Friday, February 28, 2014

Repetition While Moving Forward

Today is Friday.  I'm still writing about Tuesday's workout. Hopefully by the end of the weekend I will be caught up. 

On Tuesday, I was out on the real track for the first time in a while.  It was just below freezing.  The sun was coming over the horizon by the end of the workout.  We had a group of eight out at the track.  There was almost no wind.  It could not have been better.

We ran mile repeats (or 1600 as the case may be these days).  I did three at sub-6:10 and a fourth at sub-6:20.  I would like to get myself back to where I could hold the sub-6:10 pace for all four.  It has been a while since I've worked that hard on the track.  One observation a fellow runner made is that it tends to be much more comfortable to run that hard on the track rather than on the treadmill.  I would tend to agree.  Didn't feel any muscle strains.  Did feel like I was wiped by the end of the fourth.  Although it didn't show up with any drowsiness at work that day.

How far did I run total?  Adding the mile warmup, quarter between each mile, and 1.25 mile cool down, a total of 7 miles.   That put me up to about 319.  And that puts me on Dewey Ave, US22/US40, on a bridge, crossing Wills Creek, in Cambridge, Ohio.  The path between my last point west of Lore and here included about 3 miles on a trail.  Pretty cool.  The Catholic Church here is St. Benedict--interesting connection as Pope Benedict XVI was the only Pope I've seen in person to date.

Mile repeats always get me thinking about repetition.  But since I am thinking of my virtual pilgrimage, I also think about moving forward.  So how do I conceptualize repetition while moving forward?

Two short ideas.  First, on Monday while at work, I had two conversations about a relatively new program in one of the sister schools at my university called Energy Policy and Climate.  Interesting course.  In one case, a Chinese university wanted to send some students to take classes in that program as well as classes in the business school.  In another case, a student was interested in figuring out how to combine his interest in finance with an interest in energy policy and climate.  Both of these activities are all about connecting dots in my professional world.  Two conversations is repetition. Both represent interesting steps forward for the schools and students.  And working with the leadership in the sister school represents a professional move forward for me.

The other observation is my nine year old who saw me reading a novel at a rather quick pace asking me why I like to read.  I could (and probably should) write an entire blog entry on that topic at some point.  But the short answer is to explore ideas (sometimes again and again, or the same idea dealt with by different authors) while gaining new knowledge and perspectives.  Even my blog writing represents that in some ways.  I read to think about ideas.  I write to sort out the ideas.  I write about a variety of things but some topics do keep coming up.  And when all is said and done, I have moved forward by working through the topics.  So perhaps my simple answer to my son should be "It's cheaper than therapy."  But the more complex answer is it allows me to explore and re-explore concepts that help me to sort out my own world view and how it is evolving moving forward.   

Thursday, February 27, 2014


I blogged early on Sunday, and then ran again on Monday.  (Hard for me to believe I have not blogged since then as I had had quite a bit I could write about.)  In any case, Monday was an easy 5.1 around the neighborhood to bring me to 312 miles putting me at Leatherwood Rd & Deerfield Rd just west of Lore City, Ohio.  Small as Lore City may be there is a Catholic Church of St Peter (my confirmation name) and St. Paul (a great writer and thinker).  And it is a church-based experience I'd like to talk about in today's entry.

The church-based experience represents a constellation of things in my life.  And since the blog is called Connecting the Dots and Nourishing the Soul and constellations are all about connecting dots, I think this is very fitting.

I don't have a particular constellation in mind, although perhaps one that is complex and has a lot of stars that may not fit together as obviously as the three in Orion's belt.

In any case, on Sunday afternoon, my son sang in the Maryland State Boychoir's annual concert to honor African American History Month. And the boychoir sang ad a church in west Baltimore.  Driving my son there, we drove across North Ave west past Coppin State University (I don't believe I'd ever been that far west on North Avenue), then south on Rosdeale, and east on Baker to the Whitestone Baptist Church.  Not huge, but by no means small.  One trip to drop him off.  Back home to pick up Sherry.  Second trip back there.

In any case, the concert was wonderful and listening brought a lot of things together that touch on multiple pieces of my life in addition to listening to a great concert.

First, they had a series of discussions by the ministers at the church, announcements by the boychoir director, songs, and poems.  One of the poems was by Langston Hughes.  That reminded me of the fact that my oldest son had not played a Friday night gig as a backup to spoken word artists in a long time.  One of the spoken word artists who appeared most often when my oldest did play calls himself Slangston Hughes.  

