Sunday, December 25, 2016

Wind, trees, change

Things do not change; we change. Thoreau.

Standing in the woods today as the wind blew strong against the trees, some alive and some already dead but still pushing back against each blow, I couldn't help but think how our brains, or at least mine, are afloat on a wind of thoughts that blow in both good and horrible thoughts. I supposed the great question for today was whether to let ourselves go where that mental wind blows or to stand strong against the gale and remain firm in our position like the trees. 
The past is firmly fixed like the trees. Memories are there. Unchangeable in fact. Miles run are miles in the book. Yes, it can wear with time and become blurry, but in the truest terms of fact, what happened is written in time. My brain sometimes blows against them and tries to move good ones into painful ones and painful ones into obscurity and I suppose that's similar to living trees that provide shade and protection and the dead trees that only take up space and provide nothing of value. 

The future, or our plans, are by nature unfixed. We see our goals ahead of us and we chase them with a passion built in the present. But when we catch them we are sometimes not who we were when we began the chase and the goal ahead becomes fluid. So no matter how solidly we paint the picture of the future it can never be anything but unknown. And that can be scary if we let our minds blow that way. 

I have intentionally refused to write about my Boston qualification because I don't know what to feel about it. This goal, so amazing and glamorous that I would chase it for 10 years, became less than monumental less than a day after it was realized. When it was the future, a plan, a goal, I had a picture of how it would be to achieve it. I'd train hard and throw myself into it with the full support of the people I loved and who loved me. That sublime scene, painted on the canvas of my mind for years, was me finally throwing my full weight into pushing that stone up and over the hill, standing on top, glowing like the Oklahoma sunrise, feeling a self worth previously unbeknownst to me. I'd be that guy I always dreamed of becoming. It wasn't so much achieving it that would give me that feeling as much as putting in the work needed to achieve it. 
Crossing the line seeing the clock read 3 hours and 14 minutes felt so good. For a moment. Then I looked around and the first thing I noticed was how different the scene was in reality compared to how it had hung on the wall of my mind for all those years. The things that I lost, and the things I found, on the way to achieving it played heavily on my mind and I cried sobbing, uncontrollable tears of joy and pain. It took me a long time to pull myself together at that finish line. I'm honestly not sure I actually did pull everything together. I left so many things on that course and in those final inches. They fell out of me uncontrollably and I couldn't gather them all back into my heart because they scattered once they were free. And now I still struggle, wondering if I should have held them firm inside me against the winds of change or is it OK that they blew away? My future became my past, being now for only a few moments, and now neither seem recognizable to me. 
Truth is, I now feel very little about accomplishing the goal. It just doesn't hold the consequence I supposed it would. It just happened. My feelings about it now are that I'd like to run it again, not to achieve a goal but because it felt so damn good running that like I did!  A conservative runner by nature, normally putting in conservative miles early with the hope of saving my energy for the later miles, in this race I rejected that old way and put my cards on the table in the first mile. Fuck it, I told myself, if you're going to do this you have to run each mile as if it's the final mile of the race and each mile split is the goal time. Throwing myself across the buzzing of my watch like the final 100 meters. It was a mental game and a fight against the fear that resides in the next mile. There was no next mile. Only this mile I was running. I might fall off the pace but that was in the future and couldn't be considered. I ran this mile. And then the following mile. There was no future because it was unknown and full of fear for me. Then couldn't exist in the now; there wasn't room. The miles gone by were fixed and done and there was no future. It was the most free my soul has ever been.

Although my 10 year dream didn't materialize in the way I had envisioned, It taught me to embrace a new way of honoring the present with my best effort and keeping my sail filled with the positive mental wind that's blowing now. Let it push my boat away from the safety of the conservative shore of the past and not to worry about whether it will be there to bring me back. The trees on that shore are dead anyway. Enjoy the breeze in my face and the sun in my hair because that's all there is. 

The reality is that my goal didn't change, I changed.

