Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Where's your nose?

I've noticed a disturbing trend over the last few months.

Noses are disappearing.

Since September 19th, 1982, the proper emoticon for a smile has been, and I quote:

Sad face? :-(

Sometime this year, or maybe last year, it became in vogue to omit the nose, producing the frankly disturbing looking :)

Or worse, the wrong way (:  <---- is="" p="" that="" wtf="">
Looks like a frog on acid to me.

I feel compelled to start my next sentence with "These kids today…" but I'm resisting.

Still, it's the same people you text "ur" instead of, or because they don't know the correct word/contraction for "you're" that are skipping the noble nose that makes a smiley friendly. And less creepy.

And how on earth do you neglect the carrot nose?  :^)

Or the clown nose? :O)

Let alone the clown with glasses and a party hat? *<8o p="">
How can you stick your tongue out at someone without the nose?

:P just doesn't cut it.

:-P works.

If you type "ain't", or "ur", "bff", "luv", or "cuz", well, do what you will.

If you have any respect for decency and yourself, stand up for the proper, classic, old-f'in-school smiley. Keep the nose.


Good running,

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

McCormick's Creek Snowy Run

Anybody can run on a trail.

Seriously, you should try it.

Same goes for running in snow. It's easy, and peaceful, and uplifting.

But running a snowy trail is not for the timid.

Running an unfamiliar trail with 4 inches of virgin powder is not for the sensical.

Nonetheless, that was what I put in front of myself on Saturday. And it was glorious!

You know you're in for an adventure when you're standing at the trailhead and you can't make out the trail. At all. None of it.

The only time I'd been to McCormick's Creek state park was a month earlier for a 5K trail run. The only advantage that gave me was that I knew roughly in what direction the trail went from where I was standing. Roughly. Not really much advantage at all as it turned out.

I set off in the general direction and found myself almost instantly puffing like an asthmatic steam locomotive. The snow, as well as the thin layer of ice just beneath the snow, made footing… let's say... less than perfect.

My legs where churning away at a 7:45 pace, but the rest of me was moving through the artisticly snow-dappled landscape at about 9:00. It was like running on cold snot. That had been poured onto an oil slick. And sprayed with Pam®.

As my lungs wheezed and my heart threatened to leap out of my mouth, I trudged on, spurred my the simply unbelievably, impossibly beautiful scenery that surrounded me.

Eventually I found my breath, my heart and I negotiated a truce, and together we came to the boulder field pictured above. What isn't pictured is the shear drop to the left, down to the eponymous creek. You also can't really get an appreciation for how damn slippery and big and scary these mothers were.

But what you can see, clearly, is the lack of foot prints. Even the wild game had stayed clear of here.

That, my dear readers, is a siren song that cannot be ignored.

I'm not going to pretend I ran over these. I didn't scamper like I might have in the dry. It was slow, deliberate, careful. But it was thrilling, and dangerous, and reminded me, under most certain terms, that I was alive!

Further I found my way down, way way down, to the creek. The babble of an icy stream, bordered by ice, then snow, is pure magic. My phone died just after this pic, which was actually a blessing, for me. Not so much for my dear readers. But for me, I didn't need to figure out how to capture the wonder that was in front of me. I got to soak it in.

I meandered along the water's edge, over wide, flat spring sheds, over and among massive river rocks. I crossed the creek several times, scheming to find footholds among scattered, rocking, snow-covered rocks, not once dipping even a toe in the icy current.

And several times I just stopped, watch running, to listen… to smell… to feel the cold, the wind, the aloneness, the presence of nothing and everything.

I'm never as much at peace as I am deep in some woods, hopefully by some running water, and more hopefully far away from other humans, half-way into a run.

Muscles warm, mind clear, a bead of sweat running down from my temple… this is my church.

I encourage you to explore the natural world. Shun the treadmill, it is evil. Get out into your world. It is so much better than Sports Center and Oprah.

Don't fear the cold, embrace it! Return to nature and let it replenish you.

