Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Few Thoughts on an Easy 4

Today's run was an easy 4 miles.  Ran in the windy drizzle.  Loved seeing the streams that are sometimes trickles under the bridges in north Baltimore flowing strong and loud enough to hear.  

Now at 700.6 miles.  Still on E 1800th Avenue in Illinois.

A few interesting observations.  

First, yesterday when I went to the grocery story after I ran, I was rung up by the cashier with whom I have interacted most often over the years of going after exercising in the morning.  I had not realized that she had never seen my tattoo.  She knows I run.  She knows a bit of what I do and what I buy most often.  She knows I have kids.  I know a bit about her.  But because of how she stands on the other side of the conveyer belt she would have never seen my tattoo. It took another employee being there who saw me from the right hand side and calling attention to it as a piece of "art" to introduce the cashier I usually get rung up by to it.

Second, today was mostly a day to have a meeting of the management group at work.  But I had arranged to do a few personal things in the afternoon.  Much needed full body massage.  And much needed hair cut.  Every once in a while need to have time for personal stuff.  Just happened to be able to arrange both on the same day.  Lucky that way.  Looking forward to Sherry's next trip to both places.  Good for relaxation.

Third, enjoyed making pizza with my son and then trying out the spices that students had bought for me.

A downer--to contrast with all the good (for which I didn't mention making a coconut, cocoa, nut, millet banana bread) is the water in the basement.

We get by.  And I have to remember that my pilgrimage is inspired by faith and the faith is that ultimately there is something greater and that I fit into the bigger picture in a meaningful way and that there is a meaning to all that happens.  

Feel the Stability

Yesterday, the workout was 6x800 (in other words 6 half miles or twice around the track six times) at approximately 3 minutes each time.  Rest of one slower lap between each.  Enough miles before and after to accumulate a total of 9 miles.

I succeeded in the workout.  My splits were 2:56, 2:57, 2:59, 3:06, 3:00, and 2:56.  The rest times were a little shorter than the run times.  And the miles before and after served their purpose.  Good warm up, and cooled down enough that I felt absolutely fine when I went to the grocery store afterwards.  It was the most interesting trip to the grocery store in a while as there was actually someone bagging at 6:50 AM (unusual) who had not seen my tattoo before and who commented on it.  That made me realize that one of the cashiers who is there all the time had not seen my tattoo.  Both were impressed.

In any case, the workout puts me at 696.6 miles.  I am now solidly in Illinois on E 1800th Ave in Annapolis.  First, I never realized that there were cities named Annapolis in places other than Maryland.  (Although since there is an Indianapolis) I suppose that should not surprise me.)  I'm also surprised that there is an 1800th Ave anywhere.  What type of numbering system is this?  and 1800 from what?  

Final observation in this brief entry...what happened with that 3:06?  It was a function of relying too much on my watch and not enough on my senses.  For the first three, it was too dark on the track for me to see the times.  I just ran what "felt right".  And, amazingly, I hit the goal times spot on.  The goal had been 3:00 plus or minus five seconds.  These were all faster than 3:00 so I could be accused of "overrunning" but it really wasn't.  It was just solid runs.  I stopped after 3 and took a drink.  My lap around the track was a little faster than my rest between the earlier laps, but I had a bit of extra rest time (not timed) by stopping for the drink.  I could see my watch on 4.  I told me I was running a lot faster than I should have been.  But that turned out to be the watch's inaccuracy because there was no consistency between what my watch told me that my per mile pace was and what my actual time was.  So, on 5 I went back to ignoring my watch other than using it as a timer.  And on 6, I looked carefully at my cumulative time when I hit "lap" to start and then ran 44, 45, 44, and whatever slightly faster pace for the last half lap into the head wind to get the 2:56.

Lesson learned?  Trust my gut.  Not just when running.  When managing.  In friendships.  On family matters.  Trust my gut.  It may not always be right.  But is usually serves me well.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

6 Easy Miles

Today, I ran 6 easy miles.  Splits were 9:27/8:47/8:30/8:32/8:17/8:07.  All good.  Nice slow start.  Legs felt better as I went along.  The typical pattern I exhibit after a long run or a hard both .  

Those six miles put me at 687.6 miles.  That puts me just on the Illinois side of the Wabash River.  What was Indiana Route 154 on the east side of the Wabash River becomes Clover St on the Illinois side.

One thing about running today was that I was able to wear a non-tank top shirt and it didn't feel extremely irritated on my shoulder where I still have quite an abrasion and bruise.  It's not pretty.  If I wash gently and put my backpack on gently I am able to support things on it.  If I sling my backpack over it too hard it hurts like anything.  And rubbing a washcloth on it in the shower without thinking is also quite painful.

But I keep on.

And I wanted to write a short piece of poetry:

Sometimes when I run,
I fall.
And I get back up.
And I get cleaned up.
And I get bandaged.
And I get ready to run again.
Not just after I am healed.
But as soon as I can.
And I run again.
And I go.
And I put all the energy I can into it.
And I live.
And I love it.

And I want to experience it.
And I want to make it better.
In fact, I want to make it the best it can be.

Sometimes in my friendships, 
I fall.
Sometimes as a father,
I fall.
Sometimes as a son and brother, 
I fall.
Sometimes as a husband,
I fall.

So when I fall in a friendship 
Or as a father
Or as a son or brother
Or as a husband--
I do just what I do when I fall when I run.
I pick myself up.
And I get going again
As soon as I can.
And I do my best to make life the best it can be.

If I can do it when I run alone, 
Why would I do any less in my relationship with others?

When I do,
I sometimes find, 
That those to whom I am trying to relate
Are willing to help me up
And clean me up
And make the world a better place.

And sometimes I find
That those to whom I am trying to relate
Just ask,
"Why did you fall?"
As if I did it on purpose.
And I wonder,
"What does that mean?"

