Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Connecting the heart and the mind

My mind has a tendency to run wild at times. I've always had a very dramatic imagination and I used to love to let it run wild when I was young. I remember spending hot summer days at the farm by myself just playing imaginary games and living out imaginary stories. I could entertain myself all day with just what I dreamt up in my head.
I lost that imagination for many years as the reality of life took over and I didn't have the time to day dream. I missed those easy days with myself but (mistakenly) thought I needed to "grow up" and be an adult. Being an adult to me meant worrying about everything and working hard to take care of those I loved.
I suppose that kind of thinking permeates everyone's mind at some point in their lives. Some, like me, act on it and change their lives to follow that thinking. We become, in affect, a tool that exists only to care for others. Losing our own identity, we become absorbed into the world around us. Others find a way to merge their dreams and their cheerished thoughts into the lives of others and into the world around them. They keep their day dreams and their imagination and even share it with those around them. These people, who some call dreamers and abnormal, give their unique light to the world and actually contribute something. It's paradoxical but the dreamers actually give more to the people in their lives than do the ones who lose themselves in trying to provide something to those around them.
It's only through keeping your own light shining that you can give light to the world. Letting your unique light die because you think it's responsible or because you're afraid to show it robs those closest to you of, well YOU! They want you more than anything else.
So how the hell does any of this have anything to do with running? Well, I'm getting there.
All that shit I said above are things I'm just now coming to realize. I can easily write it but it's not so easy for me to live it. My mind runs wild but it isn't filled with imagination and dreams anymore. it's filled with worry and regret. When I run the fear subsides. When I run the hurt pauses. When I run, all those things that I've put on myself lift off for awhile and I can feel free. It's only when I run that I can settle my mind and hear my heart. My heart tells me to be that kid with imagination and dreams who loves listening to them. My heart says be unique give up the worry and know that everything I fear is self-induced and an illusion.
When I run my heart connects with my head and I feel alive and worthy. The trick is to keep that going when the run stops.
I'm trying.

Thanks for listening

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


My training is finally catching up with me. I've been uping my mileage and lowering my pace for the last few weeks. Add to this that I've also been working feverishly on my house in order to keep busy enough to stave off loneliness and it's no wonder I hit a bit of a wall on Sunday. This was the first time in weeks I actually didn't feel like running. I'm hoping it's temporary and that I just need some good rest. We'll see.
I'm traveling for work this week and am in upstate New York where there are lots and lots of hills! I want so badly to be out there training on them but I'm still feeling run down and tired. I'm hopeful that tomorrow I'll have some energy again and can get out there. I've got a 10 mile tempo run on the schedule and am excited about it. I really want to get it done but I also really want to FEEL like getting it done. Maybe that's asking too much and maybe this is what hard training feels like. Pushing through uncomfortable feelings seems to be a common theme for me lately. I hope it's making me grow but sometimes I don't know.
On a positive note, I'm running the Marine Corps marathon this weekend and am very excited about that! We have a large group of friends going so it should be a great time. Plus I've always wanted to run Marine Corps because of the military ties and the location. DC is one of my favorite places to visit and now I'll get to run through it! I'm really looking forward to this race!

Thanks for listening

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

So the Boston thing.....