Good running,

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Clean Slate

After finishing a masterpiece, even Van Gogh, eventually, had to sit down in front of a new canvas, and start the next painting, the next masterpiece, hoping this would be the one that would make him immortal.

A clean slate can feel liberating. Or it can freeze you up solid.

There's good. There's great. And there's perfection. Humans seeking their best selves strive for perfection.

When you've been thisclose to perfect, it would be easy to walk away. How intimidating it must be to have to follow up something brilliant, but not perfect. To have no choice but to try again.

And if you do have the courage to try again, the familiar path, the one that got you so close, must seem so appealing, even natural, with the idea that a tweak here or there will push you to the next level this time.

Another painting of haystacks... more of them this time. Or maybe fewer. Taking the path so well traveled, yet littered with not-quite-perfect, is so easy. Falling back to familiar habits is insanely hard to resist.

Striking out in a new direction is terrifying, and can seem, frankly, stupid.

"Let's try swirling starlight this time instead of haystacks.", said Vinnie.

"Are you nuts?" his brother screamed. "Why risk something so different? How do you know this will even work? How can you ignore the haystacks that have brought you so much success when you've come so close?"

What his brother should have said was, "Yes! Yes!! Screw the haystacks!! You can't keep repeating what isn't getting you to your absolute best?"

We need to trust ourselves, our talent, our intuition, to guide us to our best self?

The clean slate isn't really clean if you project a pattern from the past onto it before you even start.

Wipe that mutha clean!

I have a couple clean slates in my life right now. One of them is my running.

After months of trying to train, retrain, rebuild, reconnect with the best version of myself by repeating the training patterns that I'd used before, I've wiped that slate clean. Now, I'm running when I can, as far as I have time and strength for, and at whatever pace my body is telling me it is ready for.

Monday it was just 2 miles, but a hard, vigorous, rousing, and quick 2 miles. Saturday before, a lazy 3.

No plan. No expectations. Just whatever works. That day. And I am feeling great. It's been a long time since I've felt great about my running. But that's what a clean slate can do for you.

The other slate that's been wiped (recently, sorrowfully, painfully) clean is my personal life. A lot more tricky, that one. Not sure what to do, what heading to take. I've frozen.

I imagine I will be staring that this empty canvas for quite some time. But, I can tell you one thing, my dear, faithful readers… I'm not stopping short of anything less than my Starry Night.

Good running,

Respectfully in homage to DA, to whom I owe so much. You will always be so, so special to me, and you will very soon be one lucky person's Starry Night. You deserve nothing less.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Semi-secretly, I have been training for a marathon in the fall, with the hope that it would then springboard me
to a Boston qualifier in the spring.

When I look at that plan now, it seems ridiculous. At the time, it seemed like the big scary goal that I needed to jump start my flagging running habit.

Reality, though, cares not about my plans to run down Boylston a year after two dick-wads defiled it.

Reality is that I have a new (awesome) job that is demanding most of my time and energy. Reality also is that I started this madness in the summer, when I was also spending (precious) time with my kids at home and on the road.

Reality is that my fitness was/is nowhere near ready to take on a marathon training program.

As the training weeks ticked by, and the planned miles climbed ever higher, and my running log was filling with goose-eggs, the weight of mounting failure was exhausting. It was like walking around wearing an overcoat with the pockets full of bricks.

Here, dear runner/reader, is what we call a decision point. A fork in the road.

We could throw up our hands, claim that we gave it our best shot, and quit.

Or, we can buckle down, crank out those miles, and make it happen.

Quit or press the hell on.


I did neither of those. Both of those are stupid.

I adjusted my goal. I downshifted.

Running down Boylston street to show my unwavering support for my sport at for the good people of Boston is a great goal. But my real goal is to get back to running well, and often.

Quitting wouldn't accomplish that, obviously.

Blindly following an unrealistic path that was leading only to more failure wasn't going to do it either.

What could work is to accept my reality and lay a course to a point that is on the path of my long term goal.

So I'm now training for a half-marathon this fall, instead of a marathon.

Once that decision was made, the weight was lifted. I've run more often, and better, and I've even added some strength training.