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Moving Past Stupid Things +

So, in the past two days I have run a 6.2 mile workout with hill repeats (about 0.5 miles from the corner of Regester and Overbrook up Overbrook to Sherwood) and then 16 miles this morning.  The total of 22.2, puts me at 681.6 miles total three days before the close of week 17 (although I will take tomorrow off as recommended) and that puts me on E County Rd 300 N in Sullivan, IN, approaching the Illinois border.

I am a bit south of Terre Haute and a bit northwest of Linton.  Terre Haute translates to high ground.  The Catholic church located in Linton is St Peter.  That combination of facts actually sets me up well to address a few topics about lessons from running the past two days.  

So, Peter happens to be my confirmation name.  At some point in my blog I've mentioned that one reason I chose the name is that, just like each of Kevin, David, and Frick it has five letters.  That would be a stupid reason to choose a confirmation name if that were all.  I also thought that I was high and mighty in my faith and pure of heart when I was in eighth grade.  No, of course, I have no illusion that I am any more pure of heart than the next person.  And I am not on any higher ground.  

That realization is part of my maturation.  

My vulnerability and fallibility are captured in my tattoo.  Commented on that recently so won't dwell on it again.

But I will comment on fallibility in other ways.  First, obviously with the fall I took earlier this week.  The 6.2 yesterday as I said involved running up the Overbrook hill multiple times.  I ran over.  Ran the loop that started from Overbrook and Sherwood to Sherwood and Regester and then down Regester to run up the hill each time.  Today, I did something different.  I began the course similarly to where I was running on Wednesday when I tripped--up my street, across Lake to Bellona, down Bellona to Melrose, and then across Melrose.  I realized why I tripped.  Some morning I'll have to get a picture but when I run right at the side of the road there is a small concrete "gutter" or edge that is right next to the driveway for some type of nursing facility.  The concrete is in sections.  Several of the sections are very uneven.  Simple solution--don't run so close to the side of the road next time.  This helped me to feel less vulnerable as I moved past what happened the other day.

I felt vulnerable just a little later.  My journey continued across Melrose and then down Charles to Homeland.  The streetlights wer eout from just south of Northern Parkway to just south of the cathedral.  I trusted that I could run there without tripping but it did worry me.

My course the proceeded across Homeland to York, briefly north on York to Woodbourne, across to Loch Raven, south (although I crossed too soon to run past the electronic device that is mostly intended to tell cars they are going to fast but on which I like to register 7 or 8 MPH), the across Cold Spring, down Hillen, across Argonne, down Harford to 31st, across the the road that takes me to Lake Montebello, around the Lake, back out onto 33rd, up to Loch Raven, down to 25th, across to Guilford, up to 29th, across to Calvert, up to University, over to St Paul, up to 39th, back to York, up to Bellona, across to Northern, around on Bellona, up Clearspring, across Northern to Chinquapin, up to Lake, across to Northwood, up to Woodson, up Cedarcroft, across Yorkshire and toward home to finish off 16.  I doubled up for less than 1/4 mile of the whole 16.  Other than the dark street, I did not feel vulnerable.  But I was able to use my 16 mile experience in my discussion about adolescent vaccination for the health care business case competition I had to provide opening remarks for this morning.  It was a reminder to me that some of my health behaviors (lack of influence vaccination) leave me vulnerable.

Finally, I focus on the vulnerability I exhibited yesterday in my hill run. The run was supposed to be at an 8:30 pace that has become my go to pace most days. The non-uphill parts were near that but the uphill parts were fast.  Crazy that they would be fast but they were.

I thought about why.

Earlier yesterday morning, I had read the blog of a fellow runner I respect.  She ran Boston this year.  She had a great race.  Her splits looked a lot like mine from last year although she had not lost it so much at the end.  I thought that I was done with Boston.  No more worries about buddies.  No more worries about running it ever again.  But I was wrong.  As I read her blog I thought about my race from a year ago.  I went back and looked at my splits.  Heartbreak hill wasn't even the slowest mile for me.  No, I sped up significantly in mile 22, then got slower and slower for 23-26.  The last two were over 8 min/mile.  I was annoyed that a year earlier I had not found a way to regain my legs after heartbreak hill.

So I pushed my hill workout harder than I was supposed to.

Is it a fatal flaw?  Probably not.

But it does show how fallible I am in terms of going against the plan.  It does show my vulnerability to the "mind games" of running.  It does show how much I can make big mistakes if I am not careful.  If I fail to move past stupid things.  If I fail to let bygones be bygones and focus on the hear and now which is all I can control anyway.

P.S. My run this morning almost killed a cat.  The cat got scared as I approached and it ran into the street.  It just made it across before a car which didn't even slow down raced past.  I would have been mortified if that cat who crossed Woodbourne as I ran east just west of The Alameda had died. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Treadmill Miles and Lessons About Pacing in Life

This morning I ran 7.5 miles on the treadmill.  The last few weeks, I had gone seven miles on the treadmill on Thursday.  This week was slightly different.  First, of all, it was 1:15 faster overall.  Why?  Because each mile other than the warm-up and cool down miles was run at 15 seconds faster than in the past several weeks.  So, I opened up with a mile at an easy (for me—after reading about the Boston marathon elites running a comfortable 5:00/mile pace, I just keep reminding myself that I can’t run what some others consider easy and that what is easy for me would be a wish for some others).  Then I ran miles at 8 MPH, 8.6, 8.9, 9.3, and 9.6.  I closed with 1.5 miles at the original 8:00/mile pace.  Most weeks I’ve just run one mile to cool down.  This week, it was 1.5 miles to bring me back to the total number I was supposed to run this week.  Between the half mile extra (at least by my Garmin) on Tuesday, the one mile under yesterday, and the half mile over today, I’ve netted out.  The workout was definitely more challenging than the past week weeks.  I didn’t really feel it for the first two “fast” miles (although they were each 15 seconds faster than in past weeks).  I did feel it by the third mile.  I knew I had reached that pace faster than in the past few weeks.  I felt the effort, but I did not feel completely out of control and I did not get sloppy.  So, it was another good workout.

