Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 151 - 5 months

Today, the 5 month mark, snuck up on me.

The weekend was all about the race and the kids and I didn't realize until I was actually on my run that it was the 31st. Luckily I was already in a reflective frame of mind.

I was thinking how, unabashedly, I shed a manly tear during the pre-race ritual, and how it had been a couple years since that had happened. Why was that? Why didn't it move me last year like it did yesterday?

The word that kept coming into my head, as I tried to compare myself then to myself now, was clarity.

I see myself differently now, and I think more clearly. I'm more honest with myself and more willing to see myself for what I am. And that makes me better able to feel, and think, and perceive the world I live in.

Last year I spent a lot of time chasing things that I thought I wanted. I thought, and worried, and planned, and worked my ass off, for what turned out to be nothing.

If I'd been more honest with myself, if I'd listened to my instincts, if I'd been more in touch with myself, if I'd had the same clarity I have now, I'd have saved a lot of time, and grief, and worry, and energy. Tons of energy.

The thing is, it's so easy to delude ourselves. We can convince ourselves that everything is ok, that things will work out, that this really is what we want. Why? Because sometimes the truth is too painful to admit, even to ourselves. It's easier to live the illusion, to kid ourselves, than to face the hard, cold truth.

The irony is that the truth wins out... sooner or later. And the longer you wait, the harder it is to face.

Still, over time we build up layer after layer of insulation between our true self and the outside world. Some people live nearly all of their adult lives pretending to be someone they aren't, more comfortable with their alter ego than the real person inside. And unfortunately, some people spend so much time pretending to be someone else that they lose touch with who they really are. And a small few are so afraid of facing their true self that they retreat from anyone and anything that gets too close.

I took the dog on the run. It was long-ish. And hot. And sunny. And humid. The dog, who usually insists on staying half a step ahead of me, was lagging behind the last couple of miles. I started to worry that the heat was getting to her. Then she saw another dog up ahead and miraculously found all kids of energy to dash ahead in an attempt to attack the dog, or to sniff its butt. Not sure which. Point is, she was fine, just not on the same plan as me.

I spent most of those last 2 miles tugging on her, encouraging her to keep up. She'd play along, pick up the pace a bit, only to drop back as far as the leash would let her. She was slowing me down, and wearing me out, since I was running a little twisted to the left, dragging a furry, slobbery anchor. When we hit our street, I tried one last time to spur her on. Not happening.

I dropped the leash.

I finished the last 1/10th of a mile alone. She made it to the yard eventually, plopping down in a sunny spot.

There are (at least) two types of people in this world. There are those who seek, even crave, clarity and truth and all that comes with it, and there are those who choose to live a life safe from the naked truth, inside a cocoon.

These two types don't mix. Those looking for clarity are frustrated by those who aren't. Those who choose to bury their true selves are uncomfortable with those who keep trying to get to that same true person they are hiding.

If you're a cocooner, you may not even know it. But if you do, and you want to shed that cocoon, there's nothing like regular vigorous exercise to tear away that sucker. A good run, alone, in the hot, or cold, or wind, or rain, will bring you face to face with yourself, give you a chance to get reacquainted. It's a lot cheaper than therapy, and if you stick with it, you'll be healthy and live longer. More time to enjoy a life unfiltered.

If you're a truth-seeker, hang with other truth-seekers. Don't waste the energy or time or worry trying to get them to open up or to understand. They'll just slow you down and wear you out.

Sooner or later, you gotta drop the leash.

Good running,

Numbers: 7.0 miles mostly on roads, but a little trail mixed in.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 150 - Race Day

To commemorate my 38th consecutive Indianapolis 500, I went for an early run.

I went to my local track, and ran 10 laps.

2.5 miles.

I started slow... it was early, and like a 6 year old on Christmas eve, I hardly slept last night.

Not unlike what the drivers will do for the first part of their race this morning, I took inventory of what I had to work with and how I felt.

Couple laps in, I'd found a groove, moving at a good clip, but one I could maintain. I settled in for the middle part, the part that makes the end mean something. And I thought about going to the race with my Dad, and my Mom, and my step-dad. The thrills, the rain, the best times of my life.

With 3 laps to go, I got ready. Ready for the final push, where you let it all out, don't leave anything behind, including doubts about whether you'd given it all you had today.

On the last lap, the last 10% of the run, it was time to go. Time to empty the tank and leave caution to the early morning wind.

When I finished, there were no cheers, no trophy, no milk, I wasn't immortal.

What there was, though, was a panting dog ready for a long nap. There were 3 awesome kids anxious to continue their own streak of races. And there was the promise of one more trip to 16th and Georgetown, one more opportunity for one of the moments that we'll talk about for years, starting with "Remember when..." and finishing with "... that was awesome!"

This morning, before the run, the first words out of my youngest's mouth, with fists in the air, were "It's Race Day, Dad!"

That's right, bud. It's Race Day.

Good running,

Numbers: 3.7 miles, mostly on track.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 149 - New Running Buddy

After an early rise and a morning of standing in the sun at the Indianapolis 500 Autograph session, I expected my boys to be wasted today.

I was half right.

To my huge surprise, and huger delight, my youngest agreed to join me for a run.