With all the turmoil going on in my life I found much of my relief and therapy from running. Running was the only time when my brain would stop turning circles with my fears and anxiety so I craved the time on the roads. I ran at lunch, I ran in the morning, I ran after work, I ran in the middle of the night. Running became my drug of choice and I overdosed on it whenever I could. I also wasn't eating. I just wasn't hungry with a huge knot in my stomach most of the time. I made sure to get my morning beet smoothie so I was getting lots of vegetables, but beyond that I just didn't have an appetite for anything. The result of all this running and not eating is that my weight has dropped and I'm running really, really well.
So during this time I also concluded that I needed something to set my mind and body to. A goal. Something to keep them both busy and focused. I decided I was going to qualify for Boston. Why not? I had lots of free time on my hands, I was running a lot anyway, and it's something I've always wanted but never thought possible. Once my world fell apart, impossible and possible no longer meant much. The barriers that I always saw between me and Boston suddenly didn't intimidate me so much. Facing down a large demon doesn't seem so frightening when you have nothing left to lose. I looked at and chose Tucson as my goal race. My friend Maurice has run Tucson a couple times and he has BQed there. It's a net downhill course so that should help. It's also held on December 10th so the timing worked well. I had 12 weeks to get ready for it when I started this journey.
So I highered a coach, got on a plan and off I went! In the past when I'd tried this, I was intimidated by the workouts ahead of me on the schedule. This time I didn't even look at the weeks ahead. I just put my head down and did the workout for that day without thinking. I looked forward to the next one since running was also giving me so much peace. It was the only thing I had to look forward to each day.
I'm 4 weeks into the 12 week plan and am hitting all my goal paces for each workout. My target pace is 7:28. My plan has me sneaking peaks at that pace every now and then but hasn't put my on it for any significant distance yet. I have been pushing myself to keep my easy pace at 8:00 and no slower. I think this frustrates my coach but I know how my body works and know that it easily gets comfortable at whatever pace at which I choose to train. So making 8:00 my slow pace will raise my comfortable pace to that time. Then I'm only looking at about :30 faster per mile for a goal. That's doable in my mind.
The hardest run I've done so far has been 18 miles with alternating fast/slow miles. I did a 3 mile warmup at about 8:00-8:30 pace. Then I ran a mile at 7:30 or less and then a mile at 8:30 for 15 more miles. I hit all my miles and over achieved at the slow pace. It kicked my butt though! I'm proud that I did it but a little worried about how hard it was.
This week is an easy week for me on the schedule. I don't have a track session and my long run is an easy 13-14 miles. Because I'm a really bad student, I'm trying to make this week a high mileage week. I just don't feel comfortable taking an easy week. I'm backing off the pace but trying to run more than the schedule calls for. Shhh, don't tell my coach.

Thanks for listening

Monday, October 17, 2016

Where did I go wrong? Post race analysis

Ok, one more post for my kids to read sometime in the future. 

As I come out of the hole I’ve been in for the last few weeks I am wondering how I ended up down there. I have never been caught so off guard by emotions before so I’m trying to learn from this experience mostly so I can move forward and improve, but also a little because I don’t want this to happen again. So after a lot of reflection, writing, analyzing, I think I have figured out at least one thing about why my relationship went south and why I didn’t see my emotional fall coming. 
Over the last few years I lost my contentment with what I had. I lost my love of myself and what I had in my life and was looking for more happiness from the material world. I bought into the lie that more, or better, stuff would make me happier. When your mother and I divorced years ago, I started over with very little stuff. During that time I discovered how great I felt living simply. Sure I wanted to be a little more comfortable, but I wanted to do that in simple ways. I disconnected from the material world and found so much joy in little things. I treasured and valued what I had and I started loving myself because I didn’t have “things” to distract me. That was the first time in my life I remember being happy alone and it was because I’d learned the value of simplicity and self-reliance. 
After I got on my feet a little, bought a house and became stable financially, I can remember how the desire for more material things started creeping into my world. I became comfortable with a crowd of people and started putting myself out there too much. My ego grew and I started getting more of my self image from external sources rather than from my newly discovered internal reliance. Basically I got sucked back into the material world and I didn’t realize it. 
This is reflected through my desire for a new car 2 years ago. I remember wanting to get a BMW or a Mercedes because I thought I deserved a luxury car and I wanted lots of gadgets. I completely forgot how great it was to have a simple car that was good for road trips. 
At the same time I began not liking my house because it was too small and old. I wanted one of those new cookie-cutter houses because they look new and shiny so I could show it off to my kids and friends. I lost my wonder and love for the coziness of our little house and how it forced everyone to be close and share the space. 
I wanted new furniture and bought a big, expensive wraparound, power reclining couch to replace her wonderful purple couch and the chair that she’d had forever. That couch was perfect for us for so long and I completely disregarded it while I was caught up in finding something new.
I bought her new cookware for Christmas and was upset when she didn’t want them and returned them. I see now that this was a sign that I had lost touch with where I once was and where she still was. The "me" from a few years ago would never have wanted to buy new cookware. We both enjoyed having the old stuff and really liked the hodge-podge collection of Goodwill dishes we had collected together. Why would I ever think she would want new, shiny Walmart cookware?? I look back and wonder who that guy was?