Having an unattainable goal isn't motivating, it's demoralizing. Having a challenging, attainable goal before you is exhilarating. If pursuit of your goal becomes more stressful than it is rewarding, it might be time to reassess.

Choose your goals carefully. And if you find yourself demoralized, don't be afraid to downshift.

Good running,

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sedona AZ


Motto: It's a dry heat.

State Bird: The one you flip to the guy who tells you "It's a dry heat".

Phoenix (the town this time, not the bird) is just about the hottest place on the face of the planet, and would probably be in the top ten hottest places on the surface of the sun.

Luckily, we were in Sedona, a couple hours northish by air-conditioned rental car from Phoenix, which is not only considerably less like a kiln, but also one of the most spectacularly beautiful places I've ever seen.

Seriously... look...

Every direction you turn, you see jaw dropping, otherworldly scenery. The place just can't help itself. And it's especially mind blowing if you happen to be a geology nerd from the flatlands on Central Indiana.

It was in this landscape that I had one of my shortest, yet one of my most moving runs in a very long time.

The run started at our home away from home that is soooo much better than our home actually at home, Enchantment Resort.

The view from our poolside cabana did not suck.

The resort is nestled in Boynton Canyon, and guests of the resort get easy access to the Boynton Canyon trail.

Even the trail signs are picturesque.

The day was scheduled pretty tight with hikes and classes and other resort-type stuff, so I chose the quite short (1.5 miles) but hella-steep Vista Trail spur to the base of Kachina Woman, a tall spire that draws the eye of anyone in Boynton Canyon.

Kachina woman is the spire on the right.
She's much larger than she appears in this photo of the gravely trail.

The trail presented a variety of surfaces; dust, gravel, chunky rocks, vast bare rock faces. This is typically a welcome feature of a good trail, however, with views like these below, it was difficult to keep your attention on where your feet were going to land.

View across the canyon. It's spectacular from all angles.

Scamper up this bald rock face to get to the base of Kachina Woman.

When you get to run on the surface of these huge outcrops of rock, you may be surprised by the grip. Sandstone provides excellent traction, so going up, coming down, or traversing across a face is quite easy and you feel quite sure footed.

Breathless from the climb, I was rewarded with this view...

The rock piles are very common around Sedona and are meant to signal that the area is a "vortex", an unusually strong energy force. (You can read more about them here.)

Though the science is weak, some people around Sedona swear that they feel the energy when they are near a vortex, that it makes them feel alive, at peace, and happy.

It's probably not a coincidence that you don't see piles of rocks in CVS parking lots or next to a drive-up ATM. The vortices are in incredibly beautiful locations. It's easy to feel alive and in touch with the planet and the universe when you're on top of a vista with a 360 degree view that looks like this...

I climbed further to an overlooking ledge, let my feet dangle over, and cleared my head. I wanted to experience the vortex.

I tried. Really tried. I sat there in my best meditative state for quite a few minutes. I wanted to feel something. I wanted there to be magic. I wanted to be even further in awe of this wonderful place.

I got nothing.

As I scampered back down, I felt a little disappointed at first. Disappointed that I didn't have some extra-normal, supernatural experience.

But when I got to the canyon floor and looked back at the vista - sweaty, warm, legs tingling, heart thumping, mind as clear as the water in the pool at the resort - I realized that I'd had my magical experience. But to me, it was normal, not extra-normal. It was natural, not supernatural.

I did feel something, the feeling that comes from a good run in a great place.

I'm guessing that the people who hike to these amazing places and experience "swirling energy" aren't runners. When they climb to the vistas, see the beauty, those feelings of exertion and awe are new and unusual to them. They associate those feelings to the place, not the experience of getting there and then seeing the beauty. To them, it must be magical.

Me, I've felt it so often that way up on that rock, I took it for granted.

More than a few times in the week I've been back home I've closed my eyes and put myself back on that rock high above the canyon. I can almost feel it, even now. I want it. I crave it.

But it's not just that place, not the vortex, that calls me. It's the run, the next run that takes me to that normal, natural state of a runners mind that we all know so well.