Affectionately known as The Duke around our house, the kid was not just willing, he was gung ho!

The Duke is going to run track this summer. I know! I'm thrilled. I've secretly hoped that at least one of my kids would try running.  Now I have one running cross country, and one trying track. Score!

As we waited "forever!" for my GPS watch to find its friends in orbit about the Earth, he was anxious to get down the road.

"Finally!" we headed out of the neighborhood, smooth and easy, and over to the local middle school track. The boy wanted to "practice".

We learned how the track is divided, what the lines mean, and what a start is like. We ran a 100, and practiced a turn, and even ran a 200, which he smoked. Finally, he insisted on a timed 100.

We enjoyed a slow, cool-down jog home, which he cruised easily.

Any parent will understand my excitement and pride. First, he ran with the old man. Second, he wanted to hit the track. Third, he ran great. Finally, he really enjoyed it.

Can you imagine a better run? Not sure I can.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.3 miles on roads and track.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 148 - Hoosier Hundred

Today, well, this evening, is one of the great running traditions, the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Back in the day, the same guys who raced in the Indianapolis 500 would take their cars to the dirt mile. For 100 laps.

Today, same track, but now they race the wicked fast Silver Crown sprint cars.

Sadly, I've never been to the Hoosier Hundred, but I hope to rectify that tonight with kids in tow.

To commemorate this grand race, my run today included a mile on dirt. The dog and I headed to my neighborhood trail, and repeated loops until I eclipsed a mile.

Here's some race information for those locals who want to soak up some of the racing goodness:

Friday, May 28, 2010 – Hoosier Hundred USAC Silver Crown Cars & UMP Modified
5:00 p.m. Practice
6:00 p.m. Qualifying
6:30 p.m. Modified Heats
7:00 p.m. Race Begins
Advance Admission 
Adults: $25.00 Child: $10.00
For Tickets please call Ticket Master at 1-800-745-3000 or call Track Enterprises at (217) 764-3200.
Pit passes sold race day only - $35.00 
Infield tickets sold race day only - $15.00 Adult & $5.00 Child
Spectator parking $3.00 per vehicle
Camping available-$25.00 per night/per unit

Good running,

Numbers: 2.6 miles, mostly on trail, before heading out to Carb Day.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 147 - Coming out of the Closet

I need to get something off of my chest.

I haven't mentioned up to now because I didn't want it to be a distraction, but I've written about everything else, and the time feels right...

Ok... here goes...

I am a barefoot runner.

Whooo... that's liberating.

Technically, not totally barefoot. I run in Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs), the shoes with toes. So not totally barefoot, but close enough.

I've been running almost exclusively in KSOs since September '09. On a few really cold occasions, I ran in Flows. And there were two disastrous runs in my trail shoes in snow.

I'm not going to preach here about the pros of barefoot running. It's not for everyone. It's been great for me. Before making this change, if I ran on Monday, I couldn't run again until Saturday. My hips and lower back were a mess.

It took about 3 months to build strength in my feet and calves, and to essentially learn how to run all over again. But now, as we all are painfully aware thanks to my ceaseless self-promotion, I run every day.

I get a lot of funny looks, still, but VFFs are starting to creep into the main stream. Lots of runners have heard about them. Some people are wearing them to workout at health clubs and to yoga classes. And yesterday I saw a guy in my office wearing them. Those are his everyday shoes. I know!

It's like when you discover an Indie band that you love, and it's your thing, and you just keep it, and them, to yourself. But then, they hit it big and teenagers are showing up to their concerts and they do a guest spot on some Disney show. You want to scream "I loved them before it was cool to love them!"

I'm not sure VFFs rate as cool. Probably not in Central Indiana. Certainly not if you're 45. For when people see me out for a run, I want to have a shirt that says "I'm wearing them so I can run every day and for many years to come, not because I'm desperately trying to look hip."

It helps that mine don't look clean and new. They have just under 500 miles on them. They're torn here and there, and the straps are so wore I have reinforced them with duct tape. I am not kidding.

But mostly, they stink. Bad. Chernobyl bad. Ebola bad.

We've talked about this before. I've washed them, soaked them, even tried denture cleaner.

If they get wet, they will clear a room. A large room. Again, I'm not kidding.

After a run, as soon as I get back to my office, I pull them off and slide them into a scented bathroom trash bag. Even that isn't enough.

The only way I've been able to avoid eviction from my office is to then take them outside. And it turns out, the best way to tame the stench, is to dry them in the sun. Something about germ killing power of UV light.

So if you see these in an office park parking lot, I wouldn't recommend stealing them...

Let the mocking begin...

Good running,

Numbers: 4.2 miles on roads. Cook-a-pancake-hot roads.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 146 - No Excuses.

Ever had to read a business book for work? Uhg.

But, in keeping with my mantra "always find something positive"*, I dog-eared a page that had this at the top:
Don't let yourself off the hook with excuses. It's entirely your responsibility to make your dreams come true. - Rework by Fried and Hansson, pg 41.
If it weren't so long, I'd make that a mantra.

How many dreams have you let slip away without even taking a crack at realizing them? What was your excuse? Doesn't matter, there is no excuse.

We are responsible for our dreams, our happiness, our lives.

