Friday, March 25, 2011

First World Problems

A little perspective goes a long way.

This morning, I had another one of my "wow" moments. Those are the times when a thought just pops into my head and stops me in my tracks.

It started like every other morning. I was brushing my teeth, thinking about the day ahead, and I noticed my running shoes on the floor. Out of nowhere, I thought, "those shoes cost more than some people make in a month." And the more I stared at them, the more I realized, I am a man with First World Problems.

I worry about having too much to eat. I worry about staying up too late playing with tech toys or watching TV. I worry about finding the motivation to get up early for the gym. I worry about my training program, wondering if it will be enough to get me to a sub-two hour half marathon. And I worry that I won't be in great shape when I go to my reunion in June.

In other words, I'm worrying over little things that pale in comparison to the struggles others are facing.

I'm not saying my life is perfect, but I need to remember that I am perfectly capable of dealing with anything going on in my life right now. I'm not struggling to find food or water. I'm not desperate to find shelter. I'm not alone and abandoned. I'm not facing a life-threatening illness. And my family and friends are equally blessed.

Perspective. This morning, I caught a little glimpse of it. And that's a good thing, indeed.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Safari Park Half Marathon Report

Alright, folks, here is your race report. Be ready for some long reading, because this post has it all.

First, a little background. I've never run a half marathon before. I've run 5Ks and 10Ks, and I've even run an eight-mile obstacle race. But a half marathon? Nope. And 13.1 miles can seem pretty intimidating. But I knew it was the next step in my development as a runner, so it was only a matter of time. That time was today.

The event was the Safari Park Half Marathon at the Wild Animal Park in San Diego. The course went out the front of the park, around a few miles, back through the park, around another few miles, then finished inside the park. When I signed up, the course indicated only one big hill. But thanks to mudslides and a washed out road, the modified route included two big hills and a lot more inclines.

It was the first time for this event, so I expected a logistical nightmare. It started at 7am, so me being the over-achiever, I left my house at 4:30am. Traffic was light and the signage was screwed up at the park, so I ended up driving the wrong route in. They sent me around a weird way to get to parking, which ended up much better for me.

Here's the start line... and that is my green jeep immediately to the right.

The best part about parking there? No need for gear check and I got to sit in my heated car and wait for the race to start.

Here I am taking a quick pic of me with the start line.

While I had time to kill, I decided to wander up to the check-in area and see what was going on. Anyone else surprised at the difference in the lines for the men's and women's rooms?

Heading back to my car, I noticed this sign. Perhaps next year a "Race For Literacy" is in order.

My best friend and long-suffering running buddy, Jerry, was on hand to make sure I got through the run.

And thank you my friends, Andrea, Gwen and Christine, who were also there to cheer us on. It was great to have a little personal cheering section ready to go!

Now, the race report. Just a couple of borrowed photos from others here, because I was focused on running. Jerry had his Garmin Forerunner watch, so it was up to him to watch our pace.

We started on a bit of a downhill, so we felt strong and fast right from the beginning. The weather was cool but not cold, no wind, and just enough cloud cover to keep it pleasant.

The first couple of miles felt great, even with the inclines. But the hill up to the 4th mile was wicked. (I thought it was just me, but experienced runners are now describing the entire run as "hilltastic.")

After mile 4, we made our way into the park. It wasn't a long stretch, but it was nice to see some of the animals and hear the roar of the way supportive crowd. After mile 5, it was back out of the park and onto the highway again. A quick turn-around and we were back through the park, retracing our path through the crowds and by the animals. Mile 8 was back on the highway and running back over the earlier miles. (Yep, there was a lot of doublebacks.) We didn't hit the inside of the park again until after mile 12, and the last bit of the run was smack in the heart of the park.

There were so many highlights. First, of course, were the fantastic voice mails everyone left for me. They kept popping up in my iPod shuffle, and each time, they made me smile and laugh and feel totally recharged. I asked for help and my Spark Buddies showered it on me. There are no words to explain how motivating you all were for me while I ran.

Several of you gave me the same advice: "Don't get so focused on the ground below you that you miss the wonder of the race itself. See what is all around you and remember every moment."

