Monday, July 27, 2015

Weekend Running Lessons

This weekend and into Monday, I learned (or re-learned) a few running lessons that I will take with me into the future.  

First, at this age I can try to do all the precision-timed workouts I want to for 5K training.  But at the end of the day what tends to matter most is simply "have I put in enough miles".  For the first few months of this year, before I decided to run a marathon this fall and an ultra-marathon next spring, I  had decided that I would give my legs a rest and run only 30 miles per week.  I did just that.  It took a lot less time.  And I thought that by running shorter, I would wear my legs out less and run faster in 5K's.  What I learned was that this is not right.  I could have done that if I'd combined my shorter running workouts with some strength training workouts or some other cardio that used another part of the body.  Then I might have been able to increase my speed.  But just running a smaller number of miles without doing them more intensely or adding some extra strength training was not a way to train for fast 5K runs and my first three of the year were over 20:00.  Then, I had recently started going back up to 50+ from Monday through Sunday again and had some weeks of 60+ in a seven day period. Low and behold--I ran 45 seconds faster than any other race this year and hit 19:20, although it may have been just a wee bit short.  And I felt pretty good.  My friend, Lauren, said basically, "I told you so."  Props to my "running daughter" for teaching me a good lesson.

Second, that brought me to then running on Sunday--with Lauren and Joselyn.  Joselyn and I will often run our longest workouts (even 20+ miles) at a sub-8 pace.  With Lauren we ran 8:33 total over 18 miles.  Fifteen of those were with Lauren at an even slightly slower pace.  My legs were still a little tight after the hilly run through the rest of the day.  But I stayed in motion as much as possible.  When I woke up on Monday (today), I felt great.  I ran an eight mile workout this morning faster than I did the workout yesterday--averaging 8:09.  It is very rare that I run a workout on the day after a long run faster than I did the long run.  Of course, I couldn't tell you the last time I did a long slow workout truly slowly. (I am blessed to call 8:33 slowly.)  With that in mind, it is a lesson re-learned.  I can do a good day-after workout when I take the long slow run on Saturday or Sunday as truly a long, SLOW run.  

That brings me to the latest insight from my times and Bible stories--Proverbs 8:33--Listen to instruction and grow wise, do not reject it!  I need to recall not to reject from anyone--even someone 21_ years my junior.  I am lucky enough to hang out with some pretty smart people.  I should listen.

Last, another blogger and friend at So What? I run, wrote about her reason for not just an ultra but a 100-mile ultra.  When someone saw her after her 54 mile training run and told her he didn't think she could make 100 miles, she shared what she thought.  At the end of the day, she remembered that she runs for herself. Yes, she may use it to call attention to something.  Yes, she may dedicate a run to someone.  Yes, she may have reasons that focus externally in a variety of ways.  But when all is said and done, she wants to achieve for herself. It is a part of her.  It is a part of her spirit. It is a part of her being.  It is a part of her essence.  

And when all is said and done, I don't run exactly like anyone else.  I don't need to run exactly like anyone else.  Not the same form.  Not as fast.  Not as far.  Not for the same reasons.  Not for any reason in particular.  But for my own sense of being.  My own sense of accomplishment. For me.  For my well-being.  And for me to become a better person overall even if I am not perfect on any one thing.  As I continue to explore my vulnerabilities and reach for a goal that is just a little further and stronger than anything I've done before.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Challenging My Child

The other day I told my child that I would develop math or logic puzzles for him most days for the rest of the summer.  Here is tomorrow's.  Probably complicated enough I'll need to work on at least some of it with him.

Mr. Stuart Thompson had been away for the first four weeks of hockey season.  During that time, his son, Kendall, had been carpooling with his three buddies Abraham, Peter, and Zachary to hockey practices.  When Mr. Thompson returned from his long sales trip away, Dr. Elizabeth Thompson, his wife and Kendall’s mother, decided that Mr. Thompson should be the driver for the game in Hagerstown the next day.  The game started at 7 AM which meant that the boys needed to be there at 6 AM which meant leaving the house around 4:30 AM.

