Telling My Stories

I began this blog in 2011, which means this is my TENTH YEAR posting about my adventures in this spot. Wow. Really hard to believe. It really doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was writing my first posts and hoping someone other than my family would read them. And they have!

It amazes me to this day that people say to me, “I was reading your blog the other day,…” when I was sure they didn’t even know I had a blog, let alone read it. And for everyone who’s ever posted a comment, or liked my posts in WordPress or on Facebook, thank you so much. I appreciate it so much.

With recent happenings, my running adventures have been confined to my neighborhood, of course. No races, no run club (hey, I miss you guys!), and I even try to stay off heavily walked areas, including the wonderful new path along Huron River Drive to Dexter-Huron Metropark. When this all passes, you have to get on it. Walk, run, bike, whatever. It’s gorgeous, and will be even more so when it’s full of green things and flowers.

And the stay-at-home order does have certain advantages. One big one is more time with my wife. We actually get to see each other during weekdays, not just at the end when she’s exhausted from a long day and commute home. And we’re going on walks together just about every day.

Just yesterday we walked to the Fox Science Preserve about two miles from our house. I’ve run by it many times, but never actually went in. I had no idea that it’s 69 acres big, and represents a terrain very close to what it looked like when the glaciers retreated 12,000 years ago. We’re definitely going back to walk the trails sometime.

As for training, moderation is the conventional wisdom for now. I’m doing easy runs up to 16 miles, occasional intervals and hill work, walks, and reasonable strength training. Part of me feels the “guilt” of not hitting things hard as usual, but plenty of time for that later. And the fall racing season could be really packed, so it’s a good idea to rest up and be ready.

Training at Body Specs. I really miss this. Oh, yeah. Really.

And then there’s my creative writing. Funny, even with this enforced “at home” time, I still have to make time to write. And that’s what the most successful writers do. They sit down and work, even when they don’t feel creative. It’s the same thing I’ve had to do to train for races. Get my butt out the door even if the weather isn’t perfect, or to the gym even when I’m not motivated to lift heavy things or do pullups. You know what? It works. We shall see if I can apply the same discipline to my writing.

So I’m going to continue telling my stories, running and otherwise, on this blog and elsewhere. And if you have a story you’d like to share with my readers, running or otherwise, drop me a line. Stay safe!

Getting On and Taking Advantage

A warm welcome to the readers of RunBikeThrow, my blog, and Happy Planet Running, my Zero Waste business website. I hope you are well and staying safe through all this.

The RBT family – me, my wife Joyce, and my daughters and their partners, and my siblings and their families, are all fine and doing their best to get on with the business of life while taking the appropriate precautions. I’m fortunate that while Happy Planet Running is on hold with the event companies, I have important work to do at my office job, as does my wife at her job, and we are both able to work from home.

It’s been a strange couple of weeks, as normally at this time I’m very busy with March races, or planning the April ones, in addition to everything else that goes with an active professional life. It feels odd to wake up in the morning with nowhere to go, no people to meet, no group runs, and no events to support.

And I’m not alone here. Last weekend I was talking with the race director of a local 5K that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. “Normally at this time my phone would be ringing constantly with people mad at me about something,” he told me. “You know, I miss the stress.” As do I, to a point.

And yet, haven’t all of us busy people secretly (or not) wished for a break from so many responsibilities? To have time with our spouses and kids? To cook more at home? To finally finish that side project, or work on our Great American Novels? I sure have. And here it is.

So we’ve been taking advantage of this enforced isolation. We are cooking more. We’re going on walks together. I’m finally able to organize my business stuff, and clean out some closets. And yes, I am actually working on a novel. One I started years ago and finally decided it was time to get done.

The world we live in right this moment wouldn’t support the story I’m telling, but dammit, we’ll get through this, and although our world may be transformed in ways we don’t fully grasp yet, I have faith that people will be able to gather again, and celebrate together, and do all those things we 21st century people do.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be a little more compassionate toward each other, appreciate our common ground and respect our differences, and better understand how precious is every human life.