So I did. I saw the mist across the hills of Escondido. I saw the smiles on the faces of the amazing volunteers and spectators. I heard the cowbells and the applause and cheers. I laughed at the other runners in costumes and I whooped and celebrated every single mile marker.

And when I came into the park for the last stretch, I looked to my left and saw the rhinos watching me back. It was surreal, running through the Wild Animal Park with these amazing creatures all around us. It was a fantastic location for my first half marathon.

My finish line moment was great, right out of a movie. As I crossed, I lifted both of my arms and shouted, "yes! yes! yes!" But my real emotional moment came back earlier in the race. At mile 11, it hit me. I was going to finish. Until that moment, I had been carrying a fear deep in my mind that I wasn't going to do it. Something was going to happen. I was going to be too slow and get swept, or hurt myself while running, or worse, just not have the speed and endurance to make it all the way.

I had been holding on to old fears and feelings of inadequacy. Until that very moment, I hadn't truly believed I could do it. But I crossed the mile marker and instantly, the tears came. I was smiling and crying at the same time, more than a little surprised by the flood of emotion I was experiencing. I tried to explain to Jerry, and I think he understood. He said, "John, I knew from mile 5 that I was going to be just fine, and I knew from the start that you were going to finish."

Yep, that's why he's my best friend. He sees the best in me even when I don't. And here we are, after the race, all smiles and happiness and finisher's medals.

Before I left the park, Jerry reminded me that I had one more thing I needed to do. I have earned the title "half marathoner" and I want the world to know. Now, at least, anyone following me on the highway will know.

And now, the results. Even with all the inclines and the two serious hills, we were able to maintain a steady pace and finish with a respectable 2:09:48. My goal was to finish, and we did. But the strong time for me absolutely made this day even greater.

If you think a half marathon is out of your reach, perhaps you are setting your sights too low. Because a year ago, I couldn't imagine doing what I did today. Heck, a year ago, running a 5K was more than I could do. But I have worked and trained and kept myself focused, and I have gone from the guy on the left to the guy on the right.

And today, I proved that I am capable. I am strong. I am a runner. And I am truly just beginning.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Me, Then and Now

September 2009 vs March 2011

[caption id="attachment_1710" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Yep. I like the difference."][/caption]

A Simple Request - I need your help.

It's free. It's quick. It's easy. And it's a big deal to me.

I am running my first half marathon on Sunday. I'm completely confident I can do this, and I'll cross that finish line even if I have to crawl. But, 13.1 miles is still a long way to run. And somewhere along the way, I expect my motivation will begin to falter. This is where you come in.

I am asking my friends to call my Google Voice number (619.630.4328) between now and Saturday morning and leave me a brief message cheering me on. On Saturday afternoon, I will download all the messages and add them to my iPod Shuffle so they will play randomly between my running songs during the race. One minute I'll be rocking out to Pink or Disturbed, the next minute I'll hear your voice encouraging me to get after it!

Oh, and one more thing. When I am running the event, I will have my music at a low volume so I am still able to hear the traffic and runner sounds around me. Please start your message by telling me who you are and speak slowly and clearly. You can say whatever you want, as long as it isn't a ten minute message extolling the virtues of sleeping in, walking, or lounging around. *laughing*

Thanks, everyone. You'll all be with me as I complete this milestone.



Pictures. We got pictures. Get 'em while they're hot.

For no real reason, new pictures of me... and even one with Ric.

[gallery columns="2"]

Shut Your Trap, Whiner!

Sometimes, a little tough love is needed.

My first half marathon is this coming Sunday, and I'm feeling confident with my training. I know I will finish this, no problem. And this week, I've been easy on myself with running. I did three miles on Sunday, planned an easy six miles this morning and another three coming up on Friday. Enough to stay warm and ready but not so much that I am tired for Sunday.

This morning, I woke up and got dressed right on schedule. But I made the mistake of checking my email on my way by my computer, and before you know it, more than 40 minutes had gone by. By the time I got out the door and to the gym, I was nearly an hour behind schedule. And if I run too far behind, I don't get back home after working out to see my husband before he leaves for work.