Good running,

PS - on our last day, the GF and I hiked back to the vista and built our own pile to honor Kachina Woman, and the beauty of Sedona. If you go there, please don't kick it over.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pace Shmace

Yesterday, a little over halfway through a 5K run on a particularly beautiful cross country course, on a
spectacularly humid morning, I found myself doing the math.

How far do I have to go? How long have I been going? How quickly can I get back?

Pace can ruin a run like the drunken asshole no one invited can ruin a good party.

Unless you are being paid to run fast, or you're an age group stud who can't get enough $2 trophies and $25 gift certificates to running stores, pace really isn't important.

Sure, it's good to measure your progress, a way to measure fitness, but that is at the macro level: Did I run this course faster than I did a month ago?

And to be faster and more fit, sometimes you need to achieve a target pace for a time.

But that's training, not running.

Running should be about the experience, the peace, the calm, the rhythm of breath and footfalls. You should be listening to your body, not the ticking off of the seconds.

The micro-management of pace turns every run into a workout, and that sucks the soul right out of the run.

I'd like to say "Don't wear a watch, just go out and run.", but I'm a data junky and most runners I know share my addiction.

Personally, I'm going to absolve myself of any pace goals for runs, saving those for workouts. I'll still record time and distance, and I'm sure I'll do the math to see what my pace was, but I'm going to save that for after the run... no more pace checks during the run.

Why ruin a good time?

Good running,

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Relearning Old Lessons

Sometimes at night when I'm having problems falling asleep, I close my eyes and imagine myself running.

It's usually down a single-track trail, deep in a shady forest with ferns filling the narrow gap between trail and trees. It's the kind of trail that pulls you along, fills you with the desire to keep going and rewards you with beauty and calm.

My stride is long, graceful, easy, and I can run all day.

There was a time when I ran like that in places like that.

My present reality, though is not quite that... idyllic.

My training is on neighborhood streets - hard, nondescript, way too familiar.

My runs are short and slow.

My stride is awkward, graceless.

I can change my location, but that won't make my runs any more productive... not until I fix my stride and get stronger.

Thing is, I've had to reboot my running form to break the chronic injury cycle. That means I am using muscles that have been left unused for a decade. And they are not happy about their reenlistment. They fatigue quickly, and are revengefully sore after.

As a result, I have been running embarrassingly slow, trying to nurse those muscles through a run. Worse, to run that slow, my form was further hosed, as my stride length shortened dramatically, so I wasn't really training those muscles at all.

After one of these frustrating runs, as I lay on the floor sweating and stretching, bitching and moaning, I had a moment of clarity.

Despite my many years of running, the thousands of miles and dozens of races, today I am essentially a new runner.

As I relearn how to run, I'm facing all of the challenges of someone who is just starting for the first time. So, I decided to take some of my own advice, the advice I give to new runners.

Rather than shuffling along to complete a run that isn't actually accomplishing what it was intended to, I'm going back to basics: Run until those weakling muscles fade, walk until they recover, rinse, repeat.

I can't tell you how much more enjoyable my runs have been since I took this new/old approach. Giving myself permission to walk when my body really needs to has allowed me to run with a normal stride and to actually work those muscles into shape.

I have no doubt that soon those walking breaks will disappear completely.

Until then, I'll try to be patient, and dream of my return to those trail runs that I never want to end.

Good running,

Monday, July 15, 2013


What? No, not the city.

The mythological bird, rising from the ashes of its predecessor, reborn...
Yes, like in Harry Potter.


Point is... I'm back.

I won't bore you with the details, just that I'm recommitting to running and writing.

Interesting observation over the last year or so: Seems I can't do either, run or write, worth a damn without doing both.

[Pretty sure there's a joke in there somewhere about writer's cramp and muscle cramps, but I'm way too rusty to make it work.]

Anyway, there it is... on the road, at the keyboard, trying to find that best version of myself.

There you have it... So, um... What's up? Did I miss anything?

Good running,

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Running with Friends

Zynga, the people who brought you Words with Friends, have a new game called Running with Friends.