So basically I fell in love with worldly things and out of love with the core of our relationship which was built on simplicity. I had changed and not in a productive way. This change pulled me away from her and towards the world of new shiny things that held no real value. Because I was caught up in this desire, I didn’t see how I had lost the core of what made me truly happy. So when I decided that I wanted a new shiny girlfriend I was unable to see how I was actually pulling the final leg out of what had been supporting me through this time. This is why I didn’t see the fall. There were signs and I missed all of them. Once she left all I had were my shiny things and they were not (could not) making me happy and I had nothing to hold onto. As cliché as it sounds, I had to lose the most important things in order to see that I had my head in the wrong place. 
The lesson for you kids: Be careful where you set your sights. It’s OK to want to improve your comfort level in life but you must always hold true to those core things that make you happy. Lots of things will promise you more happiness but you have to be wary of them. Don’t sell out your happiness to worldly things. Figure out quickly what makes you truly happy and never ever forget them or take them for granted. Treat them like the treasure they are and keep them close.

Thanks for listening

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Back to running

Given the title of my blog I suppose I should write about running again. I'm coming out of a difficult time but I've been running and actually running pretty well. I set myself on a goal to qualify for Boston (again) and I've made some significant progress towards that goal. Funny how tough emotional times can being down one side of you but motivate and build up other sides.
I'll have more detail in another post, just wanted to check in and say hello. I've got a long way to go in both my running and my emotions, but like a marathon, you have to take each step as they come until you reach the finish.
Thanks for listening

Saturday, September 17, 2016

At the farm

I stood deep in the woods and heard the turkey calling.
I was home and I was happy
I stood and I listened to the longing of nature and yet it's stillness of spirit.
And I urged my heart to be still and learn.

Monday, September 12, 2016


I write this blog mainly as a diary to my boys. I hope one day after I'm one they will stumble upon it and find out who their dad really was back when they were growing up. So let me tell you both that right now your dad is coming out of some dark times. Mostly through my own actions, I've ruined some pretty good things that were in my life. Through this the universe has conspired to land me in a place where I have many choices.
I can chose to continue on the road I've been on. Stuburnly ignore the bad things that are occuring and charge forward towards the next destructive event. I'm not going to do this. Change is needed.
I want, with all my heart, to go back. Back to certain moments along my past and redo some things that hurt others and ulitmately hurt me. I know I can't do this. Some of those bridges are on fire and I could never get across them right now no matter how hard I try.
The only option is to go forward. But forward as a different person. Forward as someone who learns from this event and becomes better because of it. The sun will come up today and I will face the morning. How the day proceeds after that is in my hands. I'll take each day, each hour, each breathe as they come. The next moment may hurt or it may be good, I just don't know, but I have some control over how I react and even some control over how long that bad feeling lasts.
I have a friend who stubbornly refuses to be negative. It used to drive me crazy! I always thought they were ignoring reality and missing out on one side of life that, although bad, was important to feel. I'm learning now that there is no absolute reality, only the one you create. Pessimism comes from within me. Yes, negative things and people are in the world, but I don't have to dwell on them. There is no need to feel them any longer than it takes to get out of the moment. Optimism isn't ignoring reality, it's seeing the good. It's an active event.
I'm scared, hurt, sad, and almost sick from the events of late. But through all that maybe I can finally find me. The me that I've never known. I'm making changes, I'm setting goals, I'm looking for the good. I may fall apart in the next second but I will recover and get back on this course.
Boys, you have the power within you to make your world great. I've set a pessimistic example for you until now. Please know that I was wrong. I'm going to try now to change that. Not for anyone else other than me and, by example, you.

Thanks for listing

Friday, August 26, 2016

Running Alaska and the bond of friendship

You can thank Carol who I met for only a few moments on the airplane ride to Alaska for this post. Thanks for the chat Carol!

You're getting the unedited version here so I'll apologize for any errors. I'll clean this up over the next few days but I like to get the first draft out there because it has the raw emotion of the moment that can get lost as the event moves into the past and the feelings subside.