Mr. Thompson woke up at 4, showered, and awakened Kendall.  On the way out the front door, he found a note from Dr. Thompson taped to the door, and made sure to grab it and take it with him.  The front of the envelope said, “Important.”  He asked Kendall for directions to the other boys’ houses.  By the time he was done, he knew that he had left his home in Lake Walker, picked up boys in the neighborhoods including Anneslie, Stoneleigh, and Timonium.  As he picked up each boy, he just had the boys toss their bags, sticks, and jerseys into the back of the van.   The boys stayed awake chattering until they got to the beltway, and then slept soundly until they arrived in Hagerstown.  Then were there at 5:50.  Mr. Thompson went to the back of the van and opened the door while the boys slept.  He realized that the back area looked like a disaster and he could not tell whose stuff was whose.  He wasn’t even sure what his own son’s number was as the jerseys did not have names.  And he knew that his wife had just bought a new bag and re-taped his son’s hockey stick, so he was not sure what equipment was Kendall’s. 

As he was standing there a bit perplexed, he remembered the note his wife had left him—maybe she had realized how puzzled he might be and had thought ahead to help him.  He opened the envelope, and this is what he read:

Dear Stuart,

Next year, I hope you don’t have a four week sales trip at the start of hockey season.  It has been a real pain for the past four weeks even with carpooling.  Since your company sells puzzles and I know how much you enjoy them, I’ve made a puzzle for you to help you sort out the boys’ stuff.  I’ve know you for two decades, and I bet you just had the kids throw all their stuff in the back and they are sleeping now that you have reached Hagerstown.  Well, see if you can sort the stuff out before the boys awaken. It will make their day if they can report to coach and get dressed without having the stress of sorting everything out.

Here are your clues:

The jersey numbers, as you can see, are 2, 3, 5, and 7.
Last year, the boys scored 10, 17, 18, and 28 goals.
You can see that the bags are black, blue, orange, and red.
You can see that the boys’ sticks are taped with black, green, orange, and red.
You hopefully remember that we live in Lake Walker and that you picked up kids in Anneslie, Stoneleigh, and Timonium.
The boys’ first names are Kendall (you know), Abraham, Peter, and Zachary.
The boys’ last names are Thompson (you know), Crawford, Jamison, and Stevenson.
The boys have red hair (you know), black, blond, and brown.
Their birthdays are in July (hopefully you remember!), April, October, and December.

Your son’s number is the lowest prime number other than 1.

The child who has the only even prime number on his Jersey also is the only one who scored a prime number of goals and the only one born in a prime numbered month. 

Each of the other boys has a number of goals that is a multiple of his jersey number.

The child with the first name that is first in alphabetical order lives in the neighborhood that would be last in alphabetical order.

The child with the first name that is first in alphabetical order has a color bag that would also be first in alphabetical order. 

One child was born in the month that is the same as his number of goals.

Only one child has the same color tape on his stick as the color of his bag.  This child was picked up in Timonium.

The child whose color of tape and bag match is the only child for whom the first letter of his first name matches the first letter of his month of birth.

Only one child’s initials spell a two letter word.

Only one child has matching hair and stick tape.  It does not match his bag color.

The child with the first name that is last in alphabetical order has the last name that is first in alphabetical order.  That child’s jersey is the number of the letter of the alphabet that begins his last name.

You picked up the child who has green tape on his stick in Stoneleigh.

You picked up the child with black hair in Anneslie.

The child with black hair has a bag that matches the color of tape of the child whose tape and hair are the same color. 

There are two children whose bag colors start with the letter of the alphabet that comes after the first letter of their first names. 

If you multiply the month of Abraham’s birth by his jersey number you get the number of goals he scored last year.

If you take the number of the first letter of Peter’s last name, you will get the number of goals he scored last year.  This is the only child for whom this is true.

There is only one child for whom the first letter of the month of his birth and the color of his tape are the same.

