28 of 52: Running in the Future

Who Moved My Cheese?

One of my favorite books ever is “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard. I didn’t read it until I was out of college but I know a copy of it appeared in my house when I was still in high school. My foggy and clumsy summary of the book is this:

Shit is going to happen. There’s nothing you can do about it. The faster you can accept what the actual reality of the situation is, the more successful and happy you will be. The end.

Now – as a child I was always looking forward to the next thing and was never really satisfied with where I was or what I was doing in the moment. Maybe this is why I identified so much with Luke Skywalker as a kid.

“A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.”

Yoda – The Empire Strikes Back

I know – my nerd is showing…

In my defense – being a kid kind of sucked. I moved a fair amount and I was constantly having to make friends and learn local “kid customs” and social structures. Present me is grateful for the experience of learning how to adapt and while while it sucked for younger me – it was also kind of exciting. In a way I kind of grew up inside of that book and over time I came to understand that the sooner I got out exploring my new situation the happier I would be.

If you aren’t focused on mourning the loss of what was, you’ll be able to see what an amazing opportunity a fresh start really is.

So that’s what I did on this particular run. I had been looking for a new place to live and finally found one. I was set to sign the lease a couple days later so I couldn’t resist going out to run in my future neighborhood.

The Run

The good news is that I was only moving about a mile and a half from my other place and I really wanted to run every nook and cranny of the new place. I’ve been there before – when I was in college a friend of mine owned a place in there and then after college another friend bought his first family home there. I had even run through there a couple of times in more recent years after I moved to the Annapolis area and as recently as this past year a couple times but I didn’t pay too much attention to anything other than trying to pick out where my friends had lived.

This time I wanted to explore every road, every trail (there are a couple), every little detail so that I could imagine myself there and how living there would be.

That squiggly bit at the bottom is the new neighborhood.

So a mile and a half there and a mile and a half back meant I would need to run 10 miles in the new place. As it turns out there are just about 5 miles of running in the new place so I just ran every road in there twice. Worked out pretty well.

Running it twice gave me a chance to look at everything a second time. Yes – I know how that sounds but hear me out. There’s a great Marvin Minsky phrase I love to use in the context of teaching and learning and that is

“You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way”

Marvin Minsky

So looking at everything a second time I tried to see it in another way.

Not The Run

Honestly I need to start using this approach more when I’m trying to figure out how I want things to be when it comes to running and playing trumpet and writing music. I use it all the time with stuff like “my life” – where I want to live, what I want to do, what I want to have.

It feels a little bit like obsessing over something, but what I believe is that if you focus long enough and hard enough on some end state, your brain will fill in the gaps as long as it has the information it needs in order to so.

“I can’t stop thinking about Five Guys burgers. “

  • You know where it is
  • You can drive
  • You have cash
  • You know how long it will take and the amount of effort it will require to get there
  • You also know what it’s like to succeed

It’s so easy because you have all the information and resources you need at your fingertips. Even if you were missing some of the information in this case, it’s easy information to come by.

“I really want to run a 5 minute mile.”

  • Can I? Like physically is this even possible?
  • How much will I have to train? How often? How long? How Hard?
  • Will it be worth it?

It’s not as easy as grabbing a burger because not only are there more unknowns – but finding the answers to these questions is harder than finding the answers to the burger thing. Like – where do you even start?

Finding as many people who are as much like me as I can find and who have already done what I want to do and asking them how they did it has always worked for me. They can help break most of it down for me so I have the information I need to answer the unknowns as they apply to my situation.

I think we all do this naturally when life gets really shitty and we just need to make it better because we *have* to. Like that time my car got hit, the kitchen ceiling collapsed, and we lost a household income all in the same month with two kids under 5 in the house. You can’t ignore that shit. You can’t focus on *anything* else until the pressing needs are met, until you figure out a way to make it happen.

But what if I could get ahead of things and apply the same focus on creating what I desire rather than fixing what I can’t live with? When things are “fine” I tend to coast and leave things as they are – rather than pursue what’s in my heart. Looking back, when I did stay motivated there were a lot of times where I made the mistake of continuing to go after more of what I already had instead of asking what really mattered to me as an individual.