I don't remember how I met Bill. I wish I did. I like to think it was one of those encounters that just happens, you know, the kind that seem to mean nothing at all at the time but attain significance after the fact. However we met, Bill became a constant fixture in my life that steadily moved out of just my running world and into the other realms of my life so much so that I could drop the "running" from friend when I talked about him. He was just my friend.
With that said, running always was at the core of our friendship. We were never far from it during a conversation or a night out. Running was the topic around which everything else revolved. I suppose that's not uncommon among runners. We enjoyed other things in life and had other interests, in most of those things though we kept our distance from each other. It was a mutual respect for each other's privacy that allowed us to keep our friendship but also limit it to those comfortable places close to running.

Bill has always been faster than me. He was the one I'd watch every weekend run and dream that one day I might be able to keep up. When he invited me to run with him for the first time I almost laughed at the idea. There was no way I could keep up with him! But Bill didn't, and doesn't, think like that. He didn't see me as a slow runner, he saw me as a runner. No prejudice about pace, I was just a runner so why wouldn't we run together? That blind kindness and relaxed attitude toward running is what made me want to be around Bill more.

So when Bill told me he was making plans to run his 50th state I was excited! He was going to Alaska and would finish out his 50 state marathon goal in grand style with a marathon in Anchorage. Not only that, but he'd already got a group of our other friends to commit to going too! This sounded like one of those trips I just couldn't miss. The problem was, I was going to have to miss it. My schedule didn't work out with the date of the marathon in Alaska and there was no way I could get away for that weekend. I was completely bummed. For weeks I listened to all those who were going talk about their plans and what they were going to do in Alaska before and after the marathon and it completely wiped me out that I couldn't be there with them. Be there with Bill when he completely this goal he had spent so much time and energy pursuing.

A few weeks before the marathon I got a call that changed everything. I would be able to go! Situations had changed and my schedule was now free! The thing that changed was fairly significant in my life and should have taken center stage as the cause of my excitement but the funny thing is that the minute I got off the phone, I started looking at flights to Anchorage! Rest of my world be damned, I was going to see Bill finish this marathon and I wanted to finish with him.

There was one little wrinkle in my excitement however. Since I hadn't planned on running a marathon until September, I hadn't run a 20 miler since the spring and I wasn't ready for the 26.2 distance. To further complicate this, I had never finished a marathon with Bill. He's always been faster than me and, although we've started many together, I've never been able to hang with him to the finish.

I'd been in this predicament before but not with a race so important and a goal so personal. After finishing arranging my travel plans I immediately set out to change my training plans. I knew I didn't have time to get in great shape and my schedule wasn't going to allow me to get in the long runs that I knew I needed. My only hope was to get what miles I could on my old legs and hope that Bill would have a tough day and struggle through the last miles, and maybe, just maybe I could keep pace with him. It was a long shot but it was my only shot. The universe had seen fit to get me to Alaska, now I was relying on it to get me to the finish with Bill.

I gave up my weekly speed work sessions and put in all the miles I could before the marathon weekend. When the Landrunner fall marathon training began, just weeks before the trip to Alaska, I noticed Bill was having a problem with his hamstring. He said it'd been hurting him for some time and he was having trouble running at all. Now don't judge me. We've all been there. You know you have, that time when you've taken some small delight in the misery of a friend. Whether they've called you the night before a training run and said they were injured and couldn't make it and you smiled a little because you knew the pressure was off. Or you were at mile 5 of a 10 mile run and your friend says they're really struggling and maybe you should cut it back to just 8 miles today. You've all taken that guilty pleasure of someone else's misery! Well I will freely admit that I saw my chance when I saw Bill limping. This was the universe giving me my cake and letting me eat it too. I have no idea why theses things happen or even less idea why they would happen to me, but stars were aligning and I was going to stand up and take the opportunity they were serving me.

The thing about booking flights at the last minute is that you have to forfeit something. You either have to forfeit an obscene amount of money to fly on reasonably scheduled flights, or you have to forfeit your health, dignity, and sleep and take flights normally reserved for business travelers who don't have a home anyway so don't mind flying across country in the middle of the night. In getting to Alaska, I ended up leaving both money and time on the unholy alter of the airlines. My trip to Anchorage got me in around 1 AM on Saturday morning and only after many hours of uncomfortable airplane sitting. Needless to say I wasn't in the best condition to begin this weekend of running. I somehow made it through the expo and even got into the 1 mile race on Saturday where Chuck, Bill, and I made total fools of ourselves while representing our great state of Oklahoma. Let's just say, the people of Alaska knew there were Oklahomans in the house.