Thanks for listening





Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

The smallest ember of hurt, landing upon the strongest bond can grow. Fed by mis, or no, communication and misunderstanding it turns the bond into fuel and sprouts a flame. Fed by fear the flame erupts into a fire spurring anger and hate until it becomes the funeral pyre of the bond.
This year has wrought so many things that spur our divisions. More anger, more hate, more fear is not the solution to any problem.
We're brothers and sisters in humanity at our core. Whatever ember fell on us this year please remember that all the things that divide us are only shadows cast on our view by the fire that started long ago by a small ember of hurt. You can look beyond the shadows for the bond that's still there if you will only try.
Person to person, race to race, community to community, country to country, it doesn't matter how small the first drop of understanding is that you put on the ember. Every ocean is filled with small drops.
Here's to hoping 2017 is a waterfall.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Just Run

Well folks we're down to it. The Tucson marathon is tomorrow where I'll try to finally qualify for Boston. I've done all the training. I hit every goal and made every run. There's nothing left to do now but run.
It's kinda fitting that I find myself in this position in my running life at this moment in time. I've done all I can do and now all I have left to do is run. No more effort or thought is needed or even could be beneficial. I've reached that point where it's time to stop training and planning and just do. Do what needs to be done and move through this point to the other side. I'll either qualify or I won't but I can't stay here on this side of trying any longer.
I'm surprisingly calm about it.
I'll move through this and see what's on the other side knowing that I can't control most of what happens. I'll put what I have out there for the world to see and find out how my hand plays against the house. This is not at all how I pictured this challenge would play out but if I've learned anything over the last months it's that I shouldn't try to control anything. When I do try it makes things much worse than I could ever imagine. So I'll let the universe play this one out and let things come and go; let people play their part on the stage, and try to enjoy the show. My next scene begins with the marathon tomorrow and the script isn't known to me but I've rehearsed in the best way I know how.

See you on the other side.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A moment

Just a quick note to mark today as special. Tonight my youngest came into my room and asked me to show him how to shave. It's a small thing, but it meant so much to me. I love that boy more than I have capacity to love. He fills up my soul when I think about him. When we connect through these little moments it makes me so happy because, unlike when he was a baby and I could hold him and love him, now we are sharing things like this instead of me just loving him from one side. He can now interact with me in these small ways and give me tiny pieces of his life and memories. I love that.
Thanks for listening

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Accomplishing a goal and the puzzle


When I was in high school I ran cross country and loved it. I loved running through the woods but it helped that I was pretty good at it too. I could easily run in the 18 minute range for the 3 mile course. Stretching out the legs and feeling the rush of running quickly over the rough terrain made me feel like I was flying. I kept running after high school but somewhere along the way I lost the speed that I used to have back then. It became extremely challenging to run a 5K anywhere near 20 minutes let alone 18. I found that I was OK with my slower pace if I ran longer because accomplishing the longer distances gave me a similar sense of satisfaction as did running fast back in my youth. I suppose that means I was only chasing some sort of self-satisfaction and using running to give it to me buy hey, I was young and could have been chasing it with other things right?
Although I was content with running longer distance in place of running fast, I always kept an internal goal of one day breaking 20 minutes in the 5K. I wasn’t planning to train for a 5K but hoped that my marathon training would allow me to accomplish the 5K goal while seeking a marathon goal. Turns out I may have been right for the first time in my life! Hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. ☺
At the Edmond turkey trot on Thanksgiving I ran the 5K in 19:42. This is the fastest time I’ve run for a 5K since I was 18.
Since I haven’t been training for a 5K I didn’t anticipate accomplishing this goal so I didn’t have any stress about the race beforehand. The weather was near perfect running weather although a little cold for my tastes. I, of course, screwed up my watch at the starting line and put it in cycling mode instead of running mode so I only had speed and total time to measure my progress during the race. Since I can’t run and do math at the same time, I gave up looking at it. It wasn’t until I turned the final corner and saw the clock that I realized I was going to break 20 minutes. My heart just about came out of my chest! I had struggled most of the race to keep pace and that pace didn’t seem all that fast but here I was about to accomplish a long-time goal!
It’s funny how uneventful accomplishing a goal can be. When I crossed the finish line my insides were cheering and so excited but on the outside I was just another runner. Although I was completely relieved, excited, happy, and a million other positive emotions, my only thought was how weird it is to have accomplished this goal but to have lost the life that I had when I started thinking about it. It didn't make me sad so much as it frustrated me to think that when I put the goal in my head I had people around me who I motivated me to seek this goal but by the time I actually accomplish it those people are gone. It just seemed like the puzzle wasn’t complete even though I had finally got those last difficult middle pieces to fit. I’d finally fit those pieces that you can’t fit together without putting most of the other pieces in place first and when I stepped back to look at the finished picture I realized I’d lost the corners.
On the positive side, I also realized that I didn’t NEED to have someone there in order to feel good about this accomplishment. I enjoyed the success in my own way and within my own skin. The feelings were all positive and I was able to feel the satisfaction on my own. That’s a big step forward from me and I have to wonder if the changes that brought about this new self-awareness aren’t, at their root, the same changes that led to accomplishing the running goal. I also have a large group of new, wonderful, friends who were there and so excited to know I'd done this thing. They truly cared and made the day wonderful.
You can't expect to keep the world the same forever. Things change, we change, hell the universe is constantly expanding at a phenomenal rate! There's no reason we should ever expect to be in the same space for long. But we set out on long journeys anyway. We take the motivation from the space we're in presently and use it to move forward knowing (or at least finding out) that that space might not be the same when we arrive. Sometimes it hurts a little or a lot, but if we thought about it for more than a second, we'd realize that we wouldn't be adventuring if our hearts wanted to be in the same space. The itch that made us seek something distant, or hard, doesn't really want us to end up in the same space we left.
Thanks for listening
 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Reinventing I

