52 of 52: The End?

Happy New Year!

I like to start my goal setting – well – whenever I’m feeling particularly un accomplished. On the one hand I think this makes a fair amount of sense. Set some new goals to give yourself a kick in the pants, right? On the other hand it can be easier to ride the momentum of success and set some new ones. (I think this is called a positive spiral. Catch me doing this at the end of the post.)

Well – which one is better? Spoiler – whichever one works for you. Either way, you got yourself revved up and ready to tackle some new goals!

I’m getting ahead of myself though. I wanna revisit that feeling of being unaccomplished for a minute. I’m not sure why yet – but I think it’s going to be important and here’s a twist – when I finished this 52nd run last week that’s how I felt. Unaccomplished. Now I don’t know if its the usual post-event-now-what feeling or not but I remember thinking “was this really the best use of my energy? Did I help anyone but me?”

This feeling usually hits me the hardest in the Fall. That time of year when the sun does its thing and starts to show up late for work. Later and later every day. Then we do our stupid human thing and change all of our clocks at the same time to try to fool the sun into staying at work later the next day. We do this during the middle of the night I might add – while the sun isn’t even here to defend itself. Of course the Sun figures out what is going on and then continues to show up later and later and for less and less time. Not only that – it gets a little distant and starts slacking at work!

The fall sun is like my cat – he just needs a hug.

Oh sure – it still gives off the sunlight but it gives us that nasty harsh in-your-face-no-matter-how-hard-you-try-to-look-away kind of light. Not the warm gentle light of 8pm in August. But where it really slacks off is in the heat department. You know what I’m talking about. Big Science would have you believe it has something to do with the Earth’s axis blah blah blah… Let’s face it people – the Sun is mad because we all ganged up and changed the clocks while it was sleeping. What the sun really needs is a hug. Maybe then it would stay out longer and push through the winter months cranking out the heat like a champ and we wouldn’t need to move to Florida or California or …Sun City when we retire.

I don’t know if my facts are straight on all that. All I I know is that hugs work for me… which brings me back to my point. Goal Setting and the New Year.

You: “Finally – these rambly posts go on for days.”
Me: “Wait – was that my point? IS that a point!? It’s more like a pair of things, or not even a pair really – more like a collection of two things…”
You: “Dude – Christmas will be here before you figure out what you want to say! Speaking of Christmas it is NOT the new year so what are you even talking about?”

This pretty tree – you’ve earned it.

I know, it’s not THE new year but it is A new year. Technically, every day starts a new year and this little shift in thinking helps me sometimes. You see, fear plays an integral part in moving me to action – and the thought of a new day does not scare me. Why would it? It gives me a positive feeling – one where I’m free to start over and look at everything with new eyes. It reminds me that yesterday does not equal today and that I can let yesterday go – if I want or need to. And that’s important because that feeling gives me the courage to maybe try again but – it doesn’t move me to actually DO anything.

Fear? Pressure? Constraints? A time limit? Come at me bro. For those things I will take action.

Laying on the couch emerging from a bad food decision that lasted from Halloween to New Year’s Eve (the official one) is not where I want to be when it’s time to envision the next 365 days because in that state almost *anything* would look worth doing by comparison.

The Run

Like many of these runs, I did not have a plan for this one. I had a window of time when Sara would be at school working on some club projects so I used that constraint to at least set *when* I would run. (See – constraints at work…)

I dressed for the run, dropped Sara at school, brought my car home and then just started running. The neighborhood. Then South on Riva Road. I considered running over the bridge past Mike’s Crab House and into the old hood to check out the old house – but if I’m being honest – running past the old house still hurts.

I ran some side streets and then turned around near the bridge and headed back North towards the school. When I got there I ran towards the back where all of the youth leagues were in full weekend mode – scores of kids all decked out in uniforms. Moms and Dads socializing with one eye and watching the rest of the fam with the other. The scene, the Fall air, the sounds – it all hit me in the gut. I guess I’d be running past the old house after all – or at least it was running past me.

I spotted a trail head at the tree line and – squirrel! – thought to myself “I better get used to trails if I’m going to run that 40 miler next year” and popped into the woods.

I’ve been hearing about these trails for years but this was my first time. I like that on my last of these runs I still ran somewhere completely new. I also liked that the woods seemed to bring my head out of the past and into the moment. I saw a red mark on a nearby tree and thought “lets see where the red trail goes.”

It was well marked and not super technical. I stopped at one point when I caught a glimpse of water.