Second, the songs sung were largely (but not entirely) spirituals.  Having been to a couple funerals or viewings recently (and even experimented on my mandolin in the not too distant past), I am all too familiar with Precious Lord, Take My Hand.  It was very beautiful as sung by the boys.  The audience was specifically invited to several songs.  Many took it upon themselves to just sing along to this one. That was also moving.

Third, listening to the boys sing Ev'ry Time I Feel the Spirit.  Another beautiful song and one I have used in my own teaching of Sunday School at St Pius X.

Fourth, everyone was specifically invited to (and the program provided words for) Lift Every Voice and Sing.  Beautiful.  Powerful.  Everyone singing out.  Everyone participating.  So many spirits joined together in harmony no matter where they came from--well to do families who can pay every expense for boychoir, boys who want to sing and are supported by the boychoir, and members of the local congregation.  

Fifth, the final comments by the music minister at the church who is a boychoir alumnus.  He invited everyone to take the ideas of the day--doing positive things for the community especially through music--back to their congregations so that we see more of this in Baltimore and help to improve the city.

What powerful ideas.  What powerful thoughts.  

All of this reminded me of how much I love singing and love music.  Even if it no longer has the prominence in my life that it did when I played bass in the worship band at our church or sang in the community choir at the kids' school.  I still love singing.  I love coming together with other people who love singing.  I love listening.

It is art.

It is expression.

It is powerful.

And the ideas that singing captures span so many aspects of my life, my family's life, and my city's life that that is why I think of a constellation.  If I had to choose one with five stars, Cassiopeia may be the only obvious one, but I am not sure I'd ever want a "vain queen" (as she is sometimes described) to represent anything other than a lesson of what to avoid in my life.  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Traveling Virtually--Using Imagination is Something I've Always Done

So, today I put in another 7 miles.  This time I could run on the streets with almost no worries related to ice.  That was good.  I waited until it was just light.  And I ran out to York Rd, south to just above where it intersects with Bellona, back up Bellona to Northern, across to Charles, up to Stevenson, back to York, down to Regester, over to Beverly, back to Arran, back to Sherwood, along the Alameda to Northern, back to Chinquapin, and then home.  Nice easy run.  The fastest mile of the first four included the trek up Stevenson.  Then I ran harder for the last three. After the easy 12 with company for nine yesterday, this was good.

In terms of my virtual pilgrimage, I am now on Leatherwood Rd about three miles west of "downtown" Salesville, OH.  I use downtown loosely as there is Main Street and maybe 16 square blocks total.  They do have a church, the Salesville Church of Faith.  

What is interesting is to ponder the virtual travel.  Yesterday, we even did a bit of "virtual travel" with our dinner pizza.  We put a combination of manchego cheese, mozzarella cheese, and feta cheese on the pizza.  Sort of a tour of the northern Mediterranean.  When I brought dinner to the table and said in my most "documentary narrator" voice "Tonight's pizza has us traveling along the Mediterranean from Spain to Italy and on to Greece," Sherry asked if I were narrating a PBS program.

It is fun.  

And it is an advantage of the world we have today.

I can get cheeses from three countries (or at least derived from cheese in three countries--I believe the only imported one was the manchego).  I can follow along on a map down to the mile to see where I am as I trace a path.  

The imagination--trying to picture where I am running.  Finding the names of streets (like Rainbow Run a few weeks ago and Leatherwood now) interesting.  It is like the imagination I've always had.  Even role playing games back in the day. 

The other day at a meeting, I ran into a couple colleagues I hadn't seen in a while.  They commented that I hadn't changed.  They were talking about appearances.  I see a little more gray.  And I see a few more wrinkles.  But, I am lucky to run.  Lucky not to gain weight.  Lucky to look youthful.  And I think that my use of technology to achieve virtual things ultimately is similar to what I have done for years as well.  It goes along with a comment at one of my leadership team meetings at the office last week.  We were trying to quickly figure out the 19th letter of the alphabet.  I knew to start from M as the 13th that didn't necessarily occur to my colleagues.  I commented on how this just carried over but once a friend had told me--if it is a part of you and what you do, just go with it.

So it goes.  As I go on, I continue to find imaginative ways of using and shaping the environment around me to produce an interesting life.

And I continue to hope that others enjoy sharing it.   

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Today, I ran 3 miles alone and then joined a friend for another 9.1  That brings me up to 300.1 on the year.  On my virtual pilgrimage, it puts me just west of Barnesville, Ohio on Ohio Route 147.  The Catholic church there is Assumption Church and St. Mary's parish.  Clearly, St. Mary is a theme around the world.  And kind of neat because the final destination of my pilgrimage is a church named after the Blessed Mother.   