On my pilgrimage, I am south of Jasonville, Indiana, on County Route 700 North.  The Catholic church in Jasonville is St Joan of Arc Parish.  I’ve never thought about whether I could relate to Joan of Arc.  She is the patroness of soldiers and of France.  Other than respecting those who are willing to lay down their lives for their country and having taking French, I don’t have a particular connection to either of these.

The workout today didn’t really lead me to any inspiration.  It was mostly about going and doing it.  And recognizing the challenges that it brought.  And realizing that between the intervals at just under race pace that I run on the track and the intervals that speed up to a point close to race pace for the progression run, it will, hopefully, all come together for a 5K faster than I’ve gone since not long after the last time an American man won the Boston marathon before this week. 

The workouts have been challenging and I feel the work but I don’t end up feeling totally beat.  I have learned that this may be a far better approach to working out than working myself to the bone on each and every workout and expecting to be ready to max out at race time.  We will see whether it call comes together or not.  At least I am running smarter.  Whether smarter turns into better or not it another issue entirely.  We will see when I race in May.

I guess the other thing that I think about is that I am clearly happy with the workouts I am doing.  I am positive.  I am optimistic.  But I realize that I also have to do things like using the stick to work out the tension and tightness in the muscles.  And as I think about work, I realize that the first year in my new job has been one of many new experiences but over time it has been spread out.  It has been things that I enjoy.  It has been things that I have paced.  And I have learned.  And I have gotten better.

So, maybe I will be able to see more parallels between work and running as I go ahead.  Working hard.  But not too hard.  We could call it the Goldilocks approach to workouts.  Just right.  And improving through that just right hard work--that makes me better and doesn't place me at risk of taking on too much or making mistakes or getting injured.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dangerous Distractions

This week, I have taken pictures of myself in two of three shirts I've accumulated from running the Heather Hurd 5K in 2011-2013.  I've worn all three.  The race is in honor of a young woman whose life was taken by a distracted driver.  

This morning, I learned (again!) that distracted running can be dangerous.  

I was only supposed to run three miles.  Just as I passed a mile, I tripped.  ON what?  I don't know.  I hit my right palm. the outside of my left pinky and back of my left hand, my right shoulder, my upper lip, and knocked the wind out of myself.  Knocking the wind out of myself was the scariest part.  It took probably about 20 seconds for me to regain my breathing.  

Now, I'm okay and I can laugh about the silliness of falling.

But it taught me that trying to worry about work while running is nothing but a recipe for disaster.

In this case, I only injured myself.  But if there had been cars around distracted running could have been just as dangerous as distracted walking that contributes to many pedestrian-vehicle accidents on my university's medical campus.  The number of accidents is sufficient that despite the number of smart people at the schools of medicine, nursing, and public health they need to put up signs all over the place reminding pedestrians not to put themselves at risk.  They have a whole committee for this issue.

Perhaps I need a sign for myself--"leave the work issues at the door and just think about the run"--when I got out to run.  

A great slogan?  Not really.  Just common sense.

With the small number of miles, I just moved a little way down the road to county road 650 N, still in Worthington, IN.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Work with Your Body Toward Renewal and Leaving Behind Arbitrary Goals

Today's entry will be a complex weaving of several threads.  

First, I ran a 10x400 workout this morning.  I had hoped to get down to Dunbar.  Instead, I ran at Gilman.  About 2.3 miles before my first 400.  Then ten 400's with 8 of 10 at 1:26 and one of the other two two seconds faster and the other one two seconds slower.  Why I had variation in #3 and #4 but otherwise just ran consistently, I'll never know.  Interesting to do it all alone.  Interesting to do it without being able to see splits for the early ones--too dark and light not working.  But I was glad to have a fully lap-functioning watch.  Comment about working with my body?  How I described today's workout.  With a goal of breaking 19:00 at a 5K on Memorial Day weekend, I don't have to run super fast.  In fact, running super fast right now would just do one thing--increase the probability of injury.  What I need to do is to train my body at a speed that will feel fast but under control.  That is what I ran today.  Ten 400's that were under control.  I could tell my body was doing work.  But it wasn't fighting for survival.  It wasn't going all out.  It was just working.  Working with my body makes me think of two other things.  One, Sherry's experience with childbirth and our taking Bradley instead of Lamaze classes. The emphasis is working with your body.  It reminds me of getting a therapeutic massage or my tattoo.  In each case, I just let my "self" go and trusted the person working with me to do what I needed/asked for.  Release.  Trust.  Harmony.  It even makes me think of Waldorf education and how it is intended to be tied to the child's developmental phases.  

Second thing today.  This puts me at about 649.9 miles.  That puts me on Terra Haut Rd headed out of Worthington, Indiana.  Continuing through the midwest.

Third thing today.  With Easter, I changed my profile picture on Facebook, my picture on the Connecting the Dots page on Facebook, and my cover photo on Facebook.  Here are the three pictures.  Fun.  Symbols of new life and family.  Good theme with the resurrection.  Fr. Sam made a comment about Easter not being one day for a lifetime of searching ways to find new life--with Jesus, of course, in this context.

Two other things.  I said that my last entry was going to be the last about Boston.  Alas, I was wrong.

What else got my attention today?  First, a story about Ryan Hall.  If the story is true, this is the stuff that a book or movie will be made of some day.  And it is the stuff that can bring a tear to the eye of someone who has ever truly experienced "team".  The story says that the fastest US marathon runner in history used his leadership and held the American runners other than Meb back.  Why?  So that the non-US runners would not have "help" in catching up to Meb.  This is an amazing self-sacrifice to get an American to win the race.  It shows strategy.  It shows teamwork.  It shows caring about the bigger picture goal.  It shows not putting one's own needs first.  It reminds me of the best 1600m I ever ran.  I was with a bunch of guys who just hung around at a comfortable (back in the day) 70 second per mile pace.  I just hung in.  I rode the wave to my best time.  If I had pushed, I'm sure that they other guys would have pushed and left me in the dust as happened the next day.  Running is a very mental and tactical sport on some days.  Yesterday was one.  And it brought an incredible victory for American running.

