Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How Do I Pack For A Relay Race?

So, you've been asked to join a relay race and now you're freaking out because you have no idea what to pack.

No problem. Here is your easy how-to-pack guide.

A few assumptions:

  1. There is limited space in the van and you are sharing it with several other runners
  2. You want to compact everything you can into as little a bundle as possible
  3. You want to be able to find what you need without removing everything from your bag
  4. You will want most of your stuff packed away but will need ready access to a few personal things (phone, wallet, snacks, water, etc.)

The solution? Plastic bags. Lots and lots of clear plastic bags. I use the gallon size freezer bags because they are stronger and won't tear. Grab those, a black sharpie, and get organized.

And it all looks like this.

These gallon sized bags are for the running clothes you will wear each leg. 

These bags are for other items I will explain below.

Same, more items you will need.
This is what I will wear for my first leg. When I finish running and change clothes, I will put these sweaty clothes back into this bag and seal it up. That helps keep the van smelling clean and fresh instead of like an old locker room.
This is what I will wear on leg 2. That is typically a night run, so I want to make sure I am as visible as possible.
This is what I will wear on my third leg.
And here they are, all packed tightly in plastic bags and ready to go. I can easily find each bag and be ready to go without looking for my shorts, shirt, or socks.

This is one of the cold weather bags. It has my sweatpants and a long-sleeve tech shirt. I don't expect to need this to run, but I want to have it just in case the weather changes and I need to be warmer.

This is my second cold weather bag. I have a light-weight hoodie and a beanie in here. I wouldn't run in this, but I will probably want to put it on when I am out supporting my other teammates on their night legs.

This is all the gear I will need at night. I have a safety vest, headlamps, and rear blinky lights so I will be as visible as possible to other runners, team vans, and cars just passing by.

The towel and washcloth (in its own smaller bag) so I can wash up after each leg.

This is my run gear. It's my Road ID, my Halo headband, safety pins for my big, snacks in case I am hungry before I go out, and a safety vest custom-altered by my husband for my iPhone 6. I wear it every single leg, even during the day. It makes me more visible to drivers and it's super convenient to just pin my race bib on one time and wear the same vest all three times.

Here's the same run gear packed tightly into the bag. I also pack an extra pair of earbuds in this bag so I am not scrambling around to find them when it comes time to run. 

And here's everything packed into my gym bag and ready to go. My running shoes fit in here, too. Packing the bags tightly means I can get away with a smaller bag.

My First-Aid kit. Don't leave home without it.

These items are for my personal bag. I have my phone charger, extra reading glasses, sunglasses, a ball cap, and an extra headlamp. That comes in handy when I am trying to read a map or the Relay Guidebook at night and don't want to blind the driver with the overhead light. 

This is my refillable water bottle. We carry a 5-gallon bottle with a pump on top, so we can all use personal bottles instead of buying cases of disposable water bottles. Plus, it's easy to see at a glance which bottle is which since they all look a little different.

I also pack a small toiletry bag with just the basics. No one wants to ride next to a stinky runner.

Here's the personal bag, packed and ready. Because it's small, I can keep this bag near me in the van and have all that I need. My other bigger bag can go in the back of the van or underneath the seats and be out of everyone's way.

This is it. All I need to run a relay race.

And with that, I'm ready to go!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

"Different Christians, Different Baskets."

I'll preface this by saying that I am no longer a Christian. Like most people I know, I was born into a Christian household and those beliefs were passed down to me. My mother was a twice-yearly visitor to church while my grandparents made more of an effort to get us Sunday Mass more often. We all believed in "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" because it was all we ever knew.

As an adult, I made several attempts to settle into my faith, but it never really felt right. I always struggled with the inconsistencies, vague explanations, and self-serving interpretations. I couldn't reconcile the reality of what was happening in front of me with the never-ending rationalizations.

"Joe and Jane died in a car crash, but thankfully Jesus protected their little baby in the back seat." So why didn't Jesus just pump the brakes and save them all?

"We need to pray for Bobby to survive his battle with cancer."
You mean the cancer that God let him get?

"You need to tithe to the church."
I should give money to another mega-church instead to the homeless and hungry?

The final straw, though, was the disconnect between self-proclaimed Christians and their anything-but-Christ-like behavior towards those with different social, political, or personal values, beliefs, and opinions. It just seemed odd to have people claim an allegiance to the Prince of Peace and then act so hateful to anyone who believed differently. (Disclaimer: I am focusing on Christianity because that is how I was raised. In the bigger picture, though, my disbelief applies across all religions.)