In the 12.1 miles that I ran in total today, I was thinking about how crazy it is to run outside in such weather.  In particular, there was still black ice on the ground this morning.  That made it a much different run than most of the runs I've done with my most frequent Saturday running partner over the past three years. But we had not run together since mid-December, so it actually made for good conversation about life and families and avoiding injury from excessive strain.  It also seemed like we ran a lot more uphill than down although that is physically impossible--we just ran along the steep sections of Eastridge, Charmuth, Vista, and Cinder.  

Later in the day, I took my nine year old to assessments for travel lacrosse in the spring.  Today's work was indoors.  This is the second time I've been in an indoor sports space other than an ice rink recently.  And it got me thinking--we don't really have sports seasonality any more.

Now, I grew up first playing basketball.  Yes, the most common time for a basketball season was winter.  And of course there were summer leagues.  And you can play any time of year, but there was a "most common time of year".  Seasonality.

Baseball was mostly played in the spring when I grew up (at least at the little league level).  Some in summer.  Not so much in fall.

Soccer as an interscholastic sport--fall.

And not that a person couldn't participate at other times of year, but there was a definite sense of when matched up with professional sports and when leagues played.

Even for running--cross country in the fall, track with indoor competition in the winter, outdoor competition in the spring when I was in high school.  Although both then and now the goal was to run outside as much as possible all year long.

Perhaps that sense of running at any time was where the idea of seasonality began to drift away.

My son's lacrosse assessments in a building that was clearly once some type of warehouse reminded me of the fact that these days you can find lacrosse, or field hockey (what another space was being used for), or soccer, ultimate frisbee (which followed lacrosse in the space) at almost any time of year.

Is that a bad thing?  No.  Of course not.  It gives people who like one sport a chance to continue and it puts old warehouses to good use.  There is a demand.

But there is something to be said for variety.  (Even with fruit, we can eat the same fruit and vegetables almost year round these days. Is that good?)  

And there is something to be said for the sense of order that it gives.  Otherwise one season is like the next.  And it is possible to lose the sense of where one season begins and another ends.  Marking time.  Delineating.

Of course, even with running all year long, races give me a sense of season.  So I can mark time.  There are spring races.  There are a few summer events--although I don't care for summer racing.  And there are fall races.  Time to train for longer races.  And time to run a series of 5K's in succession to see how I can do.

So, perhaps I just have to be creative with how I think of seasonality to return my sense of the meaningful passage of time.

It is interesting to think about just how I like to run things that are not always around the track or on a treadmill or out and back courses; I like to vary my running.  It helps me.  And so too does varying the running over time in ways that help me to mark time.  To mark other major events in my life.  And to have a framework around which to build my experience and my memories.  A framework of time for building up spirituality and family and interpersonal relationships.  

There is a season for everything. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Orders of Magnitude

Today, I ran 7 miles to achieve a total of 28.8 for the week that began on Sunday and 288 for the year.  Where does it put me?  On Mt Olivett Rd NE just a mile west of where it intersects with McMillian Rd after being Badgersburg Rd.  Somewhere out there in Ohio.  Apparently the town is called Bethesda. 

So is the 28.8 and 288 just a coincidence?  Sure.  But it is pretty cool and one is exactly an order of magnitude higher than the other. 

What does a different order of magnitude make me think about? 

It makes me think about 2000 miles.  It is not an order of magnitude more than I ran last year.  But it is definitely almost an order of magnitude more than I ran just a couple years back.  And the process of reaching 2000 miles is not about necessarily training for a marathon (although I may run one in the fall), but running a little longer on a lot of days.  It is a different type of pressure.  It is not so much about what exactly should I run but instead about “can I get in an hour”.  Just run.

Second, I think about work.  I feel an order of magnitude busier.  I work some more hours.  But the pace of work is a LOT higher.  An order of magnitude?  Not necessarily.  But definitely working very hard.

What about at home?  Are we an order of magnitude busier?  Not necessarily.  But we have a lot going on right at this moment.  More stuff for the 14 year old.  A very busy schedule for the 9 year old with hockey this winter.  Running the 17 year old to 7 auditions in which we were responsible for his travel (Temple in Philadelphia (1), University of Maryland in College Park (1), University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (2), New England Conservatory in Boston (1), Oberlin (1), and Eastman in Rochester (1)) plus making sure he got to three on his own (2 Peabody and 1 more for Oberlin) with Sherry attending a parent session even at one of those.  Then, we have the stress of decisions for both the 14 and 17 year olds for where they will be next year.

