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.