Finally, a post in the New York times that a fellow health economist and runner posted a link to.  It was about marathon running and bad investments.  It noted how marathon runners focus on running arbitrary distances--why 26.2 miles? or even why 5K?--at arbitrary times--why break 4:00:00?  At least some runners get satisfaction from coming in under rather than over that arbitrary time.  Of course, I am sometimes guilty.  Aiming for a 19:00 5K.  Having to run a 3:15:00 marathon to qualify for Boston.  But then I assessed my last three marathons: 3:15:45/3:14:25/3:15:56.  By the criteria of what was just over or just under a target time, two of these would be considered complete failures.  And yet, I don't see them that way.  I do describe the 3:15:45 as heart-breaking most times when I talk about it.  But I also describe it as exhilarating as it was the first time I'd broken 3:20 and was more than a six minute improvement over a race I'd run six weeks earlier.  The article in the NYT talked about making sure to keep track of long term goals rather than having arbitrary short-term goals in investing.  When all is said and done, while there will always be those somewhat arbitrary target times as long as I run, I realize what I have done to cope with missing them as often as not.  I have reset my expectations.  I look for lessons in whatever the outcome of the race.  If I come in just under a target time--bonus!  But in general, the goal is simple. Run.  Enjoy.  Learn.

To conclude that brings me back to my friend Lauren.  As a running mentor, if there is one thing that I would hope I could teach her about life and running, it is to avoid the arbitrary goals that society or our shared sport or ourselves place on what we do.  To take the good with the bad.  To live it all.  To truly experience it all.  And to learn from it all as we go along.  Happiness is in the learning.  Living is in the learning.  I think that she has actually learned much of this in her young 22 years.  But there is always room for learning and reminders.  

And, as on so many days, the last couple have brought a lot of lessons I shall reflect on by and by.  And wonder, why I am so lucky to have them.

Last Boston Marathon Entry for a While

On the day of the Boston Marathon this year, I just ran 6 general maintenance miles.  Nice and easy.  Just above an 8:30 pace on average.  Puts me at 641.4 miles total.  Leaves me in Bloomfield, IN, on County Road 400 N on my virtual pilgrimage.

Then, I followed 13 runners.  When I wrote on Saturday, I had only realized I knew 10. In the end, I actually new at least 16.  In any case, I followed 13.  All 13 finished.  All 13 were safe.

Yesterday, it was great to see an American win one of the great American races.  I rarely get so "Go America" but this was a great day for running in the US.  It was an even more exciting day for older runners in the US as the winner, Meb, is 38.  I was 40 when I ran my first.  Just amazing to see what a 38 year old can still do.  The last time an American won--when I was 13.  

Two 13's.  Where does that leave my pondering.  Back at the start of my finding meaning in numbers in running.  My first marathon when I was runner number 1313.  When a cousin encouraged me to think of a Bible verse, and I came up with 1 Cor 13:13:

So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Yesterday was a day for runners in general to show their brotherly love for each other.  Yesterday was a day for non-runners to show runners their love and compassion as so many dealt with memories and emotions from last year.  Yesterday was a day for runners to show their love of facing a challenge and having a winning human spirit. 

Of the runners I followed, I know at least one was very happy with his race.  Others had very splits that simply reflected either the warm weather or how challenging the second half of the race is.  The runner among the 13 I followed with whom I have done the most miles had the worst time.  (I hope that the miles we have run together was not a jinx.)  The app I had gave me updates on everyone's times passing every 5K and the half marathon mark.  Early in the race, the runner I eventually had to wonder about was running side by side with another teammate from Back on My Feet.  Their times suggested that they were strong.  Then, the one I was following most closely began to fall back and ended finishing in over four hours, complaining of serious cramping around the hamstrings.  That would not be good.  

I thought out how I would have reacted if my finishing pace was not just 56 seconds too slow to requalify and about 6 minutes over what I was shooting for, but at a pace 2 minutes per mile above what I was hoping for.  The answer?  I honestly have no way of knowing.  The answer I would like to think I would have?  "At least I finished.  And now I know how long it takes to get from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.  I worked to qualify to prove I could do it.  I did it.  And if I ever return, I'll have something to compare with.  But I proved to myself and I proved to the world, that I can do this.  And that is all that matters."

Maybe easier to say when I was only about 10 seconds per mile slower than planned last year.  But life is full of lessons.  And I'm sure this is one of them for my friend who called me mentor.  I'll eventually ask the other runner what the lesson was.  I just know that this runner should be proud regardless.  Job well done.  Mission accomplished.  Sure the outcome can be refined and impoved. But the mission was accomplished.     

Sunday, April 20, 2014

New Life

A short blog entry on Easter Sunday, a day off from running.  Given where I am on the virtual pilgrimage, I would probably back track to Bloomington (especially if on an actual pilgrimage I would have support team) and go to the church of St. John the Apostle.  What better weekend to go there than one on which the Good Friday service that I attended read from St. John's Gospel and we read from John's Gospel again today.  And, as a runner, at least in John's Gospel, he outran Peter to get to the tomb first.

But I want to comment today mostly on the idea of resurrection.  New beginning.  New life.

I wrote about my own struggles with memories of the Boston Marathon bombing last week.  I told of the raw emotions when I saw the coverage last Tuesday morning.  I suspect that when the surviving Tsarnaev brother goes on trial, all the raw emotions will come out again for a lot of people.  My fellow runner who called me a mentor spoke of some pretty raw emotions last week--particularly because her mother was running Boston last year.  

Then, someone who has been helping me with a training plan mentioned yesterday in a post her own feelings about the race.  She indicated that she thought she would put it out there as a comment so that others might know they were not the only ones feeling such things.  Someone commented on her post that there would be a new set of memories after Monday's race.  

A new beginning.

A new chance.

A new life for runners who can take another step moving past last year's events.