What else?  Snow makes things more stressful.  I’d say an order of magnitude there with a whole bunch of snow days and still enough snow on the ground in the street near where we live to make it hard for two cars to pass.

And making dinner has even taken on a new dimension of complication in this time of Joshua and Christopher each having so much to do.

Am I still having fun?  With the exception of the snow, yes.  I love being busy.  I love doing a lot. I still get to teach Sunday school and write.  I still get to see most of the kids’ activities.  But it is tiring.

And I am looking forward to a relaxing vacation at some point.  I don’t often say that, but I am definitely appreciating the idea of a truly relaxing vacation much more than I used to.  I don’t need to “do” on vacation.  I need an order of magnitude less activity. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Changing with the Mood--or Permanent?

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of attending a meeting regarding ways that numerous not-for-profit and for-profit organizations and some governments and academic researchers could come together to help people all over the world who need glasses (for either distance or reading) get them.  After some introductory comments, the meeting began with a talk by Madeleine Albright and then some questions and answers.  I had not known the story of her pins.  I seem to have missed that over and over again when she was the United Nations Ambassador and Secretary of State.  She told us some of the story of her pins.  What made the most impression on me was the fact that she could change her pins whenever she felt like it.  To fit the mood or tasks of the day.  To match what she needed to do.  Yesterday, she had on three eyeglass pins.  

Today, I ran eight miles on the treadmill.  I am planning on my first return to outside running on Saturday morning.  The eight miles included 4 at 6:40 pace at 4 at 8:00 pace.  Overall 7:20 pace.  With the intervals being one at 8, one at 6:40, 3/4 at 8:00, and repeating the 1 and 3/4 set three more times.  

That was a bit of changing with the mood.  Not actually.  I had planned out the workout very purposefully and specifically.  But it went back and forth.  Probably spent too much time at the slower pace as my heart slowed down quite a bit before picking it back up again.  But it was good.

The eight miles puts me at 281 for the year--over 50 days.  Interestingly, so far this week (Sunday to today), I have run 21.8 miles.  Changeable--the same digits rearranged.  The 281 miles put me still on US 40 in Ohio a bit east of Morristown.  

When I thought about Secretary Albright's approach to her symbolism, I thought about my approach to symbolism.  My tattoo--my main symbolism.

That is not changeable.  It is there forever.  The ideas changed up until I first spoke with the artist.  But then the ideas were there.  Just like my ideas for a second (if ever) continue to evolve.  I am now thinking cornucopia with red eggs (St. Mary Magdalene), bread (my love of baking), and golden apples (my love of teaching) coming out.

My actual tattoo right now does not change, but how I think of the symbolism changes.  And right now, I have to say that my vision of the strong woman helping St. Sebastian is mostly a vision of my wife and all that she has done in taking Christopher to what will be a total of five cities in the last six weeks.  She is a great mom.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

64 is 2 to the Sixth

The title of today's blog is a statement of mathematical fact.  Why is it relevant today?  I did not run 64 miles.  I only ran 6.4 miles.  For a total of 273 one day before the end of the seventh week of the year (tomorrow will be day 49).  That puts me at an average of 39 miles per week (with a week of only 33 miles over just 4 days).  On track for my 2000 for the year.  And I'm on US 40 in Ohio now.  State #4 on my journey.

So why the mathematical statement.  Well, I ran 6.4 because I got to the Y a few minutes late to do a full hour.  And I wanted to get to 273 total.  So, 6.4 worked.  And being the nerd I was as a kid (the guy who had all the powers of 2 up to 2-to-the-sixteenth memorized), I made a connection.

So, on yet another day of treadmill running, Since one of the themes of any additional art that I might commission some day (tattoo or otherwise since Sherry is not thrilled with the idea of another tattoo) is a cornucopia, I thought about six things that have doubled (rather than just doubling one thing six times) since I started my serious running again in 2006/7.

(1) My love of running.  This year so far it has been solitary again, but it is social as well as physical.  It is spiritual.  And it is critical for my sense of well being.

(2) My appreciation of the talent it takes to play music well.  While I have stopped playing so much music myself over the past year, I watched how little progress I was making.  And I watched my oldest son and his girlfriend continue to develop.  I saw what it takes.  I saw how long they worked and how hard they worked.  And I realize now more than ever just what it takes to become an exceptional musician.  Similar to what it would take to be an exceptional academic.  Or an exceptional writer.  Or an exceptional runner.

(3) My appreciation of art and what it takes to make good art.  This started with my tattoo.  Observing the creative process.  But it continues even more from watching my second son who will likely follow my oldest to the Baltimore School for the Arts but this time for visual arts rather than music.  Seeing what it takes.  Even occasionally giving it a try myself.  And realizing just how much effort is required.

