Sunday, July 17, 2011

Missoula Marathon 2011

Thurston recently ran the 2011 Missoula Marathon and since he doesn't have a blog of his own, he asked me to share my space on the interweb so that he could tell his story. Below is his account of the experience.  It's something that I thought was worth sharing with everyone I know (and not just because I'm mentioned on more than one occasion).



Sunday, July 17, 2011

A week ago today I got up early. Really early. In fact, I was up at 3:40 A.M. There are only a few things that will get me out of bed early; pre-five o’ clock consciousness just does not come easily for me.

However, I couldn’t have been more alert one week ago at 3:40 in the morning. I was ready to test my mettle against the big one, the marathon. A word and concept that for the last four months had permeated my life, evoking a lot of excitement and not a small amount of trepidation whenever I heard, spoke or thought about it (which seemed to be almost constantly, as many of you all reading this know.) After all, I pestered you for contributions for the Run for Kids team. I peppered you with information about training runs. I even professed admiration for things like minimalist running shoes, trails, cross-training benefits and athletes that most of you could probably have been just fine not hearing about.

As the morning quickly sped towards the Missoula Marathon’s 6 a.m. start time, I found myself doing all the same pre-performance routines and rituals I had for the much shorter races I had run. Multiple trips to the porta-potty, hydrating, (meaning more trips to the porta-potty,) reviewing my race strategy over and over and talking about strategy with the many friends I had made from the Run Wild Missoula Marathon Training class, (RWM is my community’s running club.) But mostly, I awaited the start of the race with something akin to thrilling fear.

After one final trip to the aforementioned, (and all important!) porta-potty, I slipped into the starting line, beside my pack of friends. We laughed and joked and anxiously waited out the seconds before the start. And then came the boom of the ROTC’s cannon signaling the official start. Almost instantaneously a beautiful display of aerial fireworks lit the pre-sunrise sky.

That cannon being fired was all I needed. All of a sudden, we were competing. Not so much against each other, for marathons, while competitive, are mostly run as a contest against one’s self. Only the most elite runners set out with the goal to win a marathon. No, my friends and I and the majority of the thousand other runners in the starting line last Sunday weren’t trying to out-do each other, we were trying to out-do ourselves. For me, I wasn't simply trying to complete my first marathon; I was trying to meet a personal goal of running the 26.2 miles of the Missoula Marathon in under four hours and fifteen minutes.

As with any race, I was pleased to feel that familiar start-of-the-race sense of competition; a feeling that for me instantly obliterates all self doubt. All of a sudden, I was in the middle of accomplishing something. No longer was I worried about hitting my time goal. I was not worried about ‘bonking’ or ‘hitting the wall’. I was in the moment, and a beautiful moment it was.

After the first two miles, I realized I was dead on with pacing. Running with several friends, we moved quickly through aid stations (there was one every two miles) and gulped down water, not stopping or walking, but running comfortably, smiling and chatting, mile after mile.

There is a funny thing that happens during races. When run well, time seems to compress. At around mile nine, after about an hour and twenty five minutes, I proclaimed to my friends, “it feel’s like we’ve only been running for five minutes!”

As we ran on, one friend picked up his pace, another had to make a pit-stop, leaving me running with one friend whom I had been running with more than any of the others on my bi-weekly, group training runs. Alayna and I had already decided to run most, if not all, of the race together. We chatted and waved to all the spectators and thanked them. We encouraged other runners and soon found ourselves passing more people than were passing us. We came to the halfway point, which is also the start of the one and only hill in the Missoula Marathon course. We powered up it, but my friend needed to make a pit stop. I slowed just a bit and waited for her to catch up (runners make quick work out of potty breaks, especially during a race.) However, when she quickly did catch up, she had a side-ache.

We ran on, me smiling and enjoying every second, Alayna running through the increasingly uncomfortable, abdominal pain. I did my best to encourage and motivate her.