The theme of resurrection.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easy Miles and Fun Connections

So, today, I ran another 10 putting me up at 635 for the year. That puts me in Solsberry, IN, on county road 420 just a bit west of the intersection with Indiana 43.

Today the run was an easy 10. I love running to Hampden. I ran across Lake to Bellona, to Springlake, to Homeland, to Charles, to Cold Spring, to Keswick (including the funny part connecting the two directions on University), to 36th where I passed businesses I like including Metta Wellness, Charmery, and Have Fun Be Lucky Tattoo, (as well as Holy Frijoles although we haven't been there in a while), then up Roland, across Northern to Charles, up to Gittings, across to Weidner, and then winding around the neighborhood to pick up the last bit.

And for the first time in a long time I took my pulse less than 5 minutes after I was done. In fact, I finished about 3 houses away from my own, walked down the hill to the steps in front of the house, and took my pulse. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was already down to 91.

This morning, can focus on two numerical themes. First, 10. (No, I'm not thinking of the old movie.) 10 miles. 10 friends running Boston on Monday. 10 dreams. For some of them it is the first time they will run Boston. For some, they have done it many times before. Of the 10 I know, five are men and five are women. I know 3 of the guys through Back on My Feet. The other two I know from Charm City Run and Baltimore Road Runners. Of the women, one is a professional colleague and fellow Michigan grad (Go Blue!), one I met through a friend at Boston last year, and the other three I know through Back on My Feet. What a wild combination. My biggest wish for Monday is that they all finish. And after last year, I feel the need to add the word "safely." One mile dedicated to thoughts for each friend or colleague.

The other theme is the pulse rate: 91. Meaning? Well, I immediately turn to Psalm 91. Yesterday, late in the communion service at 3 PM, we sang "On Eagles Wings." Where does that come from: Psalm 91. It is a psalm of trust in God. It is a psalm in which the line "You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day" appears. Given my interest in and the story of St. Sebastian, I find the connection to the idea of safety from arrows a very strong connection.

Life is amazing that way. 

Friday, April 18, 2014


Yesterday, I talked about images.  Today, I began my day with a 6 mile run.  A very easy 6 mile run.  A run that on my virtual pilgrimage would put me on Indiana Route 45 headed out of Bloomington.  The run started a lot later than usual (almost 6:30 on a weekday) as one child was away, the other two did not have to go to school, and I had gotten to sleep at around 2 last night after getting home very late.  I was operating on a little more sleep than just what I got at home as I'd slept quite a bit on the plane, but it was a fitful sleep.  Total for the year 625.4 miles.  

So, today, I worked about 5 hours at the office.  I'll still be playing catch up (and email elimination) over the weekend.  I went to two different services at church today.  My 14 year old was an altar server at the 3 PM service--Eucharist was shared but it was not a mass as it had already been blessed.  The passion was read.  One detail I don't recall ever catching before from the Gospel of St. John was that Nicodemus (whom Joseph of Arimathea teamed up with to bury Jesus) brought 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes.  I had never thought about the sheer quantity before.  Maybe not usually going to the service in the afternoon of Good Friday, I don't hear the whole passion according to John very often.

Then this evening, I went to a service at St. Pius X called Tenebrae.  It is an interesting service.  Not a priest to be found.  Run by the laity.  At our church there are seven candles in front  of a cross.  An introduction is read.  Then there are seven stories.  For the first six, we hear a biblical quote that leads into the story and we hear the story.  Then music is played.  Then a candle is extinguished.  For the seventh, the story is read.  The candle is taken slowly to the back of the church.  A loud drum is played to recall the passing of Jesus.  Then music is played and the evening ends.  

I had a chance to speak with three former parishioners whom I have known for more than a decade.  Two of the three were my oldest son's first Sunday school teachers.  The third is the daugher of one.  They have been part of our church family for 14 years--at least.  We stay in touch through social media.  We rarely get to catch up in person.  

I also had a chance to talk to the director of religious education at our parish this evening.  She has had quite a week getting ready for Easter.  Stuff comes up every year.  This year is no different.  She noted how happy she will be after the last mass on Easter Sunday.

Two of the stories caught my attention: one about personal demons and the other about the importance of the little things we do for others.  Both fit with the one other image that I didn't comment on yesterday--vulnerability.

While St. Sebastian survived the archers, he still was eventually martyred and was shot by the archers in the first place.  And in most artwork (including my tattoo) he is shown with arrows in him.  In my tattoo he is being rescued.  Irene is the strong one.  He is vulnerable.  That is an important self-image for me.

I tell happy stories on Facebook every day. But this is only the protect myself from unhappy things.  Some may say to hide from unhappy things.  

I try to maintain a positive outlook on life.  But maybe it is just because I am vulnerable to becoming downcast if I even begin to allow it to creep in.  Certainly my teenage writing reflected the more vulnerable raw emotional side of me.

Even in the various images that I saw of myself and others saw of me this week there is vulnerability in each of them.  The vulnerability of a friend facing an injury keeping her from running.  The vulnerability I have displayed on numerous occasions and the friend checking up on me when I didn't send an email about a Tuesday morning track run.  The vulnerability of sharing oneself in a mentoring relationship.  And the vulnerability of sharing with others my quest for meaning in my running.  

Then there is the vulnerability to dwelling on and never losing sight of what happened at the Boston marathon last year.  In some ways, I probably should never forget.  The vulnerability is misplacing the importance of it in my life.  That came out this week as well.  The fears and stresses of that experience are like on of my personal demons.

There are other demons--overcommitment in the workplace.  Overcommitment at home.  Things that never seem to get done.  And how each of these is not only a problem in and of itself but also plagues me as I try to move ahead.

