1/16/2018: Relate What is Good to What Can Be Improved
Speedwork has been and is still a fearsome endeavor for me. It’s because I know before I set out to run that at some point before I return home I will be running on little oxygen, even if only for seconds at a time. That feeling of breathlessness is a bit scary, and it also takes me to a mental edge. Each repeat takes me to this point, and each one requires a mental struggle, a brain battle to relieve or to endure the unavoidable discomfort. It sounds like a punishment and that point in each rep feels like one. Why do I do it? It’s training and preparation for what is to come in the marathon. It is a well-known prescription for succeeding with a time goal. I’m committed to pace people, and this is my service to others. When I’m fighting up that hill at speeds that deprive me of oxygen, I know it’s in those brief moments, seconds, that are the greatest opportunity for breakthrough, for creating greater endurance and strength. There are physical benefits, but the largest benefits, for me, are mental. Running hard gives me a new level of experience with self-talk.
I do this self-talk in running better than I do it anywhere else. I struggle with this self-talk in day to day life. Logic would say to me that if I can do it in running, I can surely do it in life otherwise. This will be a focus for me in 2018; a translation of the good and true and honest lessons in running to life outside of running.
1/23/2018: Notice, and Then Enjoy Daily Gifts
Today I set out to do speed work. I decided to do this a little different today. I don’t have indoor equipment and I do not have a gym membership or access to an indoor track. This is by choice. I prefer outdoor running. I ran the back roads by my house. The two mile mark is on a bridge overlooking a highway. After running hundreds of miles around town, you really get to know mileage marks. So, I decided to use the straight gravel road for speed work. I knew it was a little over a quarter mile to the next crossroad, so I knew it would be close to the distance I needed. My plan was 6 x 0.25 mi. repeats. I began the first one, starting from that 2 mile marker on the bridge, checking my watch for a distance gauge. What I discovered made me look to the heavens in amazement. The 0.25 mi. mark was at a place in the road where gravel briefly turns into pavement. It was exactly 0.25 mi. at that transition, and I had this built in marker for the end of the interval! Bridge to pavement line was a quarter mile. These things make me stir inside, like it was meant for me to be out there on those isolated roads today. God gave me this gift so that I could just enjoy the gravel road and the effort level of my body. I felt such joy. Here is a photo of the back road. Solitude, peace, fresh air. I hope to visit here again.
1/27/2018: The Present Steps are the Only Ones There. Bring Good Energy into Them.
My husband and I watched a video today about finding your purpose. It was a delivery by Eckhart Tolle. What he did, what he said, and how he said it resonated with me. His message is that living our primary purpose is right now, in the present, in this very moment. He talks about how our mind interrupts and congests this living and being connected. He expressed the beauty and significance of our being right here, right now, always. The future is only a perception. I catch myself all the time in this interrupted and congested state of thinking. I went on a long run yesterday evening, before watching the video. I’ve been working on being more aware of my thoughts while running. I recognized yesterday that as I encountered places in my run that felt more labored, my legs heavy, my breathing out of rhythm, my mind tried to switch to negative thoughts. It attempted to message me of my challenges, my worries. Over hundreds of miles of running, I’ve learned that this does nothing good. I switched my focus to the steps I was in, reminding myself that this is just one foot in front of the other, as fast as I can go and still be in control of breathing. This was helpful and nurturing, and encouraging. And, it brought me through the moments nicely. Eckhart Tolle also talked about time, and how time eventually kills us. He wasn’t expressing this to create fear or urgent reactiveness. His point is expressed by discussing how we think of ourselves in the past and in the future when the only place that we can be is in the present. Time eventually does kill us and our only opportunity to “be who we are” is in the present, now. Both the past and the future exist in our mind only, because our being, our bodies, can’t be in the past or future. The present moment, always, is where the opportunity and experience of wholeness, fullness, and who we are is. All we have to do is be, and notice, and recognize what’s right here. I’m on an exploration. I’ve found no substitute for running endorphins, and running endorphins are wonderful to experience. I’d like to learn how to just be, when I’m running or not, and to experience the satisfaction, the fullness, the completeness each moment has to offer.