On pace and still smiling and enjoying the beautiful morning more than ever, I started to pick up my speed at strategic mile sixteen. Thus began the process of shaving seconds off of my average pace. (My planning, pacing and training was working!)

At mile 19 we were cheered on by my wife and close friends, Kevin, Robyn and their three children, Fiona, Jasper and Tobie. (There is nothing better than seeing your friends and family in a race, especially when you are running an endurance event. It doesn’t matter how euphoric or horrible you are feeling, it lifts you up and provides incredible motivation!)

Then it happened. Mile 20, still on pace, my friend could no longer run through the side-ache. She slowed and told me she was going to walk a little. I made the decision to go on, keeping up my increasing pace. With a smile (although half-hearted) I told her I would see her at the finish.

A half mile later, I came upon another friend, she had hit the wall and was walking. I shouted some words of encouragement, she told me she was hurting. I kept going, feeling a bit more like I was abandoning my friends.

Mile 21, I passed another friend who had cramped up. I patted him on the back and gave some encouragement and ran on. And then, there they were again! My wife and friends for a second time at 22.5, a distance further than I had ever run at any time in my life! Feeling like I could conquer anything from this second round of encouragement, I dug in a little more and ran on, smiling broadly.

The last five miles of the Missoula Marathon course had been burned into my brain from the RWM Marathon training class I had been in since March. We ran from the finish line out and back at least a half dozen times. So it was with an increasing confidence that I continued, thanking spectators, police officers managing traffic, course marshals and aid station volunteers. I smiled and encouraged my fellow runners and walkers, beginning to visualize my strong finish.

I ran by the aid station at mile 23, refusing an energy gel and slopping down some water. My legs were getting a little heavy, but I still felt a light feeling in my heart. I picked it up a little again, passing yet another friend. We ran a bit together, before he had to slow and walk a bit. I ran on.

Somewhere around mile 25 just after refusing yet more energy gel (I had had more than enough by then!) I was thrilled to see Kevin, Fiona and Jasper! They were on their bikes and rode with me most of the way to the finish line, and all of a sudden there it was, the Higgins Street Bridge with the arch of balloons at the end signaling the finish line!

I picked up my pace to what felt like a sprint (the video reality shows it wasn’t, but to me, I will always remember running faster than ever.) I heard my name being shouted repeatedly by even more family and friends who had shown up to support me, as well as my fellow RWM members.

I crossed the finish line at 10:15:06 AM. My official time, thanks to microchip timing, was actually 4:14:22; 38 seconds ahead of my goal time with an average pace of 9:42 per mile!

In the aftermath of the finish, I posed for pictures with my physical therapists (I needed bi-weekly tune-ups of my Achilles tendons and IT bands to get me through to race day! Some of my physical therapists, angels that they are, happened to be volunteering at the finish line hydration/aid station.) I stumbled up to get a picture on the finishers podium with my medal and then moved into the tented area restricted for marathoners and half marathoners, where I chowed down on some snacks and chatted comfortably with my running friends, welcoming more and more of them as they finished.

A little while later, I reunited with Suzanne and the rest of my family and friends to watch the awards ceremony and enjoy my free beer (the first of many well earned beers that day.)

Saying good job to my fellow RWM training class friends and exchanging promises to go running together soon, I moved on with my posse of personal supporters to enjoy a leisurely lunch. The smile never fading from my face.

I wore my medal the rest of the day, which like the race, seemed to evaporate very quickly in my post-marathon euphoria.

A week out, I still get emotional recalling the events of the day, and even all the training. I think fondly about all the new friends I made during the RWM training class runs. I marvel at the support all of you provided in the run up to the race. And I especially treasure all the encouragement and support from my biggest fan, my wife, Suzanne.

Thanks for being a part of my first marathon!


