Friday, June 29, 2007

Back At It

Two weeks of vacation with extended family created lots of good memories and plenty of different running opportunities--along the Virginia Beach boardwalk, through Greenbelt National Park in D.C., some neighborhoods around Williamsburg, VA. But it is good to be home and back to familiar places. I was a bit surprised how excited the kids were to get home last night--almost giddy.

For some reason, during this morning's 5.2 I found myself thinking of glimpses of the future. One of my kids likes to read the end of a mystery novel first in order to find out who will still be alive at the end of the story. She says she can enjoy the rest of the book better if she knows the ending. I don't get it--why ruin the tension and mystery? But what about real life. If you could get a 30 minute glimpse of your life five years from now or fifteen, would you want to see? How might it change the way that you live today? In a morbid moment, I wondered what if I look five years into the future and find that I'm dead? Would that change anything that I am doing now? If so, shouldn't I go ahead and make those changes? Why wait?

One of the reasons that I love running is that it gives me time to ponder questions like this that I otherwise would not have the freedom to consider.

P.S. My brother is going to run a half marathon with me in December (in Florida). I am excited about sharing the journey with him, as well as the event. Who knows, he may even grow to like running and then I will have more than a brother--a comrade for the roads. Cool thought.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Slower to Go Faster

By about mile three of this morning's run I began wondering why everything felt so good. It felt as if I had just started out. Then I realized that yesterday was an official rest day. That one day of rest transformed today's run into a quicker and smoother experience. In the midst of focusing on training and putting in the miles, it is easy to lose touch with the incremental physical toll that such this training regimen is taking. A rest day is not only good for my body, but also for my mind. And planned rest is the best. If I miss a day because of weather or schedule, then I feel bad and tend to get down on myself. If rest is written in on the schedule, then I am free to be OK with not running that day.

I wonder how many people are functioning in daily life with little or no rest. Not so much a vacation, but rest in the midst of regular life. That is something that I need to get proficient with--how to get sufficient rest in the midst of work and family obligations to stay at the top of my game (such as that is). "Daily rest" must fit within the structures of the rest of life or it will get squeezed out by other responsibilities.

Jim Anderson from the NCD-EFCA ran a sabbath retreat that I attended where he tried to convince us of the value of regular sabbath time. Sometimes I think that I should have paid more attention.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Free Thought Zone

Some people look at runners and think that our experience is a mind-numbing repetition--left, right, left, right ... It is true that running does not necessarily require a lot of attention, but I usually find it to be mind-freeing. Last Friday I got to go flying in a Cessna 172--an early Fathers Day gift (props to all!). It was thrilling to fly the plane for much of the flight, including the landing, but it was attention intensive. No time for daydreaming. Between watching for other aircraft, watching the instruments, watching where I was going, and trying to give my Dad a smooth ride, it required all of the attention that I could give. This morning's run was different.

I could think about the work day to come, our upcoming vacation, what to see in Washington, D.C., how to find someone to embroider the 50th anniversary shirts, what needs to get fixed on my truck, whether any of my kids will go to DePauw (my alma mater), you get the idea. In the course of 5.2 miles, I can think a lot of thoughts. The running route was familiar, so I didn't even need to think about where I was going. The freedom is wonderful--and right outside my front door. I also enjoy the freedom to think while there is nothing else that I should be doing. There will be time later in the day for work, family, and other responsibilities. While I run I can let my thoughts go wherever they want to go--and enjoy the journey.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Regular is OK

I want my blog to be pithy and insightful. The kind of blog that someone might stumble upon and be struck by the witty commentary on life and thought. But such is not to be. I am not terribly pithy or witty--at least not in ways that come across well in print. Yet I am becoming more satisfied with the reality that I am a pretty regular guy whose most outstanding accomplishment is providing a platform for the exploits of my kids. I can be OK with being regular, instead of some well-known world changer. I don't need headlines or notoriety, just a sense that I am doing some good in the spheres of influence in which I find myself.

Training is similar in that not every training run is spectacular or noteworthy. For example, this morning's 3.5 was over a familiar and often-run course, at a pace that I am settling into (just under 9:00/mile), and with a view of an ordinary summer sunrise. No particularly insightful thoughts or revelations. No extraordinary animal sightings. Nothing particularly notable. Yet regular is OK. It is part of the training process and will have an ultimately good result.

As a kid I remember being told that I could be anything I wanted. And for many years that is what I told my own kids. But I have come to realize that the statement, though well-meaning, is simply not true. I have now shifted my focus to helping my kids/myself find out what I can be really good at and enjoy, and following that path. Rather than trying to be something or someone that I was not created to be, why not simply do all that I can to be the best me?

This is not a mater of selfishness, but of efficiency. A pliers is not selfish if it chooses to pursue being used to tighten and loosen nuts, rather than to be used as a hammer. It is simply being itself. There are hammers for hammering and pliers for plier-ing. The pliers doesn't have to do all of the tool jobs. No one person has to do everything--in a home, an office, a church, a team. As each one does their own part well, the collective will be better off.