Finally, the story of little things.  (I've gone on quite some time).  For having run as many miles as I have since the start of 2006 (probably over 5,000 in those eight years as I have run over 3,400 just since June of 2012), the number of "big moments" is quite small.  When I qualified for Boston and when I ran Boston.  When I hit sub-7 on average in a non-race half-marathon and in a separate non-race 10 miler.  And when I won a small 5K and when I ran 19:10 (putting me close to 19-even).  Thus, I can count th enumber of really big moments on my two hands.  But there are lots of small moments shared with many other runners.  Some who are faster than I am.  Some who are slower than I am.  Some with whom I am very well matched.  Sometimes it is just about being out there together.  Sometimes it is just the friendly hello.  Sometimes it is the cheering.  Sometimes it is the advice.  Sometimes it has little to do with running.  Those are the moments that count.  Those are the moments that can happen every day and make a big difference for people.

And sometimes I forget that at home the little things in the every day can be just as important.  Yes, the big things are great.  The wedding day.  The days children are born.  The house buying.  College acceptances.  Soon--graduation.  

But it is also the little things.  The going to the grocery store.  The making breakfast.  The cleaning up after myself.  The doing things for Sherry just because.

The last vulnerability I will mention tonight--the personal demon that focuses only on the big and forgets that the little things are important.  And deserve attention.  And are critical to a happy life.

Lessons from running.  Lessons from church.  Lessons for life.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014


So, today I put in 7 more treadmill miles running a progression workout that is starting to feel like second nature.  Since I have done the same workout each of the last three weeks (the only way I could make it even more similar to make a scientific comparison from one week to the next would be to try to use the same treadmill), I can notice what is different.  Last night I had a huge dinner with colleagues I'm visiting at Arizona State.  I got more sleep because what was 8 PM for them was 11 PM for me and then I slept till the time I normally awaken.  Different mixture of types of liquids I drank yesterday, including a very nice pint of local IPA nut brown ale.  The workout felt good.  And I had my breathing in the cooldown mile back to no harder than it had been in my warmup after about 3/4 of a mile at 8:00/mile pace.  (And, yes, I know that I count myself blessed for considering that pace a cool down pace.)  

In any case, the 7 miles this morning put me at 500 miles on my first pair of Brooks Launch shoes.  They have treated me well.  501 miles in 88 days.

And it puts me at 619 miles for the year.  That puts me on E Atwater street in Bloomington Indiana.  Having been born near Ohio State, attended Penn State and Michigan, teaching at Hopkins (relevant for Big 10 lacrosse) and living relatively near the University of Maryland (a coming attraction for Big 10 sports), it is cool to be there.  I had been to another part of IU before professionally, but that took me to their health sciences campus in Indianapolis.  This trip was never intended to be a tour of the Big 10, but it is fun to reflect.

And this continues to be a week to reflect.  Even with all I wrote on Tuesday, I have continued to think about the Boston marathon last year and this year and the image I have of myself.  A lot of that image is built around me as "runner".  Of course, I also have me as husband, me as father, me as son and brother and all the other familial "me as".  Then there is me as faculty, me as Vice Dean, me as Sunday school teacher.  Me as baker.  Me as community member.

So many different images.

These images are perceptions.  What really stands out in my mind from the Boston marathon ending last year is the images that my two buddies and I (along with many others) experienced.  The images of emergency vehicles rushing like mad past the T (subway) stop that we were forced off at and toward the finish line.  Images that we saw on the television in the lobby of the hotel.  Images that we saw on the television as we showered and prepared to head back to Baltimore.  Images of physical hurt.  The images that brought such emotionally charged hurt--and uncertainty--and bitterness--and fear--and loyalty.

Loyalty, you ask?

Loyalty to a cause.  Loyalty to the human spirit.  Loyalty to the identity of runners--never stop.  Of Americans--always striving.  Of what we build our entire sense of being around.

And then I think of the images others have of me.  Perfect at anything?  Hardly.  Not a perfect husband.  Not a perfect Dad.  Just doing my best.

This week started when a friend posted a picture of the music leader at our church who passed away earlier this year and conveyed her image of him--while he was alive and what she hoped he was seeing and doing now.  I wondered how I might be thought of.

This week has brought that out in ways I never expected.  I am thankful for the situations that helped make that clear.  And I am thankful for friends and family who express themselves.

My wife and I who do not always see eye to eye but have been brought closer together by all that we have had to do to facilitate our oldest son's decision on college which now must be made within two weeks.

My oldest son who does occasionally tell us how much he appreciates what we do but who more often than not simply shows it by his actions.  

My younger two who do express their appreciation for any number of things.

My one training partner who shared with me her disappointment that she seems to have yet another injury.  Runners are there for each other.

Another training partner who expressed her concern for me because of one surprising change in behavior regarding Tuesday workouts.  Runners notice little things.

Another training partner who called me mentor.  I have had individuals whom I have formally mentored.  This was an organic evolution of two runners that has become one of mentoring.  

A coach called me the picture of dedication.  

Two friends and community leaders who called me inspiring.  Each in his own way.

And it is the last that may have surprised me most.  I have known Russell since I ran the Heather Hurd 5K in November of 2011.  At this point other than the fact that it was a 5K in memory of someone who was lost much to0 early as a result of someone else's distracted driving, I don't for the life of me recall how I found out about that particular race.  It has now become an annual event for me and I hope to run again this year.  Over time, I've gotten to know Russell and his wife.  I've seen how much they have made an end to distracted driving their passion.  They inspire me.  Yet, he called me inspiring as well.   He has turned his grief into a positive--although the grief never goes away.  Now, he has seen my search for meaning in numbers.  This year my virtual pilgrimage.  And as he continues to work on his own fitness, he has also decided to turn it into a virtual walk/jog/run across the country and think of ending distracted driving in all the places he passes by.

I don't expect to start a movement of virtual pilgrimages.  I do think that it wonderful to know that others find what I am doing interesting and a useful way to explore their own need for meaning.

My meaning comes from accomplishment--and putting it in the context of things that are quantifiable and numeric and what I consider the meaning of life.