We spend too much time trying to give others that responsibility, expecting circumstances to make an easy path for us, waiting for a life of satisfaction and contentment to fall into our lap.

That's living someone else's life... or none at all. Wake up and take charge. And do it now, before your short time here is up.

For me, this year, I've started to forge my own path. I've run every day. I've written every day.

But the important thing is that those two together have helped, no, forced me to examine my life, my thoughts, my feelings, my priorities, my goals, my place in the universe... every day. And these are essential elements for seeing truth, being happy, being who you were meant to be, and making dreams come true, for yourself and for those you love.

Live your life. With your eyes wide open. Same goes for your mind. And your heart.

Good running,

*That's just one of my mantras. I have several. Another is "never turn down a brownie".

Numbers: 3.0 miles. Hot. Hot! HOT!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 145 - Beer Run

1) 1.4 miles to pub.

2) 1 pint Fat Tire

3) 1.5 miles home.

Good running,

Numbers: (For the arithmetic impaired) 2.9 miles.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 144 - Heaven

I've spent 3 of the last 4 days in my own little slice of heaven.

To most people, The Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May is a quaint tradition, or an icon of a bygone era, or a party, or irrelevant.

To me, it is my backyard. I love being here. I love having been there. I love thinking about being there again.

The first car I hear after 11 months of quiet puts the hairs on the back of my neck at attention.

The first whiff of exhaust and hot, wearing tires smells better than apple pie.

Sitting, or standing, watching the cars, hearing them, feeling them as they go by, I soak it in. I savor every... single... second.

When 6p rolls around, I don't want to leave.

As I sat at work today, I felt a little empty. Qualifications are over. There's really nothing to read about, or hear about, or see, until Friday. And that's one short hour. Then race day. Then quiet again.

Imagine having a torrid love affair with someone you only got to see for two weeks, now just one week, every year.

I closed my eyes and thought about how many of those weeks I've had. And how immersed I am in them. And how fulfilling they are.

And how they are just glorious enough to hold me until next year.

I'm very fortunate to live 25 minutes from my favorite place on earth.

I'm more fortunate to have something in my life that brings me so much happiness. And the opportunity and ability to give myself permission to enjoy it.

If you don't know where your slice of heaven is, find it. If you do know it, don't ration it, get to it!

Good running,

Numbers: 7.5 miles on pavement and cart path.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 143 - Mowing the Lawn

The only thing I dislike more than mowing my lawn is paying someone to mow my lawn.

I had a mow guy for a couple of years. It was nice to come home to a freshly shortened lawn and swept sidewalks and occasionally some edging.

But mow guy wanted to be paid for this. And we wanted to be paid a lot. And he also wanted to be paid for not mowing. And for cleaning up leaves that he didn't actually clean up.

He's not my mow guy any more.

So now, I'm mowing my own lawn.

Not very often, as my neighbors probably "Tsk. Tsk." about. I like to give my mower a challenge. When the grass reaches the dog's belly, it's time for a trim.

I don't mind the effort. I don't mind the time. I actually like having the opportunity to think. It's just such a dirty job.

When it's all over, I'm covered with grass and dust and pollen, lots and lots of pollen, all glued to me through the magic of sweat. And we can't forget all of the grass, dust, and pollen that take up residence in my respiratory system. That's fun, too! (cough, cough, hack, cough, sneeze)

I mowed today, after sleeping in, checking in on the boy's baseball game, another glorious day at the speedway, and a short run.

Now that I think about it... small price to pay, really.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.3 miles squeezed in... barely.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 142 - Childhood 2.0

Who says you can't turn back time? I put myself right back to 13 yrs old today.

Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 used to be practiced with ritualistic precision. Up at dawn, at the speedway by 7, watch practice and shiver until 10, qualifications 11-6, then dinner. Two saturdays and two sundays in May.

It was awesome.

Then life started to interfere. Jobs, then college, then moving away, then kids, then kids' sports. Every qualification day became a couple, then maybe one. Then hardly ever. I honestly can't remember spending an entire qualification day at the speedway since the early 90s.

Today, that was set straight (at the cost of an early season swim meet that I'm sure my daughter will forgive me for missing, at a very reasonable price).

After a morning run with the dog, I packed a cooler and made my way to IMS. I found a seat in turn one, and took root.

I had snacks and beverages and sandwiches and a paper on which to record speeds.

I met up with the girlfriend's parents and a work/run buddy and his son, and even the girlfriend Deb and her kids made it in for a couple hours.

The crowd wasn't as big as it used to be. The speeds aren't as fast. Tom Carnegie wasn't on the PA. Neither was my step-dad. But it felt... comfortable.

I was in my element. I was riveted. Time slid by unnoticed. Just like when I was 13.

Good running,

Numbers: 3 miles, library loop, with dog.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 141 - How I spent my birthday

Birthday's are great. Birthday presents are also great. Having someone make a spectacle of your birthday is REALLY great.

When the girlfriend asked what I'd like to do for my birthday, I, half-kidding, half-dreaming, half-bluff-calling, said that I'd like to take the day off, and spend it, the whole damn day, at the speedway.

(That's what I want to do every day in May. My birthday was a convenient excuse.)