Mother Nature: “Hey – check out this water.”
Me: Stops and stares as if I have never seen a body of water before.
Mother Nature: “Made you look!”
Me: “D’oh!”

The red trail wound around and eventually made its way back to the athletic fields. I dodged a few dog walkers, pet some dogs, and re-entered the woods. Another red tree… ooh a blue mark! Let’s see where the blue trail goes. Now I knew that somehow these trails connect somewhere behind the Department of Agriculture buildings on Truman Parkway so I tried to nose my way in that direction. But the blue trail had other plans…

One of the friendlier parts of the blue trail.

It quickly dropped down into a ravine and then doubled back on itself… I was headed back towards the water. I didn’t mind. The blue trail was way more technical and not as well maintained but I welcomed the work and followed… and followed… and followed. Now going up I could sense I was coming back to the school and emerged near where I had started.

I felt good. I had about 6 miles to go so I explored my way over to Truman parkway behind buildings that I drive past every day. I finally made it to the local farmers market – but they were nearly packed up for the day. I needed to refill my water and felt I could use some food. Breakfast was… light.

I crossed Riva and ducked into the CVS. A bottle of water and a cliff bar later I was back on the road. I decided to head back home, run the new hood again and call it a day.

And then I was done. It felt good to be done. I felt free.

Not the Run

I thought maybe I would use this last run to think about what I wanted to do over the next year or consider what I had learned over the past year – but like any good plan this one fell apart pretty quickly. But I will say this:

At the end it feels oddly unremarkable… like it’s hard to see the forest from the trees and all that. There were definitely runs that I did not want to do – but as the weeks wore on the conversation with myself about if I felt like doing the run or not got shorter and shorter because it mattered less and less. After awhile the resistance just fades and you do it almost without thinking – like the later miles in a long race.

I know more than a handful of people who regularly run this distance, people who have run every day for over 10 years, people who have run scores of ultras… the list goes on. I mean – Will Turner completed 60 Full Iron Man Triathlons last year.

Pshh! 13.1 miles indeed! Do you even run bro?

Whenever I found myself comparing what I was doing to what other people have done it would take the wind right out of my sails and I would feel like doing it wasn’t worthwhile by comparison. Even though what Will did (and continues to do) quite literally inspired me to begin my own year long challenge – the journey itself taught me that I had to Run for Me and that the thing that made it worth continuing to do was remembering that I made a promise to myself – and keeping that promise is what truly mattered.

Next Week: I may have signed up for 5 triathlons and a 40 mile run next year. I better start training…

51 of 52: Hello Old Frenemy

I Know We Broke Up – But I was Desperate

You see, I was in Phoenix with Katie for a week. She was there for a conference. It was her birthday week. I thought it would be fun to tag along and work in person with a team mate of mine who works there. I also figured I could make this another destination run. I used to live near Phoenix as a kid (35+ years ago) so I even considered running to my old house and back. That is until I looked on a map and realized that would have been a 45 mile run.

That was a bucket full of nope for a ton of reasons. 13.1 around town would be fine thanks.

What I did NOT realize was how busy I would be at work this particular week catching up on work I should have done before “right now” but that’s not what I’m here to talk about (though I vaguely mention it tangentially in “Not the Run” – a prize if you can find it.) . The bottom line here is that mixing in a concert, a live comedy show and a birthday dinner with a very full work work week meant for three VERY late nights in a row for me. Like to bed at 4am, back to work at 7am.

Throw in some random germs from air travel and this Kid gets what you might call – “sick”.

So – we returned home around 1:30 am on Sunday. If you’re thinking “hey – this sounds just like when you came home from the Keys and whined about running the Metric Marathon” – you’re right this was the second time in three weeks and I knew it was gonna suck. I just didn’t know how much yet. So like I was saying, we got back around 1:30 am on Sunday…

Naptown Jazz Kids (the jazz education non-profit I’m involved in) was hosting our “Big Band Explosion” concert – that Sunday. This is our first year and this was our first Fall program. We had kids from the CYSO Jazz Ensemble, the University of Maryland Jazz Ensemble (my alma mater), and the Army Blues all playing one concert together. Trust me – it’s a really cool thing to do and see.