I only hope that over time I can continue to be what others think of me already and better.  And that my accomplishments are just as high for family as for work and running.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Twelve More Miles, One Year, Lots of Realizations

Since the last time I wrote, I ran 5 miles easy outside near home and 7 miles on a treadmill at a hotel in Cleveland, OH, starting at 3:35 this morning.  Thus the 12 more miles.  I enjoyed every minute of both runs.  This puts me at 612 miles after 15 weeks of the year.  On my virtual pilgrimage I remain on Indiana Route 46 and am now on the outskirts of Bloomington.

The reference to one year--one year since the Boston Marathon bombing.  When I started the day on the treadmill, I have a very early network news program on.  And they spent a lot of time covering the remembrance of the events in Boston.  I felt emotions come quickly.  They came even more rapidly once they mentioned the eight year old who died last year.  Then, I was asked to be on a local public radio program this afternoon.

On that program, the host asked me what I will be doing next Monday.  I hadn't even looked ahead to my calendar for next Monday yet.  It turns out I will have a lot of meetings.  That is actually a very good thing.  Because otherwise, I would probably be at my desk all day watching the internet on pins and needles.  Waiting for the many runners I know--some through Back on My Feet, some through Charm City Run, and some through other local connections I have made over the years--to see their times and to see that they are safe.  And to wait and see that nothing happens.  I realize now that we will never be able to take safety at an event like this completely for granted again.  Especially after someone left a backpack there today after the end of the remembrance activities.  Being in meetings most of the day will force me to focus on something else.  Not that I want to ignore the issue.  I want to face the issue.  The best way to deal with it is to face it.  And to face it squarely.  The fact that it happened.  And the fact that I must do something about it.   

So, what else did I learn about myself and life today?

First, I still like the idea of playing music but right now I get no joy from playing.  I committed to play for a Good Friday service and for an Easter Sunday mass.  I had hung up the towel last year.  I have re-engaged three times since.  I think this is it.  I am not saying I am any better than any of the other musicians.  I certainly am not.  I'm just not feeling it any more.  And that will help no one.  Life is too short to do volunteer activities that I don't enjoy.

Second, the events of last year are still closer than I thought they were.

Third, the group of running friends I have really does look out for and care about each other.  One friend I have run many miles with sent a message today indicating that she has to take some time off.  She has had a series of injuries and felt something different enough that she feels she has to pull back. It is unfortunate as she has waited since 2011 to run another marathon and is in for the Marine Corps this year.  I hope that she overcomes whatever has started to affect her.

Earlier in the day, I heard from a friend with whom I often run track workouts on Tuesdays.  She called me asking if I was okay.  I hadn't even realized that she might be thinking that I was not okay because of the anniversary of the bombings.  It is simply that we have been doing track workouts as a group (varying from 2-12) since the fall of 2011 when she and a student of mine from Ireland ran a 3200 meter time trial together with the two of them expertly pacing me.  In any case, this was one of the first weeks when I didn't send out any email--even one saying "I won't be out" in almost three years.  She noticed and wanted to make sure nothing was up.

Then, for one friend who is running Boston this year, I had sent a brief hand-written note.  When I dropped it in the mail (people still like getting real mail every once in a while), I didn't realize what day it would arrive on. I also hadn't thought about my friend's relationship with the events in Boston last year.  Her mother was there.  As was I.  And numerous other friends.  She felt relieved as she heard from each one a year ago.  But she posted late in the day today how raw some of those feelings were.  And how much she appreciated getting my note encouraging her to make the most of the opportunity to run Boston.  To run strong.  And to find in the experience the meaning she needs it to have for her.  

In closing, Anthony on his program today asked me why so much running.  I gave my answer that has nothing to do with community first--immediate feedback and lots of numbers.  But the community I am a part of is an amazing one.  One that is strong.  One that faces the issues we must overcome head on.  And one that I will continue to be a part of.

While I acknowledge that I want to run more races--and not just train endlessly--the many feelings of insecurity do haunt me.  And it is not even so much my own feelings of insecurity.  I can get over those.  Every major race I run for the rest of my life, I will have to ask the question--how will I get news to my family that I am done?  If anything happens, how will I let them know I am safe?  And is the risk worth it.  

I think I will answer yes.  But that is a question I never had to ask before.  It is a shame to have to ask it now.  But family as community is even stronger.  And the risk cannot be ignored.

I am sure I will run and write next Monday.  And I am sure on the day of this year's Boston Marathon I will have even more to say about the feelings that are still there.  This is one time when being 612 miles away in reality rather than just virtually might help to ease the hurt that is still there--the easing through distance as well as time.  Or perhaps not as this may transcend any distance as long as the pictures, the story about the eight year old, and my memories live on.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Can 16 Miles Be Effortless?

If someone had asked me that question when I was preparing for my first marathon and blogging back in 2010, I would have answered with a question, "What are you talking about?"

Today, however, I found that this can be done.

I went to the NCR trail and started around 5:39.  Ran 4 miles alone on a dark trail but I could see enough to run safely.

Then, I met up with the person I was running with this week, and we ran another 12.  So, I saw the second of the trail from the parking lot on Paper Mill Rd to two miles north of there four times this morning (twice going north and twice coming south).  The other 8 miles were between mile 2.5 and mile 6.5 on the trail once.

It was great.  My overall average pace was 8:33.  I've run other paces like 8:00 or faster for that distance on that course before.  There is a very big difference.

While I sweated this morning and it was already in the 50's and the last mile or so was noticeably more humid than the rest of the course, I felt under control and it was easy to have a conversation the whole time.  While I can have a conversation at 8:00 or faster per mile, it is much easier to have a conversation at 8:33.  What is interesting is that I have heard "conversational pace" since 2010.  But, I am now taking it much more seriously.  And it makes a difference.  My heart rate was back down below 80 about 20 minutes later.  

What a difference!

It puts a totally new light on my training.  Training is not always about going as fast as possible--or even as fast as feels comfortable.  Sometimes proper training is about having patience.  About doing the right workout to achieve a long-term goal.  About self-control  And recognizing that there are truly reasons for each step of training at different levels of intensity.  And those levels of intensity are not just "recommendations".  Rather those are "follow these" to improve.