There's nothing like having someone say "Let's do it!" to turn a daydream into something feasible.

Weather checked (Thanks, Meeting moved (Thanks, Mark). PTO request approved (Thanks again, Tim). Fat Tire in cans (Thanks for your genius, New Belgium). It. Was. ON!

The day started with a short run on tired legs.

Then, a delicious birthday cupcake from Holy Cow, Cupcakes. One bite. No video. Pity.

Then, we hit the World's Greatest Race Course!

Arriving just before the cars hit the track, we had a whole section almost to ourselves.


Mrs. Brown's 4th Grade class from PS 39

sat right in front of us. Quarter million seats in the place...

Poor Mrs. Brown looked like she could use a beer.

We sat behind them until mildly amused turned into mildly concerned for the future of America. It was time to move...

Scientific fact: The weight of the contents of coolers increases by the square of the distance they are moved from their last resting place.

We were settled in and getting back into a groove when I had an emergency. Having retrieved a fresh Fat Tire from the cooler, I couldn't find my coozie! I pawed through the cooler. I looked under my seat. I even peaked through the cracks to see if it had fallen beneath the stands. Who took my coozie?!?

Oh, there it is, on my last and still half-full Fat Tire.

Yep, buzz fully engaged. It was shaping up to be a fine day.

Short yellow for drops of rain on the backstretch (Thanks for NOTHING was the cue to have some lunch.

On the way, I ran into Tommy...

Tommy and Me.

Tommy is my kinda people. Ok, probably not, but he was very nice and super gracious, and you gotta dig the threads.

Miraculously the lines were short at the Plaza Cafe...

Indy Dog, Track Fries, and a Tenderloin.

I didn't eat all of this. Just most of it. And I've been to IMS about 7000 times and have never had a tenderloin. I have been missing out.

Topped off, we headed back to the seats to meet up with my good bud Jeff from Chicago, and his cousin Scott.

Scott, Me, Jeff. Easy there, ladies...

Jeff is also the girlfriend's brother. And for those who notice these kinds of things, Scott is also her cousin. Whatever... Jeff brought 16oz cans of Bud.

He also bought a paper. This is important because when the rain came to stay (eat it!) and we headed down, I noticed IndyCar driver, N**CAR driver, even NHRA Top-Fuel dragster driver, and all-around good guy John Andretti walking by.

Richard Petty on left, John in the middle, John's wife Nancy on right

The girlfriend leapt into action, snagged Jeff's paper, and made her way through the throng, face-to-face with John, who couldn't resist...

John's autograph (Yay!)

Jeff and Scott decide to split (and by "split" I mean leave the speedway, not break up, they're not a couple, they're cousins for crying out loud). We headed to the museum, where we saw vintage automobiles, historical race cars, and the greatest trophy, ever...

Stanley Cup, eat your heart out.

And as you may have seen yesterday, I was ever so slightly heartbroken to see the fountain firmly in the off position. But not too heartbroken to violate it. It was my birthday and I would not be denied, at least not by the yellow-shirts in the guard shack who thought it was too windy.

I'll be back, my precious.

No cars on the track. Museum browsed. Fountain defiled. It was time to go home.

And Yay! for me, at home there were presents! Among them...

Fat Tire Hat

Fat Tire shirt

New Belgium glassware

Bazinga shirt, which I'm wearing as I type this.

Finally, it was a birthday dinner with The GF, Jeff, and their parents.

Happy happy happy birthday.
Happy happy happy birthday.
Happy happy happy birthday,
to you, to you, to you. Ole!

It was a fantastic day. And I owe it all to one person.

So, without further ado, my wonderful girlfriend, Debbie...

Thank you, baby!

Good running,

What? Ya think? Oh, ok...

Much better :-)

Numbers: 4.5 miles on still pretty tired legs. On roads.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 140 - My Birthday

I'm not really 45. I prefer 30-15.

Day off from work (Thanks Tim) and from blogging spent at the greatest place on earth.

Fountain wasn't on. "Too windy, they said."
Meh. Still counts.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.3 miles, slow, tad fatigued from yesterday's craziness.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 139 - Good idea

It sounded like a good idea last night. Last night, back when I was still jacked from my awesome run.

Jacked isn't the word that applies here. More like frisky. Or cocky.

Here's the deal. I have this really nice bike. It is way more bike than I need. It's way more than I deserve. It's so nice that I don't feel like I own it as much as I'm its caretaker. It doesn't live in the shed. Not even in the garage. It lives in my walk-in closet.

That means that I see it every day. And some days I feel guilty for not putting such a fine piece of machinery/art to better use.

Don't get me wrong, I like cycling. Like. I don't love cycling.

But last night, seeing that the weather was supposed to be decent, I decide I'd ride to work.

Oh, but that's not all. My son had a baseball game in the evening, so I was going to ride up to his game. And then ride home. And I also had to get a run in there somewhere. Sure I haven't ridden since last fall. So what.

Excellent plan! This was going to be a great day. I packed my gear, pumped up my tires, got everything all ready the night before like a first grader before the first day of school. I was so excited I hardly slept. (That fact is important later.)

The ride in to work was actually pretty great. Only 10.4 miles, but I was fast. I didn't get run over by a dump truck. Or a cement truck. I had fun and I didn't die.