But I also succeeded a lot. I know this works. I know that consistently looking into your future and understanding what you want to accomplish with as much detail and in more that one way – works. But unlike my childhood self, I’ll just be a little more mindful to appreciate the present while I’m doing it.

Next Week: The King’s Dominion Half Marathon

27 of 52: Cherry Pit

The First Race I Ever Ran

When I first started running I did a lot of training on my own. I mean – I did *all* of my training on my own up until my first 14 mile run. After that I started looking for people to run with and found the Annapolis Striders and before you know it I had signed up for my first race – the Cherry Pit 10 miler.

In DC there is a rather large 10 mile race called the Cherry Blossom 10 mile run. Run through Washington DC among the Cherry Blossoms with 20,000 of your closest friends. I’ve never run that race because I’m not a huge fan of big crowds (although someone was talking about the Chicago Marathon the other dat and to my surprise I was oddly interested – maybe next year.)

The OTHER reason I’ve never run it is because is usually falls on the same day as the Cherry PIT 10 mile race and being the sentimental guy that I am I’m guess I’m loyal to this race. It was my first and while it’s a small local race, the course is not easy, the field is challenging, my friends are here and it’s part of the Champ series so it costs like 10 bucks!

I remember showing up the first year and seeing people running before the race – warming up. I thought they were crazy. I was worried about covering the miles and these people were running extra! WTH

It think temps were in the 50’s so of course I was layered up. Shorts and pants on the bottom, shirt and long sleeved shirt on top – oh and lets not forget the HAT! Not a running hat – A WINTER hat! (I used to get sick quite easily if my head got cold.) I was definitely new at this.

My first year of racing.

The plan was to find some peeps and run a few miles before the race started – but as it happened I walked into the cafeteria where check in was happening and Susan Noble and one other person (who I can’t remember) were trying their hardest to get everyone checked in – but they were quickly falling behind and the line…. grew.

Susan. Coach Susan. Race Director Susan. Founder of Hero Boys Susan. My Friend Susan… asked a few of us nearby (who were oblivious to the situation) if we could lend a hand so we did. It was a blur so I can’t remember exactly who jumped in except for Kim – but I know there were more of us.

Anyways – after registration/check-in was under control I found myself outside thinking “man, there’s no way I have time for three miles before the race. I’ll have to do some after.”

I wandered outside and ran into Jimmy, Kim, Dave, Henry and Kit (and Susan – she’s everywhere) and we ran until just before the race was set to start. I think we got a mile and change. As it happened, there was a significant delay to start of the race (something to do with waiting for folks to set up traffic cones) so we were actually able to go back out and finish 3.1 miles prior to the race which is nice. I was now that person I thought was crazy for running before a race. It was raining a bit so after warming up we waited under some cover in front of the school until the start.

L to R: Dave, Henry, Susan, me, Kit, and Jimmy.

The Run

We ran 10 miles. The end. Just kidding – some stuff happened.

I remember running with Kim… for about a minute before she disappeared off into the race and after that I was on my own. I was still riding a little high from my PR at the B&A but I did not want to push too hard. Though I did want to try that “focus on the moment” thing to see if I could get it to work again.

The race starts with a little twisty turny bit to get out of the high school campus and onto the main road and then you’re on a hill for … awhile. It’s not like really steep , some might call it “rolling” but by and large you’re going up and to me it always seems long. By the numbers it turns out to be 122 ft of climbing over almost 3 miles.

I think it’s no secret that I’m as exactly as tough as I need to be for the task at hand (maybe a little less). This is great – because I can do stuff. Also this sucks because everything I do seems hard. This three mile “hill” then… not steep, but sucky.

Somewhere between mile 6.5 and 7 of the race I gave up on the focus trick. It was raining I was tired and I PR’d a couple weeks ago I didn’t need to prove anything, right? So I decided to walk a bit on the other long-ass “hill” that is Muddy Creek road. After being passed by a few folks I decided to give the old running thing a try again – at least until I saw Susan under an umbrella directing runners to make the left turn at the top of the hill.