By the way, today's run puts me up to 600.4 miles total for the year.  It places me still on Indiana Route 46 approaching a town called Nashville, IN.  Next recognizable town--Bloomington!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Three Mile Gift

Since the last time I wrote, I have run 23 miles.  That included 7 on the track on Tuesday (9x400 trying to keep it just below 1:30).  3 on the road on Wednesday.  7 progression on Thursday (8/7:45/7:15/7:00/6:45/6:15/8 again) on the treadmill and that felt a lot easy than the week before.  And finally, a very easy 6 yesterday morning that during which I crossed paths with a colleague who referred to me as "Dr. Frick" out on the road at 6 AM.  Sometimes I wish I could just be "Kevin" at least when I run.

In any case, today is another beautiful morning.  I am not running today as I have work responsibilities and then parenting this afternoon.  It is good.

So, by now I have made my way through Greensburg and Hartsville and over to Columbus, Indiana on Indiana Route 46 or West 3rd Avenue.  South of Indianapolis.  The closest I will get to that city.

I want to write just a brief comment this morning about the gift of three miles on Wednesday.  My shortest run of the week.  My shortest run for a while.  

Why was it a gift?

Because it is part of a training plan.  

Because I felt "compelled" to do it.

Because otherwise, I could just as easily have sat the day out.

But I got up, went out, did three very easy miles, and felt great.  

The legs had to do some work, but it was almost effortless.

The lungs had to do some work but I was not struggling.

It gave me the freedom to move without requiring me to move too much.

It was just the right way to balance the middle day of the week.

And I will look forward to "rest running" days in the future. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Two Days' Runs

OK.  Yesterday I ran 14.1 at an 8:41 pace.  Wow, did that feel easy.  If anything, since I ran it with my training partner of three years with whom I have run many times that distance at 8:00 or 7:45, it felt crazy slow.  But it also was better for my body.  There is the goal of going fast just to get in the miles.  Then, there is the goal of going far now so I can go further and faster later.  This is called patience.  Some would say that just running 14 miles is a sign of patience.  I'd say that I have to remind myself that 14 miles is only the beginning of patience.  Fourteen miles at a pace that is right for what I am trying to do now is a sign of true patience.  I keep hearing that from a coach I met at Boston last year.  And my running partner and I have said that to each other so many times, but finally found a way to live up to what we claim.

What made it more interesting was an African proverb a friend had posted on social media: If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.  That just fits so well.  And a friend of mine pointed out that it described her run that morning, too.

And, of course, we sang a song at church that quotes from Isaiah 40 about running and not growing weary.  God will be my strength.  I think that on this particular day it was just as important that God was my patience.  Maybe strength of character or strength of will rather than physical strength.

I followed yesterday with 6 today at 8:32.  Nice and easy.  That was after I had worn my Boston Marathon jacket from last year to a lacrosse game yesterday.  A friend of a friend (the friend is a fellow parent on my son's lacrosse team), saw it and thought she had to stalk me to ask questions.  As it turned out, our mutual friend provided the introduction.  This year will be her first time at Boston.  I gave her some advice.  It was fun.  I sometimes forget how fast my running is, as I am always comparing myself with people who are yet faster.  Another piece of wisdom I have seen in several posts lately--don't compare but just enjoy being who I am.  Take it all in

The miles put me at 561.  That is already over the 14 week total I had planned and I still have a seven mile track workout tomorrow.  That puts me on South County Road 220 W in Greensburg, IN.  I had been tracking along I-74 on small side roads for a while.  This puts me between I-74 and US-50, although the route doesn't go south to US-50 for the foreseeable future.

Final fun thought for tonight.  A friend sent me this picture:

with the comment that it was too bad I could not use it for my blog.  That, of course, is like a challenge.  What do I think of when I see this picture?

I think of asking the cat, "Why are you there?"  Then the cat would give the answer in the caption.  How does that relate to me?  Well, why do I run?  Because I have legs that can carry me and a heart that can power me.  Why am I on a virtual pilgrimage?  Because I have the internet to guide me and I use the progress as a way of marking my own progress?  Why did I ask a coach for advice?  Because I want my running to be all that it can be.  Things are there.  Things are available.  They seem to be there for a purpose.  So why not make use of them.  Why to run.  Why to think it is as a pilgrimage.  Why do I worry about all this symbolic stuff and not just be practical?  Because that is just how my mind thinks and puts things together.  Just like the cat saw something warm and thought it would be useful.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Another Six and St Anthony

Yesterday's run was another general maintenance 6.  Ran the same course on Friday as I did on Monday.  But there were a couple of key differences:

(1) It was after fewer miles so my legs felt fresher despite the intense progression workout the day before.

(2) I didn't have to use nearly as much mental energy to get my splits all very close to 8:30 rather than 8:00.  So, the run was even easier.

The 6 miles puts me at 541.3--somewhere around the intersection of Indiana Route 46 and Coon Hunters Rd in Batesville, Indiana.  I would have run very close to the St Anthony of Padua church in Morris, Indiana on the way.  That is before Batesville.  This is St Anthony to whom people pray to help find things.  

I would hope that if the pilgrimage were a real one rather than a virtual one no one would think that I need to be found.  Rather, I would hope that people would appreciate how I was trying to find something.  Trying to find meaning in my running.

The number 541.3 gives me something to think about in terms of finding something.  Finding a link to spirituality.  I like Luke 5:4-13.  It is the story of Jesus telling Peter to toss his nets into the water and Peter catching more fish than he could imagine.  Peter, as well as the apostles James and John, joined Jesus then.  That takes us up to verse 11.  The other two verses are about Jesus curing a leper.  All these stories are about men who found hope in Jesus.  Who were blessed by Jesus.  And who put their faith in Jesus to various degrees.

This faith made them single minded.

I only hope that the blessings that I have received through my faith will help to make me single minded in my willingness and ability to follow Jesus.