I had another excellent run over lunch. Felt fantastic. By 12:30 I was wrapping up my second shower of the day.

Then the 2:00p meeting. The long, crowded, review. The one with demos that only show text output of who-knows-what scrolling up the screen. They could have written a script that spit out random Monty Python quotes and no one would have a clue.

My eyes were heavy. My breathing started to get slow and deep. My lack of sleep and my manic desire for physical exertion had teamed up on me. I was toast.

I survived the meeting without nodding off, and managed to crank out some good work. At 5:00p, it was time to head north for the baseball game.

For those who don't cycle much - there's no delicate way to put this - it hurts your butt. Actually, it's fine at first. It's when you get back on the bike that you notice that your tail is bruised.

So the 13.3 mile ride to the game wasn't great. Not unpleasant, but not the speedfest that the morning ride was. More traffic, more brushes with death. About 2/3 of the way there, I could feel my legs getting tired. I decided that plan B was probably a good plan. I'd call the girlfriend and see if she could come and fetch me.

She couldn't. I was going to have to ride home.

The game was fun. His team was getting slaughtered, but I got to hang with him and, well, just hang.

At 7:30p, with the score 12-1 bad guys, and not knowing how long it would take me to get home, and not wanting to ride in the dark, it was time to saddle up and head home.

The ride home was, and I'm being kind here, miserable. I was tired. My butt hurt doubly muchly. My legs were just bags of goo.

There were dark clouds ahead. I was slow and complainy. But I made it home. 12.9 miles of character building. Felt more like 50 miles of character building.

Am I glad I did it? Meh. Would I do it again? Nope. Will I forget how wasted I am and how I can barely sit down and how much I hate riding into the wind out in the country and do something this stupid again someday? Probably.

I can tell you one thing, this wasn't a day wasted.

Good running,

Numbers: 4.2 miles on roads at a nice clip. Felt terrific.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 138 - Your thing

Ever play golf? Sure you have. Remember that all too rare feeling when you hit the perfect shot?

Today, my run was the perfect shot.

I badgered the guys into a slow warm-up. They tend to jump to their pace at the gun. I've got a few more miles on me, and I like to ease into these things. Besides, I've been nursing the heals for a few days.

After a mile, we were at a comfortable, still-able-to-talk clip. Any apprehension I had about my heals was gone. I was feeling pretty good. As we started up a small hill, I could feel the strength in my legs, the spring in my feet.

At the half-way mark, I got "Hey, look who's pushing the pace. Mr. Slow Warm-up."

"I'm just feeling good, that's all.", I said.

That was an understatement.

My stride was long and smooth but my turnover was still quick. I was on a long, slow, progressive ramp up in speed. And I wasn't done yet.

The guys dropped back after another half mile. I was cruisin', on my own, with no sign of tightness or fatigue. The more I asked of my legs and lungs and heart, the more they responded. Like the engine and tires and suspension of a fine sports car, the faster I went, the faster they wanted to go.

I felt like I could go on forever.

After a little over 2 miles, unfortunately, the loop was over. I had to stop for traffic, and it was time to start my cool-down.

During the easy jog back to the office, I felt fortunate to know my body as well as I do, to be able to recognize when it is ready, eager even, to drop the hammer. I also felt lucky to have something in my life that I not only enjoy, but that is also good for my body, my brain, and my soul. And I was buzzing with life and I was totally present and I was at the perfect place at the perfect time.

If you don't get that feeling every few days, you're missing out. Find something that makes you happy, that's yours alone, that makes you proud of who you are, and that's good for you.

If you're honest with yourself, you probably already have something in mind. Pause for a second and imagine yourself doing it. Go ahead, imagine... take your time...

Ok, now ask yourself why aren't you doing it for real? What's holding you back? Is it that little voice inside your head telling you that you can't, that it's silly, that you're too old, too fat, too busy? Are you afraid you won't be good enough? Are you worried someone will make fun of you?

Pish-f'in-posh! Don't listen to anyone, including yourself, who says you can't do it. People who make fun are jealous dicks who want everyone to be as miserable as they are.

I'm not a big fan of Nike, but they did get one thing right...

You don't have to be good at it, you just have to love doing it.

If you don't have something in mind, heck, try running, it's awesome. I'd be glad to help you get started. If that doesn't do it for you, move on to something else until you find your thing.

Good running,

Numbers: 4.1 miles, easy warm-up, cruise, dockin', cool-down, all on roads.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 137 - Addiction

I had good intentions.

I really did.

As I stood at my mailbox, the unofficial starting line and finish line for home-based courses, I told the dog "We need to keep it short and sweet and slow today, even if it feels good. Gotta baby the achilles another day or two."

I dutifully trotted the usual short course, managed not to spill myself on the trail made silicon-snot slippery from lots of rain, and emerged pointed to home.

That's when the addiction hit.

I'd done my duty. I was plenty warm for some serious stretching back at the ranch. I told myself that that was what I should do. But myself wasn't listening. Instead he turned left toward the big grass field.

"The heels are fine. It's only grass. Nice soft grass. It's probably good for the achilles.", I told myself.

