For Reals – A Can’t Miss Event

15 04 2010

So I’ve heard of the “Can’t Miss Event” of the year, but this is the real deal. No One should miss this.

Velociraptor Awareness Day

Why would you NOT attend this?

I mean seriously.  The 38,202 of you NOT attending this are so gonna get eaten.  You know this right?

what reminds you about your soul?

13 04 2010

I think it’s easy to forget what should be the obvious connection between our physical and spiritual bodies.  Turn on any TV or hop on any website and there are plenty of self-proclaimed experts on the topics of physical fitness, from the latest diet, to that brand new home gym that even Chuck Norris uses.  The same can be said for spiritual “gurus.”  Every day we’re inundated with books, thoughts and dvd sets that tout the latest in visualizing everything we want, new methods of realizing our potential or simple steps to achieving perfect balance.

No one ever puts it all together.  I know, it can all be explained scientifically.  Endorphins stimulate the pleasure center of the brain.  Those same endorphins are triggered by exercise, therefore creating the same feeling of happiness/euphoria that sex, drugs and rock and roll can cause.

I understand that.  It clicks with me.  But man, I’m here to tell you, if you accept that this is all there is to it, you’re missin’ so much of the good stuff.  Example:  I ran in the Tarheel 10-Miler this week in Chapel Hill.  I joined 2199 other runners to take to the streets of this small town and enjoy a morning run.  Chapel Hill is called Chapel Hill for a reason.  It ain’t flat. And 10 miles is plenty long.  I saw a lot of cool things during the race: the guy fighting his way up Laurel Hill in a wheelchair, so many good friends and complete strangers competing in their first race, kids, seniors, fat guys, skinny guys, tall, short and everything in between.  But the one thing that stands out in my mind are the smiles on everyone’s faces as they ran.  It was UNBELIEVABLE.

Here we were, fighting age, gravity and our own monkey minds and having such a good time.  And I mean these smiles were the huge, smile-till-your-face-hurts, what-is-that-guy-smiling-about kind of smiles.  It’s like, do you remember you were a kid and you would just run – wide open, nonstop, maybe even barefoot and it was like running and laughing went together – you would run and run until you started giggling, then you’d be laughing, then you couldn’t breathe anymore because you’d be laughing so hard so you’d just fall over?  That’s the kind of smiling that was going on.  We are built to run, and not just on a physical level.  The act of running, or doing something physical, connects to us on a deep, spiritual level and reminds us that we have this great gift of a physical body.  For me, running reminds me I have a soul.

Smiling Runner

You may say that you hate running.  And that’s cool.  I would never attempt to speak for you or anyone else when it comes to announcing what makes you happy.  I guess my point is, you gotta hold on to what you do that makes your heart feel good.  And if you’re doing something that doesn’t make your heart feel good, just for the sake of making your body healthy – for God’s sake, stop it (I’m not condoning that you stop medication or activities prescribed by your doctor) and find something that’s good for your body and your soul.  Do one or the other and you’re really missing what makes it all so perfect.  Because really, what’s the point in living longer if your soul isn’t there to experience it all.

Come to think of it, couldn’t you say this of a lot of things?  If you’re working in a job that pays the bills (or makes you rich) and doesn’t make your heart happy, stop.  If you’re in a relationship that doesn’t feed your soul, then go and find your soul mate, or at least find yourself.  If what you’re doing right now doesn’t make you smile right now, why are you doing it?I'm still smiling...

It’s 2010 – I’m amazed each day at the new types of exercises that are being created/discovered/made up/done in the middle of nowhere.  So I guess what I’m saying is, there’s gotta be something you like to do, not just because it feels good physically, but because you smile when you do it, because before it’s over, you’ll be giggling or because It reminds you that you’ve got a soul. I know I do – that’s why I run.

What about you?  What reminds you that you’re still alive?  What do you love to do more than anything?

The Do Over

22 03 2010

I suppose there’s a part of an endurance athlete that has to forget.  Forget the pain, the toughest moments, those parts of the race that make you ask why you do this thing.  Because, if you only remember those moments, no matter how fleeting they are, you’d stop doing this right now, and never do it again.  We’re conditioned to remember everything else – pace, breathing, distance, what it feels like at mile 10, at mile 15, at 20, where our thoughts are, all of it.  And thank God we do.  Because its those things that get us through each race, each test.

Most of you who know me and keep up with me know that this race was not the race I had planned on running.  My original marathon this spring was supposed to be at Myrtle Beach on February 16. Without going into too much detail ( I will over a beer if you want sometime), that race was cancelled and I had to scramble to find a spring race.  Cue the Shamrock marathon.  It seemed like a good fit because (a) I had run it before, (b) It was a beach marathon, with a similar flat course to Myrtle Beach and (3) it was only 4 weeks later.  I’d like to add an asterisk to that last one, because at the time, 4 weeks didn’t seem like such a big deal.  So this marathon was my Do Over.

finish line

So tired, but the finish line is right there...