Sunday morning we got up and made it to the starting line with plenty of time to spare. It was cold and spitting rain but I had decided (I.e. peer pressured) to wear Chuck's spare Landrunner tank top. I do love the cold so much and even more when it's delivered with rain (where's the sarcasm key?). It was nice that we were all wearing matching shirts though and I tried to see the larger significance of the bond these skimpy bits of cloth would bring to the event through my eyes that were now tearing up from the cold. Yes, this would mean something later. The race started and Bill, Mary, and I ran together at a comfortable pace through the early miles. I was surprised to see that most of the marathon would be on a trail that borders the water. Alaska, it turns out, has tons of paved trails.
Sidebar:Every road we would drive on later in the trip had a paved trail next to it even the roads far from the city. I guess when they build a road they build a trail. What a great concept!

Bill, Mary, and I made it through the early miles together and I was hanging with them easily but all the while knowing that I couldn't hold this pace. Bill's hamstring didn't seem to be bothering him much and my untrained legs were beginning to bother me. I was still focused on my goal of just finishing with Bill but the prospects weren't looking good and I struggled to get that out of my mind and just keep running. Around mile 13 I knew I was doomed. The physical whining of my legs was out-shouting the cheerleader in my head and I knew I would have to back off the pace if I was going to finish without walking a significant portion of this marathon. I told myself that I would run to mile 16 and then I could back off. That's the little game I play with myself, set a reasonable milestone like running another 2 miles and promise my body I'll give it a break there. Somewhere around mile 15 I noticed Bill's shoe was untied and I let him know. He pulled off the trail to tie it and Mary and I continued on. I slowed a bit to let Bill catch up. This slower pace felt great! I knew then that I wouldn't get the previous pace back. It was gone. It also helped my mental state a bit to let Mary go and be running alone for awhile. I didn't feel the need to keep a pace and I could just keep moving forward without being pushed or pulled. I kept running this pace for awhile waiting for Bill to catch up, expecting him to come running up to me at that faster pace and force me to decide right there whether I could push through and finish with him or drop my goal right there on the trail and fail. But Bill wasn't appearing. I kept running and stressing about failing when I got a sudden burst of mental energy and an idea. If I could pick it up just a little, not the previous pace, but faster than I was running now, I could keep this distance between Bill and I large enough that he wouldn't catch me until maybe mile 20. At that point, maybe I could gut it out to the finish with him. 6 miles seemed much more manageable than the 10 I had in front of me now. So I picked it up a little and focused on making it just 4 more miles. Somehow keeping my mind on a 4 mile goal was keeping me up enough to allow me to push a little. This was awesome! I could do this! Somewhere around mile 18 we made a turnaround allowing me to see how much distance I had between Bill and me. I was a bit saddened to see that it wasn't a lot! Bill was still running strong and only a few hundred yards behind me. I wondered for a minute if he was upset that I hadn't waited on him after he tied his shoes but quickly put that out of my mind and promised myself my lack of running courtesy was for the great good and I'd explain it to him later. I continued to push the pace to mile 20, my goal, and was surprised to see that I was feeling pretty darn good. Maybe I could go on to mile 22 before Bill caught me? So I forged ahead, head down, legs turning over as best they could. Now that the goal was closer to a possibility, I began to get emotional. I do that. 20 miles of running can easily make me a blubbering baby and the significance of actually finishing a marathon with Bill, his 50th state no less, was boiling over into my tear ducts. My running friend for so many years and I could finally be there for him. I pulled myself together, somewhat, and plowed ahead to mile 22 and then to mile 24. Now I was worried that Bill hadn't caught me. I usually lose my ability to do math when I'm really tired but even in my reduced mental capacity I knew that Bill should have caught me easily by now if he was running like I saw him at the turn around. Something was wrong.