I’m pessimistic and I doubt myself a lot. There, I said it. I hate that it’s true but I don’t want to live that way anymore so it’s important to say it. While I’m sure my doubts and fears are significantly different from yours, I’m also sure we all have a bit of self-doubt lingering somewhere just beneath the surface. It usually rises to the surface when we are presented with a challenge where our hearts say “Go for it!” but our heads say “Holy crap that looks hard!
Neuroscientists are discovering that our subconscious mind controls a large portion (some say up to 90 %!) of our actions. This subconscious reaction is our brain’s way of giving us quick responses and alleviating our conscious mind of having to make every decision. Our conscious minds require significantly more energy to operate than the subconscious so this is also a way in which this amazingly complex and efficient body of ours conserves energy. Over the course of our lives, our subconscious mind learns from how we react to certain situations and stores this away. Eventually it uses this stored information to automatically react to similar situations without us having to actually process what’s happening. Usually this stored information is negative and our subconscious learns to react in ways to protect us from the experiencing that pain or failure again. The sad reality is that when we reach a certain age we can become more automatic than conscious. We can become a machine, driven more by our past experience, who isn’t actually experiencing the world today as much as reacting to it. 
That’s the reason we are so often afraid to take on new challenges or to push ourselves beyond what’s comfortable. We see something that excites our conscious mind but that’s the moment when that subconscious monster of doubt, grown and cultivated over the years by our bad experiences and failures, takes over and wipes away the dream without us even really knowing it. We are able to get a glimpse through the crack in the door but it’s immediately slammed shut and we remain in our safe room of mental comfort where we can’t experience failure or pain but also can’t grow.
I’m making this sound like our bodies are out to keep us down and hurt us and that’s not the case. This process is the amazing way we stay safe and stay alive. It’s the most fantastic creation on this planet! You have a body that works to keep you alive and safe without much thought on your part. But in its focus on those goals, it can, if we allow it, squelch the rest of our amazing gifts and talents, sacrificing them for safety. 
The great thing is that we can control and/or change our subconscious! It’s still learning, even in my extremely old age. We have the power to take control of our conscious mind when presented with a challenge and cage that monster of self-doubt. We can not only cage him, we can teach him a new automatic response! It’s not easy and he will fight, remember he’s been learning our old ways since we were born, but we can change our automatic, fear based reactions and step up to new things and challenges. All it takes is to become aware of our actions, understand if they are truly coming from our heart or our head, and when possible, follow the heart instead of head. It’ll be scary and we’ll probably fail at new things for a while but that’s OK because where you can fail you can also succeed! You can’t have the brilliant joy of victory without the risk of failure. You’ll also realize that failure really isn’t that bad anyway, your mind just makes it look that way when you let it think about it.
I’ve had a dream of qualifying for the Boston marathon for many years. The qualifying time for me is extremely challenging based on what I normally run so I’ve always put that dream in the category of unachievable. Well now I’m making a run at it. I realized my view of this challenge was based on how I’d performed in the past which was limiting my ability to see how good I could be in the future. I’m fighting that automatic response that says I can’t run that fast and committing myself to the training. I might fail. I might succeed. I know I’ll be better for having taken control of the situation and not let my past define my future. 
Get out there and find out how good you can be too. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

