Saturday, December 31, 2011

In the rear view

There is only one time that is important – NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time that we have any power.”    Leo Tolstoy

I am not looking back. Today is the last day of 2011 and I suppose I could write the obligatory summarization of the year. I could talk about how many miles I ran, the highs and lows with my family and work, and try to put a bow around it to make it seem all nice and tidy. You know, like a sitcom where all issues are discussed and resolved in 23 minutes or less after commercials. I not going to though. Fact is, 2011 was dirty, frustrating, exhilarating, tiring, and adventurous. I enjoyed it all and the book is closed.

 In the past, I would gaze at the new year ahead and keep one eye on the year just passed in the rear view mirror. Problem was, is that I was never enjoying the moment. Sure there are moments when running, or even now in writing that I feel that "flow" and in the moment, but what about expanding that to all the moments that we experience. What about being present all the time?

There is an old Zen saying, "Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water, after Enlightenment chop wood, carry water." If you are fully engaged and present there are no differences in the tasks. Being fully engaged can lead to several things: Increased enjoyment, reduced stress, and getting things done. Why might these things happen as a result of being present?

If you are in the moment, you are just experiencing as it happens. There is an true enjoyment in the activity. You are not checking your smart phone for text messages, or going over the list for the store, you are there. Because you are only focusing on one thing, your stress level is reduced. Things get done because you are focused on the task at hand. Whatever you are doing has your full attention.

The good thing is if you are already an athlete (runner, triathlete, golfer, etc) you have experience in being present. You know what being present means when you are fully engaged in your endeavor that you truly enjoy. There are no distractions and you are fully immersed. That is flow. Just like exercising the muscles the only way to keep both eyes on the road or task and not in the rear view is practice.

Are we talking about practice man? Of course, its the secret to success. Remember as a kid and you were learning a new sport or instrument? The only way to improve was to practice, over and over, sometimes much to the pleas of our parents to stop. Now, I know most of us don't have the time to commit to a "practice" each and every day but in the course of your everyday routine there are plenty of opportunities to practice being present.

1. Do one thing at a time: If you are reading, just read. If you are folding clothes, just fold clothes. Don't check Twitter, Facebook, or think of all the other things that you have to do. Experience it.

2. No failure: It's impossible to fail. Practice is what is important. Even if you start/stop you are still working that muscle: Focus

3. Exercise: It's great practice for being present. Listen, look, and feel for when you start to feel that flow. Those are the signs that you can look for when are doing one thing at a time outside of your exercise.

I am not perfect and I am not present all the time. However, I suspect that most of us are somewhere else most of the time rather than focused on the now. Not looking in the rear view is a place to start as we turn the page on a new year.

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, December 30, 2011

Points of Interest

As a kid I have vivid memories of driving back East from Michigan or up to Northern New England with my face plastered to the glass. While the miles rolled and with a AAA Trip tik in my hand, I imagined stopping at the various points of interests advertised along the way. Billboards dotting the landscape talked about a Trading Post, or Indian Cavern and indicated that they were just a few miles off the route we were currently on. Sometimes my dad would indulge us and pull off to let us explore before getting back on the road.

I never lost that sense of wanting to get off the road to explore. Running has helped to fill that void for many years, but as this writing challenge has unexpectedly brought about some change, I have been entertaining some thoughts. If 2012, is to have no goals, what if there are some points of interest along that way, that I could pull off and check out throughout the year? Unlike those attractions that I wanted to see as I child, these points of interest have no timetable. How I get to them and how long I stay will all be up to me. These are just a few of the points of interests that I am interested in pulling off the road to check out.

Learn a new language: I took French and Spanish in high school, but all I can remember from those classes are the horrible crepes I made for a project and my Spanish teacher’s affinity for Playboy. There is a beauty to the spoken word of a foreign language that is intoxicating.

Get Published: Writing this blog is a bit like getting published without getting rejected from a magazine, journal or website. Furthermore, there are technically no requirements for my topics, so I think that working through the process of trying to create content will be one of value.

Volunteer: Although I help coach my kids sports teams, I would like to expand my area of service. That could be at a running race or even something in the social services area of the community.

Learn to play an instrument: I picked up a guitar several years ago and quickly passed it on to one of my students. I could strum a few chords (Friends in Low Places), but never got over the initial callusing of the fingertips to build on. In essence, I never exercised the muscles enough. Maybe the guitar, but I have always had an eye on the piano.

Become more politically astute: In light of this being an election year, I must admit to being a dolt when it comes to politics. If it's in the paper, I skip over it. I really would like to understand the issues and the sides from all parties involved.

Can running help with these points of interest? Absolutely. While I am out on my early morning ambles, I can listen to podcasts that cater those points of interests so that I can maximize my time. This can serve as a springboard for my day if I am going to look into something further or practice if time is available. I won't have a Triptik in my hand, and my face won't be plastered to the glass. Instead, the window will be down and I will sticking my head out looking for a point of interest to pull off into to.

What are your points of interest for the coming year?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

No Goals

“ A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu

It’s easy to get swept up in the current. If your ear is bent and your eyes are open to what occurs this time of year it is a declaration en masse. People are mapping out 2012 with projected races, schedules, and training plans. To their family, friends, Tweeps, Daily Mile friends and others, making this declaration gives them a sense of accountability. Something to chart their course for the new year and something tangible that people can check in with them on as the year progresses.

Aside from the accountability, it provides people with a clear cut path with specific checkpoints in which to gauge their progress. Failure to meet those checkpoints at the predetermined times often means going off the paved path and scrambling through unfamiliar terrain. This deviation from the plan is only temporary with the hope that this shortcut will have you back on track towards the goals established. Sometimes taking the shortcut though can lead to anger, frustration, and injury because what if the goal then becomes unattainable due to not being able to get back on schedule? What if staying on unfamiliar terrain is a better course?

Normally, I go into each year with some clearly defined running goals. Run a 100 miler, re-qualify for Boston, run a 40 min 10k, etc. From there, I usually work backwards to give some shape to the goals within a framework. It’s easy when you are plugged into social media or around others when the declarations begin for you not to start thinking about goals as well. However, although there have been some ideas that have bubbled to the surface, there has been nothing that has taken flight for me. Nothing has gripped to me to say...this is what I really want to do. Maybe my running goal for 2012 is to have no goals?

No goals mean no schedules and no checkpoints. I am not committing to any races or schedules for 2012. I am free to venture off the road as I please and stay there as long as I like. If that means that I become engaged in an idea, a pursuit, or a challenge outside of running then that is what I will do. Running and I have been together for so long that it’s not going anywhere. However, I do believe that it is time to expand the circle a bit and welcome some new interests in.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Exercising the Muscle

“You will never gain success unless you love what you are doing.” 
- Dale Carnegie

As the end of my own self imposed writing challenge is approaching, an interesting thing has happened. That “thing” hit me somewhere today just before the 4 mile mark of my run. With the bitingwind blowing straight into my face, and as I struggled to hear a BBC podcast about Henry David Thoreau, it hit me, I love writing. It’s that kind of declaration that is made in silence because you know if you were to scream it out loud that people would turn an look at you with that odd tilt to their head like “what’s wrong with him?”. Then again, I could have done that since it was still dark out and I was the only one on the road out running.

Long before I became a runner, I wrote. I wrote stories as a youth about a character that I called “Super Cop” and remember painstakingly typing them out on an old borrowed typewriter with ink that barely covered the paper. But just like any muscle, if not worked out often enough it atrophies and has no endurance. It becomes a frustrating cycle of starting and stopping because you can never quite get over that part where it becomes natural and free flowing.

