TechMasterMike.com Blog


Youthery! Skiery!

As many of you know, I’m prone to at times go to great lengths to try new things. This is likely because by pushing beyond what I’m comfortable with, I’ve allowed myself to grow. That, or a bad home life. At any rate, I have a particular habit of saying yes to things that I am unfamiliar with, such as ballroom dancing, kayak rolling, public speaking, and the like.

When I was taking a wee respite from work to travel and sail in California, a friend who is a coach with the Tsalteshi Trails Youth Ski Program asked if I could cover her group, the Weasels (all youth ski groups are named from existing trails), for a week.

Ostensibly, this is a terrifying request. I was raised an only child, and don’t really spend much time around children. Being rather new to skiing myself, I didn’t have the slightest idea where to begin.

Of course I said yes.

Because of January’s rain and temperatures nearing 50, the trails were not in the best of shape, but recent cooling and exquisite grooming by Tsalteshi’s crew made it very skiable, if fast and icy.

I showed up with my old classic skis, which proved to be a good move, as some in my group, it seems, haven’t grasped some finer ski etiquette like “Don’t ski over other peoples’ skis.”

Because I had no clue what to do with the group of seven Weasels that attended class that night, I promptly rebranded them “The Wombats” and thought I’d try to gauge where they were at skill-wise before we headed out onto the trail system.
We were all basically in a circle and I asked if they knew how to double pole. In response, instead of indicating affirmative verbally, they all poled hard at once, crashing into me and each other. Most of them ended up in one heap. It was hysterical.

So of course I didn’t learn from this, and I kept trying to explain what I wanted them to do before I had them do it. So I’d start by saying, “We are going to go up this hill…” and they’d all start rushing up it, leaving me yelling, “WAIT! STOP! SIT!”

I finally realized I could get their attention by yelling “WOMBATS – ASSEMBLE!” in a Thundercats voice.

I thought (a bit naively, it turns out) we’d do a Moose loop or two (about a mile per loop), then see how much time was left over for games. Wishful thinking – it took OVER the full hour to do one Moose in those conditions. It was absurdly slick, so any hill (even the Angle hill was impassable) was really difficult to get up. I ended up towing most up the last big hill.

The ice on the trails meant that the only skiable area was right down the middle. Of course, most of them had no idea what was good or bad snow, so I had to keep saying things like, “Stay in the sugar!” Or they’d go down a hill, fail to turn, and skid off into the hinterlands. I laughed so hard.

One kid in particular didn’t seem too keen on my Moose lesson plan, as he was apprehensive about being in the woods. Mindful of this, as soon as we started in, he began complaining, to which I responded, “We’re not in the woods – we’re on the trail!” I stuck to my semantics, and he did great the whole time, except for when he couldn’t turn in time and went sailing off into the actual woods. I gave him huge props after. He did wonderfully.

An hour and ten minutes into our hour long lesson, our team of six Wombats looked like they’d survived a war when we finally stumbled out of the woods. I’m sure they all slept well that night.

I ended up subbing a few more times for the Weasel/Wombat group, and begin to even learn their names, instead of calling them by prominent clothing article, i.e. “Orange Poofy” and “Green Hoody.”

I began to see how my love of skiing evolved from the little triumphs at the beginning, to pushing myself physically later. The Wombats were in the beginning stages of skiing, where learning simple things like slowing down and turning were tremendous accomplishments. And I was right there with them, learning and enjoying most every moment.

I had a brilliant time helping the group learn, and feel once again that by doing something outside of my comfort zone, I was able to challenge myself, grow, and learn important lessons; like the best way to get kids’ attentions is to say everything in your best Thundercats voice.

Suss pecked tree sunning.

photo (2)It’s official; I will be running Race 5 of the Salmon Run Series in a suit and tie. The mark of $500 for the Suit Up, Pledge Up! Challenge for the Kenai Watershed Forum was thoroughly surpassed by this great community.