I stopped running without thinking. My only goal was to finish with Bill and he was obviously having problems. I walked for a bit looking back to see if he was coming. He wasn't in sight. I walked until I made it to mile 25 and still didn't see Bill coming up behind me. I walked through a crowd of onlookers as they cheered me to keep going, I only had a little bit to go, and I really didn't hear them. I stopped. I wanted to find Bill. So I started back down the trail. The crowd looked a little puzzled as I ran back by them but they didn't understand. My friend was out there and this was a significant time for him. I wanted to find him and make sure this moment lived up to what the universe had foreseen. I don't know how to say I didn't do this for anyone other than Bill, as I know it sounds self glorifying, but I promise you it was deeper than that. I wanted that goal more than any PR or even a BQ.
I didn't have to go far to find Bill. He said his hamstring had let go when he stopped to tie his shoe. He had run for a while after that but eventually the pain was too much and he had to walk. He was in good spirits and seemed to be enjoying the race even though he was way off his normal pace. Finding joy in the simple pleasure of being out on a beautiful course with other runners is so typically Bill and I shouldn't have been surprised. We walked up the last hill jamming out to the rhythms of the drummer playing along side the road. At the top Bill thanked the police who were stopping traffic for us and told them they had a beautiful city, again, so typical Bill. He wanted to run across the finish line so he said we'd walk until the last turn since his hamstring didn't have more than a block or two left in it.
Nearing the final turn we saw the other Landrunners cheering for Bill on the corner. This was a great moment and I, of course, had to hold back the emotions which I did because this wasn't my moment. I was only a participant in it. Bill started running so I went with him. Coming around that final turn and seeing the finish line I asked him if he'd like to finish alone so he could have a finish line picture with just himself in it. Bill brushed off this idea so we continued on towards the finish. When the announcer called his name and announced this was his 50th state the crowd started to cheer and Bill raised his arms in a much deserved triumphant gesture to the crowd that said, "I did this, but I did this with all of you!". Crossing the line with Bill, I felt somewhat unworthy but fully included and accepted in his success.

Personal goals are great but they only give you satisfaction limited to yourself. Helping or being with someone else when they meet their goals is a much deeper satisfaction because it spans outside of just your world, it brings your world in close contact with someone else's and that kind of connection ripples throughout the universe!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Final speech

Here is the speech I gave at the final training run before the Oklahoma City Memorial marathon.

We all come to this marathon training for different reasons. We all get something different from it too. But the thing that makes this marathon special is that you might be running for yourself but here, in Oklahoma City you are also running to remember... To heal.... And most importantly for me, to celebrate. We remember those 168 mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, friends, people who lost their lives 21 years ago. We help those left behind to heal. But we also celebrate the lives that we still have. If we take away nothing else from the horrible tragedy, we should take away the fact that life is precious, and short. Those 168 lost lives paint the picture that screams "Celebrate your life" with bold bright colors! Celebrate what you have!
When you took your first steps with us 15 weeks ago, you did just that. You recaptured your life from the prison of everyday life and set yourself on a bold course. Very few people in the world attempt to run a marathon or a 1/2 marathon. You put into a select group who decided that something difficult was worth attempting. That mountain may be high but I'm going to climb it. In doing that, you are celebrating your life and honoring those 168 souls who, I'm sure, every year at this time are smiling down on us because they see us out there, living, sometimes suffering, but really experiencing all that life has to offer. I have to figure that if somehow they could come back, get a second chance at the life that was taken from them, they'd be right here with us. Doing those things that are hard, doing those things that awaken your soul or keep your soul awake by challenging it to new heights.
We run to remember and we run to heal. But remember to celebrate a little too. Have a great run next week, I hope it hurts like hell, I hope you laugh, cry, smile, curse, hurt, get a second wind, feel those great endorphins, and suffer horribly the week after. All those things are called being alive and I hope you don't cheat yourself out of any of them.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Up and down

I've wrestled this demon for so long I'm exhausted. I thought I was fighting to stay up but I realize now that up is an illusion. A temporary glimpse above the water into a place I cannot stay. It's somewhat comforting to finally realize this because now I know the fight is futile and I can rest that internal struggle that I thought was keeping me up but was actually a cycle of jumping and falling.