In the past few days, as this daily blogging exercise has forced me to write to meet my own self imposed deadline, I have started to see that writing muscle grow once again. Similar to my daily runs, I have begun to feel that “flow” when writing. Proposed by Mihaly Czikzzentmihalyi “flow” is often referenced as a mental state of operation in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and success in the process of the activity. Those short bursts of writing in the first few days of the writing challenge, slowly awakened those atrophied writing muscles. Setting the  timer initially at 5 or 10 minutes and storing at a blank piece of paper, was like looking at a training plan and seeing that you had to do a “long run” that was farther than you had ever gone before. In passing days, that writing muscle as I have taken it out and written has begun to grow stronger. It no longer seems like a chore.  Even the idea of getting to 262 words daily, which yes, I admit that I check the word count in Pages, is like warming up during  the first mile of a run. The idea is to get the blood moving and the body loosened up with the idea of moving towards “flow”
Success in terms of writing right now is doing it every day. My challenge is over in 3 days, but I will still continue to write. My writing muscle is growing stronger and with it my love for doing it. I am not saying that writing will be kicking running to the curb, but it had better be prepared to spoon.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Different Lens

To escape for a little while, I sometimes lose myself in a book. Lost between the pages of a story, I can imagine scenes, people and ideas being played out. A silent observer to the action. What happens though when you read a book, and even after closing the cover, the scenes and people you imagined are actually being played out in real life?

Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression, written by Dale Maharidge and photos by Michael S. Williamson is a powerful look at the last 30 years of the the “working class” and America at large. Traveling by train, plane, and automobile, the words and pictures put a face to the struggles of “everyday” Americans from the trickle down Reaganomics of the 1980’s to the globalization and downsizing of corporate America of the current day. Families of every configuration are highlighted as you read about their dreams and struggles all intertwined. The ease of credit thrown around by the banking industry, to the ghost towns of Youngstown, Ohio and my city of Detroit decimated by the shifting of industries for a cheaper fare to other countries, as well as the daily struggles of single mothers, and families are all part of the landscape that we call this country. For the most part though, these struggles go unreported. These types of stories don’t drive ratings.

It would be easy to dismiss this book as something that doesn’t happen where I live, but in reality I see it nearly everyday and it starts with my morning run. On one of my loops that takes me through Ferndale and then back up to Royal Oak via Woodward, I often see an older gentleman pushing a grocery cart while yelling obscenities as well as incoherent ramblings as I run by. Before the book, I would just put my head down and keep rolling, but its one of those signs of a great book. A book that even after you are done reading makes you look at situations through a different lens. I wonder silently, is he a casualty of this “New Great Depression”? Have all of his resources, opportunities, and families dried up? What’s his story?

Another running loop of mine takes me past a church heading into downtown Royal Oak. Not even a 1/4 mile from the restaurants and shops, I see homeless people in the early morning hours bundled up in sleeping bags of make shift cardboard boxes, tightly packed into the corners of the building to protect themselves from the frigid air. Like the older man pushing the cart, I start to ask those questions to myself. I know my wife will see most of them in the next few weeks when the warming shelter’s rotation comes to our church. It’s a cycle and it’s one that is hard to escape.

Throughout the book, statements were made about how the current redistribution of wealth in this country has widened the gap between those who are wealthy and those that are not. For some analysts, this gap is as big as the recession that rocked this country in the 1930’s.  There was a collective belief at that time that this country had to work together and do the work that was necessary to restore greatness. This country is more than about those that have and those that don’t. My lens that I used to view things with is rapidly changing and coming more into focus. What I thought I was doing is not nearly enough and that I can do more.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Why wait?

Gifts are unwrapped, stomachs are full and now there is a lull. That lull is the time between Christmas and New Years. Not a lot is going in terms of work for the majority of people and retailers are doing their best mind manipulation to get you into their stores to spend either those little plastic cards or your hard earned money.

Inevitably, now is the time that you start to see articles and references for resolutions that should start on New Years in less than a week. Why now? Why does the start of the new year signal that a change can take place now? Part of it, I believe at least is marketing. There isn’t a whole lot going on like I said, so why not drum up something that will sound snazzy and coincides with a fresh clean slate in everyone’s mind. Of course along with the clean slate is a whole slew of gadgets, apps, and gizmos to get you headed and reportedly keep you moving in the right direction.

My question is why wait? Why wait 5 more days to start something that you could start today or even tomorrow? Is there something that you have been wanting to do?  Learn a new language? Create something great? Is there a list in your head that you hold onto secretly waiting to find the time and or place to go for it? The time and place is now!

I have realized this as I have been going through my self imposed writing challenge this month and to be honest it is quite refreshing. I have been jotting down notes of things I have had in my head that I have wanted to do, but never said I had the time. If I can make the time to write this daily blog entry, then surely I can find the time to do things on my list that I have taken from head and put down on paper. My time for action like yours is now. What is it that you have been waiting to start on?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Over it....

I agree with my dad’s dogs. I am over it. Spent. Wiped out. Done with it all. The build up to Christmas day is in many ways I have decided is like running an ultra.

First, you have to plan accordingly. You need to look at your schedule and those of your family and friends and figure out when you can get together. This takes a highly coordinated effort as no one can really remember their schedule without checking their 3rd arm (smartphone) or asking their second brain (Siri). Think of this in terms of sending in your application for an ultra that you really want to get into and waiting as they pull the numbers ever so painstakingly. You would rather get picked/schedule that appointment than get the dreaded words, “waiting list or I’ll have to get back to you.”

Secondly, when you meet up with friends and family, it is best to graze like coming into an aid station at an ultra. You don’t want to seem like you are ungrateful, but you are better off to nibble than to stuff with your face with calorie dense foods, like chocolate covered Oreos. You know from your training that an upset stomach will only slow your forward progress.  Sip and nibble become key phrases this time of the year just like out on the trail.

Lastly, as you weeble wobble through the last several days and nights you can see the finish line in sight.You know if you can just keep moving forward that all your planning, sipping, and nibbling has put you in the position to finish strong.  All that is left is the mad dash for the finish line, err gifts,  and with the paper flying like some fried legs after moving for 24 hours you cross the line hands in the air. You look around at the carnage (paper, toys, bodies) and look for a place to crash.
In the end, much like at the finish line of an ultra, you can put up your beaten body and feet up for a few restful moments with a smile on your face. Maybe, even a cold beer will find your hand  and you will have the strength to hobble over to the table for some well deserved chow. A justly reward for a long journey.

Merry Christmas,

Dirt Dawg

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Rembrandt and Running

So what does the world renowned painter and printmaker, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn , whose achievements were part of the Dutch Golden Age have to do with running? If you were to line up his art and running side by side, there is nothing that would seem to make any correlation. But at look at his process and running, and that is where I made the connection.

Last night, the wife and I headed down to the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) to take in the exhibit that is currently been shown called: Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus. Mind you, I am not well versed in art at all. I once took an  Art Appreciation course in college , and have been to the DIA as well as the Toledo Art Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago but really have no idea of what I am looking at. Simply put, I don’t talk the art lingo nor do I understand how they produce all the different types of mediums out there.

That being said, I did have somewhat of a revelation last night as I wandered around with my audio tour of Rembrandt’s exhibit. As I toured lost in my thoughts with the headphones on, the exhibit talked about how Rembrandt would often begin with sketches before moving onto creating paintings or the other forms of medium that he used. That’s where it started to click. You see, Rembrandt used his sketches as training, building his skills and his foundations before moving onto greater pieces.

How exactly does that translate to running? Our daily runs serve as a foundation for something greater. We can not hope to achieve a PR, distance goal, or health  without having first laying the groundwork. Like Rembrandt, we might start a training program or try out some workouts and find out that they just don’t work for us. So, even though we might scrap it and move on, we have become that much more in tune with ourselves and our craft that we call running.

