I often share overly personal information about my family on Mostly Teachable, but neglect to share some of the honest to goodness details of my happy life here in the wilds of Southern Michigan. This year I plan to post my photo collection from each Week That Was. To kick off 2013, I thought I’d go back into my vault and share some of what turned out be a really nice 2012. Here are some of the pictures from the last 12 months:
As of this writing, I’m down to less than 23 weeks before the marathon of my life (every marathon is called this until it’s been run and then I tag the next race with that title). There are lots of issues to consider, and I’m on something like #23 out of #120,000. Training time, nutrition, goal weight, injury prevention, gear prep. These are some of the most pressing, but the granddaddy of them all is getting to that magic number: the goal time. I want to run 3 hours and 59 minutes, or less. This will require prayer, intensity and a drive to leave it all on the trail. To quote a song of the moment,
I want to scream and shout and let it all out!
The thing is I’m off-balance. Coming out of the fog of depression, I suddenly want to do everything. I really desire to romance my wife properly, run races, work with local volunteer programs, perform exemplary work at my job. To accomplish those things means some tough days and many bad meals. There are set back days in which I eat bad because I can. In the end, though, the main thing has to remain the main thing. If I want to run a sub-four hour marathon (or even finish the marathon), then I have to achieve balance. Train right, not eat like a depressed person. Sleep. Quiet, meditative moderation with the occasional scream and shout just to feel alive. The drive to leave it all on the trail, only tempered with the contemplative spirit. The opposite has been happening lately. I cannibalized lots of Chips Ahoy! cookies on my way through the disordered past few weeks. Weeks of running around rather than running forward, or with purpose. I may not be able to everything, but if I train for and run a good race the right way, then I’ll have achieved something that will travel with me for the rest of my life. That, I can scream and shout about.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. –psalms 121:1-2
I’ve riffed on the subject of running and The Mad Monk Season many times, but the feeling is embedded so deep within my soul to get out and conquer the pavement that writing on it just seems like a natural extension. The Mad Monk Season is that time in running each summer when my focus narrows to life’s basics. Each day I give my all to family, especially my 9-year-old daughter Anna’s acting pursuits (she’s in a musical tonight. Go Anna!), to doing precedent setting work at my job and to meeting all of the strange and wonderful obligations that grown-up life has to offer. I make no bones during the summer training season, however, that my focus is honed in on three basic questions: How can I love God and give him everything each day while helping others be the best that they can be? How many games back are the Tigers? When can I go and run? There is no giving short shrift to anybody, just a paring of life down to the essentials. The idea is to lose weight spiritually and physically.
Today’s running music mix on my phone featured a completely great, but not really good for cadence song by Radiohead entitled “Subterranean Homesick Alien.” I didn’t hit fast-forward, because I love the line
Making home movies
For the folks back home,
Of all these weird creatures
Who lock up their spirits,
Drill holes in themselves
And live for their secrets.
Do we? Sometimes, watching out for the cracks in the pavement, I do just let it all go and abandon myself to the gifts God has given me and to the joy of running itself. Sometimes, I’m only training to be human. A mad monk on no mission at all. The marathons will go fine when I get to them. (Lyrics from Radiohead’s “Subterranean Homesick Alien, 1997, OK Computer. Used without permission).
A few months ago I was lamely explaining my reasons for abandoning the daily running program that had become a cornerstone of my life. The whole argument came down to barfing. Professionals turn their noses up at the term barf, seeming to prefer the more tasteful notes in the word puke, or that classic of the ancient world vomit. I, however, was spending all my free time (and many of my scheduled moments) barfing. The doctor was trying to establish how much I was “really” running. The answer was not at all, real, or otherwise. Barfing had me on a fitness program of its own, and that was about as real as things got.
I got off the barfy train a month ago thanks to medications that may kill me (but will keep my stomach contents in place) and began the task of rebuilding the runner’s body. This is not an easy gig. The inverse of living as Andrew and His Technicolor Dinner Re-runs, was that I had to eat to make up the lost energy. My body began to take on the look of Jabba jr. The way back to the solid, strong (and mercifully silent when outdoors) runner I used to be meant becoming a walker. Jabba the Shuffler is slowly being replaced by something better than the old upchuck marathoner of a year ago. To coin the cliché, whatever doesn’t make a person sick any longer, should make them mad enough to go and fight. My once full race schedule is down to one event, the aptly named Old Farts Marathon, in Lowell, Michigan at the end of summer. I have no notions of suddenly getting back into good form. The truth is that this will be a season of dirt, scrapes, hills, too-early mornings, and way-too hot afternoons. A very good trade for barfing, if I do say so myself.
First off, thanks to the Dutch spammer who sent the weird material. I had no idea you could do so much with a windmill! Man, what a strange week. I’ve put aside all of the silly little things that came with being on vacation like sleep and um…sleep. ‘Back on the chain gang. This morning I was in the restroom at work and started to fall asleep. Standing up. That’s part of being grown up. In my old college days I found myriad ways to sleep. If there had been a major in creative somnambulism, I’d have made the dean’s list. Remember 1994? I don’t. Spent that year mostly asleep. Until recently I thought Newt Gingrich had been invented by the same geniuses who gave us K-mart and underwater speed dating.
This week has been a reminder that the change of calendar really can be a sign of a magical year to come. There are marathons to train and work toward, both physical and spiritual. What is lost in sleep is made up by possibility. This is the year when I take 10 more minutes off my 26 mile time (which makes my new marathon pr 23 hours, 36 minutes), There‘s the novel I joke about writing every year. Maybe this will be the season that it gets done. So far, like this blog, it’s just a rambling 300 word mess. I have the faintest bits of plot mapped out. See, there’s this famous ex-Heisman winner and TV sports analyst who goes on a killing rampage. He can’t find gloves that fit. You know, I had that dream back in the 90’s and I always wonder if it could happen in real life. Nah, that guy would totally go to prison. That story is about as believable as Newt Gingrich.
Early in October, a medical student was filling the gaps in my chart when I visited the doctor for headache follow-up. The future of our health care system set about determining if I get any physical exercise and I gladly told her that I was running five days a week. “Yes. Thank you. Now, do you get any exercise, Andrew?” asked the inquisitor a second time and again I told her that I was running daily in preparation for an upcoming marathon. She peered over the chart and I smiled back the way a gassy baby does. A third time the student came back with “Good. So…are you getting any exercise?” I bowed my head low and wagged it in shame. “No. I don’t get any.” Which is a lie, of course, because I was busy finishing another mad monk season.
I run. What a strange thing for a phobic to do, and yet there I am for months on end cruising the sidewalk like a swiftly shuffling E.T. following a trail of Reese’s Pieces. While I possess the look of withering ham salad left too long in the sun, I am a determined runner. This determination is what I mean by the mad monk season. For several months life is simplified to it’s essentials: prayer, work, running and baseball. All those months, I eat and carry semi-literate conversations (“Klattu barada nikto”), but my focus is narrowed to running farther and faster. After the Community Health Indianapolis marathon in mid October, I rejoined humanity. Ate too much, slept in on Saturdays. Lost the micro-focus. Eventually, I went back to running. There is always something that needs to be done, some goal further up the road that keeps me from constantly looking inward. That, and I need to get some exercise.