I can tell you without reservation that running with friends is fantastic! It is just about the best way to kill an hour or two. It's totally fun, full of laughs, great stories, inspiration, and memories. It's good for your brain, too.

I highly, highly recommend it. 5-stars. 10+

Just to be clear, I'm talking about THIS kind of running with friends...

... and this kind...

... and this...

... yeah, and this...

... oh, and definitely this...

If you were looking for a review of the new Zynga Run with Friends game app, my apologies. I haven't seen it, let alone played it. Don't plan to.

But while I have your attention, forget about that game. I've got something MUCH better.

Put down the screen, go outside, and run, or walk, with some friends. Real humans. In person. In the actual real world.

I guarantee it will be better than whatever this is...

Oh, and if you happen to be in Kansas, check out this cool program at Friends University...

(click image to learn more about Run with Friends University)

Good running,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Sunny, not quite 50 degrees... it was a perfect day for a marathon.

Not just for the runners, but for the spectators, too.

All along the course, on either side, behind fencing and banners, for 26.2 miles, are the loved ones, those who have cheered and supported their friends, spouses, siblings, fathers and moms for months, from the first step out the door for the first training run, to the glorious finish.

These spectators make the trip to the marathon not to participate, but to show their love, a few seconds at a time, at as many points along the course as they can. They shuttle themselves, maybe some kids, and sometimes motivational and/or hilarious poster board signs, from spot to spot, and wait for a glimpse of their runner, anxious, worried for them, worried they might have missed them, worried they won't see them go by, worried the picture will be out of focus.

What they don't worry about is what is in the trash can behind them.

The finish of any marathon is a place of broad sweaty smiles, arms raised in triumph, and tears of relief and happiness for accomplishing life-long goals. Those last few moments, when you know you'll finish, when you can relax and let it soak in, are precious because they require tremendous effort, and they come at a high personal price.

The greatest of all marathon finishes is the trip down Boylston.

This most sacred site of our sport was desecrated yesterday.

Our beautiful, loving, supportive running community was violated.

People who came to cheer and support and love were horribly injured, and murdered.

I've found myself trying to erase these facts, as if it were a story I'd written and now want desperately to change.

But this is our reality, now.

The reality is that we share this planet and time with a very small number of hideous people. But for every hideous cowardly asshole out there, there are a thousand wonderful, brave, selfless people who run into the chaos to help the innocent.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is the only running goal I've set for myself and yet to achieve. Honestly, after many failed attempts, I'd given up trying.

Today, I want to run Boston more than ever. I want to run down Boylston to honor those who responded with no regard to their own safety, to remember those who were taken and injured, and to reclaim that ground for us, the runners, and for those who support us and love us.

Good running,

Friday, April 12, 2013

Running to Reality

As I wait for my body to heal, I haven't been doing much running lately.

Almost none.

Aside from the usual frustration of not being able to do what I love as much as I want to*, I've felt a different, new, strange craving.

In my job I spend nearly all day looking at a screen, clicking, reading, and typing. The vast majority of communication in our office happens through email and instant messaging, even between people who sit just a few feet from each other.

Most of my meetings are conducted over the web, looking at slides, not people.

Even my kids send me text messages because talking is too much of a hassle. [Picking up their phone, which is pretty much always within 12 inches of them, and touching a spot on the screen labeled "Dad", and reaching me no matter where in the world I am, and using actual words to ask me for money is somehow less convenient than typing an impersonal request for funds.]

This week I found myself thumbing through the one carbon-based physical copy of the newspaper in the break room at work instead of visiting the same paper's website.

I stepped back a bit, figuratively, and realized that I've been spending way too much time interfacing, dealing with people and things virtually, living in a constant state of time shift. I've been feeling disconnected, displaced, detached from the real world.

I've understood for a long time that my regular outside runs were good for my health, my mind, and my soul. But now I know that they also keep me in touch with my reality.

The smells and the sights, the dust and the bugs, the footfalls and the breathes, the sun and the wind and the occasional rain or snow, are like a reset button that realign me with my place and time.