The child with the blue bag does not have a hair color that begins with the letter B.

The child with the orange bag does not have brown hair.

That’s all.  Now you should be able to match up the bags, sticks, and jerseys with the boys before they wake up, know who is most likely to score if they played like last year, and know the month in which to wish them a happy birthday. 

Love you!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Sunday Morning Run

Today began early as I knew I was going to run, help clean up from the Baltimore County 4-H Fair, and walk around at ArtScape on a very hot day.  I had a good night's sleep, got to the trail just a minute or two late, and Joselyn was already there, and we began.

Starting from the Paper Mill parking lot, we went onto the trail and ran down to the zero mile marker and back--one mile at 8:29.  We had decided to head south to mile zero first because neither one of us could imagine running 19 miles (from the half mile mark to mile 10 and back) and then putting the last mile in at the end after running past where our cars were.

So we continued north and over the next four miles ran 7:50, 7:44, 7:54, and 7:58.  At that point we were averaging just about 8 min/mile which was what we had discussed beforehand.  As we continued along, we ran a couple more miles at 8:00 and 7:51 and 8:01.  Then we got to Monkton and stopped for a quick bathroom break.  We continued along with a 7:38 (hadn't stiffened up at the stop at all) and 7:46.   That brought us to the half way point at the 9.5 mile mark where we had been two weeks earlier on an 18 mile run (we had not gone down to mile 0 that day) and were at 7:55.  Not bad at all.  I thought I had seen 1:19:30 but the calculations with the data afterwards say 1:19:11.  Either way, not bad.  Not too fast at all.

We continued up to the 10 mile marker and Joselyn made sure to touch the marker when we got there.  I know I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen the 10 mile marker with a friend.  I've run the NCR Trail Marathon once, the two-person relay twice, and the NCR 20 Miler four times.  So, I've seen the marker in each of those cases, but I just don't go up that far with a training partner very often.  As we turned around and circled back to the 9.5 mile marker to complete mile 11, we ran a 7:56.  And for mile 12 we ran an 8:05.  That felt slow.  But that was keeping us right where we should be.

On the way back down we stopped at Monkton a second time--this time to refill water bottles.  Again, we didn't lose a stride.  mile 13 was 7:41.  Mile 14 was a slower 7:52.  But after that (we had a deliberate discussion about slowing down at the start of mile 14) we didn't look back.  We ran the last 6 in 7:31, 7:48, 7:29, 7:47, 7:28, and a strong finish with 7:20.  Total push at the end.  And any concerns I'd had about whether I could finish had been washed away as we came back to the start.

We were lucky to have been running on a shaded trail.  When we hit the bridge on the way back at about 0.7 miles from the finish, and there were no trees blocking the sun we realized just how hot it was.  Both of us were dripping with sweat (and had been for quite some time) but finally felt the heat entirely.

We were lucky to be greeted by Jack who heads up Team Persevere (they refer to the letter to the Hebrews).  We'd met him last summer and crossed paths a number of times.  He had a bunch of cold beverages (particularly Gatorade) and snacks.  We chatted for a bit and then headed out.

We had noticed a lot of runners on the way back.  Very few people on the way out.  But I suppose starting at 5:50-ish we wouldn't see a lot of other people.

And when I got in the car, I had a small bad of beef jerky.  It offered a great combination of salt and protein for my body.

Home and a quick shower and off for the rest of the day.

I do hope for some hillier miles as I head toward the very hilly marathon on October 10.  But not on a day with temps like today.  Looks to be a little cooler next week.  I'll keep my fingers crossed. 

Also--some notes of thanks.  I have to thank Sherry and the two younger boys for starting to clean up the cat show area without me (I arrived late because of the run) and my sister-in-law and oldest son for getting him where he needed to be since we have only two cars.  My running often happens with a little help from my friends. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Living Life by Number

Last Friday night I took my kids to see the movie, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  The main character was a nerdy high school senior.  In many ways I could relate.  In many ways I'd like to think I've outgrown most of my high school nerdiness.  But today I realized just how much my life is still "nerdy" in one clear way.  My life is lived "by number."

