Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Long Run

This past weekend, I got a chance to do something really, really cool. I served as "crew" for my brother-in-law as he ran a 12-hour ultramarathon. I've written elsewhere how close we are, and how much he inspires me. We have shared interests and been "friendly competitors" for almost 25 years now. His story leading up to this run is amazing in itself. The funny thing about MY involvement is that I almost didn't go. I made numerous excuses as to why I didn't think I should go along--most of them involving my distaste at spending 24 hours awake over New Year's Eve in the freezing cold. Finally, my wonderful wife, who is much smarter than me, convinced me to go along. It wound up being a high point of the whole year. I had figured that my main job would be to hand out water bottles every couple of laps (the course was a 1-mile loop) and maybe jog alongside a couple of times and offer encouragement near the end when Adam was in "no man's land," beyond his longest previous training run (which, by the way, was 50k, or 31 miles). Knowing Adam's mental toughness, it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would show up, run well, and meet his goals.
As it turned out, there was a lot more to the whole process than I had thought. Just the nutrition-management side was daunting; he needed about 260 liquid calories per hour... more than that meant swollen hands and feet, less meant running out of fuel and "crashing" midway through. There were two of us on the crew, but the other guy had to head back to our hotel to sleep between about 1 and 6 AM (so at least one of us was fit to drive home). Once I was on my own, it was pretty busy just getting the next dose of carb/protein/electrolyte mix ready each lap. And the "jog alongside" part went from being a very easy mile every 4 laps to eventually every other (and eventually an average of every third). As I got past my own endurance limits, I began to just barely experience a taste of what Adam was feeling. There were three "gentle rises" on the course (here in the flatlands, we call them HILLS), and as we hit the inclines, all I wanted to do was quit. But I knew that I would get the next mile or two to recover, and Adam was bravely keeping on every single loop. The effort to keep going was hard for me to muster, and near superhuman for him.
At the end of the race, he had completed 55 laps, without a single break (most of the participants in the race took planned breaks... Adam only stood still to drink his carbo-concoction). I was perversely proud of my own 18 miles, but overwhelmed at how that paled in comparison to his more than double-marathon. (As an aside, this made me think about my attitude towards God's grace... getting all proud of what "I" have accomplished, sacrificed, etc., as if it matters even a bit in comparison to the big picture of what has been done for me.)
Anyway, the weekend was awesome. Being a part of something amazing, sharing a great weekend with a kindred spirit, and sleeping the honest sleep of earned exhaustion. What a way to ring in the new year!

Resolutions 2010

So, it's that time again. Write 'em down, so next year I can look 'em up and evaluate. Most of my goals are changes of degree, rather than direction.

  1. Continue the consistency I've had the last 8 months of running. Log 500+ miles for the year, and race at least once. (Stretch goals--break 21 minutes for 5k, maybe run the Bridge Run 10k, maybe even a half-marathon?)
  2. Read through the Bible again. (BONUS-I'm getting a new Bible! More on that later.)
  3. Go back to my daily Bible study and prayer time first thing in the morning instead of just before bed.
  4. Less time on the internet, more time reading real books.
  5. Drink more water.
  6. Pay a little more attention to what I eat.
  7. Be more intentional about spending time with family. (Not just Ann and the kids, but also extended family. It takes effort to break the inertia and spend time with family, but I almost always feel better for doing it. Sorta like exercise, only less sweat.)
  8. Be a good steward of my gifts--time, talent, and treasure.

That's a good start. We'll see how that feels down the road. They say that goals should be specific and measurable, and except for the 500 miles, these are pretty nebulous. But I think I'll be better off if I make just a little progress on each of these.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2009 In Review

I hope to blog more this year (2010). I'll be posting some resolutions soon, but first I wanted to reflect a bit on how last year's goals came out. Looking back at December of 2008, I can see that I entered the year a bit down on the theme of personal disciplines. I had failed to achieve my goals in the areas of consistent running and Bible reading, and I was a little gun-shy about committing to more ambitious goals and falling short again. This year started off pretty aimless in both areas... I read my Bible haphazardly, usually a chapter of the New Testament at a time, every couple of days. I also began the year with 9 runs in the first 17 days of January, but none of them over 25 minutes in duration. Once my track season began, I only made it out the door 12 more times through April, including 6 runs of 20 minutes or less during spring break in an aborted comeback attempt.

In May, spring pre-season practice for cross-country began, and I discovered that my friend, Hugh, was as disgusted with his physical shape as I was. So we made a pact--we would make every practice, and run SOMETHING during that time. I'm pleased to say we kept that Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday commitment, missing only for illness or major vacation plans (the only two zero-miles weeks I have taken since then were one week of a bad chest cold and the week of my anniversary cruise). Those first runs were AWFUL. Slogging through 3-mile runs at 9-minute pace when the mind thinks you should be going farther and faster (but the body knows better) was torture. But with the added spur of a training partner and a set appointment, we plugged away all summer long.

It gradually got easier, the runs got longer and faster, and goals that had seemed impossible began to come back into focus. In November, I raced for the first time in years, at the Charleston Turkey Day Run. I did much better than I had hoped, and now feel completely rejuvenated in the running arena. As the year ended up, I realized that I was just a few miles away from logging my 6000th mile since I began keeping a log in 1998, which would keep my average at 500 miles per year. Since 400 of those miles had come since May 1, it became a matter of pride that I would get that milestone. Just before midnight on New Year's eve, I managed my 6th mile of the day (in 1-mile increments while crewing for my brother-in-law in an ultramarathon; that story will likely get a post soon, too) and hit the magic number of 460.5 for 2009, just enough to turn the odometer over.

Something similar happened with the Bible reading. We took a family vacation in July, and I packed my One Year Bible. As it turned out, the regularly-scheduled readings for that week was right where Psalms begins (that format includes twice through the Psalms per year) and also right at the beginning of Romans. Sitting on the deck of a beach house in Florida, I began the discipline of daily reading again, skipping the Old Testament, but committing to finishing the Epistles and Psalms by year's end. Just like with the running, it took a while to get it back, but coming back after some downtime was refreshing.

So, in a little while I'll be posting about my resolutions. And those resolutions will include some running and Bible-study goals. But getting to the point that I was willing to set those goals took some small successes along the way. Had I planned for a 500-mile year, or to read the whole Bible through again, I would be looking back on another year of disappointment. But instead, I see a few months of aimlessness, followed by half a year of great success. Happy 2010 to all!