That strange craving I've had is for a feeling of being solidly grounded, a need to be connected to, and a part of, my world.

Email and my iPhone just aren't cutting it. I need a good run.

Good running,

*I imagine this frustration would seem ridiculous if not completely foreign to people who worry about how they will feed their children each day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My path, my daughter

I spent last weekend in Canton Ohio watching my daughter swim in her first collegiate conference meet.

She swam magnificently, setting 2 PRs in individual events, and breaking 2 school records in relays.

She's a stud.

Big meets like that have lots and lots of heats, the vast majority of which do not involve my kid, so there's lots of time to think.

As I watched my baby girl, now 19, kicking some serious ass, smiling ear-to-ear having destroyed her 200, giving and receiving high-fives from her team mates, laughing with and cheering for her friends, and generally enjoying the biggest meet of her first college season, I felt great pride in her, and joy for her, and not a small amount of jealousy.

Let me explain...

I ran track in college at a division I, Big Ten school, as a walk on. I wanted the challenge, academic more than athletic, of a big school. Still, I'd been a more than decent high-school athlete, and I wanted to continue to develop that part of myself, too.

I'd been recruited by other schools, smaller schools with great academic reputations, and excellent track teams. Those coaches told me that I was good, but that I'd be lost on a big school team, and that I could flourish in the smaller, more personalized small school environment.

I was tempted, very tempted, but for various reasons, ironically including both ego and naiveté, I went to the big school.

Those coaches were right, at least about getting lost. My coach, who was a decent enough guy, was more interested in his squash matches than in coaching. He ignored me while doting over the football players who graced our team with their presence.* Without motivation and challenging developmental training, I didn't exactly prosper. In my college career, I never ran as fast as I did in high-school. I won exactly one race. I never made the cut to compete in my own conference meet.

Watching my daughter flourish in her small school environment, at her first conference meet, swimming faster and stronger than she ever has, and reveling in the supportive atmosphere, I couldn't help but wonder what it would have been like for me had I taken a different route.

At a meet toward the end of my career, I ran into one of the small school coaches who had recruited me while I was a high school senior. He told me that with a little attention, I could have been a division II All-American. That may have been flattery, but it was more motivation than I ever got from the coach I actually ran for. If I'd run for that small school coach, I can confidently say that I would have run faster, and accomplished more on the track.

It might not have been a bad thing for me to have been a bigger fish in a smaller pond. It would be nice to look back on my college track career with pride, not as yet another instance of unfulfilled potential.

While all of this was whirling around in my brain, my daughter was swimming her heart out in the 1650m. That's essentially a mile, so I had lots of time to think. When my head cleared, I was looking down at her, cranking out lap after lap, and all of the jealously, the traces of regret, left me.

Had I taken a different path, gone to another school, no doubt I would be a different person. But, I would have never met her mother. I wouldn't be in that seat, watching that beautiful, amazing girl, swimming like a damn torpedo.

When we find ourselves looking back at what could have been, we need to consider what might not have been, as well.

Despite the roughness of the road traveled, I wouldn't change a thing, because any single change might have meant that I wouldn't have been in that natatorium last weekend, the proudest of a thousand dads. And that fantastic young woman, my daughter, wouldn't be having the meet, and the time, of her life.

Let's face it, she wouldn't be here at all. Neither would her equally awesome brothers. And that would be a terrible, terrible shame.

Good running,

*Note that one of those football players was Rod Woodson, who not only is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (I'd forgotten that until I saw his bust, right there in the Hall of Fame, while I was in Canton), but also qualified for the Olympic Trials in his first collegiate race as my teammate.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rule of 5s

I have a confession... I don't like running very much right now.

There, I said it. Out load. You couldn't hear that part, but right after I said it, I typed it, so you'd know.

As a lover of running, and a long-time evangelist for the benefits of the running lifestyle, that's hard to admit.

For lots of reasons I won't bore you with, I'm rebooting my running. That means I'm running infrequently. And slow.

I'm also trying to redo my running form, which means that when I do run, it feels awkward, unnatural, like my shoes are on the wrong feet.