All I needed was a run

I thought I was loosing it. I thought I was backsliding.
I have been learning so much about myself and moving forward in a good direction. It's not been a fun journey or one that I would recommend doing often, but it is necessary and I'm grateful that things worked out to give me this opportunity to grow. 
Along the way I've regressed more times than I can remember but I have wonderful friends who I can lean on when I need a crutch. Again, so grateful for all the players in this situation.
Yesterday I had one of those frightful days when the floodgates of fear opened and I wasn't strong enough to hold it back. It scared me not only because of the waves of fear and anxiety that came and never seemed to end, but because I thought I was passed this. I thought I had put this kind of irrational emotion behind me. I was caught completely off guard and, of course, spent way too much time trying to analyze it and figure out, well basically WTF??
Then I went for a run tonight. A really hard interval run. In the beginning I was still fighting the fear and anxiety. As I pushed myself faster and faster, I found that my mind settled, my fear turned to calm. As I continued with the workout I found myself actually finding some confidence and emotional strength. The kind I'd had before yesterday. It wasn't gone! Then I realized that I hadn't run since Saturday and had let my diet fall to shit. I had a stomach bug on Monday and spent the day in bed. Basically I had become seditary. I hadn't given my body or spirit what it needed and the result was a fall into all the worst my mind could conjure up. There was nothing keeping me from falling. 
This happens on a smaller scale in good times and it manifests as laziness and fatigue. In my current state it had ample fodder to build into an emotional storm of midwest spring magnitude. 
Pushing the body and keeping it from getting down is more than just a physical need. For me it also keeps the soul stable. I need to remember this.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Lesson learned again

Everything in moderation.
That's a wonderful saying and I try to live it but sometimes life gets in the way. I've got a million things going on right now and I want to get them all done RIGHT NOW! So, in typical Willie fashion, I've worked myself into a frenzy that has ended with sickness. I've run myself down to the point where I had to spend a whole day in bed yesterday feeling completely horrible and nauseous. The sickness was bad enough but the frustration of not being able to work on any projects or even go to work made it even worse. Add to this the fear that I'd lose a week of BQ training and I was a complete mess!
Luckily it last only a day and I'm feeling much better today. Being forced to rest also forced me to, once again, see how I had lost sight of how important balance and patience are in life. It would be nice if I could learn this lesson once and not have to be forced to learn it over and over.
Becoming focused only on finishing everything makes me miss the joy of the journey. The end result should be a motivation but it can't be where I focus all my attention. Staying present in the current moment and paying attention to the details of what needs to be done now is how we finish races and how we enjoy life to the fullest. One thing, one race, one mile, one step at a time.
I've got two killer workouts on the schedule this week so I need to get one more day of good rest ad make sure I'm over this sickness. I'm getting into the real meat of this BQ training plan so from here on the workouts look a challenging. Here are the description from my coach.
Workout #1
So, we'll run an 800 around 3:15. Take 1:00 rest and go right into a mile at 7:26 pace. Then take 1:00 rest and do it again until we have run six 800's and six miles. It's a high volume workout that will require patience early.
Workout #2
Our second session will be a Long Run Workout during the weekend. I just want a good, fast finish 20 miler. The first 10 miles need to be easy, casual running. Then the last 10 miles I would like to try and be at 7:45 or better.