Anyhow – we had a 1pm sound check so doing the math I figured if I leave at 12:15 to get to the sound check, that means I need to be in the shower by 11:45 which means I need to be on the road running by 8:45. It’s 1:30 now so that means 7 hours of sleep. I can do this. Except…

I was SICK. Yes, it was that basic “just-getting-sick-but-a-man-will-stay-in-bed-instead-of-sucking-it-up-and-rocking-the-household-3-infants-and-a-full-time-job-like-a-real-woman” kind of sick. I got up and it was cold and raining outside. And I didn’t leave any wiggle room in the schedule which meant – I would need to run AFTER the concert UNLESS (as Katie suggested) “…you could run on the treadmill downstairs”.

Yes but – we broke up… me and the treadmill that is. I lay in bed thinking “surely there must be some other way” but no, Katie was right so I rolled on down to the basement and got ready to hit the treadmill. Except that… the treadmill was stuck in a software update loop! I was out of luck. I would have to run after the concert. Hopefully the rain would have eased up by then. I figured at least now I could sleep some more and keep from getting “Sick For Real”.

A broken treadmill. Update: As of this writing I have fixed it.

So I went back to sleep for a couple hours, woke up and hit the concert. I was not feeling any better or more rested and the rain was most definitely NOT going to be letting up.

After the sound check Emily (fellow NJK board member) and I were talking and looking out into the rain and I mentioned I still had to get my run in. She was like “in this weather?! AND you’re sick! ” and then something along the lines of it being dumb or crazy or something (but she was nice about it). I said it would be fine since I would be dressed for the weather… but deep down I knew she was right. But at week 51 what else could I do?

The Run

Spoiler – I did NOT go run outside that night. On my way home from the concert I was talking to Katie and she said “I wish I would have thought of this sooner but you could have gone to Fitness 19 this morning and run there.” I joined a gym near her place for just such an occasion.


I went home and slept. Katie in one ear suggesting I run on the treadmill and Emily in the other pointing out that running outside would be irresponsible. I woke up and realized what anyone reading this is probably yelling at me through the screen – and that is that I could drive back up to Columbia and run on the treadmill at the gym that night. So that’s what I did.

At 8pm on Sunday night I started my 13.1 mile run on a treadmill. I know -we broke up. I know I said I wouldn’t run another 13.1 on the treadmill but you see, I really was desperate.

It was easy to look at the bright side. It was dark, cold, and raining – but I would be warm inside and could watch a movie or catch up on podcasts. I decided to check out “The Game Changers” on Netflix. I ran for about an hour until I took a short bio break.

The movie had my full attention and weeks later I’m still trying to learn more about plant based diets and I’m finding there are so many opposing studies and views on diets. (Shocker) I’ve significantly reduced the amount of animal products in my diet to see how it goes (not that I was eating a ton of meat to begin with) but I’m almost to the point where I want to say “man – just use your head and don’t eat things that make you feel like crap.” Anyhow – I’m not a scientist. I don’t enjoy reading studies so I’m not about to make any claims here or anywhere else about nutrition. I’ll only ever say “this is what I do and this is how I feel.” PLUS – it seems pretty evident that livestock is a woefully inefficient food source when it comes to how many resources are required to produce the amount of animal products that we do.

After the Game Changers I started watching Ozark. I’m surprised I didn’t run an extra 2 hours! I was hooked and made short work of the remaining episodes over the next couple weeks.

Thank goodness for streaming. It made this next-to-the-last of these runs bearable. I finished up, drove home, took a hot shower and collapsed into bed.

Not the Run

Every day I take a minute remind myself to ask myself Jim Ryan’s 5 essential questions throughout the day. They are:

1. Wait. What?  (Make sure you understand)
2. I wonder how…why…if…  (Stay curious)
3. Couldn’t we at least…?  (Take action)
4. How can I help? (Be specific and effective)
5. What truly matters?

Some days it’s a going through the motions sort of thing. Other days I put real energy into it – but my current rambling comes from that last question. What truly matters to me? If I’m looking within arms reach…

How people treat each other matters.

While I can control how I treat others, how other people treat each other is largely out of my control. It’s upsetting to see people not even try – in real life and online – but my biggest beef is with “entities” – political or commercial – putting power and profit over people and the planet. These entities are made of people so I don’t understand why this happens. Oh wait – power and money and probably fear of losing them. I’ve never had a significant excess of either so I can’t claim that I would be any better – but I’d like to think I would be. Anyhow…

These entities are made of people. I’m one of them. I’m a contractor at a Federal agency. It would be easy to say “how can I change anything?” I am not a fan of the tax code – but “how can I possibly change that? I make software training.” Well the short answer is that I can’t directly affect the tax code and yet – there are still MANY opportunities for me to treat people with kindness, with respect, to try to understand them and their needs.