So here I am today, nearly 50 years old and comfortable acknowledging that my life begins and ends in this world and that the only afterlife available to me is the legacy of kindness and service to others that they will, perhaps, continue to pass on after I am gone. And that's enough for me. I don't really spend my time arguing the existence (or lack thereof) with my friends who are believers. Doesn't seem like there is much point to that sort of behavior.

So why am I writing this on Easter Sunday, arguably the most important observed date in Christianity?

Because even though I don't personally believe, Christianity continues to be a source of frustration and anger for me. And I'm hoping that by taking the time to sit with my thoughts and work through them, I'll be able to identify and express exactly what is bothering me in all of this.

This is just my opinion, of course, but I think that Christians can be sorted into different categories based on their actions.

In Word Only
These are the folks who identify as Christian but really have no strong connection to their faith or any church. There's is much more a passive belief most likely ingrained from childhood. Ask them and they'll say they believe in God, but there faith means little more than that.

In Word, In Deed
These folks are absolutely more committed to their faith. They believe in God and they try to live their lives in a way that honors that belief. They are not perfect, but they are genuinely kind and loving people who work to make this world a better place as a way to honor and represent their God.

These folks are powerful and important and amazing. And to be honest, they were the ones that kept me coming back to religion, because their behavior and personal examples were compelling and inspiring. They were exactly what I always wanted religion to be but had long ago stopped hoping for.

There are too many to mention them all, and I consider myself fortunate to have that sort of "problem" in my life. But I'll publicly celebrate Lisa, Nancy, Colleen, Jenny and Jeff, Alicia and Brian, Sue and Tim, and Dani for showing all of us what it means to live your faith. You have my thanks and my respect.

Anything But
But then we have these people, the ones who claim to be Christian but act very differently. These are the people so willing to speak for God because they have all the answers. They scream and yell and threaten. They allow for no dissent. It's not enough for them to be free to worship as they please. They demand that their religious views be honored and accommodated no matter how it infringes upon others. They want prayer in school as long as it is the prayer that they believe. They want religion in control of the public square and the public purse.

These are the people who openly mock and insult those who believe differently. They jeer at City Council meetings when someone else offers a different prayer. They screech "Merry Christmas" as a challenge instead of a greeting. They expect non-believes to stand quietly and respectfully during Christian prayers at school events but protest Yoga in physical education classes because it promotes eastern religions. They expect to operate in the public market but want to be allowed to discriminate against anyone who doesn't share their view of Christianity.

In short, these people are assholes. They act as if this entire nation was created just for them and they expect the rest of us to fall in line with their beliefs. And they wouldn't know a Christian act if Jesus himself showed up and performed it in front of them.

Yes, I know that these people are a minority. They are but one type of Christian, and it's not fair to sort them into the same basket as the other two types I mentioned.

But it happens. I do it. I judge them all by the actions of the worst of them. I know it's wrong and I am working on it, but I do it.

For that, to my Christian friends who live their faith... I am sorry. I know that you do not deserve the scorn or ridicule that comes so easily to me these days. Your kindness does not deserve to be met with insults or judgment.

I will try to do right by you. And when I don't, I ask that you remind me of these words above. I'm not perfect, either. But I can certainly be better. I suppose we all can.

And to the others, the self-proclaimed Christians who seek to create a theocracy in this country, know this. I will continue to fight you and your bullshit every time, every place, at every opportunity. Because this country deserves better than you.

Friday, March 25, 2016

"Those People Are The Problem."

Those people are the problem. Obviously. And it's time we admitted it.

I'm curious. When you read the title and the first sentence, what came to your mind? Who did you think about when you read the words, "those people"?

Because we all know "those people."

Muslims. Blacks. Cops. Immigrants. Homosexuals. Millennials. Helicopter Moms. Right Wing Christians. Atheists. Parents. The unemployed. The One Percent. The list goes on and on.

So tell me, which of "those people" are the problem? Which group is to blame for whatever negative situation has impacted your life? Who is responsible?

Or, maybe, there is no such thing as "those people." What if there is no great conspiracy and coordinated effort to attack you and your life?

There are just people.

Family. Friends. Neighbors. Teammates. Co-workers. And yes, even strangers. All just people.


I share this as a reminder to myself (and anyone else willing to listen). When I read a story about union workers striking someone across the country, I need to remember that these aren't freeloaders refusing to work. They are people fighting for a fair wage and a safe working environment.