A friend posted that she plans to run 12 miles on Sunday.  Then she plans to run 100 miles in September.  I posted that I am planning to run 20 on Sunday with an exact starting and ending time.  The times imply 2 hours 40 minutes.  That implies an average of 8 minutes per mile.  I posted that I hope to pace another friend to a 3:45 marathon this fall.  (And perhaps we'll go a little faster or a little slower, but 3:45 is the general goal.)  My friend running the 100 miles posted in turn that she would only be able to keep my pace for one-tenth of a mile.  What I remind my friends who are runners is something another local runner used to say before her untimely death--it's about finish lines and not finish times.  I'd add that there are as many lessons in the numbers from those who run slow paces as there are in the numbers from those who run faster paces.

The marathon distance everyone knows: 26.2 miles.  The ultramarathon I plan to run next May is 90 km or 56.1 miles.  I know exactly how many weeks from this Saturday my next marathon is.  I heard the sound of cicadas in the trees dominating the otherwise quiet Lake Walker neighborhood when I took my dog for a walk after dinner.  I looked it up and found quite simply that cicadas can make sounds up to 120 dB and at 123 Hz.  I'm not even sure why I was fascinated enough to look that up, but I was.  I was engaging our next door neighbor in a discussion about Serena Williams tonight.  I commented on admiring her skill regardless of whether I am a big fan of tennis and whether my neighbor particularly likes Serena.  But I know that Serena is 33 years old, has 21 Grand Slam wins, is only one behind the previous record holder Graf, and has all four Grand Slam titles to her name for the second time. My neighbor commented that I knew a lot for someone who doesn't follow tennis.  And I don't, really, but I love the data.  The numbers.

For years (particularly since my first marathon), I have found a fascination in how I can use numbers in my life (running or otherwise) to guide my study of scripture.  And how my Augustinian spirituality approach--trying to find meaning today in everything I read in scripture--plays perfectly off that.

What I am realizing given the current fascination is that my fascination with numbers is not just from running and not always about scripture.  It is a fundamental part of me.  And the book that I've wanted to write, the story that I have inside me waiting to be told is about all the numbers.  And how my life is guided by--one might even say driven by--the numbers I see.  The numbers I here.  The numbers I experience.

So, whether the title ends up being something like Living by Number or The Experience of Numbers or The Spirituality of Numbers what the book will be about is my example of taking what I love--numbers--and using it to guide my connection to the spiritual.  To something bigger than me.  For the greater glory.  And then others can think about what they love.  And how they can use what they love to connect to something bigger than themselves.  Something bigger than their families.  Something epic.  Something that is transcending.

That is the key.

How many would read it?  I don't know.  I won't guess.

But I know the story that needs to be told.  And whether it gets told one minute a day or ten minutes a day or over a 40 or 50 hour period in some week some where some time, I don't know.

But I will tell it.

And even if only one copy is ever sold on the shelf of a store, I will consider it a win.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Good Pace Alone

This morning, as I was getting ready to go out the door, I heard from my running partner that she would not be able to make it this morning.  Well pump at home going bad.  That is definitely not a good thing.  And I have had my own share of house issues over the years so I understood.

We had planned to run the same course that we had planned to do on Mother's Day.  That day was hot and sunny.  I had traveled quite a bit in the weeks before and was suffering from spring allergies.  The 15 we had planned turned into 11.8 at an average pace of 8:52 ending at 9:30's.  Not a fun run.

But today, I ran from home.  Home to Lake Ave.  Out to York Rd. Up to Bosley.  Around and back to York Rd.  Up to Northwood.  Turn right and off to Sweet Briar.  Then to Gorsuch.  Then Vista and Charmuth.  All the way to Dulaney.  To Fairmount and on to Goucher.  Up to Joppa. Over to Loch Raven.  Down to Northern Parkway.  On to the Alameda.  Up to Cedarcroft.  Along Chinquapin. Then along Lake to finish.