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shutter Island (2010)

Expectations are a funny thing. I had very high expectations for Crazy Heart and the film delivered on every level. I also had high expectations for Shutter Island mainly based on the reputation of brilliant director Martin Scorsese and his muse Leonardo DiCaprio. After all, The Departed was one of the best movies of all time.

However, there were a few factors that were keeping my expectations in check.

1)  This movie was originally supposed to be released last October. The reigning theory is that when a movie has sat on the shelf and missed a release date, something about the movie isn’t right.
2)   Dennis Lehane novels are straight-up thrillers like John Grisham or Dan Brown novels. They are not books that are made into Academy Award winning movies (with the exception of Mystic Riverwhich I still don’t understand).

So, I should not have hoped for a repeat of The Departed and when I first left the theatre, I felt let down. After all, I knew the premise of the movie (having read the book) even before I set foot in the theatre and I knew how the book ended, so I shouldn’t have been surprised by my disappointment. But I was.

I won’t give too much away, because I’m not a fan of the spoiler. But the story takes place in 1954, when U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) is investigating the disappearance of a murderess that escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island.

Now that 24 hours have passed and I’ve reviewed the picture again in my mind – the film did deliver as a solid psychological thriller almost to the very end. The acting is fine – DiCaprio’s Boston accent is as spot on as it was in The Departed. The rest of the supporting cast, including Michelle Williams and Mark Ruffalo, does a great job of developing the story. The movie is well written. The costumes are very representative of the time and the set-design is great (the Island is creepy and there is no way I’d spend the night in that hospital). My only disappointment is that the movie veered too much away from the book at the end (the book’s ending is much, much better) and left me wanting.

I do have one other comment to make in regard to the marketing of this picture. The preview gives too much away regarding the story – if you have no experience with the book. And I think the movie is positioned incorrectly to the viewing audience – the preview doesn’t position it as a psychological thriller – with more dialogue and less action. Instead it has been positioned to be scarier than it really is (i.e. more action) – and therefore, there were a number of people in my viewing audience that didn’t have the attention span to sit through a 2:40 film. 

I have to say – that really drives me crazy. If people can’t stop talking or texting then they shouldn’t go to the movies. It ruins if for everyone else – and I didn’t pay my hard earned money to listen to someone else’s running commentary. OK – I’m getting off the soapbox. Enough said.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Film Independent Spirit Awards, Part I: (500) Days of Summer / Crazy Heart

I have the honor to serve as a voting member of Film Independent’s Spirit Awards in 2009 thanks to my client, the Montana Film Office. Those of you who know me, know that the Academy Awards is my Super Bowl. And since, I’ll never be a voting member of the Academy, the Spirit Awards is as close as I am ever going to get, so I take the responsibility of voting very seriously. The Spirit Awards are the last awards ceremony prior to the Oscars and will be held on March 5 this year.

I will not be able to watch all of the films prior to the voting deadline because I don’t have access to all of them, but I’m going to do my best to judge as fairly as possible based on what I can view prior to the deadline.

This blog entry will (hopefully) be one in a series detailing my thoughts on the nominated films. I have watched two of the nominated films thus far, so without further ado…

 Nominated for three Spirit Awards including:

Best Feature
Best Screenplay – Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Best Male Lead – Joseph Gordon-Levitt

I viewed this movie keeping the above in mind along with my normal criteria that I base all my reviews on. This was a bit more difficult for me based on some of the other movies in the category that I’ve formed an early opinion of even though I haven’t viewed them yet. So, this initial review might be a bit premature as I make my way through the other features.

I originally had wanted to see (500) Days of Summer when it came out in the theatre and I was excited to finally get a chance to view it. I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and continue to look forward to his work as he grows from teen roles into adult roles.

Unfortunately, this movie was not spectacular – just good. It was entertaining in most places but it was also a bit slow at times. The movie tells the story of Tom Hansen who believes in true love and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) who does not. It chronicles the rise and fall of their relationship in 500 days. I did enjoy how easily the writers marked the passage of time (forward and backward), so that you always knew where you were, but that technique alone doesn’t make it award winning.