We always lie to ourselves when we know we're messing up. Isn't that weird? Why can't we just roll with it, be honest with ourselves? "That's right, after a slow slog, for the third day in a row, I'm going to hit the wet grass and pick up the pace, just for the thrill."

I did one loop of the field, faster than I should have. My shoes and feet were soaked. It felt great.

A good run, and almost all of them are good, just feels too perfect to cut short. It's a lot like a really fun party, or great sex, or an episode of Big Bang Theory... you never want it to end.

Good running,

Numbers: 2.0 miles, half on pavement, half on grass, still too short, ended too soon.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 136 - Kickball

I have young boys. Therefore we play a lot of kickball.

The girl plays when she's not swimming or doing homework or exhausted. She doesn't play often.

It's our official game for this spring. There was a close contender, wiffle ball, but the broken arm put that game to rest, at least until summer.

Our field is the front yard. Home is the confluence of the front sidewalk and driveway. First is "the bush", second a root from a tree long ago cut down, and third is the water meter cover. The tree by the third base line is foul.

The tricky part is the transition between infield and outfield, which is abrupt. It's a steep drop off to the sidewalk, and it's just daring you to chase a fly ball up it, or down it.

For most or our kickball games, it's just me as all time pitcher and the boys alternate between kicking and playing outfield. The entire outfield.

With these kinds of numbers in the outfield, and a small field, a regulation kickball is unworkable. It's too easy to kick far and leads to a series of home runs followed by a tantrum and a premature end to the game.

That's why we use a big ball. It's one of those balls you can get at Target for $2.99, stored in a giant wire cage, probably 18in. across.

Even the most powerful kick stays within a few feet of the edge of the front yard. And throw-outs to the head don't leave scars, physical, emotional, or developmental.

The big ball is the great equalizer. Nobody is that much batter than anyone else with the big ball. It's like putting an IndyCar driver in a tricycle race. Sure, he might take a better line through the turns, but he's still on a tricycle like everyone else.

We played kickball for hours this weekend, including a 6-on-5, girls vs. boys game last night. Nothing's more fun than multi-generational playground sports, especially when kids are getting the grown-ups out, and dads are shredding hamstrings.
This may or may not be my brother pitching last night.

The highlight for me, was when my 13yr old, the one with the broken arm still in a cast, caught a line drive from my sister. As she took the walk of shame from first back in shame to the other girls, she said "Well, so much for my strategy."

My sister, the boy's aunt, tried to exploit her nephew's broken arm for her own good. And we all accepted that, without contempt.

And even she underestimated that boy. She really should no better. A broken arm isn't going to make him vulnerable. It just makes him play harder.

Good running,

Numbers: 2.0 miles, slow. Achilles acting up a touch, so taking it easy.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 135 - Opening Day

Today was a great day.

#3 I found my favorite bum-around-the-house shorts!

#2 A big family day. Had my sibs, their kids, and the girlfriend over for burger, dogs, and brats. Kickball, spoons, and a thousand great moments.

#1 Opening day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! Boo - what for it ... yah!

Took the kids and a friend of the oldest. It was a short encounter with the beautiful girl at 16th and Georgetown. But it had everything... Lots of fast cars, good crowd, cheerful Yellow Shirts (a special one only charged me for 4 tickets, even though we were 5), a track dog, posters, and a yellow for debris, and even a little bit of rain.

I love The Speedway. Doesn't matter what's going on. I just love being in the place. Put some race cars on the thing, and I'm in heaven. But add my kids into it, and it just doesn't get any better.

Seeing them get stoked when we hear our first car of the season as we hit Crawfordsville and 16th.

Having them correct me when I blurt out the wrong driver for a car going by.

Watching them watch the cars, oblivious to the rest of the crowd, the rest of the sights, the passing of time.

The Speedway is a special place for us. I am so fortunate to be able to share it with them.

And I love that they are coming to love it as much as I do.

No, not yet.

It's May in Indianapolis!! Green. Green! GREEN!

Good running,

Numbers: 1.6 miles squeezed in just as the clan was rolling in for grub.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 134 - Dalai Lama

I spent my morning with His Holiness, The Dalai Lama.

Yep, that's what I said, The Dalai Lama.

I am not a religious person. (But if I had to pick a religion, I'd join Team Buddhism.) I am, however, a great believer in the power of love, truth, compassion, empathy, and tolerance. And, thus, not surprisingly, a fan of DL #14.

One of the things that draws me to him is his approachability. Sure he's wise as all get out, but he's also a real person. He's, well, jolly.

His "entrance" to the stage wasn't to fanfare. He ambled, like just about any other 73-yr old man in robes would, up the stairs as the opening cello performance was almost finished. He approached the musician, leaned over to him, smiled, and then stood behind him enjoying the music. This wasn't the typical arrival of a world and religious leader. It was like watching the fun uncle showing up late to a reunion, right in the middle of some cousin playing piano.

Those more tied to the formality of a lecture and of visiting dignitaries took their turn at the podium and said their bit and were fashionably humble, including the gentleman who actually introduced His Holiness, John Mellencamp.

[Yes, that John Mellencamp. One, we're a little short on celebrities in Central Indiana, and Two, his wife, Elaine, is a leader of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, which happens to have been founded by the Dalai Lama's late brother.]