The pace started nice and easy at 9:14 up past St Pius.  Then 8:27 up to Bill Bateman's.  Then over to Immaculate Conception with an 8:16 which is about where I hung out for a while.  An 8:11 and an 8:08 taking me up along York Rd into Lutherville.  An 8:14 to get to the CCR store.  An 8:04 as I began the trip back toward home.  Back to an 8:14, then 8:16 and 8:02 as I got to a point along Joppa.  Then as I headed home a 7:59, a 7:47, a 7:38, a 7:43, and ended with a 7:46.

This time I did not choke.  I benefitted from cooler temps and cloudy skies.

I did not think about work.

I did not think about much of anything.

Other than the beautiful sky.

And there wasn't much traffic.  And there weren't too many other people, but I did say hello to just about everyone I passed.

And I feel better.

The gift of running.  

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Value of Silence

This is not the first time I have written about silence.  But I write about silence this evening because this evening was a time when I really needed it.

The week was a busy one.  In fact, I have been so busy that I have not blogged for two weeks.  And I had let my journaling about work slip, too.  Neither of those were a good choice.  After not writing for two weeks, I was reminded this week of how much it can help me to work through things.  As can running.  And last week, I was spending more time drawing.  But for the moment, I am returning to writing to think through the week.

The week began with a busy day preparing for a visit to the Business School by two gentlemen who could help the school to understand where we stand with respect to the process of working with the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business.  It was exhausting for me between the preparation on the day before, dinner, a full day of meetings from 8-6, and a second dinner.  Barely a moment by myself.  And while I had come off a weekend that helped me to recharge--a Meyers-Briggs introvert needs some alone time to recharge--that was a lot of time with people and not much time to process.

Wednesday came--and I observed a conflict that I needed to think about whether it was my role to resolve and if so, how I was going to help.  I should have taken some time to write them.

Thursday came and I thought about addressing the issue, but I waited.  Again, I could have written.  

Today came and I talked to the two involved in the conflict.  One conversation was productive. The other was conflicting for me.

So, tonight I did two things that helped me.

Second, when I got home from the movies with my two older sons, I walked my dog.  A slow and deliberate walk.  Not looking at my watch.  Not looking at my phone.  Only one other dog out in the neighborhood.  Very few people.  Very few cars.  Mostly just quiet.  The silence was great.  It gave me time to think.  It gave me time to let the stresses of the week wash away.  It gave me time just to breathe.  And I so needed that.

First (I don't often write with lists numbered backwards), I had gone to see the relatively new movie Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  My two older sons came with me.  I very much enjoyed the movie.  For those who have not seen it yet, I won't tell the whole story.  What I will comment on is the fact that the movie is about an awkward high school kid.  (Something I can relate to--although something that I'm not sure my sons understand just how much I can relate to.)  He is portrayed as a kid who tried to be friends with everyone but then be invisible to everyone.  (I am not sure I ever tried to make myself invisible, but I have always tried to just get along.)  In his friendship with the dying girl, he overreacts (something I often do) and there is a time when she talks about just wanting to be silent with him.

I found comfort in a movie about a character whom I could relate to.  The girl in the movie referred to what he did as self-hate.  I didn't self-hate in high school.  But I sure self-doubted.  And after this week of needing to be "on" so much of the time, after maybe mis-guessing on my role in fixing the conflict, and after maybe not doing such a good job in the resolution, I was having a lot of self-doubt.  And when I get in a state like that, I tend to go back to where I feel safe.  Where I felt safe in high school.  Silence.  Working through stuff in my own mind.  The walking.  The running.  The quiet.  The writing.

The key now is to come back tomorrow, Sunday, and next week ready to go again.  Ready to face the challenges at work.  And ready to make sure that I don't let myself slip into wallowing in my introversion for too long.  Recharging is good. Turning inward will not help me or my family or the School I work for any time soon.