(4) My appreciation of how much effort it takes to parent my kids.  I have done the single parent thing for a week at a time now and then when Sherry has had the opportunity to go on short vacations by herself.  However, over the past six weeks, I have spent a lot more time doing the single parent thing repeatedly while Sherry has taken Christopher (or in one case both Christopher and Kelsey) to audition at various colleges.  I really do appreciate what Sherry has to do.

(5) My self-expression.  When I began running again in 2006/7 I had not even journaled seriously in ages.  Now, I write all the time.  And I share.  And it relieves a lot of stress.  And my self-expression is not just writing.  The tattoo is a part of that as well.

(6) My search for answers.  Particularly in the past year with numerous sudden and unexpected passings.  And my search for answers in ways that combine what I do at work, what I teach in Sunday school, what I hear in church, and what I think about while I run.

Which brings me to say that I have a pretty amazing and complex life.  An interesting constructed reality in which things like the fact that I happened to run 6.4 miles could lead to an entire entry about things that I appreciate at least twice as much as I used to.   

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Would There Be News?

So, today, I ran 7.4 miles on the treadmill.  That puts me up to 26.6 for the week and 266.6 for the year.  In terms of my virtual pilgrimage it puts me on the west size of the Ohio River to on US 40 again.  I would have crossed the Ohio River running across Wheeling Island today.  I would also have run a bit on a trail in Wheeling and along the way today I would have passed the Wheeling Catholic Elementary School.  

So, I ran my 7.4 miles in exactly 1 hour.  It was a mid-day workout that started at 12:33.  After the run (yet another day on the treadmill), I weighed in at just under 158 lbs.  I have now been weighing in at just under 160 consistently.  I'm getting toward my goal.

So, what lessons do I pull from today?  Well, I decided to play the numbers game a bit today.  I noticed that the lesson in my religious education text book that I was covering today focused on Psalm 133.  Interestingly (although perhaps just completely coincidentally), that is exactly one half of the whole number of miles I've run for the year.  And if we just take my 26.6 for the week and ignore the decimal point, we have an exact half relationship.

What was it from Psalm 133.  Well, in the kids text book it was adapted a bit, but here is the the first verse after introducing the Psalm:
How good and how pleasant it is,
when brothers dwell together as one!
We talked about this in relation to the final 7 commandments that focus on respect for each other.  Then, in the readings today during mass (which came right after Sunday school this week), I heard the 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 that talked about the fact that God has some pretty amazing things for those who love him.  No eye has seen.  No ear has heard.  No one can imagine.

So, how does this fit together?  Well, it occurred to me as I sat through the mass that may we can't imagine what life would be like if we could dwell together as one.  My 3rd grade students certainly couldn't imagine it.  I asked them, how nice would the world be if everyone just got along.  I asked them how different it would be.  I asked them what we would not hear about in the news.  The eventually came up with things like war and murder.  They even asked, "Would there be any news?"  Clearly, they have been acclimated to the constant news that makes it seem like the whole world is going wrong all the time.

So, today's run was an interesting one.  Bringing me to think about what it is that I can't imagine.  (I guess that seems like an odd thought.)  And being driven to think about what would happen if people could all just get along.  If I could imagine it.  

There would still be nature to deal with.  Having been to a viewing today for a 26 year old who died suddenly last week, I realize that life would not be perfect.

But I probably couldn't imagine what it would be like to have everyone just get along.  

One other numbers thing from today--if I can find a flat hal-marathon and I still want to focus on breaking 1:30 at some point, 1:29:10 (from the Corinthians verses) would not be a bad time to aim for.   

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Warmth and Hope

Today, I ran yet another workout on the treadmill.  Today's workout was a simple 7.2 miles in 1 hour.  As far as workouts go, an average 8:20 mile on the treadmill is a pretty easy workout.  I enjoyed it even though I was back at the gym to start my workout less than 12 hours after I had finished my last one.  Not quite a "two-a-day" type of workout as those are usually beginning and end of the same day rather than end of one day and start of the next.  

Where does this next 7 miles put me? Well, it puts me 259.2 miles from where I began.  And being that far from St. Pius X on the virtual walking path to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, this puts me on a street called Lava Ave in Wheeling, West Virginia.

I've only been to West Virginia a handful of times, although I've been though West Virginia many times driving along I-81 to our vacation spot in Virginia.  And I don't think I have ever been through Wheeling.  In any case, when I saw the street name, I wondered (although I haven't tried to find any information on this) why there would be a street named "Lava" in West Virginia.  When I think of lava I think of volcanoes.  And I don't think there are or have been any active volcanoes in West Virginia for quite some time.  But I could be wrong.

