through the moodiness that often accompanies a taper, but I’d like to think I’m pretty adept at recognizing it and controlling it. Most of the time, at least. The thing that surprised me, though, was that my mind began to go. I became forgetful and spacy, which is something I have no tolerance for!


I decided I had to do something. On Friday I texted DW, “It would be crazy to ride a century on the spin bike, right?”

You can probably guess her answer.


Saturday morning DW left for her long run in the hills and I got up to begin my experiment. I would ride an hour, then get off and stretch to evaluate how things felt, then proceed if everything seemed fine. I alternated between a couple TV series on Netflix as my legs spun away, and every 20 miles I found the hip had not gotten any worse. Finally I hit 100 miles and called it quits! My legs felt absolutely fine but my arse was killing me! I am not used to six hours on a bike seat!


After having waited a couple agonizingly slow weeks for insurance to approve it, I got the notification call while in Arkansas on business and immediately scheduled it for the day I returned.


I literally landed in Sacramento and drove straight to the imaging center for my appt. Upon checking in I learned I had not one, but TWO tests scheduled. Lucky day!

Honestly, I was down for whatever gave me answers. I had never had a problem that lasted this long with no change whatsoever!


The first was a hip arthrogram. It’s where an x-ray monitor is focused on your hip joint and a specialist inserts a needle through your muscle and into the joint, piercing the fluid sac inside the joint. Contrasting fluid is then injected into the sac, and the color helps the dr see any tears and also helps later in the MRI.


The second was an MRI, which was comprised of seven different scans. All in all, I spent about 90 minutes in the tube, listening to the radio through headphones and picking out the different instruments’ melodic lines. (It’s a mindful meditation thing I do occasionally if I have to be physically still. You pick out one instrument and follow it independently from the rest of the noise, then add another, then another. If you can follow three or four simultaneously, you don’t have much attention left for anything else. At least I don’t.)



I got a call the next day, and it honestly caught me off guard.


“Hi, this is Mindy from Othopedics.”


“Hi, how are you?”


“I’m fine, but you’re not too great.”




“I’m really sorry, but you’re not running any ultramarathons anytime soon. You have a stress fracture through the ball of your femur inside the hip joint, which is why we couldn’t see it in the X-rays.”


“………. Well that’s not what I expected.” (Facepalm)


“I know, me neither. I’ve only seen this a couple of times; it’s a unique location for a fracture.”


“So I need to just cycle then?”






“You can’t walk on it. Stay off of it 100%.”


“What can I do?”


“I’m really sorry. Not much.”


“Well, thanks for not sugar-coating it.”


“I don’t do that. Plus, you distance runners never like that.”



And that’s pretty much it. I later called back and got cleared to swim if I use leg floats. Maybe in 6 to 8 weeks I can cycle and build up to running again, but the crack is in a very risky place. If it gives way and breaks completely I’ll need screws to reassemble it, and I want to avoid that at all costs.


Frankly, I’m shocked it hasn’t fallen apart already. I ran two tough races, went through lineman training, and have been working steadily on it for two months! I am grateful for the fact that I am intact, and need to find my way back to running through a few month journey through the forest of other activities. For now things will strictly be upper body, then I’ll ease into more leg stuff in the coming months. It’s not ideal, but life’s not always ideal. I’ll do what I can and hopefully come out of this a better, more rounded athlete and person.



Run happy and healthy, my friends! It is a joy not to be taken for granted!

Double Dipsea 2013!!!

Double Dipsea! Of all the trails in our little corner of the country, the Dipsea trail holds a very special place in this runner’s heart. It has a personality all its own, at once constant and varied. It can be depended upon to provide an interesting run every time. It can be depended upon to give you a wide variety of climates within a 7 mile distance. Being able to run it twice, out then back, only adds to the fun of traveling on foot through several microclimates.

Last year, Laura and I got to meet up with friends Brad and John for this race, and this year continued the meetup tradition. This time, Brad returned to tackle Mt.Tamalpais once again, and the reclusive Mr. Bacon had traveled all the way across the freaking country just to run this race (I guess he also had some anniversary trip or something going on, whatever). I’ve always enjoyed reading his blogs, and when I snagged the chance to hang out with him in PA a couple months ago he turned out to be one of those people you just click with. Conversation and humor was easy, so I was looking forward to some Baconian good times on the mountain. Or at least before and after the race, as I expected him to drop me on any kind of flat parts.