Example? You know those incredibly boring computer based required trainings you take at work? That’s my industry. Wouldn’t you like it if the training was more human? Like if you felt that the people who designed the course actually gave a crap if you learned something? Me too – so I try to make that the starting point of my designs. I feel like the more a person feels heard or understood, the more likely they will be to listen to and understand others. Am I spitting into an ocean of a problem? Yes – but spit is what I have so spit is what I will do.

How I treat myself matters.

Suffice it to say that how I treat myself is a reflection of how I feel about myself. They are inextricably linked. Negative and positive spirals thrive in how I treat myself. If I’m not liking myself I won’t insist on the things that I know are good for me. Time with friends is the first to go, then exercise, then quality food in portions that make sense. Yes – I am quick to celebrate anything from a holiday to an excellent mood to just surviving the day – but that’s not what I’m talking about here. It’s important for me to remember how to deliberately stay out of the self loathing end of the spectrum and how to move myself towards the self loving end – and to do that I find relies on HOW I TREAT OTHER PEOPLE.

Well now that’s a very “snake eating itself” sort of arrangement I have isn’t it?

You see – if I make a mistake, or fail at something – I’m still okay with myself – but when I’m an asshole about it I am not okay with myself and I react accordingly. See above: become hermit, sit on couch, eat crap. Even more important and less obvious are times where I am apparently “crushing it” but I’m not really deserving of it. So that old classic- “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose but how you run the race” is really coming into focus.

Plus – being nice to people feels good and its the number one thing I know of that moves me from not feeling good about myself to feeling good about myself – but… It’s harder to be nice to people when I’m not feeling great about myself. Well it’s hard to do all kinds of things and we do them anyways so – just do it. (Thank you Nike) .

I’m struggling to put a bow on this one but I think I’ve gone on for long enough. Besides – the questions are always more important than the answers.

Next Week: The End?

49 of 52: Metric Marathon

Toto – I don’t think we’re in Florida Anymore

Have you ever gone on vacation and just got so relaxed and rested that reintegration into society was a little harder than it should have been? If you have then you know exactly where I was on Sunday. My feet were in Maryland – “running” – the Annapolis Striders Metric Marathon. My head? My heart? Squarely in the Florida Keys where I had just spent a week with Katie. Not a weekend dash out to Fenwick or up to NYC – but an honest to goodness convertible-hair-don’t-care vacation.

I did run once while we were on vacation – but mostly it was so that I could say that I’ve run to the southernmost point of the United States. I mean I did WANT to run also but the thought of missing that opportunity made me do it. I usually like to train a lot while I’m on vacation because it doesn’t take all day, I enjoy it and it helps me to come back home feeling good about how I spent my time – but minus a few Facebook check-ins, this vacation was a much needed near-complete departure from reality and that included running. (Not that I’ve been running during the week much anyways…but that’s another story all-together.)

We spent a night in Fort Lauderdale, three nights in Key West and two nights on Islamorada and we didn’t get home until after midnight on Saturday. I knew I would be tired. I knew I wouldn’t really be into it but I also knew that it didn’t really matter. This race was not my goal. It was just one step in this whole journey – and all I had to do was take it.

The Run

I have only run the metric marathon three times – including this one. I remembered it being a hard race and it’s a few miles longer than I’ve been running (a metric marathon is 26.2 Kilometers, or 16.28 miles) so I expected a pretty slow time. And it was. About 30 minutes off my PR for this race in fact. I didn’t feel great about the time but I felt good about finishing and it was nice to see a bunch of familiar faces at the start. It’s been a few weeks so I’m having trouble remembering specific encounters aside from the guy in front of me in line at the bathroom.

I was wearing my IronMan Maryland shirt from when I volunteered and the guy in front of me asked if I did the race the weekend before. I chuckled a little when I realized why he was asking and I told him I had not. I noticed he was wearing a hat from the race and asked if he had run it – which of course he had. This was going to be his first run since completing the 140.6 mile race so he wasn’t expecting anything near a PR. I was impressed that he’d be running again so soon but at the same time I could understand that when you’re that trained up, after a week of rest it’s actually good to get out and start moving again. I wouldn’t start with a non-flat 16+ mile course. But hey – that’s just me.

I can’t remember what he said his time was exactly but I remember that he was disappointed but not down about it. I also remember that it was very Fast – like under 10 hours or something. I congratulated him on the finish and silently reminded myself that everyone is on their own journey. Only 10 men my age and above finished IMMD in under 10 hours this year.