What do you enjoy doing that you do well? How can you align your work, service, home to do more of that?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Keeping the End in Mind

This afternoon's run was tough. Very hot by 4:00 when I finally got out on the road. A very good reason to run first thing in the morning. I appreciated every bit of shade and the splash of cold water from someone's sprinkler. If I did not have a greater goal that I am working toward, it would have been easy to cut off the run for a shorter route. But as the miles added up, I kept thinking that this run will set my mind so that the left turn up Summit Avenue will not seem overly daunting. I will be able to approach the toughest part of the TCM course with confidence that I will make it through to the finish line.

It is by keeping the greater goal in mind that we overcome immediate adversity. Whether that it is a tough, hot afternoon run, or studying hard when your friends are going out in order to get the grade that will support your application to a top college. Keeping the end in mind bridges the gap between the need for present discipline and the hope for future attainment.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Not all roses, but well worth the effort

I would hate for anyone to get the wrong impression. As much as I love running and my training for the TCM, it is not easy or "no big deal." 5:00 a.m. is still early and my body is still 47 years old. It is not easy, but it is good--good for me in the long run and good in the midst.

Our contemporary culture is quite taken with easy and painless and happy and carefree. The preferred course of action is usually the one that is easiest. But what about character-building difficulties, what about "no pain, no gain?" If all that you do is take the easy route, what will you do when there is no easy way? But if you have experience with overcoming difficulty, then you can meet it head on the next time with confidence rather than abject terror.

I suppose that training for a long run reflects this reality. I run a little bit more each week--with a little bit longer "long run" each weekend--so that I will be prepared and confident about running 26.2 miles on October 7th. If I just showed up at the start line on October 7th, I do not think that my chances of finishing would be very high. The training over the next few months will carry me to the finish. The training is not glamorous, nor is it easy, but it is worth the effort--for the attainment of the ultimate goal.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Big Mo-mentum

It hasn't taken long for the momentum effects of training to kick in. I am finding it easier to get out of bed at 5:01 a.m. than to stay under the covers and it feels like I am missing something on the days that I do not run. Plus, this is the perfect time of year for running in Minnesota. For example, this morning it was light by the time I left the house at about 5:15 and it was about 48 degrees with no wind. I got to watch the sun break over the horizon and was part of seeing my little town stir from the night's slumber.

I think that I often underestimate the effect of momentum in other aspects of life. When things are going well relationally with my kids, it is easier to keep them moving in that direction. When they are not, it takes extra effort to get things headed in the right direction. I find the same to be true in my journey with God. When I am spending time praying and reading my Bible, it is easier to do those necessary disciplines the next day. When I miss a few days, it seems harder to get back into a healthy pattern.

I like the momentum effect when it comes to running. It makes me feel more like a real unner and less like someone who is trying too hard to cling to some imaginary glory from his younger days. I like the feeling of getting out on the streets while most of the town is still asleep and feeling that this is "how it should be." I really like the time to think long thoughts. To begin to mull over something today and know that I have a few more days this week to give it all of the time and attention that the thought deserves. Hurrah for momentum!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Good rain / Bad rain

One of my favorite local running routes goes out of town to the east along the Mississippi. Today's run was about 6.4 and about 3.6 in the rain started--gentle, but steady. It felt wonderful to me and I enjoyed the cooling, refreshing sensation. But not such a good rain for the motorcyclists and graduation party-ers. It all depends on your perspective.

If perspective is so important, can we choose our perspective? If so, then why not choose to view events from a perspective that ends up leading to a positive view? I am always amazed when I hear of people who face extreme hardship and difficulty with a positive view. At the same time I wonder what causes those people to make that choice and why others are devastated.

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Runner's Rest

The training program says that I should rest today. But I feel fine. Apparently the body performs better in the long run if there are periods in which to rest and recover. Based on what I read, the muscle fibers heal more fully with a rest day and end up being stronger. OK. If Mr. Higdon says to rest, I'll try.

This will give the opportunity for a non-running reflection. Since January we have had the greatest foreign exchange student experience possible. Nana is from Denmark, is 16, and has been a joy to have be part of our family since mid-January. I'm sad that she is going home in a couple of weeks. Thrown into a new cultural experience, with a family that she did not know, into a new school, new foods, new ... (you get the idea). I have not heard her complain one single time (other than joining in with one stray comment about the cold in mid-February). She has tried new foods--including sweet potatoes; new experiences--including kayaking, a 10k run (see picture at right), and being on the track team; and has found new successes--her quilt that she made for school is stunning. Props to her parents for raising such a delightful young lady. Now we get to plan a trip to Denmark for a visit and to meet the rest of her family.

Sometimes tackling a scary adventure can provide the opportunity to experience so much more than we ever would have had we not gotten past our fears. Is it worth it? Nana would say it is.