I don’t consider myself a marathon veteran per se, as I’ve only now done two, so adding another month of training to my already 16 weeks immediately became incredibly daunting.  I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just repeated the final four weeks of training I’d just done.  Sounds simple enough, right?

Physically, I don’t think it took too much of a toll on me, but mentally and spiritually I was probably past ready for a race.  I mostly chalk that up to the process of getting my mind in the right place for it.  I will always think that I was totally ready mentally for the Myrtle Beach race, so it was tough for me to get my thoughts together for VA Beach.  But I digress..

Virginia Beach was much different from last year in more than one way.  09 was a cool day – with lows at race start in the upper 30s and temps when I finished in the upper 50s.  Yesterday it was 54 when I woke up and around 73 when I finished. Given the choice, I’d take the cooler day.  54 is great to start, but 71 after 20+ miles is hot.  Secondly, and maybe because of the much warmer weather, the town was abuzz with people this year.  Last year, it almost seemed like a sleepy little beach town and for the most part, was populated only by runners and their support.  This year, we shared the beach with spring breakers, families and even some bikers.  All the more festive I suppose.

my prerace ritual

Here's what I spend the night before a race doing...

We had pre-race dinner at Gorden Biersch, which I highly recommend.  Good food and great beer. Back to the hotel for my prerace ritual of laying out my clothes, shoes and Gu.  I tend to get to start lines early, which lends to nerves, pacing, bouncing and multiple glances at my watch.  I made it to the start line by about 7:30 for an 8 am start.  From there things moved right into the race.  I remember…

Overhearing the 3:40 pacer.. “yeah, it was a late night, but I’ll be fine as long as I can get hydrated.” -oh to be young again…

Up over the bridge on the south loop where we passed the slowest wheelchair racers going up, and they passed us coming back down.

Watching the elite athletes come back past us at the first turnaround.  Seeing those amazing men and women really motivated me…so much so that I had to remind myself to slow down.

The troops at Camp Pendleton in uniform cheering us on.  So so cool.  It’s like a mini-marine corps cheering section.

Swinging back into town near halfway and seeing Cindy – her smile keeping me moving.

The halfway point and being dead on for pace.  1:50 exactly. I clearly remember smiling at the clock.

The tent at about mile 15 offering beer instead of water and Gatorade.  No, I did not take them up.

Miles 20-23.  This is where things got tough.  It was a loop that left the beach.  That left me with no breeze, no shade and pretty much no crowd support.  At this point, my legs really started to get stiff and tired.  And as I continued to run, the stiffness(?) moved up my legs into my back and neck – and eventually my jaw.  I was good the entire race from a cardiovascular and breathing standpoint, but tightening up was tough.  Very tough.  This is the part I had worked to get to and through.  This was the part that I don’t want to remember for too long.

The last few miles, coming back into the crowd support – including the high school group all dressed as super heros (corny super heros, but heros still) cheering us on.

Making the turn onto the boardwalk and seeing King Neptune and the finish line 1/4 of a mile away.

I finished the race at 3:44, five full minutes faster than last year.  I’m pleased with my finish.

As always, Cindy was able to get my attention near the finish even above the screams of the hundreds of others cheering.  I live for seeing her at the end of a race.

I did try a couple of things differently this year:  1) I doubled my gel intake this year, with 4 total gels over the course and 2) I crushed the water/Gatorade stops.  I only skipped one, maybe two the entire race.   I think both stratagies helped.

Me at the Shamrock Sand Sculpture

Kissing the Shamrock postrace

All in all, a good time, with what I still consider a great post race party, including Irish stew and all the Yuengling you can drink, under a tent right on the beach with live music.  So what’s next? Well, immediately, a few days off.  Then – The Tarheel 10-Miler.  As for later, I, along with thousands of others, keep checking my inbox for any word on my lottery entry into the NY Marathon.  Outside of that, I’m planning on registering for Marine Corps for the fall.  Then again, that’s because the tough stuff, the pain – I’m already starting to forget it.

-see you on the road.

Thank you Jimmy Fallon

5 03 2010

One thing that drives Cindy crazy about me.  I am overly nostalgic.  I mean – I’m that guy that would go back to the mid 80s to mid 90s in a minute.  I would love to just live there forever.  It doesn’t take much to get me hooked.  One of my favorite games to play is to turn on the 80s channel on XM and play name the song, name the artist and what movie is it from.  One of the things I really like about Jimmy Fallon is that I think he’s the same way.  He’s nearly the same age as us genXers.  For the better part of a year, Fallon’s been trying to reunite the cast of, what is in my opinion, the single greatest TV show of all time – Saved By The Bell.  He was even able to get Zack Morris for an interview (Hilarrrrious!).  It seems a couple of the SBTB cast members resisted and the Bayside Reunion died.