His Holiness affixed his wireless mic. I scootched to the edge of my seat, ready to have my mind blown with oratory bedazzlery. But, that's not his style. He didn't take a pose behind the podium. He sat in a large cushy chair. His English is halting and a little rough. But his message barges right past that minor inconvenience.

I'm not going to presume to be able to relay his wisdom, or even try to capture his thoughts or his message. There are books, and tapes, and books on tape that do a much better job of that than I could. But I can tell you how I felt.

I didn't leave with a sense of being touched by a god. I don't feel like I've been anointed or saved or promised or entitled to eternal anything. But I do have a renewed belief of good in the world. I have a sense of being one of 6 billion people who are mostly the same, who want mostly the same things, who need mostly the same things, who live mostly the same way and believe mostly the same things. Our differences, the differences that some spend so much time talking about and fighting about and hating/hurting/killing each other over, are really very small and insignificant. If we look at what we have in common, see our own humanity in others, we'll all be happier.

My favorite moment, the one that really showed how even this wise, eloquent, humble Buddhist from Tibet is more like me than I'd ever guessed, came about 45 minutes into his "speech". To his left sat a very formal looking assistant who helps him when he can't find or remember the right English word for something. The Dalai Lama was talking about commonality, how we are all born of our mothers, how easily we come to trust this person we don't know because she is affectionate and caring and she feeds us. In doing so, he seemed to struggle for the word for "that little bit, that bump that we put in our mouth..." He kept stumbling, and looking to his assistant, who was turning deeper shades of red by the second. His Holiness wouldn't let him off the hook, he wouldn't move on, not until he finally got the assistant to say it..."nipple". "Yes, nipple.", said His Holiness, with a sly smile on his face.

For those interested, you can learn more herehere, and here.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.2 miles, a rest day after a pretty challenging week.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 133 - Shazam

There may be a cooler iPhone App, but I haven't seen one.

Every time I use Shazam it blows my mind. And I use it a lot.

What's Shazam? Dude, come here. No, not here-here, 2010-here. It's ok, don't be afraid... 1997 won't miss you.

Shazam is for people who just need to know... now.

Tell it to listen to a song, at any point in the song, and wait for a few seconds. Then, it tells you the song, album, artist, and with a click you can get to it on iTunes.

But let's think about this for a second... you point a phone (15 years ago mobile phones didn't even fit in your pocket) at a speaker. It records the sounds of the song, pretty much ANY song, whether you're in a car, or noisy bar, or like me last night, a chattering outdoor restaurant. It encodes those sounds and ships them off, through the air, to a cell tower, to the telephone network, onto the internet, to some server somewhere, probably in San Jose, CA. That server decodes those staticy, crackly, bar-glass-clanking-diffused sounds, starting who knows where into the song, and through nothing short of magic, finds THE song that those sounds go to, out of gajillions of songs in what must be a fantastically cleverly designed database. Finally, it nonchalantly sends a neat little packet of data back through the internet, through the telephone network, to the right cell tower, through the air again, and to your phone.

For free.

I know!

Round trip from "Oh man, what's this song? I know it...It's driving me nuts!" to "Ha! Bad Company - Movin' On.Told you it wasn't Boston. Beer me!"... 15 seconds.

Sure, it's pretty much pointless. Sure, it's an obscene waste of technology and bandwidth and data, that could be curing disease or find bad guys, just to settle bar bets, feed a teens obsession to be up to the second on her Disney Pop, or ease one's anal need to just know, but damn if it's not cool.

Here's a suggestion for the good folks at Shazam for something cool AND incredibly useful... Shazam for People. I want to point my phone at that dude I used to work with but can't remember his name or even where we worked together and who is walking to my table, wait a few seconds, and have his name and bio pop up on my phone.

That would be a life saver. Think of all the embarrassing, awkward conversations that we could avoid.

Huh? Invasion of privacy? Who would use Shazam for People at night clubs to stalk... people...

Uhm, hey Shazam folks, never mind.

Good running,

Numbers: 4.6 miles on roads with my good buddy Matt who gave an excellent overview of Catholic Orders in general and the Dominican Order specifically.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 132 - Say No to Treadmills

When I was in Sarasota a couple of weeks ago... no wait... Orlando?

Yes, Orlando.

When I was in Orlando a couple of weeks ago, and I went on that gorgeous golf course run with Seth, we returned to the hotel through the pool doors that pass by the fitness center. I was shocked and saddened to see people running on the treadmills. They had a perfect morning and a wonderful resort to run in. Instead, they chose to run indoors, to nowhere.

You know the scene... 6 or so "top of the line" treadmills lined up along the window looking out over a beautiful view. It's such a blatant example of self-delusion it needs to be mocked. So here I go...

I mock you, treadmillers!

Not as satisfying as I'd hoped.

What are these people doing? Are they running? Not in my book. Running requires movement. This is a substitute for running. A safe, insulated, bastardization of a perfectly natural act.

Ok, treadmills have their place... if you're getting a stress test done, use a treadmill. If you can't run outside safely because of ice or violence, use a treadmill. If you need to do some serious hill training and you live in the Midwest, use a treadmill.