1/31/2018: The Hill is Daily Life
I texted my husband today because I was feeling unmotivated to run, and it’s speed work day. Expressing my non-motivation, telling the truth about it, and while it was a text, connecting with my husband about it, gave me this sense of being real. I’m learning that being real offers the best potential for unburying my motivation, even in the moment, and offers input for decision making. Sometimes the less pleasant aspects of making a commitment feel and seem uninspiring, and in those moments I can even question why I’ve made this decision. One of the things I really like about running is its ability to keep me honest. With running, in moments of being unmotivated, there’s no one else to place this burden of mine on, no developing alternate solutions so that I can focus on the things more pleasurable to me. With marathon training, you don’t get to delegate parts out. If you want to be able to endure the race with a time goal, you have to place stress stimulus on your body and create adaptations. And, by the way, the human body is an amazing wonder of a creation. It adapts, and it is resilient. Runners know this most commonly as speed work or tempo work. My truth telling, my admittance, unburied my motivation. I want to be trustworthy for others I will be responsible to pace. On race day, I wish to be comfortable, capable, and confident. Therefore, I will do the speed work. I will endure discomfort. This picture is of the hill that I did speed repeats on. It’s a 0.2 mile incline just down the road from my house. I find that I can conquer most of my fears really close to home. So, what happens on this hill is a familiar progression. At the start, I’m pretty fresh, and my breathing isn’t labored. And then in about the middle I get to a consistent pace that’s uncomfortable but not unbearable. In about the last third of the hill, it’s pretty uncomfortable. I’m feeling heavy, my breathing is more panted, and my arm swings are trying to make up for my legs lagging behind. This is typically where self talk will take me one way or the other. I’ve realized that the discomfort lasts for about 33 seconds of each repeat. This is true of things that happen in life, daily life. I become uncomfortable, and I decide I don’t want to be there, in that discomfort. So, I’ve developed all kinds of what I call escapisms. I react, judge, switch focus abruptly. But, if I can get honest with myself, acknowledge the discomfort as just that, whether it’s an irritation, a fear, a misinformed judgement; if I can let it be as it is and allow the discomfort to be there, not reacting to it, it passes and I discover that I can. And, just like being on that hill, there are times when I feel like I want to quit and disengage in daily life. But, what if I stay present and engaged? What can happen then? And this is where my breakthroughs in being have the most potential.
2/6/2018: Peace & Beauty “Bubble”
God gave me time for four miles today. These words are particularly significant, each one of them. I’ll explain why. It’s the day after a big snowfall covered our roads and yards. It’s beautiful, freezing cold, and my senses are heightened. After I turned off of our street onto a “main” backroad, I heard birds chirping and the sun was shining bright. I had just described to my women’s bible study group this morning how I’ve experienced a peaceful, beautiful, and plentiful “bubble” in so many moments since I surrendered my life to Christ three plus years ago. This was one of those moments. It was particularly significant, because less than two hours prior, my life flashed before me. I could have been killed. I was driving this morning to bible study about 10 miles south of my house. This is a highway with two lanes going north and two going south, with a large grass section in between. The grass section was completely covered with snow. I was within less than a mile of my turn off into the neighborhood where the study takes place. I was crossing the last bridge before the turn off. My Jeep caught a patch of black ice and began fishtailing out of control. It was -1 F. The car was completely out of control, spinned around, went into the median violently spraying snow over all of the windshield and side windows. I’m moving swiftly sideways at this time and I knew I was headed into oncoming traffic on the other side of the median. I could see nothing and I could control nothing. For a few seconds, I thought, if there’s a car or truck coming, I’m getting hit. I cringed in the drivers seat while my car kept spinning right into those lanes. The Jeep came to a halt facing the direction of the flow of traffic, in the hazard lane. I had survived unscathed. I looked in my rearview mirror and could see traffic coming up behind me. I paused for a minute trying to decide what to do. I put my hazards on, drove to the next exit, turned back south, drove ever so slowly back across that bridge, and went to bible study. Cars and trucks were flying by me, over that same bridge where I lost control, with no sign of ice or slippage. I wondered, why me? What is this? Coincidentally, or not, we discussed the idea of roadblocks in our lives, as it pertained to a passage in Acts 16. We talked about how we view and/or react to roadblocks, and whether they are just cautions or complete road blocks. I’m lucky to be alive today. If this is a caution, it’s a very strong caution. And, what I couldn’t help but think is that some day our lives, my life, will end, in an hour and place in which I do not know. It can happen in an instant. This morning, I had 3 seconds to be ready for this possibility, when oncoming traffic crossed my mind and I could see nothing as my Jeep was out of control headed right for the other side of the highway. I ask myself, will I be prepared for the end? And, I know, the only way I can is to live each moment fully, in awareness, in gratefulness, and in surrender. Ready for life, and ready for death. That four miles today was filled to the max with the beauty and brightness of the snow, the song and sight of the birds, and gratitude that I am alive.
