Category Archives: Writing

What’s Up? Glad You Asked! Two Big Announcements

Wow, things are going hot and heavy in my world in December. Along with celebrating birthday number 59, I have a big accomplishment and a timely opportunity to announce to my readers and friends.

Without further ado, here goes!

Announcement #1: I Done Wrote a Novel!

This year with my zero waste business coming to a screeching halt, I decided to pick up a novel I had started some years ago and put aside when life got busy, as it does. I’m pleased to announce that I have completed the first draft!

The novel is currently titled Keeping The Faith. Its main character is Marcus, 22, who is planning to return to college following the death of his father. Returning home from the memorial service, he discovers he has a third grandfather, who would like very much to meet him. Adventure ensues.

The book is “new adult” fiction, meaning it’s targeted toward readers 18-30 years of age. Its main themes are coming of age and struggling with faith. Its tone is meant to be positive and forward-looking – this is not an angst-ridden sufferfest. It contains profanity, drug use (pot), and sexual situations (oh, yeah), so it’s not for younger readers except with parental permission.

As I begin a comprehensive rewrite, I’m looking for a few good people to read the first few chapters and let me know if it’s something they would continue reading. I’m also interested in thoughts on the authenticity of the voices of the characters.

In addition, I need fact-checkers and opinions based on personal experience for the following:

  • Someone who’s been part of a Civil War reenactment (preferably more than one)
  • Someone who’s rowed crew in college. Someone familiar with the NIRC would be best, but not required.
  • A few students who are attending, or who recently attended, a small college

If you are so inclined to help me out here, you can email me at jeff (at) runbikethrow (dot) net.

Announcement #2: Get a Free New Actually Published Book!

My race director friend Randy Step, owner of RF Events, has a new book out just in time for New Year’s. It’s called Get Your Butt Out the Door and is a set of 365 motivational quotes to help you get out and do what’s gotta be done. It’s a “runner’s companion” type of book, so it’s mainly meant for you, the runner, or a runner in your life.

As with so many small businesses, it’s been a rough year for RF Events, and every little bit helps. So I’m supporting them by offering to gift up to five people with a copy of this book. It will come directly from Amazon, and will arrive before Xmas if you act soon.

Would you like a copy, or do you know someone you think would benefit? To take advantage, you can PM me or send an email to jeff (at) runbikethrow (dot) net, with the address you’d like it shipped to.

That’s all for now. But it’s not all that’s going on in my life. More to follow. Stay tuned!

The Write Stuff

IT’S TIME TO MAKE one of those “put up or shut up” moves. And ’tis the season to do so, after all.

I began this 2011 with the goal of sharing my journey to my first marathon and from there to my “year of being 50” celebrations, including a 600-mile bike trip and my first 50K ultra, among other challenges.

Like finishing this race (2016).

For eight years now I’ve continued to write about my adventures, mainly in athletics. But I haven’t shared much about my other writing, which includes fiction, essays, and technical papers. With everything else going on, including starting and running my own company, some things had to be set aside. And creative writing just for the sake of creative writing has been one of those things.

It’s a poor excuse. And it must end.

I’ve enjoyed writing since I was very young. In elementary school, my adventures of a police detective and his faithful St. Bernard were considered good enough to read to my entire class. And over the years I’ve written many short stories, worked on some ideas for novels, and even made some feeble attempts at poetry. I’ve also attended several writing seminars and been part of a writers group. It’s been fun, but always a sideshow to the rest of my life. In one of my very first posts on this blog, I confess to this. Here’s a link to it:  The Hard Work

Being part of a writers group helped me write more regularly, but it wasn’t enough.

I daydream about getting that work out to a wider audience, or even pursuing (yet another) career as a writer. That takes time and effort. And above all, having a writing routine. Among the “keys to success” of prolific writers is that they write on a regular basis. Stephen King writes every day. With no distractions or excuses allowed.

And so while I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, I’m going to make one for 2020. And that is to find out if I really want to finish those stories and novels, and do my best to get them read by others. From ultrarunning and Aikido training, I know I possess the discipline to accomplish anything I really want to do. It’s time for me to decide if creative writing is one of them.

“If you want to be a writer, write.” – Epictetus (*)

And if it ends up that is not? Then at least I will know that. But even if I end up going in other directions, my athletic and other adventures will definitely continue. As will my dedication to share them with you in this blog. Thanks again to all of you for finding the time to include me in your life.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my family to yours.

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(*) I suppose I should mention that, like Socrates and many other famous teachers (including the one whose birth we celebrate this week), Epictetus never actually wrote anything down. We are fortunate enough to have some of his teachings thanks to his students. (Then again, Epictetus never said he wanted to be a writer.)

A Post from the Cave

Yesterday I was innocently working from home when my cell phone rang. The caller ID read “UNAVAILABLE” so I should have known better. But just in case it was someone from the office, I picked up and said hello.

“Hello?” a female voice replied. Then after a moment, “I’m so sorry – I was adjusting my headset! Anyway, I’m calling because you recently stayed at one of our resorts, and we have this offer . . .”

picard-face-palm

Oh, Lord. I let her pitch her absolutely fabulous offer, until she wanted to ask me a few questions. Then I said, “I suppose there’s a timeshare presentation involved in this?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you,” she replied. “Can I ask you a few questions?” I repeated my timeshare suspicion. “Can I ask you a few questions?” she said again.

I hung up. She was a robot, pre-screening before handing me off to a closer. But I have to admit I was fooled for a bit. They are getting better at this. Robot callers even deny they’re robots. Read an example here.