When I know I have to run, I dread it. What used to be life affirming, endorphin injecting, jolly offing, is a chore. A chore that lately is done in the inhumane cold under gray skies that have puppies contemplating suicide.

As 11:30 approached, I could feel my butt getting more stuck to the chair. My brain was leafing through its manila folder of sure-fire excuses. My legs were getting heavier by the second.

By noon, I was this damn close (for visual effect, hold a thumb and forefinger (works best if they are on the same hand) extremely close together about an inch from one of your eyes) to giving in to inertia and putting the run off to a mythical, perfect day dozens of procrasti-hours in the future.

Then, a blurb that my good friend Bill sent me saved the day, or at least the run. Bill told me that he'd been reading something by Donald Miller that posed the question:
"Where do you see yourself in five years if you change absolutely nothing?"
My guess is that most of us don't like the version of ourselves projected out 5 years having made no progress, on anything. Ok, maybe there's one or two of you out there who are living the prefect life, and doing it perfectly, but for the rest of us, a question like this is a wake-up call.

We can have all the good ideas and the best intentions, but if we don't actually do something, nothing is gonna change.

Anyway, as I sat in my chair, that damn question popped into my head. And then, as it bounced around in there, it morphed it a bit. I asked myself:
"How much better is your running gonna feel 5 days from now if you spend that time sitting on your ass?"
"How much fitter will you be if you continue to skip runs over the next 5 months?"
"What will your physical, mental, emotional health be like 5 years from now if you aren't running?"
Yeah, that got my ass out of the chair.

And even on the run, a couple miles in when was feeling unnatural and awkward, I asked myself:
"How much closer will you be to the showers in 5 minutes if you stop running now?"
In increments of five minutes, 5 days, 5 months, 5 years, everything we do, or don't do, adds up. That's the Rule of 5s. Every 5 matters.

Make the most of those 5s, and see where it gets you.

Good running,

PS - Don Miller is also the author of a fantastic book (below) that I highly recommend. Though beware, it might change your life.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Trough of Despair

One day a couple of years ago, out on a trial run, my friend/co-worker/running buddy Rob were discussing our recent races.

We'd both had reasonable races, nothing earth shattering, but decent. We also realized that each of us had a experienced a really rough patch around the middle of our races.

With more discussion we decided that there's a moment in every endurance race, and most long training runs, when you're pretty sure your body is failing, that you can't possibly keep going, that you never should have gotten out of bed, and that you will almost certainly die face down on the course before the next mile marker, let alone the finish line.

Rob called it "The trough of despair." It's easy to slide into, and may be tough to get out of, but if you keep going, you will emerge.

The problem with the trough of despair is that a caveman lives there.

You see, our minds don't like the idea of us pushing our bodies to extremes. Deep in our brains lives the instincts of a twitchy caveman worried that at any moment he'll need to outrun a lion. The caveman wants us to hold back, to keep a little something in reserve.

The trough of despair is an illusion our mind creates to protect its body when it thinks we're too deep into our reserves.

The illusion starts with the caveman's voice telling you things like "You don't feel that great, that it's time to slow down, or even quit." or "In the grand scheme of the universe, who cares if you finish."

The self-doubt can be overwhelming, especially in the middle of a long race. Luckily, the caveman has a short attention span. If you keep going, his voice will fade, and you will emerge from the trough.

In the trough, focus on your running, your breath, your cadence, the road or trail. Try to block out the doubt and think only about the task of moving forward. It might take a minute, maybe ten minutes, but eventually, the caveman will step back into the shadows and you'll feel strong and confident again.

The trough of despair, and the caveman, don't limit themselves to trying to screw up your running. They can pop up during a long project at work, or a trying personal time. You don't find yourself in the trough of despair when you're doing something easy, only in the middle of hard, worthwhile things.

Don't fear the trough. Still, you need to recognize when you're in it, acknowledge it, and get through it, because on the other side is the you that you are trying to find.

Good running,

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What would your heroes say?

With the new year comes reflection.