When I read a story about college students protesting tuition hikes, I need to remember that these aren't entitled, spoiled kids demanding attention. They are passionate, committed people working for the benefit of all students.

And there are other situations that are more difficult for me to process. When I read a story about a small town council passing an ordinance that treats gays and lesbians as second-class citizens, I need to remember that these aren't purposely hateful bigots. They are people who honestly believe that their actions are somehow protecting their town.

The last example is incredibly hard for me to accept, because my gut reaction is to respond with mocking and anger. But when I think about it calmly and objectively, I know that reacting in kind isn't going to do anything to address the problem. Instead, I need to listen to their concerns and help them understand how what they are doing is not really helping them but rather is just hurting others.

Be clear, though. I am not advocating a peace-at-all-costs, pacifist position. Present yourself as a danger to me and mine and I will fight you in whatever way necessary.

What I am trying to say here is that, when possible, I need to remember that my political, financial, and social opponents are still people trying to get through this life. They are doing what they think is best for them and those they love, and that is a different perspective than presuming they are actively trying to hurt others.

Why does this matter? Because it impacts the best way to resolve conflict with the opposition. If someone is actively trying to hurt me, there isn't a lot of middle ground. I need to fight back to defend against them. But if someone means well but is just ignorant or misinformed, there is a greater possibility that I can reach them with facts and communication.

Yes, I know. That sounds like touchy-feely crap. And for some instances, perhaps it is. But if education and open dialog can resolve conflict, isn't it worth it to at least try?

Maybe this makes sense. Maybe it's all rambling. Maybe waking up at 4am and being unable to sleep is not the best cue to share my feelings.

Or... maybe... these words will resonate with someone else and they will try to be a little less confrontational, a little less us vs them, and a little less battle-ready. Maybe they will talk openly and listen actively and discover that "those people" weren't the problem all along.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Some Days...

Some days, I feel like I am the king of the gym. Other days, I feel like I am the guy hoping no one notices me as I struggle through my workout.

Today is the latter. I haven't been here for a month because of the bronchitis/flu/pneumonia. And I know this is going to be rough. 

But I'm here. And that is what matters. So let's do this!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

"Brother, Let Me Be Your Shelter."

What a mixed bag of emotions yesterday turned out to be. I spent most of the day enjoying Universal Studios Hollywood and our sneak preview of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I was able to catch up with my own lovely Dora, Janeth Paris. And I laughed and joked and enjoyed the company of my husband and fifteen of our amazing friends.
And then came the news that Eric Klimt had fallen and was killed during a climb at Zion National Park. And the world was suddenly a little darker, a little sadder, and a little less for having lost him.
But in the light of the new day, I understand that losing Eric is a consequence of knowing and caring about him. And what would be the alternative, to go through life closed off to the greatness that other people bring?
Nope. I will continue to be joyful that other people walk into my life (literally, with Eric, as he walked over from a neighboring campsite). I will remain grateful for the immeasurable ways they enrich this world. And when our time together has passed, I will rely on the strength of friends as I remember, as I grieve, and as I continue in this world without you.
Life is a very good thing, indeed. Surround yourself with those who feel the same way and enjoy this journey.

Ramblers in the wilderness
Yeah we can't find what we need
We get a little restless from the searching
Get a little worn down in between

Like a bull chasing a matador
is man left to his own schemes
But everybody needs someone beside ‘em
Shining like a lighthouse from the sea

Brother let me be your shelter
Never leave you all alone
I can be the one you call when you're low
Brother let me be your fortress
when the night winds are driving on
Be the one to light the way
Bring you home

Face down in the desert now
There's a cage locked around my heart
I found a way to drop the keys where my failures were
now my hands can't reach that far

I ain't made for a rivalry
I could never take the world alone
I know that in my weakness I am strong
but it's your love that brings me home

Brother let me be your shelter
Never leave you all alone
I can be the one you call when you're low
Brother let me be your fortress
when the night winds are driving on
Be the one to light the way
Bring you home

And when you call
And need me near
Say it when you go
Brother I’m right here

And on those days
When the sky begins to fall
You’re the blood of my blood
We can get through it all

Brother let me be your shelter
Never leave you all alone
I can be the one you call when you're low
Brother let me be your fortress
when the night winds are driving on
Be the one to light the way
Bring you home
Be the one to light the way

Bring you home