The deal still stands; I’m challenging local businesses and individuals to match the community contribution IF I am able to place in the top 10 finishers in the last race. And that’s in a suit and tie. If I do not make it, I pay to match (up to $1000).

Expectedly, many are baffled by my desire to do this.

Allow me to attempt an explanation.

First, I have great respect for the Kenai Watershed Forum. They perform a myriad of services that allow us to keep one of our most important natural resources. The Salmon Run Series, as an example, began as a way to raise money specifically to combat Reed Canary Grass, an invasive species which destroys salmon habitat. The funds from the Suit Up, Pledge Up! Challenge will go toward education, which is of fundamental importance when protecting our watersheds. I love and cherish our natural environment here. I want it to be pristine and productive long after I am gone. The Watershed Forum is doing everything in its power to make that happen.

Second, the Salmon Run Series has changed my life. It has given me the gift of running. It has filled my life with challenges and goals. It has given Wednesdays a singular importance. I love running now, and I love the excitement and wonderful people involved in the Salmon Run Series. Special thanks to Allie Ostrander for coming up with such an amazing way to involve the community for everyone’s benefit.

Third, I wear a suit and tie everyday at work, and though it would be hilarious to run in one, especially for a good cause.

So what can YOU do?

First, you can donate. Show up at the Salmon Run races on Wednesday night at the Tsalteshi Trails, 6pm by the Skyview High School hockey rink.

Second, you can run! See above. Suit and tie optional…

Third, you can take the challenge, or encourage business owners or individuals who appreciate the environment to take it. Remember, you only HAVE to pay if I make the top 10. Last race I came in 4th. Time before that? 8th, and not by much. In a suit and tie, all bets are off.

Be part of something bigger than yourself; pledge, donate, or just come be part of the fun. Hope to see you on the Trails!

On healing.

Six weeks ago my life changed forever. I lost a relationship that I thought would be my last. I wasn’t clear on the why or the how, but the pain of the loss was palpable. I needed to do anything in my power to begin healing. As is my way, I took to diversion first. I ran. I ran until I couldn’t run anymore. I started teaching P90X at the gym again. Buoyed by that success, I began to look for more ways to challenge myself. I chose MMA – mixed martial arts. Finally I had found something endlessly complex and challenging, that success wasn’t just a matter of being the fastest or the strongest – it was about strategy and nuance. The pain from my loss became pushed aside by my schedule – up at 5 am, teaching at 6, working until 5pm, running, MMA, returning home at 9pm – just in time to eat and crash asleep.

But avoidance has a way of catching up.

During a wrestling session, my leg was pinned under my opponent during a roll. Something gave. I immediately stopped the fight and tried to stand. My knee felt weak and tenuous. I tried to rotate it slightly and a shock of pain ran the length of my leg.

I was crushed. No more running, no more MMA, no more life.

I went home with a bag of ice and tried my hardest to feel sorry for myself. I became despondent. I had lost my outlet, any chance of healing.

Or so I thought.

With my physical life removed, I was forced to examine the life I had been ignoring, to begin processing my loss, my life.

I realized that healing physically is precisely like healing emotionally. You must avoid the activities that can cause reinjury, you must treat your pain gently, and look to other ways to strengthen.

I began playing my guitar again, something which had fallen to the wayside with both injuries. I reached out to friends and family members. I doubled my efforts to give back to my community. Instead of hiding, of stagnating, I decided to grow, just in other ways, to strengthen other aspects of me that were weak.

I’m a considerable distance from being healed. Sometimes, I wonder if I’ll ever be whole, but I at least have a path now. And each day that passes I’m able to process, gain insight and heal.

And that, in itself, is life-changing.

Sell Lest Tea Ill.

Turns out I didn’t fall off the planet.

I’m back, after a life-altering visit to another hemisphere.

Was it life-altering in a good or bad way?

It seems you can’t change what people do to you, but you can control how it affects you.

So, good or bad, it’s really up to me.

That, in summary, is the beauty of life.

Seigolopa.

Oops.

Seems like in all the excitement I’ve forgotten to update.