Dan and I ran together for the first 10 miles or so. I gave him the rundown on my trip to Key West with Katie. He peeled off course for a customary bio break and left me to listen to the three ladies behind us catch up and reminisce about last years run. Apparently two of the three were wearing what they wore the year before. Another one had been to brunch after last years race and their boyfriend snapped a nude of them while they napped it off.

Was I singing…?

No – I did not turn around to see which one it was. I didn’t even thank them for keeping me entertained. I mean, I didn’t want to add my intrusion to his. I decided it would be more prudent to just keep my mouth shut – a rule I mostly follow in life unless someone is paying for my opinion (rare) or I’m in the car with Dan on the way to work (not as rare – but I don’t get paid for it).

Darrell Mak and Nica Shields had been playing leap frog with us for a few miles so I settled in with them for a little while and congratulated Nica on her hard earned World Record for running 100.224 kilometers in 12 hours. Why 3 decimal places? The previous world record was 100.177! Holy smokes – .047 kilometers – that’s about 50 yards!!! More remarkable is that this was her third or fourth attempt (I can’t remember exactly) . Also she is going for the 24 hour record next.

Dan caught up to us (I still don’t know how he does it) and I filled him in on everything. MY stomach was reminding me how well I ate all week while on vacation and I knew I would need to stop soon and take care of it. I knew there was an aid station ahead with facilities but I couldn’t remember how far. My memory told me it was just ahead on the left but as it happens my memory is either:

  1. Bad
  2. An optimist
  3. A rotten trickster the likes of which make Loki look like a 4 year old who, having just learned to talk can ONLY tell the truth regardless of how embarrassing or inappropriate.

…because there was NO porta pot at the next aid station. So we continued on to the aid station at the intersection of Bayard and Sands Rd and finally – mischief managed. Dan walked while he waited so I was actually able to catch him but not too long after I did – I let him go.

Dan – finishing happy.

He was having a good day and I was struggling physically and mentally and could not find a reason to push myself. As I continued on I settled into the solitude and enjoyed my surroundings. The last time I ran this race I was angry. I had had a particularly bad evening the night before and was just using the anger to fuel me. I laughed at how far away that seemed but I wondered if there were something other than anger I could use to push myself today or even whenever I wanted. If there was, it fell beyond my reach.

I continued on slowly.

At the 13.1 mark I hit the lap timer on my watch. 2:10:56. Not terrible actually – but I remember thinking “OK, I can back off from here.” As if I hadn’t already checked out.

I knew it would be this way from the moment I decided it the night before when I went to bed. I was tired. I wanted to be on vacation still. Hell – I’d like to be retired, but as it happens I have another 25 years or so before that happens. I’m basically only half way there and I already want out. I’ll admit – that reality weighs on me regularly and I’m not entirely sure what to do about it aside from just keeping on. (Maybe I should follow up on finding that career coach?)

I ramble – there were some hills, I moved forward for another 38 minutes and eventually finished the race. Excellent – now I can go home and unpack.

“The Finish”

Not the Run

A lot of times I sit down to write these and I just don’t like what comes out. I don’t like the message – or there isn’t one – or I don’t like the tone. So I stop. And I think this is where I get behind sometimes. I could argue that it doesn’t matter if I like it. I should just write and whatever comes out, comes out and be done with it. But I also really want to like what I’ve written about. I want other people to like what I write – or at least feel that their time reading it was well spent. I want some good to come from all of this or at the very least for at least one person to think “yeah – I feel you bruh.” or “damn – I’m not the only one.”

I have no delusions about the quality of my writing. It’s – simple. Disjointed. A lot of times pointless. My kids are quick to ask me “did you proof read this?” or “is someone going to edit this – you know – for flow?” I do remember how much better the book I wrote on Flash was after an editor got a hold of it. So – yeah. It’s not that I’m going for “great writing” and get stuck so much as I’m just going for “yes – this is what I wanted to say about this run.”

And it gets really hard when I just don’t know what that is. What do I want to say? I feel like there’s a lot inside of me that I want to get out and I’m counting on running – or writing about running – to help me figure out what that is. Maybe I don’t get to let it out as words. Maybe I have to let it out as running faster. Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with running at all. Maybe there are things I want to do or accomplish. I just have this feeling like I should be doing better at staying focused on them and getting them done and out into the world.

Next Week: That Last Run with Dan