I decided this would be a good opportunity to take a little break so I hung out with Susan and cheered on some of the other runners until I spotted Mitch coming up the hill.

I met Mitch during my first year of Marathon training. He taught me a lot about the ups and downs of running – how physically, mentally and emotionally you should expect peaks and valleys on any given run. He taught me to never assume any run was going to be easy – or hard for that matter.

Mitch yelled (at) to me to “c’mon and get on the train!”

So I did. And I hung on for as long as I could – which was almost to the end. Mitch will always be faster than me in the same way that a son will never think that they can “take” their dad. This day he was faster than me in the old fashioned way and left me alone for the last quarter mile or so to finish squarely in the middle of the pack.

Not the Run

It’s neat to look back on the first time I ran this race and how far I’ve come as a runner and how fortunate I am to be a part of this amazing community of people.

When I ran this race the first time, I underestimated my pace. I didn’t know that on race day some weird shit happens and it’s possible to run faster than you usually do. Anyways – I told my family what time I thought I would finish. They were on time – but I was early. And it was one of the loneliest moments in my recent memory. I had done this new thing and done well but I had no one to share it with. I didn’t know *anyone* else at the race and the fam-a-lam wasn’t there to see me finish.

Of all the good things I remember about running this race over the years I will try to always include that lonely feeling also – because it brings the value of the friendships and community I’ve since become a part of into sharp relief.

Next Week: Running into the Future

What is this place?

So.  Tomorrow I’m going to start this.  I’m going to run 52 half marathons in 52 weeks and this “place”, this blog, is just a place for me to document the journey.

Why don’t I just post my runs to my Facebook like everyone else?  I was going to but then I thought of two reasons why it might be cool to do it here:

  1. Maybe more than just the friends I know right now would be interested in this.  I mean it’s not the most amazing thing in the world, but for someone else who is like me, doing this represents something hard and requires them to become someone who they are not.  (In a good caterpillar to butterfly way, not a Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader sort of way.)  Perhaps this archive would be a useful source of inspiration or information for them.
  2. If I publish my thoughts here, they will persist free of the clutter that is my timeline.  Folks could come by long after I’m done and read at their leisure (or not).  Also I need less reasons to visit Facebook.  Not more.

So with that out of the way I can answer the “why” question.  It’s really simple (right now) – I’m doing this because I want to exercise my ability to consistently execute.  I believe that if I do this I will be able to more consistently execute anything that I set my mind to.

“I’m doing this because I want to exercise my ability to consistently execute.” — Me.  I said that.

If you know me, you know that I’ve done longer races, triathlons, long distance open water swims (once), but you also know that what I really crave is the ability to maintain my desire to execute (anything) without the FEAR of some massive goal so scary that I just *have* to train or it will be a disaster.  No – I want to be able to train consistently (or practice, or write, or do anything) simply because I choose to.

OK, yes, I’m technically always choosing to train regardless of the goal but catch me in the off season and you’ll see me on the couch binge watching Shameless with a bag of carrots or snap peas on my lap instead of on the road putting in the work.

AND yes, perhaps I’m kidding myself into thinking this isn’t just another big scary goal to keep me moving but you know what… even if it is I still think I’ll be better off and closer to being the person I want to be than if I don’t do it.  Enough existentialism – what’s the actual challenge?

I chose 13.1 miles because *for Me* (right now):

  • It is a distance that I can run every week without injuring myself.
  • It is a distance I can run without taking a massive amount of time away from my family and friends.

In order to reach my goal of becoming more consistent I need to set up some rules around this thing.  I can’t just go running a 13.1 whenever I feel like it (2 or three this week, none the next) and expect to come out of this more disciplined.  So – here come some rules (that I arbitrarily made up to suit myself):

  1.  Run one 13.1 mile run no earlier than Friday evening (5pm) and no later than Sunday evening ( 10pm) on any given weekend.
  2. I can combine any race with additional miles (before or after the race) to total 13.1 miles
  3. I can run a longer distance than 13.1 miles and count it as one 13.1.

That’s all I can think of for rules.  If you think of some more that might be fun, let me know!!

Without you reading I’m just a tree falling in the woods.  Ouch.  SO Thanks!