As a result, I have a much greater appreciation for what painters like Rembrandt were able to create. They didn’t just pick up a brush and create a masterpiece. Their passion for their craft comes through with their tools in which they choose to create their expression. Our tools are our shoes. Run happy my friends.

Friday, December 23, 2011

COD - Change of Direction

I like my running routes. They might be flat and run through residential and city streets, but they are my routes. No matter where I have lived, I have always come up with several routes that have become my daily staples. Whether I run them fast or slow, I can count on them to be the same distance day after day and I don’t have to really think about where I am going. Right on 9 mile, right on Woodward, the routes become so ingrained in my legs, it is like flipping a switch and cruising on auto pilot.

That’s why today’s amble was a COD, change of direction. When I headed out the door,  I ambled along on one of my normal routes  in reverse. Mind you, I don’t do this. I like the comfort of my routine. In fact, when I started out, I resisted the little voice telling me to just keep moving forward on my normal route.  Once I turned right instead of going straight, I began to see things differently.

When you keep going the same way all the time, nothing really changes. You might notice subtle changes to the landscape, houses, or business but only if you take the time to look around. Going in the opposite direction every once in awhile can change your perspective. For example, the route I chose today in normal rotation I have done hundreds of times in the nearly 6 years at my current residence. Not once, did I notice that there was an Actor’s Studio or a Photography Center like I noticed today. Now, I am not interested in becoming an actor, but my wife who got her new camera for Christmas early might be interested in learning how to take better photos.

Now, I am not sure what prompted this. Maybe it’s this notion of scratching below the surface and some cracks are starting to form on the top layer as a result. Often times, it has been through my daily forward motion that I have to work things out in my head and try them out there on the road before I am ready to put them into practice. The COD was good today and maybe I need to start making it more or a routine.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Scratching Below the Surface

Someone commented yesterday in response to my post stating that on paper, that I had failed in terms of my running goals, to think of all things that I had not done yet. They were spot on and without hesitation, I responded back, "I am just scratching the surface of what I have done and what I am going to become. " My response bore authenticity as it has been a feeling that has been below the surface for some time now and has slowly risen to the top as of late. It struck me that this was somewhat of my first public declaration even if only to one person that there was change ahead.

I cant quite pinpoint where the idea has sprouted from. Could it be that I just passed my 10th year as an educator in the same building and am wondering what should be my next step? Is it an early "mid-life" crisis? Could it be that my recent return to  writing has paved the way for the idea to spring forth? Maybe it is that at some level, I have come to an understanding of who I am at the moment and what I contribute to society. In respect to that, while I feel that I do positively contribute to society, I feel that I should be doing so much more. I believe that I haven’t done all that I can do.

What “more” means and what it will entail, is something that I believe will slowly unfold as I start to scratch below the surface and start the journey.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On paper, I failed

On paper, I failed. At the outset of 2011, I had written some goals down to guide my running for the year. With no more races, it is safe to say that there won’t be any more opportunities to and achieve the goals that I had written. Below are the target goals that I had set for myself.

1. Another Boston Marathon qualifier (3:15 or better)

2. Better my 18:51 5k time set in high school cross country

3. Sub 40 min 10k

4. Complete a duathlon or triathlon

Here are the fastest times I ran this year for each of the goals:

1. Marathon: 3 hr 32 min

2. 5k time: 19:41

3. 10k time: 41:05

4. No duathlon or triathlon...

If I were to simply look at what I had written down and based my success as a runner off of that then yes, I did fail. However, as I began to ruminate on the goals written, I actually learned quite a bit and grew as a runner.

First and foremost, I tried not only one but two training plans this year. For years, I have eschewed running plans, but I thought that if I was going to try and get back to Boston, then I should try and follow a plan. In the spring, I followed Hal Higdon's Intermediate Marathon plan and even though race turned into being assaulted by aliens and a 4 hour finish, I was quite satisfied. I learned the value of scheduling runs for a week and why runs based on the pace you expect to run in the marathon are important. When fall rolled around, I jumped into the Hanson’s Marathon Plan and learned about making sure to adequately warm up before settling into race pace and the added value of speed work. Again, race day was what it was, but I came to appreciate the value that a training plan can provide.

Secondly, I made a return to the track and actually raced some 5k's. Prior to this year, I hadn't gone to the track to do any specific training since high school, and I couldn't recall the last time I raced a 5k. The anaerobic gasping of the 5k's this year brought back memories of my high school cross country days. I found myself enjoying the challenge of racing rather than dreading it after I learned that warming up slowly prepared the body for harder efforts. You can’t just hit full speed off the line without priming the engine. Racing the 5k's were a great lesson in making sure I didn't blow my wad in the first mile and translated to a solid 10k in the fall.

The most important thing I learned this year was that even though I set the bar and failed, I still grew as a runner. If I had set the bar too low and achieved the goals to early in the year, I wouldn't have given myself anything else to shoot for the rest of the year. In that, I continued to challenge myself and it made me step out of my comfort zone in regards to running. Sometimes, we have to step out our comfort zone and feel the fresh air of a challenge to be rejuvenated.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Last Minute Stocking Stuffers for Runners

There are still a few days left until the fury that accompanies the mad dash of present opening. The baited anticipation upon waking up and making the anaerobic dash to the tree and wasteful motion scrambling to find the best way to open up the taped, shiny goods is very similar to a 5k. For me, some of my favorite goodies in the mad hare scramble are found in the stocking. The following ideas are some of my favorite things and can easily fit within that stocking if you are still looking for a few hidden treasures for your runner.

Injinji Socks

I began running in these socks 3 years ago as I transitioned into ultras. Several pairs and models of socks later, these are my go to socks for long runs and races. The first few times you slip your toes into their own individual sleeves might seem odd, but soon enough I think you can appreciate the comfort and the fact that your toes are not rubbing up against each other. Since I began using them, I have not had a blister on a long run or race. Bonus: they come in several fun and funky colors.

IPod Shuffle

I know that most runners who listen to music and or podcasts carry their Smartphone with them. However, I don’t like to carry a lot with me on a run and seeing as how the shuffle clips to your waistband or back, it weighs next to nothing. Furthermore, I load up the shuffle with music and or podcast for the run and go. No need to stop and find what I want to listen to with my smartphone as I just click a button on the way or worry about getting it wet. It was gone through the washer and still keeps playing. If your going long, the current version has been upgraded to 2GB which is large enough to hold several hours of audio enjoyment.

Road ID

No runner should take the road nowadays without some form of identification. I am quite forgetful in nature, so the idea of taking my driver's license doesn’t work. After I strap on the GPS, the next thing is always my Road ID. I use either the Ankle ID or Write Elite ID due to my daily shoe rotation and know that it there. Besides the fact, it gives my wife peace of mind when I am out there out on the road.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 19, 2011

12k's of Xmas

Sometimes the best organized events are those without an entry fee. Take for instance the 12K's of Xmas that I participated in last night. Organized by a friend of mine Kevin, who runs the website Just Finish (, this was a "fun run" event meant to celebrate the holidays. The opportunity existed to either run, walk, or man the tables and pass out the food and drink at the end of each loop.

The out and back 1km loop was run on an residential street and people were quite festive in their wear. Some sported tree skits, holiday socks, and even Santa made an appearance:

Me, I stuck with my standard Santa Socks, and newly acquired Grandma sweatshirt and Elf Hat.