So, I'm on the treadmill, calculating how much time I would be able to run. I figure I can get 45 minutes in, maybe 50 if I rush my shower. I'm thinking, "dang it, this totally bites... it's so annoying!"

Just then, I looked up from my treadmill to the TV playing just above me and to the side. There was a show on about a children's cancer hospital, and the little boy on screen was showing the reporter his new artificial leg. Apparently, they had amputated from the knee down in an attempt to stop the cancer from spreading any further.

In that moment, I felt like the world's biggest piece of crap. Was I seriously whining and complaining that, because of my OWN unwillingness to get off the computer and leave on time, I was going to have to shorten my workout? This five year old boy will spend the rest of his life without his lower leg, and I'm whining about my schedule? Seriously?

Oh, man. In that instant, I felt so ashamed that it was almost a physical reaction. I thought I was going to be sick. I am blessed with great health, the ability to pay for a gym membership, and the freedom to come and go on my own time. Yet I was complaining.

I turned back to the treadmill and did a little math. Yes, I could shorten my run and finish on time. But shorter distances are only one way to lower a workout time. The other solution is to just run faster.

So I did. I ran with a new focus and a passion that has eluded me of late. I ran to celebrate my health and my life and all the good fortune I enjoy every single day. I ran faster than I have run in many, many years.

And I finished my six miles in 49:43. And as I left that treadmill, I said a little prayer for that young boy and all those others in his same situation. Because I already had found all that I could hope for.

And yes, I did make it home in time to see my husband off to work.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Having Confidence vs. Having An Ego

Having confidence vs. having an ego

Having confidence in your abilities is an important part of life. But how do you know when you're crossing the line into building an ego? Someone who is always bragging about himself not only sours the relationships with those around him, but also develops his actions into a pattern that is hard to reverse. Do you alienate people around you with your ego? Have you crossed the line of confidence to egotistical? Instead of bragging about your accomplishments, discuss how you got there or the people that helped you along the way. This way you can share your success in an endearing way without making it all about you. Take the focus off of yourself for a moment and think about how your success can be a tool to help others achieve the same.

This was in an email I received from Spark People, and it felt like it was written just for me. I take a lot of grief from people for my

Friday, March 4, 2011

Yeah. I'm back.

I've been blogging every day at my SparkPeople site, and over the next few weeks, I will get those posts copied over here. But going forward, I will be posting them to both sites at the same time.

So, yeah. I'm back.

Speak. Stumble. Blame. Repeat.

Here we go again. Sarah Palin says something stupid. She gets called out for it. She "clarifies" her original comments and then blames everyone else for distorting her words.

Case in point. When the Supreme Court ruled for the Westboro Baptist Church, Palin sent this tweet:
Common sense & decency absent as wacko "church" allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers' funerals but we can't invoke God's name in public square

After the tweet, Palin came under fire for what seemed to most as her criticism of the ruling. In the face of the criticism, Palin now claims she was misinterpreted.
“Obviously my comment meant that when we’re told we can’t say ‘God bless you’ in graduation speeches or pray before a local football game but these wackos can invoke God’s name in their hate speech while picketing our military funerals, it shows ridiculous inconsistency,” Palin told TheDC. “I wasn’t calling for any limit on free speech, and it’s a shame some folks tried to twist my comment in that way. I was simply pointing out the irony of an often selective interpretation of free speech rights.”

For pity sake. It's the same shtick with her.

  1. Fail to fully understand an issue.

  2. Say something folksy and simple.

  3. Blame everyone else for how your statement was received.

  4. Launch inane tirade against the media, the Left, liberals, etc.

Here's an idea. Perhaps she should keep her mouth closed and her fingers off her keyboard until she takes the time to understand a situation. Then she could provide a coherent response and not have to issue endless "clarification" statements.

She won't, of course. She can't help herself. She is what happens when the MTV generation meets a little political power. And now, there is no microphone, podium or camera she isn't drawn to. But the rest of us don't have to keep tuning in.