In any case, lava brings a number of images to my mind.  The first is heat.  Heat is something that a lot of people in the mid-Atlantic have been longing for a lot lately given the cold and snow we have faced.  And I thought it was interesting that on a day when I ended up on Lava Ave on my virtual pilgrimage, at the ice rink where my son played his game this morning in Laurel, MD, the Baltimore parents managed to find a heat source to sit near.  Between finally remembering to dress in the right number of layers (including longjohns and three layers up top under my jacket) and sitting near a heat source, I felt very comfortable.  So much so, that I didn't even need my gloves.  And now that there have finally been a series of Saturday morning games that I could attend, I know the other parents better and felt the warmth of the team spirit and the excitement of the game.  

The other image that comes to my mind when I think of lava (beyond heat) is speed and slow/deliberate movement.  Speed--because sometimes the lava flow is amazingly fast.  Slow and deliberate movement because sometimes the lava just seems to creep but it is unstoppable.  This is interesting to ponder this week, a week during which we saw snow that sometimes came very quickly and at other times came slowly and deliberately but could not be stopped.

Snow (which Wheeling has had plenty of) and lava (a street in town) make an interesting contrast of ideas with overlapping concepts.  And the concepts of speed at times but deliberate, slow, but inexorable movement at other times, are concepts that I can relate to for my running.  There are fast track workouts.  There are tempos.  And there are both long and shorter workouts during which I simply go and go and go and go.   

So, I end with a Haiku:

Lava and some snow
Sometimes fast but others slow
That is how I train

Friday, February 14, 2014

Back to Reflections--Judging a Heart

It has been several days since I've blogged.  In that time I've done two runs and taken a number of days off.  Monday was a planned day off.  Tuesday was a track on the treadmill run a mile shorter than planned as something tightened up.  That put me up to 240 miles at the end of six weeks.  Right on schedule.  Wednesday was a planned day off.  Thursday everything was a mess because of snow and I did not even leave the house except to shovel.  So I took an unplanned (but predicted) rest day.  Then today, the snow was still bad enough to cancel school and keep the University closed.  However, by afternoon the roads were better.  I ran 12 on the treadmill (5 at 8 min/mile and 7 at 8:34/mile with a slight incline).  That felt good.  That puts me up to 252 miles.  I am on US Route 40 headed west and near the border of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

One reason I did not write was because the death of a friend's daughter.  26 years old.  Married.  Sudden.  Complication from acute leukemia.  Massive stroke.  Prognosis not good from the time it occurred.  Gone in less than a day.  Complete and total devastation.  

I could not imagine this happening to one of my sons some day. Hopefully I won't have to.

The key here is what happened afterwards.  I know the parents from a training group with one of the local running stores.  Everyone in the group was nice.  They were among the nicest.  I knew the woman a little better as we had some overlapping professional interests as well as the common interest in running.

The number of people from the running group who expressed sympathy on social media was amazing.  Of course, the number of people in general who expressed sympathy was amazing.  The parents touched many lives.  And many people felt the need to give some emotional connection back

Then there is the daughter's page.  She did not have tight privacy settings.  There was an outpouring of emotion there as well.

It was heartbreaking.  And yet it was also uplifting.

Then, today, a friend posts a quote from the Wizard of Oz.  In the movie, the Wizard says to the Tin Man, "A heart is judged not by not by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others."  I didn't know the daughter.  I know the parents showed amazing love.  But I know from what I have seen since the young woman passed away unexpectedly that she and her family all had big hearts.  They were obviously loved greatly by many others.

Knowing the parents in this family through running means that I am joined with them in having a physically strong heart.  I can only hope that when my time comes to die that my heart will be judged to have been as strong emotionally in being loved by others.

As an aside since today is also Valentine's Day, I may have truly surprised my wife for once.  (Or at least more than I did when I proposed to her back in the spring of 1991.)  I ordered flowers to be delivered to the hotel where she ended her day today with my son and his girlfriend.  The two kids will be auditioning at Oberlin tomorrow.  Since we could not spend Valentine's evening together we had actually had dinner earlier this week.  But I thought it would be nice to get flowers in shades of her favorite color to brighten her weekend after a long drive.  She sounded truly surprised when she called.  My son and his girlfriend knew and took a picture and sent it to me when they arrived.  So, that is a good sign of just how intertwined and happy our two hearts are.   

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Noticing the New

So, today I decided to go out for an easy run.  Last night we had stayed out rather late having dinner and conversation with a dear colleague.