My race bib:

Here is the menu:

Start: Champagne Toast

1K - Hot Cocoa and Peep

2K - Beer and Pretzel

3K - Shot of Peppermint Schnapps and Candy Cane

4K - Milk and Cookie

5K - Chocolate Wine and Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seed

6K - Coffee and Fruitcake

7K - Beer and Donut

8K - Shot of Hot Damm and Cupcake

9K - Eggnog and Peanut Butter Cup

10K - Hot Cider and M&M's

11K - Beer and Cookie

12K - Shot of Grand Marnier and Gingerbread

There had been some gentle ribbing amongst several of us as to who might "win" the event. At stake was an artfully crafted Christmas Tree belt buckle made out of cardboard. Santa said "Go" and we sprinted off.... With my elf hat flying I quickly realized that we were scampering at a 7:30ish pace and that I wasn't going to be able to maintain that given the food and drink that I needed to ingest.

I will not lie. I was quite concerned that at some point given that I had to run between each K, that there was a likelihood that I would be making my own special concoction that would fly like a sleigh. However, that was not the case, and I ran, walked and had a chance to catch up with some people all the while ingesting the yummy treats laid out. Managed to finish in second place which in reality meant nothing other than I got to stop and eat pizza and drink beer. A great event that I hope to fold into the already busy holiday season.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

From ID'er to Fanatic

Dear Brooks Running,

For the past several years, I have worn your shoes when I have laced up to head out for a run. I owe much to the staff at Hansons Running Stores for introducing me to your footwear. From the Dyfances, to the Axioms, Ghosts, Launches, Adrenalines, Green Silences, and Cascadias, in them I have found a line of shoes that work for my narrow, high arched foot.

When the opportunity presented itself two years ago to apply for the Brooks ID (Inspire Daily) program, I thought that I might as well try. Given the fact that I write a blog, produce a running podcast, tweet , and ran in several races in the Metro Detroit area, I figured I would have an outside shot at making it. Still I was nervous that I did not do enough that would fit into the criteria of Inspiring Daily.

Needless to say, I got in and for the past two years, I have worn your gear proudly. At races as well as on the podcast and this blog, I have continued to promote Brooks. I made sure that at each race, I either sported the ID Shirt or racing uniform provided, and talked about the shoes and gear when questioned.

This year, when the application process began again, I answered the survey to the best of my ability. However, it seemed like the process was geared more towards people who were coaches, or put on races, than the average runner. There was not really an area to talk about the podcast, or blog, or twitter influence. Upon submission, I did not feel really good about my chances of making it.

My chances dimmed as I began seeing people on the Facebook page getting there acceptance letters for the varying levels of Brooks. Sure enough, the email came in last week. Here is a snippet:

" We appreciate your support and dedication to Brooks over the years. In this Olympic year, we had difficult decisions to support all of our key sponsored athletes program. As such, we are not able to invite all I.D. members back for 2012. However, as a valuable member of the Brooks family, we want to invite you to join the Fanatics program."

The immediate, "knee jerk" reaction was to send out a tweet stating my disappointment, and to change my avatar on Twitter which had me sporting a Brooks ID shirt.

Now, I understand that I am not "elite". I don't race every weekend and I don't win races. I am a father and husband with a full time job who regularly runs marathons and does some ultras. Sometimes I help coach people when asked, but coaching my children's sports right now is more important. I run in Brooks shoes and gear every day and talk to and or answer questions from email about your gear all the time on the podcast, Twitter, and Daily Mile.  However, because of your criteria, and to be honest, I am not sure what the criteria was other than that survey,  I apparently did not Inspire Daily enough and was invited to join the Fanatics program.

Yes, I understand that I will still get a discount, but will not be required to wear Brooks all the time and will not have a team uniform.  While you have done an excellent job in my humble opinion in growing the brand and putting together the varying levels of the Brooks program, I hope you don't lose your focus. After this Olympic year, there will still be runners like myself who are not elite hitting the road. Those of us who purchase and talk about Brooks help to support those "elites" as they work towards their individual goals. Even as a Fanatic, I will continue to use that mantra of Inspire Daily with my family, staff, students, kids I coach, and fellow runners that I come in contact with.

Keep Moving Forward,

Dirt Dawg

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's about cliques...

This whole social media thing is like navigating the social waters of high school all over again. Upon confirmation of your screen name and uploading of your avatar, you are all set to go. Go where? How do you make connections with people? Do you stay true to yourself or do you create some new online persona that you wish you could have been?

Even on places like Twitter there are "cliques". Interests, beliefs, and thoughts, once posted to begin to circulate and as a result of that,  you begin to have some interaction with others who post things that are of interest to you. Slowly but surely, like cliques that were formed in high school or even before, you start to surround yourself and interact with people who share some of the same things that you do.
 For instance, there is a group called the EARS (Early AM Runners) that I communicate with on Twitter in the morning. These are people who are up early and getting there endorphin fix on before the sun is up. I have come to rely on them in the morning if I am dragging ass in the am and am lacking motivation. That is what a clique can do. A clique can create rules and boundaries that you must adhere to or face being kicked out.

The downsides to cliques is that they can be petty, exclusionary, and just downright bitchy. However, it most instances I believe in on Twitter and on even on Daily Mile that you will find an overly supportive clique. A clique that only has one requirement. That requirement is that you get out there and get move.

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's Not Ok....

Having been on both sides of a child-welfare investigation, it is never ok. It is never ok to cross that line into abuse and or neglect and it is never ok not to report. It frustrates me that as an educator that it takes an incident such as the scandal at Penn State to raise awareness about something that I believe should be part of everyone’s moral fiber.

This morning as I was reading the USA Today they posted an article entitled “Few penalties for keeping child abuse secret.” A few facts from the story that are important to note:

1. “Child welfare agencies estimate that 695, 000 children were abused or neglected last year. “ Note: These are only ones that are reported. Many abuse and or neglect cases are never reported.

2. “ Only 3 (Arizona, Florida, Minnesota) states have laws that make failing to report abuse a felony, and those laws generally only apply when the abuse is particularly severe or the person has been convicted before” Note: Failure to report in most instances equates to the cost of a speeding ticket. Sad.

What is abuse and or neglect? According to the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum:

1. Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or

2. An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

Now, some people might state that by reporting, that we stressing an already stressed system due to lack of funding and whether they are making a valid report. As someone that deals with Protective Services on a frequent basis, I err on the side of caution and say that it is better to report than do nothing at all. Remember, at one time we were all children and you would have wanted somebody to be the voice for you when you could not do it for yourself.

Note: If you are looking for some general information on child abuse/neglect check out:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Last Minute Reads for Runners

The holiday season is upon us and if you are looking for an inspiring read or something to pass along as a gift to a fellow runner, here are some picks that you might want to consider. I am sure there are titles that I am forgetting. Most of these books are in my own personal collection ore ones that I have had at one time. Some of my favorites are in bold. Enjoy.

Daniels Running Formula 2nd edition - Jack Daniels, PhD

Advanced Marathoning 2nd edition - Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas

Meditations from the Breakdown Lane - James Shapiro

Bowerman and The Men of Oregon - Kenny Moore

Running to Win - George Sheehan

I Run, therefor I am NUTS - Bon Schwartz

The Runner's Literary Companion - edited by Garth Battista

The Complete Book of Running for Women - Claire Kowalchik

Strides - Benjamin Cheever

A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning - edited by Don Allison

The Complete Book of Running - James F. Fixx

Running and Being - Dr. George Sheehan

Running on Empty - Marshall Ulrich

Flannigan's Run - Tom McNabb

Born to Run - Christopher McDougall

The Zen of Running - Fred Rohe

More Fire: How to Run the Kenyan Way - Toby Tanser

Relentless - Forward Progress - Bryon Powell

The Principles of Running - Amby Burfoot

The Last Pick - Dave McGillivray

Pre: America's Greatest Running Legend - Tom Jordan

UltraMarathon Man - Dean Karnazes

50 in 50 - Dean Karnazes

Duel in the Sun - John Brant

Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving--and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity -- Sara Bown Shea and Dimity McDowell

Once a Runner - John L. Parker Jr.

