Drunken Tunnel

I could hear them as I stepped from the cold air of the ship out onto Deck 15 and made my way to the track.  The red “track”, 8 laps or so to the mile, of hard concrete, right in the middle of chairs that soon will be filled with people looking to get their burn on in the hot, summer, Mediterranean sun was wet with either the spray from the ocean or the crew that had cleaned it during the night. Careful steps and navigation were in the back of my mind as I sat down on a damp sun chair and put on my socks and laced my shoes.

The music was pumping and people were yelling and dancing by the bar that neared the second corner of the track. Chairs were strewn about covering the red lane.  I started my Garmin and began walking  toward the noise. Cresting the little hill on the course, I rounded the first corner and could see the group in full now. Six guys and two women had clearly shut every bar down on the boat that evening and were maybe waiting for the sun to come up or waiting for their hangovers to grip them properly and tell them that their tanks had finally hit E.

On the straightaway, I tried to quickly assess my chances to make it through the party unscathed and what would be the best route. Do I ask them politely to move the chairs so that I can keep going in circles for the next 90 minutes on the red track? My mind running with the response that maybe more than one of them will try to join me for several laps? Or do I go around them, close to the bar and kind of zig zag around?

My answer was quickly given as one of the more sober ones looked up, said, “Hey, we got a runner here, “ and quickly moved to take the three chairs that were on the “track”. While that was occurring, another one had the bright idea to say, “Hey, let’s do a tunnel”.

And just like that, several of them, got on either side of the “track” and formed a tunnel, cheering,  for me to go under as I stayed between the lines of the red lane. Flashbacks of forming soccer tunnels for my son and daughter came to mind, but this one smelled of alcohol, smoke and the area was littered with broken glass. 

As I passed by, shaking my head and slightly smirking, I wondered how many laps would pass by like this. Certainly, this could be a pleasant distraction from the mind numbing laps of the last several mornings. My second time around, there was another tunnel, but not as many participants and the cheering had subsided. The shininess of being a runner interrupting their party had worn off I guess.

Nothing lasts forever, and I believe the party was asked to either go to bed or go somewhere else after one of them decided to pick up a life preserver and wave it around. I am sure a safety violation of some sorts.

Without the drunken tunnel, I had to find a new soundtrack.


Playing Games

Vacation. A break from the norm. Time to step off the fast train of daily life and onto a slower path.

Despite the allure of sitting around and do nothing on said vacation, I still need to move. I still need to get out there everyday and do something. It’s simply who I am. Part of my nature. It could be as short as 2 miles, or 30 minutes, or maybe even longer some days,  but there really isn’t a set structure or training plan that I follow. My only “rule” is that I get out there and move.

So, I play games. Say, its just for time,  I might walk for 10 – 20 minutes and then begin running slowly building up to an easy pace for the duration I set for the day. Another option might be to alternate running 5 minutes with 5 minutes of walking for the duration of time or maybe even distance if I choose.  Since speed is not something I am concerned with during this block of time, I might walk the first 10 or 12 minutes of a mile and then run the rest, walking again when the mile marker on the Garmin chirps at me. Another favorite is to walk the first .90 of a mile and then run the final tenth. From there it becomes a game of walking .10 of a mile less each mile and running a .10 more.

The point of it during this vacation or in reality of any running is to just have fun. Unstructured, just getting out there and moving forward. I still get to feel the fresh air and the movement of my feet, but without the confines of a structured training plan. Those days will come soon enough, but for right now, it goes back to the days when there was no training plan. As a kid, you ran when you felt like it, walked when you needed and repeated as often as necessary. You played games.

The Power of One

With the family away in Europe until I am done with my service as principal for the school year and I am able to join them,  I have been taken the time to engage in an experiment of one.

The power of one is my mini experiment in minimalism. By definition, minimalism is the reduction of only using what is absolutely necessary. Shedding the over consumption and use of multiple items which for a family of four, like mine, means multiple loads of dishes and laundry per week, I have limited myself to just focus on the aspect of food for this week and have given myself the ability to only use the following items to eat and drink with all week.

Here is what I allowed myself to use:

  • One bowl
  • One spoon
  • One fork
  • One knife
  • One pairing knife (for slicing fruit, vegetables as needed)
  • One coffee mug
  • One glass
  • One pan
  • One traveler coffee mug

The idea was simple. After each meal, wash the dishes used, let air dry and then re use again for the next meal. No need to load the dishwasher.

What did I learn? For starters, I certainly had to be more mindful at the end of each meal making sure that I either washed the dishes, or if I got lazy, and a couple of days I did, that I cleaned them before starting again. I didn’t allow myself the option of throwing the used items in the dishwasher and just grabbing another.

The older I get, the more I see a need for less. That I, we, often work to hard to buy things that we think we really need, but when the shine is gone, is simply another object. I also found there was immense power in only having one choice. Only one bowl, only one cup, etc. It limited distractions. Made deciding easier. When one is all you have, that’s what you choose.

This experiment reminds me of the idea of simply sometimes just getting out and running one mile. Maybe because of the time, events, or simply just how you feel, there is something about just getting out the door and running a mile. If you get to the end of the mile and you want to run more, great, keep moving forward. If not, then you can simply be done.

The power of one.

Wabi Sabi

Embracing imperfection. After a recent Did Noting Fatal (DNF) at a local 50k at mile marker 29.5 for what turned out to be heat exhaustion and dehydration requiring a trip to the local ER for some IV’s, I have taken a step back to look at my relationship with running.  Heading into the race, I had a really great training cycle for me with several 50 mile weeks in the midst of my own kids finishing up their travel soccer season’s and with graduating the seniors that I work and closing the doors on another year as a high school principal. Closing in on race day I was ready to rock until my body crumbled under a hot spell that covered the Metro Detroit area like a wet blanket come.

Wabi Sabi is a aesthetic Zen Buddhist philosophy that celebrating the flaws and imperfections and appreciating the beauty it all.  This idea is reflected in Kinsugi, which is a Japanese method for repairing broken things with a gold lacquer making them stronger and more beautiful than before.

Laying in the ER with the stench of 6 plus hours of running trails, a dark brown urine sample on the counter next to me, and an IV hooked up to my right arm with my wife shaking her head at me, I was broken. The searing heat that day had exposed my flaws and imperfections in my training. Most of my runs in order to fit them in are in the early morning under the cover of darkness. I didn’t think that I would be exposed to long to the heat to make a difference, I was wrong.

In the past, I would cast a spotlight on myself and throw a pity party that could go on for days. A foul mood was cheering from the sideline. Not this time.

Instead, I have been chewing on and kicking around this idea of Wabi Sabi and of rebuilding my running  in the Kintsugi manner. Forget the frown and take the view that there is good in this. That my imperfections and flaws are beautiful. There was a reason this happened and that a DNF maybe was really the outcome that was necessary.

Moving through our lives on a daily basis, how often do we connect and are present with our mind and body? Are able to be present, to be mindful, or do we need to have the walls come crashing down for us to listen?

Wabi Sabi is about embracing and owning those imperfections. That through Kintsugi, something that was broken and when put back together is more beautiful because of its differences than in it’s original form.