So, I slept till 6, fixed a smoothie for Sherry, tried to get the internet working in our house again (although eventually left that to the 17 year old), got the weather for Sherry from here to Boston (where she is now with Christopher to he can audition tomorrow at the New England Conservatory), and then started some coffee.  Then, I ran.

A nice and easy pace, a bit above 8:30/mile for five miles.

A course I had never run exactly before.  Up to Lake, across to Bellona, down to Springlake, across Northern, up Charles, across Stevenson, down Bellona, across Gittings, down York, up Hollen, across Yorkshire, down Cedarcroft, up Northwood, along Woodson, and home.

It was relaxing.

It loosened my legs.

What was new?  

Running that route with ice on the ground.  I've run something similar to that many times.  I've run it with friends.  I've run into friends.  But today, I was just alone.  Not a problem, but running alone is something that I have mentioned many times.  In some ways that is actually an old thing as my return to running starting in 2006-2007 began as a solitary activity.  But since 2010, I have been running so much with others.  Training groups.  Back on My Feet.  And many, many times with good friends.  

I still love to run, even when alone but it is not the same.

What else has been new?

Going to a professional hockey game.  Great sport in person.  So fast.  I have a much better appreciation for it now than I ever did as a kid. And in person is great.

Yesterday at church, I heard the organ and thought,"Oh, it must be John."  But, alas, I realized quickly how wrong I was.  I wrote about John a few weeks ago when he passed away suddenly.  New guy playing.  A little more upbeat. Not quite in sync with the cantor.  Definitely a different style.  Better or worse?  I'm not going to take a stand on that one.  Just different.

At mass the announcements were old and a few other things were out of order.  But Fr. Sam encouraged everyone to take it in stride.  And most people did.  Good humor.  Understanding.  Realizing how difficult it is to continue to manage the parish office with all the changes with John's absence.

And, today I taught the kids about the 10 commandments.  But it was interesting that in this chapter that I serendipitously had planned for today mentioned the first saint from Sudan whose feast day was yesterday and who was mentioned at mass.

Always new things.

Always things to ponder.

While I run.

While I drive.

And life is good.

Much needed day off from running tomorrow after running 61 miles in eight of the last nine days.  Although I would love to burn a bunch of the calories I ate today.

Life goes on. 

And I close with an update on my location at 232.5 miles: on E Beau St in or approaching Washington, PA, and getting closer to West Virginia every day.  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Today's Short Report

14 miles.

About an 8:10 pace.

Nice new course.  Home to Lake to Bellona to Melrose to Charles to Northern to Roland to 36th to Keswick to Wyman Park Driver into Druid Hill Park around the Lake (right time for the sunrise but too many clouds and I did see lots of ducks on the lake) back out of the park, down Sisson to 29th, across 29th to where it becomes Exeter Hall and over to Loch Raven, up Loch Raven to Northern, across to the Alameda, left on Walker, the Chinquapin, Lake, Northwood, Cedarcroft and Home.

Great course.  Challenging second half coming up, particularly the up and down of Loch Raven.

Very much enjoyed.

Still looking for more opportunities to run with friends.

Not much more to say today.

My 227.5 mile total puts me still on PA-136 having passed Mingo Creek County Park, now if you head due north I would be just west of Pittsburgh, approaching US 19 and approaching where the Pennsylvania Turnpike takes a mighty turn for the north.  

A Road Called Rainbow Run

Today I ran eight miles—that is not unusual. The fact that I ran outside shouldn’t be unusual.  But so far this calendar year it has been.  The only thing that has been more unusual so far this calendar year is running with others. I still hope to fix that, but for right now I am just enjoying running—even if it is by myself. 

Today’s eight mile run was down my street, over to Northwood, out to Northern, up the Alameda to Sherwood, down Regester, across Loch Hill, down Loch Raven, around the grocery story and post office on Meridene, back to Loch Raven on Northern, down to Cold Spring (police activity at the corner and I could not get the speed indicator to measure me at more than 8 MPH this morning), across Cold Spring to York, up York to Bellona, back across Northern to York, up York to Hollen, and then winding through Lake Walker back to my home.

What did I think of while I ran?  I thought of a few things today.

First, how many places of worship I passed.  Probably at least a dozen.  Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic.  Probably a few others along the way.  A Catholic High School.   The many and varied ways that people worship and believe and live out their faiths.