Again to Carthage - John L. Parker Jr.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Knee Jerk

Old habits are hard to shake. While I am trying to start a new habit with the "262 words or more" challenge, there are plenty of other habits that I would like to shake or reform. One in particular is the habit of doing a "knee jerk". While some might confuse knee jerk with the sharp reflex that is caused when striking the patellar tendon, it is instead reserved for an automatic reaction to something. Sort of like, shoot first, ask questions later. I guess that’s the first step in changing is acknowledging that the problem exists right?

My "knee jerk" reaction most recently had to do with the completion of an online graduate class for my Special Education Supervisor program. While in the past I have steadfastly refused to participate in an online class due mainly to the fact that I actually like going to school and interacting with my peers, this class was more out of necessity given the time constraints with the family this semester. I quickly fell into a routine of completing assignments and receiving little or no feedback on them, but began to have a bit of anxiety when I checked the grade book and noticed that there were no grades posted for several of the most important projects. The "knee jerk" reaction was to jump the conclusion, "Well, the professor is not doing their job". After taking some time to actually stop and think, I emailed the professor. I stated that the end of the semester was approaching and that if I needed to redo any of the assignments that I needed to be notified in order to make corrections. A response soon followed from the professor and my "knee jerk" was for naught. They indicated that the online grade book had several system errors and was being worked on by the IT department and that I had earned all of my points for the semester. Furthermore, a mass email soon followed to all of my classmates indicating the problem with the grade book and to enjoy our holiday. Now, if I had wanted to head down another “knee jerk” of mine to question the answer as to why this had not been mentioned earlier, I could have, but stopped to think and seeing as my original question had been answered, I left well enough alone

In the end, and as I travel down the road the lesson that I need to keep reminding myself of before heading towards a "knee jerk" is best summed up in the words of Joe Friday, "Just the facts ma'am".

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's about connections

If it hadn't been for the podcast that I produce, I am fairly certain that Sandy whom I had a chance to run with yesterday and I would have not crossed paths let alone go for a run. Oh sure, we might be at some of the same races, but that would in no way guarantee that we would have met. As an runner who is up and done before the sun is up on most days, pretty much all my runs are done in solitary. While I enjoy the time to be there out on the road by myself, it is a welcome relief to be able to share the road with a fellow runner. Sharing the road with a fellow runner in my opinion guarantees that the miles will roll by faster.

While I say that my runs are done mostly in solitary that is not to say that I am not connected. One of the best things about social media is that I can bring along podcasts to help pass the time as well as laugh and learn from people all over the world on a myriad of topics. In that respect, I am connected. Likewise, in producing the podcast and this blog, I have been able to connect with runners from around the world in a way that I thought was never possible. Now, with merely a few clicks and words, you can have interaction in seconds through other social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and Daily Mile.

In connecting with Sandy through the podcast and several others that live in the Metro Detroit area, I have begun to expand my once small circle of running friends in the area. Though these connections and others that I have built via the social media avenue, I have found that I have been able to not only enhance my knowledge about running but also have learned so much from them as individuals. These connections based upon a mutual interest have served as springboard to learn from others in a way that I certainly would have not thought of and are even stronger I would argue than some connections we have with people we see on a daily basis. Maybe, Friedrich Nietzsche was onto something when he said, “Invisible threads are the strongest ties”

Monday, December 12, 2011

Setting the bar

A week ago, I started my own personal challenge to myself with the "262 or more" effort. The idea simply was to motivate myself to write at a minimum of 262 words and publish daily through the rest of the month. Why 262? I thought a play on the marathon distance (26.2) would be fun and even 262 words would force me to sit down and write on a daily basis. Once I got my first post up in this effort, I received feedback saying that only having to write 262 words per day seemed like such a low bar to reach and would be easily achievable. I began to mull this over and thought that although in one person’s eyes the bar I set for myself might be low, for me it was a reasonable goal. Even in only a week’s time, I have learned several things.

First, the commitment to write the bare minimum amount of words per day has forced me to write for at least 15-30 minutes a day. This means that I have to carve out time each day to meet my goal. A little less surfing the tubes of the Internet and a few minutes less of TV watching and Walla...time to write! I liken it to starting an exercise regime or anything else you are trying to make a habit in that you have to make a commitment to doing it on a consistent basis. That is the only way that it can become a habit.

Secondly, forcing myself to publish each day gives me a sense of accountability. It would be very easy for me to say that I met my goal if I were to just write in a journal or keep the document saved in Evernote. However, if I post in on the blog, then there it is as a means of record clearly indicating whether or not I met my daily goal. I am not saying that I am writing anything that is really worth reading, but again, it holds me accountable.

Perhaps, the biggest thing though that I have learned so far, is that the wheels are turning to come up with a topic that I want to write about on a daily basis. There is a sense of excitement as I look at or read things and wonder if I can generate something based off of that. So far, I have started each day with a blank slate and then started to write with an idea that comes to mind. As I continue to write daily, more and more topics seem to pop up and I have started a list from which to draw off of.

In setting the bar, I certainly did not think that in a week's time that I would start to see dividends like I have. However, because I set the bar at a reasonable level, I am continually feeling like I am successful everyday and that just builds the momentum to keep going. Setting the bar where I can achieve success only means that I will be ready to jump a little higher the next time.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Making time for one....

Being a parent it is a continual learning process not only about yourself but also how you interact with your children and the things you do with them to help shape their lives. Let's face it, there are two sides to the coin when you have kids. On one side it is all shiny with joy, and on the other side, some of the luster seems like it is gone, when events have you pulling your hair, rolling your eyes and wondering what am I going to do with them. Now that my children have started to become little people in their own right with thoughts and opinions, I believe in making time for one.

Making time for one is essentially time without the other the sibling. Just like my ME day, it is important to spend some time with each child and do something with them without the distraction and interruption of the other. It is a time to have conversation, enjoy their company, and do something together that interests the child. It never ceases to amaze me how different my children are and by making time for one, I believe that I can understand them more.

So, this weekend, I made a point to make time for one. My 4 year old is in love with love, princesses, and public performances and I couldn't think of a better way than for her and I to go into town to see the local performance of "Cinderella" at Stagecrafters. This idea was almost grounded from the beginning, when I went in to get tickets the day before, and the woman told me they were all sold out for the Saturday matinee. Luckily another employee overheard the conversation about me wanting to take my daughter and sold me some extra tickets that she had bought. Whew!

I made a big deal of this with my daughter. On my run that morning, I thought it would be fun for us to dress up and head to Gayle's Chocolate's for a big girl drink and  special treat before the show.  I am not sure if I am being self conscious but I overheard how nice it was for a daddy and daughter to be out together on a "date" to the theater.

Hot Chocolate aka Big Girl Drink

Chocolate Covered Twinkie

We made our way to the theater, and as the play proceeded, I would look over at my daughter sitting on the edge of her seat.  She was so entranced by the beauty of the theater and that kids were performing a play that I thought this was a really great way to introduce her to the theater. During the intermission, we discussed what might happen during the second half, and I showed her that when the lights dimmed that we needed to get back to our seats. At the end of the performance,  she wanted to get autographs and pictures with Cinderella and Prince Charming. She soaked it all in and I am not sure which one of us learned a greater lesson.

Not to be left out, I made sure I made time for one with my son, as he and I headed down to the "D" and took in his first NFL game today. As you can tell, he took it all in.

