Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Need a New Goal

I ran a 10k on Thanksgiving, and I finished in under one hour. I hope to be faster someday, but for now that was an okay time.

I didn’t train to run a fast 10k. My ability to do that came as a result of my Marine Corps Marathon training—sort of a by-product of four and a half months of endurance preparation. With speed-specific workouts I’m pretty sure I could have done even better.

Marathon training gives my life purpose and focus. It helps me deal with other, tougher things because it provides a solid framework I can rely on. In the end, it improves my outlook, reduces stress, helps me manage my weight, and makes me feel better about life, in general. All good stuff.

Without a big goal in front of me, though, I feel kind of lost. It’s too easy now to get up early and NOT run because I haven’t put a new plan in place. I feel myself slipping from 6 days of exercise per week to 5 to 4 to 3 (last week). I’m afraid to gain my winter weight back, and stepping on the scale this morning confirmed that creep has begun.

And when I don’t exercise I simply don’t feel that great. Conversely, when I do get up and go I feel all the better for the rest of the day.

So I’m going to find and set a new goal. There’s an inaugural marathon in Gettysburg, PA, on May 1, that sounds about right. To get ready for that, I’m going to need some lucky breaks—not four months of snow like last year. But I think I’m going to look around a little bit, too, before I make that commitment. Maybe there’s a new place to visit in the spring that has a good course to run.

I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, November 19, 2010

So I think it went pretty well

It actually was about 35 degrees when I started to run this morning. I wore tights, a wicking turtleneck, and a pullover, hat, and gloves. Just about perfect.

The first mile was a little chilly, but no way near unbearable. After that, though, it was a great 5-mile run. I saw one other runner, which made me think there are others that haven’t been able to cross the bed-to-winter threshold. Otherwise, I was one-of-a-kind.

Having commuted by bicycle myself for one full winter I know that takes even more determination than running. And I saw a few hearty cyclists out there this morning. One of them was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Not cycling shorts, mind, you. Just plain old shorts.

I’m not sure I get that, but more power to him.

When you cycle in cold weather your 15mph pace takes those same 35 degrees and applies a nasty wind chill. I remember the tips of my fingers and toes going numb almost immediately, but I also remember how good it felt to arrive at work knowing that I had conquered the elements.

The hot shower was worth it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cold Start

When I go to bed at night, my body is warm and loose and it’s telling me that it can get up and run in the dark and cold the next day. I agree. I am 100% sure I can do it. I have the right clothes for it, after all, and I really enjoy running in cold weather. Really, I do.

But, oh, those first few minutes are tough. At 52, it’s always a little tough to get started, but when it’s cold, well, it’s more than just a little bit tougher. It’s even kind of hard to get up and on the treadmill that’s situated in a comfortable basement with a TV and central heating. Rolling those covers off is way harder than rolling them on.

But I can only run in place for so long without going anywhere so I’m looking for motivation. I find it in my most basic principle: live a life of abundance. Fundamentally, that means do everything I am capable of doing today.
I’m pretty sure that I don’t have another 52 years, and maybe only just another 15 or so to run, bike, and remain as physically active as I am now. So I want to explore my limits and try new things as often as possible.

I always hope that I can look back on my life and know that I made the most of it. And not just by exercising, but learning, growing, feeling, and doing as much as I can.

The forecast is calling for about 35 degrees tomorrow morning at 6:00. I think I’ll have a cold start—and a warm shower afterwards.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Not Your Typical Motivational Speaker

Several years ago, on the way back from a long ride, my knees were achy. I had gone on a hilly course, and even with 20 gears on my bicycle I was pretty worn out. All I had to do was crest one more modest hill, and I would just about be home. It didn't feel easy, and I was griping to myself about that nagging pain.

Just as I reached the top a guy passed me going the other direction. He was perfectly balanced on his bike-- and pedaling at a comfortable pace--but he had only one leg. I stopped griping immediately.

I've seen that same gentleman many times since. Even in the last few weeks, as I tapered down to the marathon, I saw him pass me by. He's not racing or pushing; he just glides along. I often wonder what he would do if he had to catch himself in an emergency, but his demeanor says that he's got that pretty well figured out, too. I admire and respect people that can overcome physical odds to do things that many others would probably just not try.

The picture shown here is of another person with a relentless, positive attitude. I literally came across John Tartaglio at Mile 14 of the 2009 New York City Marathon. He had been ahead of me up to that point, but the arduous task he faced made mine pale in comparison as I gradually caught up.

It's kind of hard to tell what he's doing in the picture, but Tartaglio is "running" with no legs. He lost them both--almost all of the way up to the hip--to an infection when he was in high school.

To ambulate, he straps both of his stumps to a single spring and then competes on crutches. I described the sight later to friends by saying that he "runs" on a tripod. He usually competes in his racing wheelchair, but his goal that day was to become the first amputee missing his thigh bones to run NYCM.

It was truly an amazing thing to witness, and I was not embarrassed to stare for a while at an incredible example of perseverance and courage in a young man of just 22 years. And, yes, I learned later, he does make motivational speeches. I'd like to hear him.

Monday, November 1, 2010

In His Honor

Elaine, Pidge, and Sally, my marathon support team
As I waited for the starter's gun to go off, I was fully aware that it had been a long and sad few weeks. My training had gone perfectly well. In fact, I had completed 99.5% of the 640 miles I needed to cover over the last eighteen weeks. But the anticipation and excitement I felt last year in New York were missing, and for good reason. I miss my dad.

My friend Michelle's enthusiasm and nervousness should have influenced me more. The power of the exuberant crowds and all of the "first timers" should have rubbed off on me. The perfect weather should have made me relaxed and confident. My support team, with Sally among them, was waiting for me at Mile 4, again at Mile 8, and, finally, at the finish. All of those things were good, and true, and helpful, but they couldn't make me complete. I miss my dad.

I cried in the parking lot of his last "working building," the Pentagon. I cried as we passed the park where I ran the base paths as a toddler. I cried as we ran by the place where we fed the squirrels. I cried as we went by the Department of Labor, the Air and Space Museum, the HHS building, NASA headquarters. I cried as we passed Arlington Cemetery, where he will be laid to rest soon.

For the majority of his career as a civil servant, Washington, DC, was my father's life. Yesterday, it was my honor and privilege to finish the Marine Corps Marathon on the very paths he graced with his skill, his dedication, and his energy. While I was exhausted and sad for much of the 26.2 miles, I never, ever, ever considered quitting. When I reached the finish at the foot of the Iwo Jima Memorial, I raised one hand and silently pointed to the sky.

Yes, it was a hard day. Yes, it was a sad day. But, mostly, it was a good day. I got to run with my dad one more time.

Rest in peace, Dad, and thanks for coming with me.