To add to the greatness, Megan had recovered spectacularly from her brutal first 50 miler just one week before. She was cheery and ready to attack the mountain with her usual saucy flair. We even got word the day before the race that Will, who had been there for the TrailFactor 50K extravaganza back in May happened to not only be in California, but would be there for the race. So many friends at one race!

We all met up in the crisp morning air at the foot of the mountain. The atmosphere was buzzing and smiles abounded. Before we knew it the first waves took off, and soon after Brad’s group hit the bricks. A couple minutes later the lovely ladies sped off toward the incline. Bacon and I stood around, trying to guess where an appropriate position in the incredibly diverse crowd might be. We settled on a place about midpack, behind the twitchy dudes made of beef jerky and ahead of the paunchier guys wearing 3L packs for this 14 miler. As the “scratch runners”, male 39 and under, it was the most varied group of all. The clock counted down and the crowd rushed forward toward the first bottleneck of the day!

Start line

As we began climbing, I wondered how our different past experiences and particular niches in running would translate into performance in this one race. Sure I run more of this kind of thing, with long inclines and technical terrain, but he’s obviously a lot faster and has been running for a lot longer than I have. That kind of long-term conditioning helps out in general endurance. We found ourselves talking about our ailments pretty early on. Hernias on his plate and a bum hip on mine. As it turns out, we had both decided to ignore them, push the whole way, and enjoy the ride.


The first half went extremely well. To my surprise, Bacon and I actually fell into a decent rhythm and stuck together. As you probably know, I usually run with Laura and by now we’ve got a mode so natural we hardly have to talk about when to hike, drink, pass, etc. Besides her I haven’t found that rhythm with another runner. But there we were, approaching the stairs down through Mill Valley, passing Brad and the girls on their way back, totally in step and cruising.

The return trip was just as fun, but really began to warm up as the sun blazed down on the exposed parts. However, the beauty of the Dipsea Trail is that there are so many little pockets of different surroundings that you feel like you are on an epic journey crammed into a much shorter distance. As we chugged up inclines, bombed down hills, hopped and skipped over roots, and dodged around hikers, the joking and stories made the miles fly by and the continually changing climate kept things fresh.



My hip continued to bother me, but not so much that I was willing to stop. I pulled Bacon on the ups and struggled to keep up on the flats. All in all, it was a perfect balance. Before I knew it the trail popped out onto the short three blocks of pavement before the finish. We both gave it a strong finishing sprint and crossed the line at 3 hrs flat, a 6 minute course PR for me. On a hot day and a bad hip, I’ll take it. We could have killed ourselves to catch the others, but I’m glad we didn’t. I had a great time.

Everyone had run a strong race! Brad’s recent initiation into his area’s trail goat community had paid off with a speedy effort, Laura had blasted her way through the miles in signature badass girlie style, and Megan had evidently shaken off the previous week’s 50M to beat us all across the line. In fact, we all finished within a six minute window!

Megan and I hung around the finish line to cheer in Will, and unfortunately Bacon had to get back to his darling better half, so I missed giving a hearty goodbye handshake and sweaty runner hug to one hell of a running buddy, but the rest of us headed down to the beach (a whole 200 yards away) for some post-race beer.

A huge reason for my loving trail running so much is the feeling of dirty legs, good friends, and aromatic hops. The combination is magic, especially when you are looking out over the expansive and beautiful Pacific ocean. Simply breathtaking.

after beach

Here’s to another wonderful memory in the bank!



P.S. I’ve since seen an ortho specialist about the hip problem which plagued me at the Marin Ultra Challenge and Double Dipsea. It is likely a torn Labrum, with an MRI soon to confirm. I haven’t run since this race and am getting restless in my inactivity, probably annoying DW more with each passing day. Please kindly direct all sympathy to her.

Run happy and healthy, my friends!!!