As I was talking to my dad about both experiences heading home from the game today, he said it was all about making memories. Creating and sharing experiences with my children that they will hopefully remember as they grow up. It is certainly not a one and done deal here, as I found immense value and satisfaction from just getting to spend some quality time with them as individuals. Not every experience has to be as a family or in a group. Sometimes there is greater value in making time for one.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A change in season

No other season says "I"m here! Look at me!" more boastfully than winter. As you go into any other season, it is difficult sometimes to see where winter melts into spring or spring boils into summer because it is usually done at such a slow pace that you just naturally accept that a new season is here. Not winter.

Oh winter might send out a few feelers where a couple of days might have you put that hat on or pull the zipper up all the way on your coat but that’s it. However, it sends a clear “HELLO” when it drops snow on the ground. You now ole man winter is ready to settle in for a few months. Now, as a midwesterner, I really don’t count the first snow where it sticks only to the grass and cars and then is gone by mid morning. Nope, the first time I really can say winter is here is when it sticks to to road and I can make tracks while running.

So there I was was yesterday, looking out my window and giddy at the thought of heading out in the darkness of the early morning and getting a chance to make first tracks when I saw everything covered in snow. There is something special to heading out the door and making first tracks even if it is on snow covered streets. Now, ask me about enjoying winter running again in a couple months and I may have a different opinion. Upon my return home after eight miles of crunching powder underneath running in a snow globe atmosphere, I saw the the inscription on my car. Was it ole man winter telling me how to best enjoy this new season?

Friday, December 09, 2011

ME day

Shhh...Don't tell anyone, but today I am doing something selfish. Today, I am taking a ME day. It's rare, that I have a day that is all to myself with no responsibilities. Yes, I did take the kids to school, but then that is where my little responsibility ended. I told the wife that I had a conference which meant I could take the kids to school and go in later. Later as in Monday but let’s not argue over semantics.

Its not even that the “stress” of the holidays has gotten to me. I knew though that if I had mentioned to the wife that I was staying home, the honey do list would be a mile long. That list will still be there, but none of it is getting done today.

I just need a day. A day to sit at the local coffee shop, doing a little writing and maybe head to the book store.It’s the equivalent of a spa day to me. I get a chance to recharge my batteries, doing a couple of things that I genuinely enjoy with no real time limit. It’s important to recognize when you just need to slow down for a day and take a break. I have heard some people, say that they need to get away from it all and go on a vacation when the stress gets to be to much. While vacations can be expensive, those same people often come back and say that the vacation was actually more stressful then what they were trying to get away from. My ME day today is cheap, I don’t have to travel very far, and I can still pick up my kids after school. No one will know. Well you of course, and maybe the wife if she remembers the blog.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

This guy

I received a frantic phone call and text message yesterday from the wife stating, "Where is A......? The kids can't find him and they are freaking out." A...... , and no it is not short for a..hole, even though I think that might be appropriate sometimes, is that freaking Elf on a Shelf.

This guy, who I must admit is a sheer stroke of marketing genius created in 2005, was brought into our holiday mix last year and cemented himself as part of the tradition when he reappeared this year. I remember last year when the wife brought him home, because she had read about this guy and thought it would be fun. The problem this year however, was when we brought him out was that none of us, the kids, the wife, or I could remember A......'s name. Of course, at the back of the accompanying book that comes this guy there is a space for you to write this guy's name. We didn't do that. Therefore, this year, when I read the book to the kids, we renamed him A....... As of this writing, I still haven't put A...... name in the book.

The idea behind this guy is that he is supposed to be like a direct line to the big man himself. Every night, this guy is supposed to take off and report to Santa about how the children have been doing. In the morning, when the children wake up, this guy is supposed to be in a new spot in the house in which to collect his data and assimilate into a neat and tidy TPS report to submit to the dude in the red suit. While it seems like a great idea on some levels, there are a few reasons why this guy only adds to the holiday "stress”.

Now, I am not going to lie, I use A....... as a manipulative piece of psychology with my kids. Being that they are 4 and 7 and still believe in Santa Clause, they believe that this guy genuinely reports to Santa himself. They believe A...... takes notes and tells Santa what they have been doing over the last day. I have even used A..... when they start to wind themselves up and say, "You know, A...... is watching and will be talking with Santa last night." That is usually enough to quiet the crowd to at least a dull roar. Furthermore, the children think he is kind of cute, even though I think he eerily reminds me of those hand puppets from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Despite the pros of having this guy around the house, the cons tip the scales and make me think that A....would sometimes be best served by finding a snow bank to permanentely make his home.

Obviously, this guy doesn't magically transport himself anywhere at anytime. On my better days, I remember to place A..... in some new spot before heading to bed. Sometimes I think I need to generate an excel spreadsheet to reference nightly as to where the little A...... has been. Mornings where I have forgotten where the little A.... has been and my mind is fuzzy from a wee bit to much egg nog, I tip toe around trying to place the little A...... in a new spot. It is a constant source of worry in making sure he has been moved from his "magical" trip to the North Pole.

So in the end, this guy will be sticking around for now. It would be cruel of me to tell him to pack up his candy cane suitcase and hit the North Pole expressway in the midst of the holiday season. This guy has got me by the nutcracker.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared

Last night, I finished a book called, The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma. The premise of the book was pretty simple. A girl and her father began reading each night when she was in the 4th grade, and made a commitment to read for 100 nights straight. When they hit their mark, they celebrated and then set an even loftier goal of 1,000 nights. What started out as simple way for a father and daughter to connect on a daily basis, turned into a 3,000 plus night journey affectionately dubbed, "The Streak” that lasted until she began college. As simple as the premise was in nature, its lasting impact was even greater.

Streaking, in my eyes before reading this usually dealt with running. There are lots of people out there, Ron Hill for example, who run every day and have a set of requirements, whether it be mileage or time in order for the run to count. Alice and her father also created their own set of requirements in order to count, and I can say that part of my idea for the current "262 or more" writing experiment was derived as I began reading this book. While "streaking" in running has never been something that appealed to me, it did bring to mind some ideas as a parent.

As a parent of two children, ages 4 and 7, I was impressed with the perseverance that Alice and her father displayed as life and "The Streak" collided at several points along the way. However, they had made a commitment to the "The Streak" and found a way to fit it in. It reinforced to me that even though I take my kids to the library on a semi-weekly basis, that I need to be more consistent in sitting down to read with them. As a child, I immersed myself in books and can remember many a days getting lost in a great book. My love for reading was cultivated out of this and carries over to this day. Of course that was before the explosion of technology that many children have at their disposal, and to be honest, sometimes that technology is not so great. Honestly, who needs to be engaged at all times with flat slabs that we touch and intuitively tells us what we "need"? I wonder sometimes if it isn't stifling my children's creativity and teaching them that everything can be solved with a swipe or click.

So, Alice, thank and your dad for reminding me how important it is to share my love of the written word with my children. While it's possible that I might start my own streak with my children, what I do want to expose them to is the wonders that lay between the covers.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

It's all about a system

     Out on a run this past weekend with a friend of mine, we were talking about the ways in which our children think of and use technology. On the four hour drive down, I was using my Iphone to listen to podcasts in the car, while my son and daughter traded on and off using an Ipod touch and Ipad to occupy their time. We were all actively engaged in our own respective systems. Needless to say, it got me thinking as to what is the best system for me to be able to set up my current writing challenge. In the past, I have used a good ole fashioned journal and pen, flash drive, or file on my laptop to keep my thoughts. The problem with that has always been for me to remember to take the journal, to remember the flash drive, or email myself the file at home, so that when a nugget pops into my head, I have somewhere and something to jot it down. Inevitably, because I don’t have access quickly enough, my mind forgets.