Not one to be held down, Jimmy came through with something that might even be better.  I’d say better for two reasons.  1: It’s a show we all watched but it just isn’t on in syndication like Saved by the Bell, so I’d bet it’s been forever since you’ve seen it.  2: It has what might be the greatest theme song ever written.  I’m referring to California Dreams.  I’ve now watched the clip below like 10 times and everytime I do, I smile.  I mean I smile from somewhere inside me. I think it actually brings me joy.  And then I go looking for other old shows to watch.  Thank you Jimmy.

P.S. Yes I did just order Season 1 & 2 on DVD.  And I ordered the first two seasons of Blossom for Cindy.

because of adversity, not in spite of it

4 03 2010

There’s so much to say about this video.

Aimee Mullins was born with fibular hemimilia (missing fibula bones) and, as a result, had both of her legs amputated below the knee when she was a year old.  While attending Georgetown University she competed against non-disabled athletes in NCAA Division I track and field events. She competed in the Paralympics in 1996, where she ran the 100-meter dash in 17.01 seconds and jumped 3.14 meters in the long-jump.

There’s two points Aimee makes that I really like:

1. The words we use in describing people, in labeling them have a profound affect on them.  And it’s more than just the words, but the values behind the words and how we construct those values.  Our languages affects our thinking and how we view other people.  She uses the thesaurus entry for “Disabled” as a brilliant illustration.

2. We don’t overcome adversity.  The idea of overcoming adversity would suggest that we come out of “the other side of adveristy” unscathed, untouched by the experience.  Quite the contrary, adversity changes us, marks us, and, as Aimee suggests, makes us who we are.

So enjoy the video, think about your adversity, and today, instead of asking for less of it, relish it, jump in there and get it all over you.  It’ll make you better, make you stronger, and make you who more of who you are.

What we could learn from dogs

4 02 2010

Most of you know I’m a dog lover.  I ran across this in an email recently, and had to share it.  Truer words were never spoken:

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.

Take naps.

Stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you’re not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it..

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

we are the heroes of our own stories

21 09 2009

today I’m having one of those days where my mind is in a thousand different places, dipping into and out of alternately happy moods and melancholy ones.  Work continues to be a challenge for me, mostly because I’ve had such a difficult time filling one pivotal position on my team.  What that means to me:  I’ve got to do that job in addition to mine, which in turn leads to my primary job responsibilities taking longer.  It’s not that I don’t have support at work.  My coworkers, for the most part, are great – but each of them has his or her jobs to do as well.  So that brings it back to me.

Whenever I find myself in this sort of mood, it doesn’t take long for me to begin searching for some sort of inspiration, at least momentarily, in a song, or a quote or some other form to lift me through to the next upswing.  I’ve got this bank of songs in iTunes that I can always count on for a pick-me-up, and I keep a book of quotes that resonate with me in my office.

But today, after 9+ hours of staring at a computer screen, no amount of Ben Taylor or Amos Lee or Ari Hest seemed to be the ladder out of the doldrums and I decided to just work through it.

Thing is, after all’s said and done, I discover, over and over, that looking outwardly for inspiration is completely in the wrong direction.  Even though I seem to forget this just as quickly, we all have the inspiration we need right inside of us.  Or, as I saw it written once, we are the heroes of our own story.

I’ve spent the past few years trying to hone the skill of doing this – of gaining inspiration through my own strength, history, inner-thoughts, whatever you want to call it.  For a long time, figuring out how to do this, or if it was even possible for me, seemed to be a struggle.

Luckily for me, I’ve had a few great teachers and companions to go along the path with me.  I’ve also had the good fortune of discovering something that I can do whenever I want, and that clears my mind and uses my body so that I can take time to go wherever I need to go and find that lift I need in that moment, at that time.  Running has, for me, opened the door to the space I need to be strong when I need to be.

But it’s also given me a clearer vision to see things happening around me for what they really are.  Now it doesn’t always work, and sometimes people get to me.  Sometimes it’s a customer interaction at work.  Sometimes it’s getting cut off on the road.  It might even  be someone in front of me at the grocery store line.  Not too long ago, I would have gotten pretty upset or angry at that stuff, and let myself really take it personally or even lashed out at someone over it.  That still happens occasionally, but more often than not, I’m able to stop, see the situation, and accept it.

I guess one thing I’m learning more and more is acceptance.  For me, that doesn’t mean that I have to be “OK” with any particular situation, but it’s important to accept the situation “is what it is.”  I think that working so hard at trying to “correct” or “make sense” of situations really contributes to frustration, anger, desperation (you name your -ation).  For me, striving to be accepting of each situation and working to be nonjudging of each makes each situation easier to experience, and eases the intensity of my reactions to each, with the hope that, eventually, the reaction goes away.

So, here I am again, at the end of a day, realizing that there will be a situation at some point tomorrow that may push me, bring me down, or tie me up in knots.  And here I am in this moment, knowing that I have the tools to deal with that situation.  And all I have to do is remember to: breathe, think, accept, and not judge.  Seems simple enough right?  We’ll see.