2/27/2018: What to hold on to
My family was without internet for 13 days. Can you imagine being without internet capability even for a day? Even if our houses are without, we have phones, free public accesses and friends who will let us share theirs. I found it interesting that this outage in our house came at the same time as the start of lent, a time of reflecting on what we hold on to in this life or of how we use our time or how we give. This time without internet was a perfect opportunity to experience what happens to us when we don’t have access. I must admit that it caused me to wonder. My challenge, given that I’m committed to written communications to mentees as a volunteer, was whether it was more important for me to see to it that I got to internet somewhere to carry through with these commitments, or whether this was a personal challenge for me to accept the absence of the internet, to notice how instinctual it is to check email, phone, messages, and to be more selective and creative in prioritization of importances. I ended up with a blend of both of these. There was a day in the middle of this time that I went to a coffee shop to fulfill some bill obligations and also to connect with mentees. Otherwise, I spent time reflecting on the importance of letting go of things we hold so tightly to.
I ran my first tempo run of this marathon cycle today. Like speed work, it is a scary endeavor for me. I have done dozens of these type runs, but each time, I know this is my weakness in training and I also know it’s the very area that will make the marathon easier. A tempo run is when you warm up with a couple of easy miles and then run some, two in my case today, at a pace that’s just beyond discomfort, and then you finish with an easy mile or two. I had support today that helped me through. I’ve been trying to pay more attention to what’s going through my mind when I run, and particularly when I get tired and it’s challenging. I attended my women’s bible discussion group before the run today, and we talked about how aware we think we are of the spirit within us and to what extent we allow that spirit to take over. The only way to be aware is to be present, fully. I thought about this during those first two warm up miles, how I need not think of the tempo miles while I’m running the warm up miles. I focused my attention on the step I was in and each one thereafter. I need not be in mile 3 when I’m in mile 1. This worked for me today. I used the same approach in the tempo miles, only it was even more intentional to be able to endure the discomfort one step at a time. I made it through just fine, and I was kind, caring, and encouraging within. This is joy. The experience of self care, self encouragement, and the words we can use to create a self that then becomes capable of impacting the lives of others in very positive, fulfilling, and encouraging ways. I am getting there, by the grace of God and others that He is planting into my life. I invite God to keep planting and to keep tilling within me. I believe.
2/28/2018: Recognition of resistance
I have opportunity this week to recognize my resilience or lack there of to changing routine. In marathon training, most experts agree that our bodies perform best when we commit to routine and create somewhat of an expectation that on certain days we will emphasize the same type of work (for example building endurance, strength, anaerobic capacities). Our bodies become used to they type of exertion we’re asking for on certain days. Today would normally be my speed work day, the toughest training day of the week for me. But, my kids are home from school, so what I had to work with today was very limited time in the early morning. This is really a test of faith for me. Our routines are constantly interrupted by things planned and unplanned and our resilience to them indicates something about our needs, preferences, tolerance, acceptance, and character. Admittedly, while this has improved significantly for me over the last few years, when I’m committed to something that has a best outcome when I stick to routine, it is still challenging for me to flex to life as it presents itself to me. I risk the healthy adjustment to reality and to what is best when this challenge presents itself. I can feel a fear, a resistance, an intestinal tensing that threatens to rob my sense of security, self-confidence, and faith. I am not in control of circumstances, but I can hope, and pray, and surrender to them, not to white flag for failure, but in faith that they are purposeful, have meaning, and that I can embrace them as better for the journey, and even for training.
Today, with the time I had to run, early this morning, I chose a tempo run. Tempo miles are faster than normal easy miles, and offer the challenge to keep moving at a swifter pace even though it’s uncomfortable. During the latter part of the tempo miles, I felt wind resistance. I got to thinking how this is a natural, God given resistance. Then I got to thinking about the resistance we experience in life. It could be someone resisting or rejecting us or our ideas, it could be our own resistance to hear something or someone, or it could be a circumstance we experience as a “road-block” of sorts in our plans or desires. What I concluded on this run is how important it is that we recognize the difference between resistances of our humanness (out of ego, selfishness, pride, anger, reactivity) and those which are presented us by God, for his purposes and for our good. And, how is it that we recognize those resistances, and how do we react to them or manage through them?