     This leads me to my current platform of choice for writing, Evernote. Evernote, is a desktop note taking application that allows you to keep everything in sync across multiple devices. In my case on a daily basis, I might use an Iphone, Ipad, Macbook, or Windows laptop. I first came across Evernote, recently as I started taking another graduate class and wanted to give this whole “cloud based” technology a try. The beauty of Evernote to me is that I can start creating something at work, like I am currently doing, save it, and then pick it up on one of my devices and continue writing. For me, it eliminates the need to have that journal with me all the time. Overall, I have been impressed with Evernote so far as my main go to area for creating and saving content. The only downside to this is that it eliminates any reason that I might conjure up for not having access to a system to write.

Word Count: 346

Monday, December 05, 2011

262 or more

So I am tossing around this idea. An idea, which started out as a lump of clay out on the run this morning, and thrown onto this blank canvas for development. I need to have a specific daily goal for my writing to become more regular in its routine. It’s not that I don’t want to write, but I have yet to make it so regular enough that I set aside time each day to do so. And to be honest, I really don’t have a good excuse. I could claim work and family, take up a bulk of my time, leaving little time to write but it just wouldn’t stick. It wouldn't be authentic. What happens is this. I will get inspired and the words will flow to fill few blog posts easily. Then the well dries up and I am stuck.

In an effort to ignite the writing implements (hands and brain), I thought of this idea: 262 or more. Two hundred and sixty two words or more a day, on any topic, thought, or idea and then post it in this blog. It’s not a large amount of written words, but I need something to shoot for. A tangible and measurable mark of my performance on a daily basis. I should add this disclaimer at the beginning that I am certain that some days might amount to goobly gock, but hey, they can’t all be gems. The idea is to get the ball rolling from here on out in order to build momentum into the year 2012.

262 per day from now until the end of the year. Go.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

3rd Annual Lose the Turkey Fat Ass 50k - Race Recap

The 3rd Annual Lose the Turkey Fat Ass 50k reaffirmed just how cool the ultra scene is. This year, marked the return of a friend, Michael Runner who had come to finish not only his first ultra, but his first Fat Ass event, a podcast listener from Florida who just happened to be visiting family, and a runner who had to ditch the upcoming Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon and run this.

Despite the promise of no fee and no aid, 15 people lined up in really bright colors heeding the warning that the course would veer onto trails and there may be hunters out on the course.

In the past, a fellow Fat Ass producer in the area had been kind enough to set up an aid station at the trailhead where runners would hit twice at the 5 and 18 mile mark and laid out a fat spread. This year, I was just going to place some water jugs at the trailhead, but a fellow ultra runner chimed in and said she had to start earlier then the start time and that she would open up her truck and laid out a fat spread for runners to feast on.

With temps in the upper 50's, the trails were in immaculate condition and even the hunters had to be impressed with the train of runners that were out there.

While people had complained about the nature of the course with it being too much road and not enough trail, I was happy to spend the 13 miles on my trails where I first cut my teeth.

As much fun as it was for me to notch another 50k and an unofficial official 2nd place finish, it was even better to see Mike finish his first ultra and that it was the Lose the Turkey Fat Ass was even pretty cool.

In the end, the course always measures a wee bit longer than a 50k, but I was happy to get out there and enjoy the day with some old and new friends.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What about tradition?

I would not define myself as a religious man. Yes, I attended Catholic school for 5 years as a youth and was an altar boy at one point, but that does not mean  that I attend church regularly now. Its just not how I worship.  One thing, though that I still carry to this day and is seared in my head is the point of tradition.

I was reminded this past weekend about tradition, as I was at church and noticed the altar girl walking by with sneakers on. Are you kidding me? Sneakers?? Even in my attend here, attend there state of worship, I would never enter a house of worship with sneakers on. Never. That goes against all tradition that I was taught as a youth. Tradition meant wearing dress shoes and slacks, think Sunday best, if you were going to serve or worship.

Tradition loosely defined is a ritual, belief or object that is passed down throughout society and still practiced or followed in the present. Tradition is why we will gather in a few days with our respective friends and families to share a meal and be thankful that we are able to all be together around the table. Tradition is not about abandoning the past because you are too lazy to follow a precedent that has been set before.

Is this where it starts? A failure to adhere to tradition as to why cracks begin to form in the very fabric of the way we do things?  I believe in tradition because if it hadn't meant so much to so many people in the past then why would it be called a tradition ? There is value in tradition.

Enjoy and embrace the tradition this holiday weekend with your family and friends.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Running Mount Rushmore (Books)

I would be remiss if I were to talk about a Running Mount Rushmore that did not include books as well. No doubt, the people I mentioned before  influenced me more than the written word, but that is not to say that I have not found inspiration or information between the covers of these books below:

Flannagan's Run:

Published in 1982, Tom McNabb's tale follows runners as they cross the United States in race very similar to the Bunion Derby in the 1920's. I came across this book at a resort in Mexico on vacation several years ago and was entranced. Immediately, I was taken with the tale of running a race across the country and following the tales of the runners in a day before GPS watches, mp3 players, and hydration packs. Some were running toward the hope of wealth, others were running for glory, and some were just running because that is all they know how to do.

The Zen of Running:

In its purest form, running is about enjoying the motion of moving forward.  This short book written in the early 70's might be considered "hippie" as the author is seen running shirtless, and with jean shorts, but  there is no denying the joy seen in his face and the grace fullness in his movement. To date, this was one of my favorite podcasts ( Episode 77) to produce when I read this book in its entirety.

Born to Run:

This book seems to be steeped in the forefoot of the "natural" or "barefoot" running tide having  found its way into the mainstream. When I first read the book though and why I have returned to it, is the simple joy found in the Tarahumara Indians and their respect for running. Take away all the medical information, media drivel about turning a quick buck on some new found "movement", and there really is a message about just running. Heading out the door, enjoying your surroundings and those that you run with.

Running and Being: 

When I stupidly threw away all my old issues of Runners World that contained the columns of Dr. George Sheehan, I began accumulating his books to return to revisit the topics and themes that be wrote about. If there was anyone that could be considered "the running philosopher", I would argue that you need look no further than him. His brutal honesty about not only his misgivings but also what running gave to him are what continue to draw me back to his readings.

So that is my list. Surely there are several others out there that I have read and are in my collection, but to date those are the ones that have meant the most to me. If you could choose running books that have inspired you, what would they be?

Friday, November 11, 2011

They might know me better than my wife

They might know me better than my wife. I get this way every time a pair of my running shoes nears the end of their life span. I reminisce about a span in which they have helped to protect me from not only elements, but myself as well.

It is with these shoes and others long since turned out to pasture that I have often composed many a thoughts. Most  have never seen the light of day, and for good reason. Some things are better left unsaid, and I have those shoes to thank. With their protection underfoot, I have been able to explore ideas and feelings out on the road.

They have heard me rant and rave about things going on at home and work, and prepare dialogue for conversations that need to be had. They have listened to me express my fears and frustrations about choices I have made and the ones still to be decided upon. They have done what they have needed to; just listen. Cheap to; I might add. Conservatively, at $90 a pair and lasting around 350 miles, that is the equivalent to roughly $1.50 a mile. You can't even buy a good cup of coffe and conversation nowadays for that price.
So in this sense, they might know me better than my wife. Would, I leave my wife for a pair of shoes? Absolutely not. However, many of those shoes have stories, ideas, and feelings explored and exposed that they will silently carry with them embedded in their soles.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Running Mount Rushmore (People)

Recently, I was listening to the Books on the Nightstand podcast, and they were talking about whom they would  place on their Mount Rushmore if they had to replace the Presidents with authors. Paying homage to those who had influenced them through the written word got me thinking as to who I would place atop my own running Mount Rushmore.