No, totes true dude, I'm a human - beep beep beep - HA HA HA HA- How about them Cubs?

No, totes truly dude, I’m a human – beep beep beep – HA HA HA HA- How about them Cubs?

Which got me thinking (hey, it’s better than working, right?) about the new waves of technology that make virtual reality closer to “real” reality. Video games use the moves of real athletes who were wired up just for that purpose. An increasing number of movies are either partly, or completely, CGI generated. And new VR headsets are coming that will let the wearer participate in some incredible experiences. Say, simulating a mountain bike adventure on your stationary bike, riding a roller coaster from your couch, or even flying like a bird. Click here for details.

I find a kind of odd symmetry here with what else is going on in the world. With the country’s future and the world’s future more uncertain that ever, it’s natural, I suppose, for the visual and tactile boundaries between fantasy and reality to blur as well. How long before we simply sit in chairs all day living entirely in a fantasy world? (Perhaps we are now. Plato suggested that we were.)

platos-cave

Look! I can do a bunny rabbit!

But as we approach our country’s annual day of gratitude and overeating, there are a few things I can be certain of, and count on:

  • I have the love of my family and can count on them supporting me no matter what, and that I would do the same for them.
  • I can count on Skip and the Body Specs crew mashing me into the floor so I can get back up stronger than ever.
  • I can count on pain, blisters, and bruises from running marathons and trail ultramarathons, and that I will treasure each one anyway.
  • Our cats will continue walking on the books we’re trying to read, nagging for food when I’m trying to concentrate, and being an unending source of affection and comic relief. (Screw you and your feline hatred, The Atlantic; cats rule.)
  • I’m certain that people will continue to say to me, “So I was reading your blog the other day…” when I didn’t think they knew I had a blog.

And finally, I’m certain that America will remain the land of the free and the home of the brave, as long as we remain brave enough to stand for what’s right. Our freedom was too hard earned to take for granted or let others try to diminish or take away.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

A Hundred Thousand Moments

This morning I went to the semi-annual Dan (black belt) test at my Aikido school’s main dojo. It was a long test, with three people each testing for shodan (1st degree), nidan (2nd degree) and sandan (3rd degree) rank. But it was also an exciting test to watch. At Dan level you see everything from very basic techniques to advanced series of throws and weapon strikes. Students are also tested in the teaching method and in their understanding of Aikido concepts.

Jo demonstration following the test.

Jo demonstration following the test.

One of the testers (*) had been in a kenshu (special advanced class) with me several years ago. After the test I went to say hello and congratulate him. He’s a reader of this blog, and he told me he’d noticed that when I write about running he sees an Aikido influence, and vice versa.

He’s right; for me, both physical and philosophical elements cross from one to the other. Sometimes it happens consciously, and sometimes it sneaks in when I’m not looking. Either way, I’m pretty sure it’s helped me improve at both.

I have not, however, attempted this during a marathon. Yet.

I have not, however, attempted this during a marathon. Yet.

The most recent instance was at yesterday morning’s run with PR Fitness. I made it a checkup for next week’s 25K Vasa Trail race, upping my usual pace and monitoring my body’s performance. Things began well; I got up the killer hill on the route without problems, and even sprinted a bit afterward. But as I passed through Argo Park with a couple miles to go, I was fatigued and struggling to maintain form. I just wanted the run to be over.

Then out of the blue the thought came: What are you doing? It’s a bright sunny morning, the fall colors are incredible, the temperature is perfect for running, and you’re not enjoying it. What, then, are you out here for?

2015 Richmond half, asking myself that very question.

2015 Richmond half, asking myself that very question.

Here was Aikido speaking. At this point I’d learned what I needed to know for next week’s race. It was time – past time – to just be in the moment. I slowed down, took a deep breath (or three) and relaxed, taking in what was around me and being okay with the discomfort. I reached the studio no less tired or sore, but almost reluctant to stop. All it took was that adjustment in perception.

Okay for a training run, you might say, but how about an ultramarathon? When running continuously for up to a hundred miles, is it really possible to live moment-to-moment? Yes; doing that at Kettle Moraine this year helped me get through some tough and tedious stretches. Now considering that based on my finish time I had 101,700 possible “moments” (assuming one second per moment), of which I managed maybe a few hundred, by no means am I good at it yet. But even that little bit made a difference.

The alternative (thinking about how many miles remain) is not, shall we say, exactly motivational. So much better to think: Here I am in this moment. Another moment is now here, and I’m still going. Perhaps ironically, I often feel most “moment aware” when I approach the finish line; the realization that I’m really going to finish this thing is enough to trigger it.

Yeah, but it's 77 miles and many hours to go before I can ZZZ . . .

Yeah, but it’s 77 miles before *I* can ZZZ . . .

Just to bring things full circle, at the Dan test this morning, Sensei asked one of the students the meaning of a particular Japanese phrase. “It means, ‘live in the moment,'” the student replied, and explained how it applies both to Aikido training and to the rest of our lives. He paused a moment to think of an example. I felt like jumping up and saying, “Ooh! Ooh! I got one!” but I’m not sure I’d have appreciated the moments that followed. I’ll save it for my own test someday.

Today was another perfect fall day, so after the test I went for a two-hour bike ride out there in the color and sunshine. Just to practice the principle, of course.

Great color in downtown Chelsea, MI.

Great color in downtown Chelsea, MI.

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(*) Actually, two former kenshu classmates tested today, as did my current class instructor. I enjoyed their tests very much. Congratulations again! Osu!