I also loved the music and how important the music tied to Tom’s personality. The best scene in the entire film is set to Hall and Oates “You Make My Dreams Come True”.

Ultimately, what I did enjoy about this movie is that love, while it doesn’t always work out, can inspire you to be something you thought you couldn’t be and to do things you thought you couldn’t do.

Which brings me to...

 Nominated for three Spirit Awards including:

Best First Feature
Best First Screenplay – Scott Cooper (who also directed)
Best Male Lead – Jeff Bridges (also nominated for an Academy Award)

This movie also inspires through love. And tells a story so much better than (500) Days of Summer. I loved this movie – every single thing about this movie. It was brilliant. The realness of this film really hit home for me through Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of the lead character – from his dress, to his jewelry, to his smoker’s cough and his mannerisms. The writing in this movie was brilliant, the music fantastic – and also so integral to the story. 

Jeff Bridges plays down and out musician Bad Blake. And this role was written with him in mind – not because Jeff Bridges is down and out in anyway (which is why The Wrestler worked so well for Mickey Rourke), but because he could portray this broken man with the utmost perfection.

Bad Blake has seen better days. An alcoholic who helped make the latest country sensation, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) what he is today, now plays gigs at bowling alleys and small town bars across the southwest. It is at one of these gigs he meets Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a reporter and single mom. The situation unfolds to tell the story of Bad and Jean and Bad and Tommy.

I’m not going to say any more about the story, because everyone really needs to go see this film for themselves. It is a well-written screenplay by Scott Cooper based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Cobb. Great performances by the entire cast including Maggie Gyllenhaal (also nominated for an Academy Award), Colin Farrell in his best role yet since an episode of TV’s Scrubs and Robert Duvall as Bad’s buddy.

And the music – Bridges and Farrell perform their own songs thanks to strong songwriting from producers T. Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton. If you know me, you know I am not a fan of country music, but I would buy this soundtrack in a heartbeat.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. I urge you to go to this movie if it comes to a theatre near you. I plan to own this film when it comes out on DVD.

Trailers for Crazy Heart can be viewed by scrolling down to the end of this page.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Up In The Air (2009)

So the final movie I viewed over the holiday season was Up In The Air. I wanted to see this movie because I’m a George Clooney fan. I’ve been a fan for quite awhile, since he was on a little show called “E/R” (the comedy – not the drama) that also starred Jason Alexander, Elliot Gould and Mary McDonnell and aired back in 1984-1985. 

This was a solid dramatic film with a good story. It is particularly poignant given the current recession. The film actually shot everyday, regular people that had been “let-go” from their place of employment due to the recession and that surely made me stop and think about what was happening in the real world, outside the comfy theatre.

However, the story itself really centers on Clooney’s Ryan Bingham and his inability to make a lasting, emotional connection with someone. The man really is married to his job. He meets people at one of their most vulnerable points in life – when they are being fired – and by him, no less. He recognizes the pain and suffering they are going through while never showing any emotion. His job has left him emotionally unavailable to everyone around him – his family, his coworkers, even the gal next door.

And he has a ridiculous goal to become one of only six other individuals that have flown over 10,000 miles. This childish goal only aids in stunting his emotional growth. (Of course, this is also where Sam Elliot fits into the story – and I love to listen to Sam talk, so…I’ll let it slide).

I think that this picture definitely has some Academy Award potential, but I’m not sure that I agree with critics that all three main characters are in the running. George and Vera Farmiga are solid, but Anna Kendrick steals the show. As recent graduate Natalie, she is the perfect counter to Ryan.

I don’t want to say much more, because I don’t want to give away any significant plot points as to whether Ryan makes a connection (whether it be with a person or another flight to reach his mileage goal). I’ll leave that for your own discovery.

Trailers can be viewed by scrolling down to the end of this page.