My Father:

 When I began running track back in middle school, it was my dad who bought me my first pair of running shoes. Soon, I was calling him at work to report to the second what I had run the 2.5 mile loop around the sub division in on almost a daily basis. He was an endurance athlete back then, and we would run and bike together when time permitted during the week. On weekends, we would race. Of particular note one time, I remember when we got into such a pissing match about who was faster on a short run a few hours before a race, that neither of us did well that evening. Those are the moments memories are made of.

He was the first person I called after qualifying for Boston and finishing my first 100 miler. We were able to share the road together again last year as we ran the half marathon in Detroit. I still believe we have miles to share.

George Sheehan

I was too young to fully appreciate the weight of his words at the time, and even now, after 20 years, I still find new meaning. When I began running, I sought out Runner's World to fill my appetite. Remember back when the only way to subscribe was to send in the little mailer you found on the walls outside of the supermarket? Each month I looked forward to reading the monthly column of a man who although much older, seemed to be speaking directly to me. He was able to clearly articulate the thoughts that we as runnes often have on the road and put them to paper. That man was Dr. George Sheehan.

When, I moved to the Seattle area for a brief stint several years later, I received a book of his from the people I was staying with, as they knew of my ritual of taking to the road. They said, the bookstore had recommended him. Over the years, I have added several of his books to my  running collection and I often return to reread them. I still  find new meaning in them as my understanding of life deepens and I look at running in the long view and not just merely tied up in the results of the next race.

Steve Prefontaine

Steve Prefontaine is a name that transcends running. His pure grit, determination, and blue collar values are ones that you don't have to be a runner to appreciate. Starting out as a runner in junior high, I heard mention of the name "Pre" but never really came to appreciate the man and his contributions to the running community until years later. My wife, in her running cycles, will often chant, "Pre, Pre" as her battle cry. I admire the man for not only leaving it all out there every time he toed the line, but because he also believed in fairness and standing up for what is right.

9th grade Cross Country Coach:  (sorry coach, no pic)

I will never forget the season ending banquet of my freshmen high school cross country season. When it came around for the coach to say a few words about my season, he started with, "When he showed up, he was shaped like a bell,...." Although, they may have sounded harsh to say in public about a pimply faced 15 year old, they were true. I learned a valuable lesson from the man who was not only my cross country coach but my advanced English teacher that year.

He taught me that through hard work and dedication that I could make something of myself. You could argue that your parents might instill that in you, but as an adolescent, I didn't want to hear that from my dad. I so wanted to please this man, an ex-Vietnam Vet, who would often yell, but I yearned for his approval out on the road and in the classroom.  I wanted nothing more than to take my soft, bell shaped 25 min 5k cross country time at the beginning of the season and work hard. By the end of the season, this desire had dropped my time to 21:10 and although I still was on JV, I looked forward to the chance of continuing to improve. It is still a lesson that resonates with me today.

So there it is, four faces would adorn my running Mount Rushmore. Who are yours?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

So this blogging thing....

Originally, I had entertained the thought of starting this AMAZING blog about RUNNING, FAMILY, and LIFE from a middle aged father of 2 back in 2007. Like anything else, I started off with a gusto, writing and publishing consistently. Whether or not, the posts were any good are certainly up for debate, but the thing was that I had made it a priority and CARVED OUT TIME to do so.

In  my youth, I had envisioned myself a writer at one time. I would devour books and then turn my attention to crafting stories. I knew little about plot, character development, etc, but that didn't matter. I made it a PRIORITY. What I lacked was PASSION to follow through.

PASSION is what I have for my family, running and life. However, I do think there is room in the pie to add one more ingredient: WRITING.

Over the summer, I started writing again. I made it a daily habit. I CARVED OUT TIME, to just write down thoughts or ideas and made it just over a month before school started up again, and PRIORITIES pushed writing to the back burner. This time though, there was still a flicker of PASSION from the month of writing and so here I sit today writing again.

One of my favorite runners and philosophers, Dr. George Sheehan, had talked about his running and writing in terms of a lump of clay. An idea may be formed while on the run or wherever, and it is like a lump of clay. No real form or heft and it is only when it is thrown on the paper that it can be formed and molded into something tangible. Maybe that is where this blog is headed. Taking lumps of clay that I find and throwing them against the computer.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

COT - Carve Out Time

The holiday season is off and running. How in a season filled with gatherings and events can you maintain or even begin a fitness routine? It's simple...repeat after me...COT.


Just as important as your work and family schedule, so should you place that value on your fitness schedule. If you don't have a fitness routine, this is a great place to start. When you plan out your day or week, it is easy for you to CARVE OUT  some TIME.  Write it down and block it off.  Make it something that you can't skip out on.  Make it a priority.

If its on the schedule, there is a measure of accountability. You have thought about it enough to write or type it in, so why not follow through? 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Detroit Free Press Marathon

 The marathon should never be taken for granted. It is not a walk in the park. Heck, Pheidippdes never actually finished a marathon...he reportedly announced"Νενικήκαμεν" (Nenikékamen, "We have won"), collapsed and then died on the spot.

My focus originally heading into this year's Detroit Free Press Marathon, was to once again play sherpa to my wife and support her as she attempted to run her second marathon this year. I was completely ok with this as I really didn't have any other goals set for myself, but when she decided to first downgrade to the half marathon and then drop completely from the race itself, it left me at a crossroads. I could maintain my current training plan which would allow me to finish the marathon in a time that would be well south of my PR or I could take the opportunity to with the short window I had to jump into a training plan and see what I could do.

I chose to jump into a training plan and more specifically the Hansons Training Plan. For one thing, the Hansons Running Stores are my local shop and along with reading the above article in Runners World awhile back, my neighbor was also using the plan as he was attempting to qualify for Boston. Seeing, as I had only 8 weeks from the time my wife backed out until race day, I liked the plan which included a mix  of speed/strength miles, marathon paced miles,long runs which topped only 16 miles in length, and a few easy days. I also felt that with my average mileage over the preceding few months at around 40 miles, I could handle the mileage which would top at around 55 miles per week.

 For as unstructured as my training has been over the years, I have found some value this year in following a plan. While the buildup leading into the Martian Marathon did not deliver on race day, I felt confident going in after hitting paces. Jumping in as late as I did with the Hansons plan, I quickly found myself looking forward to the structured workouts and began thinking that a 3:15 marathon and maybe even a 3:10 marathon might be attainable. A 10k in 41:05 a few weeks out from race day indicated a 3:12:48 projected performance using the McMillan Running Calculator.

Race day came and with projected rain showers and cooling temps, and I donned a garbage bag over my tech shirt and arm warmers. The early miles moved quickly and I settled in comfortably between the 3:10 and 3:15 group. The training had paid off, or so I thought. I had some trouble with my temperature (either to hot or cold) but I thought little of it. Cruising through the half on 3:15 pace, I downed a gel and some really poorly mixed Gatorade. I walked for a bit to let the sugarly sweet mixture settle and started running with the 3:15 group.  Unfortunately, I was starting a back slide that I just couldn't get stop. For one thing, my shorts were soaking wet as was my tech shirt. My mistake in not dispatching of the the garbage bag sooner. I think I had misjudged the fact that it never rained as it was supposed to and it wasn't as cold as I thought. The remaining miles I was reduced to a run/walk as my left hip began to hurt and I was struggling with my temperature. I grinded out a 3:32:49 finish, good enough for 20 seconds better that my previous best.

It wasn't my best, but I was proud of the effort. Sure, I had jumped into a plan with only 8 weeks to go, but I really liked and looked forward to the workouts. I would be interested to see what I could do following the plan from the beginning. At a slower pace, I dont believe that I would have run smack into the wall as hard as I did. The marathon may have broken me for a day, but I will be back.

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