Me, I've been wondering what my heroes would tell me if they knew me. If we were buddies and I asked them for advice, on running and life, what would they tell me?

Thing is, I think I know what they'd say, and I think I'd be embarrassed.

I have two running heroes, Edwin Moses, and Steve Prefontaine, and two non-running heroes, Steve Jobs, and John Lennon.

Edwin Moses, Ed, I'd like to think he'd want me to call him "Ed", was, make that is, the greatest track and field athlete of all time. You can argue for anyone else you want, Emil Zatopak, Carl Lewis, even Jesse Owens, but you will lose. Ed dominated the toughest event in track for 10 years. Ten. Years. He went undefeated at the absolute pinnacle of his sport, for 107 straight finals and 4 world records. No one was even close. Don't take my word for it, read all about it yourself... I'll wait.

See? Told ya. Amazing...

My favorite fact is that Ed majored in physics and industrial engineering at Morehouse on an academic scholarship. Yes, the greatest track athlete of all time was on an academic scholarship. Smart dude.

I have always admired not just his records, but also how he revolutionized his event. Ed used his considerable education and intellect to invent new ways to train, to measure and monitor his success, to accomplish things never before accomplished, things that other well-schooled people thought impossible.

I think Ed would tell me, in his gentle manner, that I'm underachieving and selling myself short. He'd encourage me to find a direction and put all of my energy and focus on finding every possible way to succeed, even if that meant inventing a way there. And as for my running, he'd encourage me to be more disciplined, analytical, and to set more challenging goals.

Steve Prefontaine was a shooting star in US distance running who burned bright, white hot, for too short a time. He was brash. He was arrogant. He was a blood-thirsty competitor. Pre despised the idea of paced racing, saving some for the end. His objective in a race was to run you into the ground. He once said "No one will ever win a 5,000 meter by running an easy two miles. Not against me.", and "I am going to work so that it's a pure guts race. In the end, if it is, I'm the only one that can win it." He ran from the front, counting on guts, determination, and will to get him to the finish line first. Pre never won Olympic gold, but he inspired millions with his balls-out approach to his event, and his life.

"Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it" - Steve Prefontaine

Pre would meet me at a dive bar, buy me a beer, look me dead in the eye, and tell me " First, your running. Dude, you gotta run more, and faster. You aren't running nearly enough days or miles, and when you do, you're too slow. The other stuff... shit dude, stop being a pussy. Trust your talent. Don't fear failure, fear regret. You need to outrun all the bullshit. Man up, look way down the track, and just go... hard!"

Steve Jobs, well, we all know Steve. We all have opinions about Steve. Do yourself a favor and read his Stanford commencement speech. That's the Steve I admire, and the Steve I'd look to for advice.

Steve's email would be brief, abrupt, and direct. "You're wasting your life. Don't follow, lead. Listen to your heart and your intuition. Do something great. Change the world. -Steve"

In many ways, and on many days, I wanted to be Edwin Moses, or Steve Prefontaine, or Steve Jobs. I never really wanted to be John Lennon, I just wanted to hang out with him. The Beatle version of John Lennon would be a lot of fun, and I'm sure very witty and clever. When I imagine (sorry) John and I hanging out, though, it's the John that lives in New York City, far removed from The Beatles life, raising his second son as a stay-at-home dad. We'd meet in the park somewhere. He'd go unrecognized as he approached. He'd shake my hand and sit down across from me at the chess boards, for a chat, not a game.

"How are you, man? What's on your mind?"

I'd tell John that I felt as if I'd unknowingly jumped track years ago and now find myself wondering where I am and where I was supposed to be. He'd tell me to relax. He'd say that everyone feels lost, and to give myself a break.

Then, John Lennon would ask me who I most want to inspire, and then challenge me to inspire them, daily. He'd ask me how I wanted to be remembered, and encourage me to make myself into that person. Finally, he'd remind me not to lose sight of what's really important... to seek peace and love and kindness, and to give it in return.

I have a great life, and I'm happy in it. Yet I can't help but feel that there's a bell unrung.

Good news is, there's still time.

Now, what would your heroes tell you?

Good running,