Second, I thought about how I feel comfortable running through most of the northern part of the city from Falls Rd to Harford Rd and north of 25th street.  As well as downtown. If I go back four years when I first got it in my head to train for a marathon I ran north of where I live.  Now, I run south quite a bit through all sorts of sections of the city.  I think of the city as my “canvas” for running.  Where the patterns of streets I run each day would make interesting designs.  Where I try to find new paths that form loops or crossing loops and avoid, like the plague, out and back when I run in the city.  And I am comfortable enough now that even when I run to downtown or to Lake Montebello or to Druid Lake, I don’t need to just do an out and back.  And I like to celebrate how comfortable I have become with my city.

But then I checked on where this puts me: 213.5 miles toward my goal of 2000 miles.  And where does that put me—about a mile and a half east of where PA-136 and PA-88 intersect in Monongahela, PA.  I would have run a bit along the Monongahela River.  That is one of the three rivers that come together in Pittsburgh where the baseball team once had a stadium.  Pittsburgh is where my most frequent long run partner for the last three years hails from.  I’ve heard they have a good marathon.

In the spirit of canvas (and I literally did not know this before I ran today), I would have run on a street called Rainbow Run Rd. Rainbows are many colors.  I certainly passed a “rainbow” of faith experiences today. 

Google had a rainbow of colors on its main page for searching today.  Maybe a sign of protest against the anti-LGBT issues being raised by the Olympics being in Russia. 

Once again, I find an odd sense of interconnectedness.  I think of the city as a canvas.  I pass a “rainbow” of places or worship (at least a Christian rainbow).  I find that I would have run on a road called Rainbow if I were physically on my 2000 mile question.  And rainbow is a symbol in the news. 

How all this interconnected stuff happens again and again for me is a mystery.  It will continue to be a mystery.  Maybe it is not so interconnected.  Maybe I just like to interpret it that way.  But if that helps me make sense of the world, so be it. 

That is ultimately what this is all about.  Making sense of the world. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mile Repeats--Memory Repeats

Workout this morning—mile repeats on the treadmill.  Warm-up with an 8 minute mile.  Run 5x1 mile at 6:40 with ¼ mile at 10:00/mile between each.  Cool down with an 8 minute mile.  That puts me at 205.5 for the year.  Hopefully I’ll be able to feel safe (from slipping) for a run outside tomorrow morning.  The distance puts me just west of West Newton, PA on PA 136.  I continue along.

Mile repeats makes me think of other things that repeat in my life.  Yesterday, for example, I was reminded of the Boston Marathon last year.  Just a simple thing.  Looking at something that reminded me of my first post after the race to everyone who had heard about the bombing.  Telling them I was safe.  And telling them not to worry.   Repeating a memory.  A bit different obviously from mile repeats but worth thinking about what is not (and what is) similar. 

What stands out as I repeat the memory?  As I look back, I realize that I had no concept of just how worried people were.  My wife was worried.  My Godmother was worried.  My cousins were worried about their brother.  My colleagues were worried.  My fellow runners back in Baltimore were worried.  At first, no one had any idea of what had gone on.  How many were injured?  How many were killed?  Would there be more violence?  When would it end?

All I knew was that I was safe and away from what appeared to be the danger—although no one actually knew.  And I was with two friends with whom I had shared the drive up, had spent two nights in a hotel, had traveled to the staging area with, and was ready to travel home with.  And I had a chance to take a shower and gather my thoughts.  And I had seen the sites on the television in the hotel lobby.  And I had seen the many emergency vehicles rushing toward the scene of the explosion.  And I felt better.  And I was warm.  And I was ready for the drive back to Baltimore.  And I had run close to my fastest marathon.  And I was ready for whatever came next.

I have thought on multiple occasions that I was “finally past” the events of that day.  I have also thought on multiple occasions that I will never be fully past the events of that day.

On this day of repeats, I find myself repeating some of the feelings and emotions of that day in April last year.  And I find myself realizing that the feelings can come and go.  And will continue to come and go.  And that I will never fully shake it.  And that those around me will probably never fully shake it either.

Some day people will ask, “Where were you when you found out about the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.”  And I will say, “On the Boston T headed toward Government Center.”  And when I do I will revisit the feelings and revisit the emotions and revisit the anger and revisit the fear and revisit everything that I felt that day. 

Mile repeats are generally a positive thing while revisiting the post-Boston marathon memories is not.  Mile repeats are something I control while the post-Boston marathon events were not and the memories are not.  What I do have control over –each time I find myself brought to the memories—is how I handle them.  I control just how much I dwell on them.  I control just how much I focus on them.  I control just how much I let it affect me. 

And dealing with what I can control while leaving behind what I can’t is a lesson both for my mile repeats and my memories of Boston and it is what keeps me sane.