I could go in many directions – profuse apologies for not updating, prodigious promises of future updates, or I could simply do the most obvious thing; update and take it from there.

How are you? I’m well, thanks.

My new job is going swimmingly. A steep learning curve, to be sure, but without challenges, I wouldn’t feel alive. Spring is getting springulated and I have taken it upon myself to get outside more. I realized that taking three classes and holding down three jobs and trying to train for athletic endeavors was proving to be too much.

So, as is with running as in life, I’m taking things step by step.

I’m rather excited about what the future holds.

Know Carrion Lug Edge Four Ewe.

“‘Sup?” I mutter, complete with snap-back head move, just to let him know I’m serious, that this is an everyday occurrence for me.

The recipient of said ‘sup begins with a passive face, his eyes narrowing slightly to inspect my belongings, then widening in slight alarm. I get the overwhelming feeling I’m not fooling him.

I’m trundling numerous bags before me. Quite clearly, everyone can see a prodigious amount of women’s shoes, inexplicably carried in grocery bags.

We’re both on a plane. The plane is exceedingly narrow, a two engine affair, propellers not jets, and features a riveted aluminum construction that would appear to strike fear into canoe enthusiasts everywhere. Come to think of it, there’s little more room than a standard canoe on this particular plane. There are two rows of seats, and I’m in the aisle down the middle, couched low not only because of the plane’s cavelike structure, but also by my burdensome loads.

There is one seat left empty, and it’s in the back. Every other seat is taken by large, rough looking men in winter clothes. They work on the oil rigs, and appear unaccustomed to seeing someone wearing summer clothes in the dead of winter carrying sacks full of ladies footwear.

Hours before, I had been appropriately attired in summer clothes, despite it being December. I was in Hawaii, and had offered to take my girlfriend’s suitcase back with me to Alaska after spending two wonderful weeks with her in Maui.

Though she’s not flying with me, she brings the suitcase into the airport with me. It’s a red number, roughly the same dimensions of a small cottage. She’s been living and attending graduate school overseas, and the case is filled with the items she no longer requires, formal clothes and winter wear, as it’s the height of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and school is no longer in session.

There is a weight limit for pieces of luggage, and my girlfriend wants to make sure there’s no extra excess baggage fee. It has to weigh less than 50 pounds to avoid the extra charges.

I wheel the case up to the scale. Thankfully, like a tiny SUV, this case has wheels. I attempt to lift the case onto the scale. I wonder how much the previous two weeks of lying on the beach and drinking mai-tais have negatively impacted my fitness, as the case to me feels like way more than 50 pounds. My girlfriend sees me struggling and assists, guiding it onto the scale as I catch my breath.

“52.6. Do you think that’s okay?” I hear her ask the airline employee.

“Should be okay.” She responds, and my girlfriend is happy as she lifts it down from the scale. It makes an audible thud in the crowded airport as it hits the ground.

We spend a few precious moments together before it’s time for me to go through customs and check the giant container.

Confident in its weight, I struggle to hoist it onto the checkin scale. The readout displays over 60 pounds.

There must be some mistake. It is nearly 10 pounds over the limit. I look closer and see that all four of the SUV wheels are indeed on the scale. In the interest of experimentalism, I slide two of the wheels onto the side of the scale. It reads 52.6 pounds. That must have been exactly how we weighed it initially. I ask what the excess baggage fee is. $30. I agree and pay it.

My flight is delayed, so I’m late getting into Alaska. I have to wait at the baggage claim to pick up the red beast.

My connecting flight is imminent, and features the canoe construction plane. I hoist the SUV onto the scale.

“This is way over the limit.” The airline agent says.

“Yeah, I know. What’s the charge?”

“$50.” Fifty dollars is half of the ticket cost. This is ridiculous.

“This is ridiculous.” I inform her.

“The plane leaves in 10 minutes.” She informs me.

I pull the bag from the scale and open it. It looks like a JCPenney exploded. I try to grab the densest items I can find, which happen to be shoes. All manner of heels are quickly shoved into plastic grocery bags which I had luckily kept.