Until now, most of the workouts have been things I could do. They weren't comfortable, but I felt I could do them. This week's runs will test my ability to push beyond what I think I can do. It's scary and exciting all at the same time. I need to push everything else out of my mind and make time for these workouts if I can because I won't be able to just "get them done". It's going to take focus. A focus on the present and what needs to happen now. Something with which I obviously struggle.
I'll let you know how these go.

Thanks for listening

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Marine Corps Marathon Race Report

When I ran the Anchorage marathon this summer a friend forwarded me an email from the RRCA saying I could register for the Marine Corps Marathon for $43 if I purchased a $15 RRCA visor. Now if you don't know, the Marine Corps Marathon usually fills up early so it's a bit difficult to get in and if you've ever run a marathon you know that $58 is a STEAL for any marathon! I've always wanted to run the Marine Corps Marathon because it runs through DC which is one of my favorite places to visit and because it has a primarily military theme which I respect. So needless to say I jumped on this chance and immediately registered.
It just so happened that I had to travel to NY the week before the race for work so I was also able to have most of my travel costs covered too! Sometimes the universe aligns in your favor. So I spent the week in upstate NY where it was COLD!!! It actually snowed a couple days. I didn't get outside to run but I did get a good hard tempo run on the dreadmill on Thursday. I was so excited when I checked the DC weather on Friday and saw that is was in the 70s and sunny! This was a nice change for this warm weather lover.
I had a lot of friends who also registered through the RRCA and it was nice to have a big group in DC to run this marathon. I love traveling to marathons with my running friends! It adds an extra element of fun to have people with you who are easy to be around and like similar things. I actually shared a room with Maurice at the host hotel. This was nice because we got to stay at a way-to-fancy hotel and split the cost. I normally will look for the cheapest hotel or AirBnB available, which is fun but sometimes inconvenient for the race. Staying at the host hotel made getting around to the race events easy. Or so I thought but I'll get to that.
Since I'm on my BQ quest I didn't have a goal for this marathon but, of course, secretly I did. I really wanted to run around 3:30 which is 8:00 pace. I have been training at sub-8:00 pace and felt that if I couldn't hold at least 8:00 pace for 26 miles then I might be in trouble for getting to the 7:28 pace I'll need for my BQ. I've got plenty of time before my BQ race but this little boost to my ego would help a lot.
I got to the starting line and, since they didn't have corrals, I made my way up to the 3:35 pace group sign. Surprisingly there were very few people in this area compared to the hordes of runners farther back. The race organizers kept pushing our group forward and by the time the gun went off I was only a few feet from the starting line! This was a little unnerving but I was going to run my own race so I enjoyed seeing the starting festivities and didn't worry about it.
The hills on this course are mostly in the first 5 miles so I had promised myself I'd take it easy for those miles and wait until the course leveled out before pushing anything. I knew as soon as I started though that this wasn't going to be an easy run for me. The 3:35 pace was not comfortable. I could run it but it was coming easy like it had in training. I'm still not sure why but I never felt comfortable at any time during this marathon.
I made it through the hills and into Georgetown which I'd never visited before. I took a moment to look around and am now convinced I need to go back and spend some time there. It's a very pretty area and looks like a cool place to hang out. Not surprising since, you know, it's Georgetown! I think everyone but me already knew it was a cool place. Anyway, I was still having to concentrate on holding my pace but wasn't worried yet since I could hold it when I did concentrate. I was still running with the 3:35 pace group and I noticed that we were averaging 7:40-7:55 per mile which is a little fast for a 3:35 marathon. It started to bug me that this pacer was running faster than necessary. At one point he even said something about being a little fast and said it in such a way as to blame it on the group! I wanted to remind him that he's the pacers and we're following him but I kept my mouth shut and soldiered (get the Marine reference? :) ) on.
At some point I got ahead of the group and left them behind as we ran along the Potomac just south of the national mall. This was a beautiful part of the course and although it was mostly an empty park, it had plenty of crowd support. This is also where we ran through through the pictures of fallen Marines. There were so many pictures and under the pictures were their ages when they died. I will admit that I cried a little by the end of this stretch as I saw picture after picture of 19 and 20 year old kids who's lives ended before they had really begun. Some of the pictures were of young families and they looked so happy together. I couldn't stop myself from wondering about how much pain those young wives and husbands went through when they got the news that their loved one wasn't coming home. How much pain will their babies go through growing up without knowing their mom or their dad? Maybe I'm just overly emotional but it got to me and is still in my head.
It was shortly after this stretch that I ran up on a guy running with 2 prosthetic legs. And yes, he was running! It wasn't pretty, and he looked like he was working his ass off, but he was running damn it. This young man had lost more than I will ever know and he was finding a path forward. I felt weak and unworthy to be on the same road as this badass. I told myself that I couldn't quit on my journey, no matter how bad I think things are, I just have to keep moving forward.
I should pause here a moment and mention my wonderful high school friends who had come out to see me. I hadn't seen either of them in over 20 years and they were both on the course cheering for me! I saw them at least 4 times and each time I heard a loud "Wilcoxen!!!" I would look up and be instantly happy. They surprised me at just the right moments and I'm so happy and grateful for long time friends especially ones that stay connected when we aren't physically. John and Sandra, thank you so much for being out there!
Eventually we made it back up to the national mall and all the wonderful monuments. This was somewhere around mile 15 and I was still running strong holding a sub-8:00 pace for the most part. I was beginning to struggle but the huge crowds around the mall made it easy to keep going and keep pace. I absolutely love running around the mall and this time I had the whole street to myself! I made a point to take in the Washington monument and the Capitol building as we went by. I even noticed the Air and Space museum which is my absolute favorite place in DC. As we headed out of the mall, I knew that "the bridge" was coming up around mile 18. I had heard people talking about the dreaded bridge but didn't really think it could be that bad since the elevation profile didn't show anything dramatic around mile 18, nor did I remember any significant hills in that area.
We left the mall and crossed mile 18 and immediately started out across a bridge that I had not seen before. I thought I knew DC pretty well since I'd been there just a few months before but somehow I missed this bridge. I had done a good job of hydrating all along the course because the forecast was for hot temperatures and I knew I needed to get as much water as possible at all the stops to beat the heat. I somehow missed the memo that there would be no water available on this bridge which would take us all the way to mile 20. Looking back I can't say the bridge had any large hills but it seemed like it was a constant hill and I got really tired and really thirsty while traversing it. By the time I reach the end at mile 20, I knew why I had heard so many people talking about "the bridge"! It sucked the life out of me! I was barely holding pace and had become extremely thirsty. My muscles were cramping and everything seemed to be going to shit in a hurry! How I went from running well to a complete pile of unenergized, dehydrated, cramping horse crap in a matter of 2 miles is beyond me but it happened.

