Friday, December 30, 2016

Top Ten Things That Happened While Running in 2016

10. Reaching the overlook point at Massanutten (where we vacation between Christmas and New Year’s) approximately seven miles into a run that took me for a half marathon on Christmas morning.  It provided a sense of accomplishment having run up the hill, no matter how slowly, given how much I’d walked in the more than 55 miles of Comrades and the view at the top was worth the run up.

9. Passing 2000 miles nine days earlier than I had in 2014, passing 2222.2 on December 19 (setting a new personal longest year), and finishing the year with over 2300 miles.  I’m at 2301 as I write this and will end up with a little more after I trot with my dog tomorrow.  Regardless, this was a very intense year with LOTS of miles that I don’t expect to exceed in the future. 

8. Running a Boston qualifying time in Gettysburg by more than five minutes as part of my training to successfully finish Comrades and finishing Comrades. Finishing Comrades was the main goal with which I began the year.  It was an interesting combination of running and walking on that day.  Along the way, it was great to have myself in good enough shape to run (and not walk at all) a solid Boston qualifying time at the end of a seventy mile week (more about intensity like number 9).  And I’m not even going back to Boston.

7. Seeing a high school friend whom I’d mentioned in a talk about running reach 50,000 miles for his lifetime this year.  Giving the talk was great.  Being able to talk about my influencers from running was great.  And seeing someone I’ve know for 30+ years achieve something so amazing was wonderful, even if I couldn’t join him for the 5K in which he did it.

6. Starting the year with a 5K on New Year’s day followed by one of my training partners playing backgammon with my 11 year old, as well as completing two other races with my eleven year old.  I love to have my eleven year old running with me on a regular basis.  And this was part of continuing to build a great friendship with Laurent.

5. Working with an exceptional coach on the way to finishing Comrades in what she told me was a respectable time.  Best line was what she told me one of her mentors had told her—just because it was a “down” year at Comrades doesn’t mean there were not plenty of big uphills.  This is a good life lesson in general.

4. Continuing my longest term running friendship in Baltimore.  We continue to find that despite any differences we have much more in common than we have different.  We accept each other for who we are.  And we show up to run together a dozen or more times a year for long runs that just give us a chance to keep up.

3. Building a new running friendship on a weekly basis.  New friendship built with someone I found on a local running page on Facebook started by a friend.  Interesting running partnership.  Challenging to plan consistently with someone who works retail.  She consistently likes to run at a pace that is between two of my other running partners, but even she and I have found over time that some days it’s all about the miles and not the pace. 

2. Helping someone else BQ by more than five minutes in Baltimore.  This was my crowning personal achievement for the year.  Perhaps even more than the original goal of Comrades.  Comrades was about pure persistence.  In contrast, helping someone else was a mission.  And completing the mission was amazing.  Making the mission about someone else rather than about me—well that just made it all the more worthwhile.  It was also a little about me as it was the smartest marathon I ever ran.

1. Continuing to experience the evolution of what started as chatting with a training partner when we met to run becoming meeting to catch up on a weekly (or sometimes more frequently) basis for which running happens to be how we meet up most times.  In other words, what started out as getting to know someone by running with them has become a strong friendship in which running just happens to be the main opportunity for discussion each week.  And the discussion that comes through running is focused and not distracted which makes it all the more interesting.  Another interesting life lesson in terms of how a friendship builds over time. 

So, as you can see, the top ten things that happened while I was running this year are a mix.  Some speak to the intensity of the year.  Some speak to the enjoyment of the activity and what I see while I am on the activity.  Some speak to family.  Some speak to life lessons.  Some speak to the importance of running as an others-centered activity.  And many speak to friendship.  What more could I ask for from an activity that has been the center of my recreation this year? 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Week of Contrasts

This has been a week of contrasts. 

I have run four very hilly workouts followed by one speed workout on the treadmill.  The hill workouts are important for general fitness and for training for races with hills.  But they don’t help much in preparing for a 5K.  I have a 5K coming up on New Year’s Day.  The second year in a row for what may become a tradition.  The key is recognizing that both are needed and figuring out how to mix them together to get the fitness and race results I am looking for.

There were other contrasts in running.  Warmer and colder days.  Dressed with different layers.  Indoors and outdoors.  Windy and not. The variation is one of the things that makes running so interesting.

It has been a week of many different arts and crafts projects.  Glass etching.  Making a basket.  Painting on slate.  Painting on canvas.  Decorating a silk scarf.  Designing a bookmark, and designing a frame for hanging in a window.  Working with different surfaces and different media.  Some of the projects turning out with all that I expected.  Others turning out different what I had envisioned.  Each an experiment.  Each an opportunity to explore and work toward understanding how to do the same project better if I were to try it again.  Some of what I made will stay with me.  Some will go to my office.  Some will be given as gifts.  What is somewhat ironic is that I was most challenged by the landscape painting.  That required a lot of blending.  For someone who loves mixing and matching things in my life, I obviously need some work on how best to mix and match in certain situations.  Good life lesson. 

It has been a week of time alone (running and catching up on work), time with strangers (craft projects in classrooms in which I was the only one from my family), and time with family.  Again, each of these types of time is a necessary part of my life.  And I need to have the right mix to maintain mental and physical health. 

So, I have benefitted from the many contrasts this week.  Life is about contrasts.  Mixing and matching to achieve a balanced whole.  Not always a coherent whole.  But definitely a balanced whole.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Joys of Just Being Outside

This morning, I woke up feeling like crap.  Maybe it was too much Sharpie fumes.  Or maybe it was the beer tasting dinner last night.  Or maybe the build up of a year of stuff with not enough sleep and lots of stress as I prepare to head into 2017.  But whatever it was, it took me some time to convince myself to go for a run this morning.  

My biggest thought--I'm not going to let one crappy wake up ruin my chance at hitting 2300 miles on the year with just three mornings left after this one and at least one travel day on which I won't run.

So, I put on my gear (today just one cold gear layer top and bottom, some gloves, and a hat I ended up not needing) and I took off.

I ran a shorter distance than any other since arriving at the mountain (5.5 miles).

Along with the shorter distance there was less elevation gain.

And it was the slowest run this week by far (even slower than my Christmas Day half marathon distance).  

But I was in the cool morning air.  I could see the sun.  And I was exerting myself.  

It felt good.

I am truly blessed to have a week of much running and much creativity to recharge.

One of the goals for next year will be to work smarter so I can get some more rest time all year long.  As well as to keep running and enjoying the amazing feeling of being alive.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Greetings or Not

It is always nice to see other people while I am out running.  Whether I am running alone or with a training partner, it is always nice to know that I am not the only one out there.  Most of the time I will greet the people I see.

On my Christmas morning run, I saw only two others out there and thought it unusual to see so few—even on the mountain at Massanutten.  The two were walking the family dog and both wished me a Merry Christmas at around 9 AM.  I wished them Merry Christmas in return.  I thought I was lucky to see any pedestrians out.  Plenty of cars.  But just the two pedestrians. 

This morning, I saw just one person walking.  And despite coming toward me and my offering a greeting, he didn’t answer.  In his defense, he was on the other side of the road. 

But this contrast demonstrates just how varied others on the roads and sidewalks of the world can be.  Each opportunity for a greeting is an opportunity for a smile.  And opportunity to help to brighten someone else’s day.  For those who do not want to engage, I cannot change that.  But for those who do, the experience can and should be a positive one for both.