I get it close to 50 pounds. She says it’s good enough, and that the plane leaves in 5 minutes.

I run down to the gate, wondering about how many carryons or “personal articles” I can get away with. I have on my backpack and am carrying three grocery bags. It doesn’t seem to be an issue as I’m rushed out to the plane.

Everyone else is already on the plane, rather impatient and ready to depart. I take my seat after navigating the disparaging glance gauntlet, and finally relax as we take flight.

I glance over at the oil worker across from me, who is eyeing my bags of heels like it was filled with vipers.

I entertain the idea of asking him to hold it while I “go powder my nose,” but decide that I’ve cheated death enough for one voyage.

Besides, there’s no bathroom on this particular canoe.

enD of aN erA.

Today is my last day as official KPBSD Webmaster.

After no small amount on consideration, I will be taking a new position with the Borough IT Department.

Thank you to each and every one of you. This last year with KPBSD has been filled with wonderful challenges, learning experiences, and of course amazing friendships.

My departure is decidedly bittersweet.

Please stay in touch.

– Mike Crawford

Skiing at minus 6 degrees last night made me worry that my toes might also be “minus 6.”

Nalloweeh.

Wednesday was my second Halloween in Alaska. I’ve dressed up (not in spectacular fashion) both times. This Halloween, an interesting thing happened to me that came from my indecisions about foodstuffs.

Last year I bought candy to give to Trick or Treaters as they came through the office. I didn’t think much of it then, but I got to thinking about feeding kids candy in light of the rampant childhood obesity epidemic in this county. I wondered if this year I could go with a healthier alternative. I looked for options, but was entirely too parsimonious to purchase granola bars for every potential child. I thought about mitigating the sugar damage by getting something difficult to consume, like suckers or jawbreakers, but didn’t feel morally clean enough to do that. Left with a dwindling amount of alternatives, I ended up doing nothing, which I was rather disappointed with, but luckily some others in my department had treats so all was not lost.

Halloween night, I went running at Tsalteshi, and got back still bereft of candy. My plan was to cleverly cloak my whereabouts once home by leaving only one light (inconspicuous, out of view) on in the entire house, to thwart teeming hordes of children bent on obtaining candy that didn’t exist. I cooked myself a meal and was eating by this solitary light when I heard footsteps up the back steps. A knock at the door signaled the arrival of a Trick or Treater. I opened the door.

“Trick or Treat!” A girl’s voice said. It was still so dark I couldn’t even see her costume.

“I really don’t have anything. Umm, do you want a banana?” I managed, looking about the darkness.

“Sure!” She replied.

As I fetched said banana, I heard her yell down to a parental figure, still waiting at the bottom of the steps, “See? There WAS a light on!”

She gets lots of bonus points for being insanely tenacious.

I can only hope she ate that poor banana moments after receiving it, lest it be battered beyond recognition by being bounced about in her goody bag in the 18 degree temperatures.

I entertained no other guests that night, and imagine she told other would-be Treaters, “Don’t go to that house, all they give away is fruit.”

Random Roll

For some reason, I never thought I was gonna enjoy running or give it and honest effort. If you have kept up with my posts about running, you know I’ve never imagined anything significant was gonna transpire to let this change. At some point, you might have also gone down this path of never anticipating changes are gonna happen. When I run, as I do, slowly and at times painfully, around the Soldotna area and beyond. I wonder what about a desert environment, where you would never (or rarely) get rained upon. But if you’re gonna try and make a change for the abstract, be it tropical, winter, or other climates, you had better not cry foul when the other intangibles occur. Because even if we say we never want changes, what are we gonna do when faced with, say, a hostile environment? It’s sometimes easier to just bid goodbye to those things which we never imagine are gonna occur. Some might tell you that a change of scenery might be good. But is this a lie? Sometimes it is good to stay and grow in your current space, and not risk getting hurt by reaching beyond what you are comfortable with.