I had kept pace for a 3:30 marathon up to mile 20. I now began struggling to hang on to something near that pace as I pushed myself through the last miles. I was in that old familiar state of being behind the power curve on energy and hydration where you know you can't fix it and just have to deal with the situation and get to the finish. I hate that!!!! Survival became the name of the game as I pushed my body forward and my mind became more and more pissed off that I had let myself get to this state. It's a weird feeling to be angry at yourself while trying to ask yourself to keep going! I almost felt like I should go into Dad mode where you say nice things to your child to get them to do something while inside you just want to scream at them for not doing it when you told them to!
I struggled through the last miles and made it back near the finish where I realized the finish was up hill! Like a steep hill. Like the last 100 yards were straight up hill! WTF?? Then I remember this was the Marine Corps marathon and maybe I should expect things like this. Marines aren't known for making things easy. Well, I thought, fuck it, I'm already pissed off so let's make this hurt as much as possible. I sprinted up that hill like crazy and finished like the Air Force veteran-acting-like-a-Marine-for-a-day that I am! I crossed in 3:36 and I'm happy with that time. I wish I had felt better doing it and am slightly worried about my BQ in December but if nothing else I learned I've got some work to do and I know what I need.
The finish was lined with Marines in uniform who gave me all kinds of congratulations and encouragement. I felt a kindred spirit with them until I remember that I'm an Air Force guy and asked, "Where's the beer tent?".

Thanks for listening.

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

Tired!!

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 marathonguide.com 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

Crossroads

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.