Otherwise, don't kid yourself, you aren't running. You are standing still and moving your legs. And probably watching Oprah.

Treadmills are to running, what Bud Light is to beer, what Kidz Bop is to music, what blowup dolls are to sex.

And for crying out loud, DO NOT buy a treadmill for home. Please, I beg you. Take that $1000 and go on a trip somewhere beautiful and interesting and run a 5K.

And for that matter, be on the look out for other substitutes for reality in your everyday life.

  • TV is not a substitute for dinner conversation.
  • American Idol is not entertainment or good music, it's voyeurism and karaoke.
  • Chili's is not a restaurant, it's a bar that happens to let kids in.
  • Cats are not dogs.
  • Neither cats nor dogs are children.
  • Conversations do not happen via email.
  • Or text messages.
  • Tweets are not news.
  • Neither is opinion.
  • True love comes from deep within, not from the surface. It's an urge to give, not to take. It's a feeling of warmth, not a tingle.
  • Star Trek is not Star Wars.

Good running,

Numbers: 3.7 miles on pavement.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 131 - Embracing The Unknown

Today I spent a lot of time thinking about life.

Specifically how to live it. Or more like trying to explain why I do what I do. Mostly to myself.

I was thinking of the other day when after a wonderfully dangerous romp on a new trail I emerged unscathed, only to bruise my foot on a rock in the middle of a sidewalk.

The trail is unpredictable, non-uniform, challenging, an unknown. Yet despite all of that, while I was on the trail, I was not only unhurt, but exhilarated, and alive, and aware of every molecule of my surroundings.

The road and sidewalks are uniform and predictable and safe. And they put us to sleep. Our instincts go numb. So numb, for example, that we might not see the only rock in 400 yards, alone, in the middle of the sidewalk.

I am at home on the unpredictable, challenging trails of life, with the unknown as my companion.

Who knows what is around the next bend? Only one way to find out.

I don't know if I can do this? Only one way to find out.

(I smell a big ol' metaphor coming on...)

Facing challenges and the unknown is how we find ourselves. We need to test our limits to understand what we are capable of.

The footing isn't always sure...

Sometimes you'll slip and slide and even fall down.

You'll face obstacles, but that's half the fun.

The question is what do you do when they present themselves? Do turn around, retreating back to what you know?

Or do you press forward until you find a way around?

Someone or something will always try to block your path. Do you give in?

Or do you find another way, a less traveled (and in this case considerably more prickly) path, just to see what opportunities it presents?

Perhaps another way forward.

A much more interesting way forward.

A much more challenging, and exciting, and thrilling way forward.

(And maybe a chance for a dorky self-portrait 8 feet above the creek.)

If you take the unpredictable path, it's going to get a lot messier than the uniform, safe path.

Yes, those streaks are from my fingers clawing for grip.

(Pardon the french that I am about to abbreviate...) So the F what? Figuratively speaking here... If you're not getting dirty, if you're not skinning a knee, if you're not bruised, then you are living your life in a coma.

Image this as any other obstacle in your life...

You need to get to the other side, safely. What do you do? What path do you take? Go ahead, trace the path with your finger?

Did you make it across? I did too.

In my case, I ignored the stones; too easy to turn an ankle. I ran right through the water on the left. I didn't care if my feet got wet. The object was to get across safely. That was the safe route, the route that gave me the best chance to continue on this most excellent run.

If you chose the stones, ask yourself why? Why did dry mean safe?

What if you're on this unpredictable journey, and you suddenly come upon the uniform, everyday world (in this metaphor represented by the wide, manicured, main path back to civilization)?

There it is. Do you feel relieved? Do you rush to it, back to the safe, back to the known and predictable?

Or do you turn around and go back into the woods?

If you went back into the woods, you got this...

Newly fallen trees blocking the path. Or what I like to call an opportunity to see what I'm made of.

This is not sidewalks and cross walks and lights telling you when to cross. This is not a flat, uniform, stripe down the middle of an asphalt path along what used to be a railroad. This is a thin strip of dirt worn by animals through the random nature that we spend so much money and energy and time insulating ourselves from.

What else do you insulate yourself from? New neighbors? That restaurant with the funny name? Do you stick with the safe job, safe friends, safe neighborhood?

Does the unknown intimidate you, or excite you? When you're faced with an experience that you aren't sure of, or a relationship that challenges you, or a job that extends you, do you jump at it, or away from it?

We are a domesticated breed. To find our true nature, we need to be challenged. We need obstacles to get around. We need challenges to overcome. We need to step out of the comfortable.

But, eventually, unless you're an off-the-grid back-to-nature hippy, you need to return to the predictable world. That's where the money is. And the schools.

If you're lucky, at the margin, you have a view like this...

And if you're really lucky, you have a cool (piddly-) run-off to clean the mud off of your shoes.

Take the time, make the opportunity to step out of the comfort of your daily life. It doesn't have to be a trail, just somewhere that isn't predictable. Somewhere that you aren't comfortable. Somewhere that has your senses peaked and your awareness spiked and has you wondering every second what will happen next.

Test your limits. See what you can do when you're at those limits. Find out what you're made of.

Good running,

Numbers: 2.7 miles of muddy trails and about 20 feet of fallen log.