My best wishes to you all, and I hope to see you at the races someday soon!

Jeff

The Only Way

THIS MONTH I AM CELEBRATING an important anniversary. I know this because LinkedIn told me so.

You see, in 2017 I founded my zero waste event services company, Happy Planet Running. And this month marks the start of my fourth year. Holy smokes. It really does feel like just yesterday I was filling out the incorporation paperwork and filing it with the State of Michigan. And I had an attorney as my registered agent, and business insurance, and business cards. It was real.

And I’d started it at age 55.

2019 – I’m holding the landfill trash from an entire weekend of trail races.

I am not the first person in my family to start a business in his fifties. My father was let go from an executive position when Burroughs and Sperry merged into Unisys (and inconsequentiality), with all three of his kids in college. The script called for finding another large company to work at until 65 and the gold watch. Instead he founded his own PR firm and ran it until just before he died at 76. It paid the bills and kept him comfortably busy and connected to the world.

I asked him once, “Dad, why have your own business at your age?” At the time, I was full-time corporate and enjoyed it, like he’d done most of his professional life. His answer, “Because it’s the only way to do it,” surprised and amused me. My friends who owned small businesses spent a lot of unpaid time and effort behind the scenes doing the paperwork and other mundane stuff. I just couldn’t see myself doing that.

And yet here I am, and I supported 41 events last year, and will likely do the same number or more this year, God willing and we survive the latest virus scare.

I call the evolution of all this both inevitable and unexpected. Inevitable because like my dad, I can’t handle sitting around doing nothing, even when I intentionally carve out time to do just that. Like when I voluntarily cut back to part-time employment in 2015 to “pursue other interests” – which was true.

I’d wanted to do more running, more long bike rides, more volunteering at events, and get back to creative writing. And I did- up to a point.

And ziplining. Don’t forget ziplining! (Although this was part of a business trip.)

The unexpected part was what I actually ended up doing with most of that freed-up time.

The key was seeing dumpsters fill up with event waste that could have been recycled or composted, and getting fed up enough to do something about it. Which led to research into Zero Waste practices, which led to volunteering at a Zero Waste event, which led to pitching it to an events company in Ann Arbor, and, eventually, creating a business that continues today.

So far, no one has asked me why I would start a company “at my age.” Perhaps that’s due to 21st century business realities, where startups sprout up like weeds and no one expects to work at one company for forty years. But if someone does, I have an answer ready.

“Because it’s the only way to do it.”

Thanks, Dad.

It’s Okay. No, Really, It’s Okay.

This running life can be funny. Two times recently I’ve had to be told, or tell myself, that something perfectly normal and reasonable is okay. As in, I was actually feeling guilty about something I had no business feeling guilty about.

The Thursday after I got back from the Grandmaster Ultra 50, I went to Body Specs for a recovery workout. I chatted with Skip, the owner and head trainer, about my experience at the race, and how I’d won by a single second. I was downplaying it a little because it was a small field and a close finish.

Skip said something to me then that I just had to turn into a meme. Here it is.

Meme: Trainer with arms folded saying IT'S OK TO WIN - WE DON'T TRAIN YOU TO LOSE

He explained that he wasn’t really a fan of the “everyone who participates is a winner” mentality. Competition is healthy, and if you win, that’s a good thing. If you lose, then learn from it, improve, and try again.

“Yes,” I said, “but there are people out there who will always finish ahead of me, even if I run the best race I can. The finish order depends a lot on who shows up and who doesn’t. My usual goal is to set a personal best, or beat a certain time, or to do better than my previous effort. That’s something I can train for.”

We agreed in the end that winning doesn’t necessarily mean finishing first, but he trains people to perform their best and hit their goals, not to do less. And I shouldn’t discount winning, even if it’s by a single second in a 50-mile race. I showed up, I put in the effort, and I finished first. It’s okay to win. I’m keeping the belt, thank you.

My second, “it’s okay to…” moment happened this weekend. For the first time in what seems like forever, we had a sunny Saturday for club run. I’d really enjoyed the sun in Arizona, but the two weeks since then had been unending cloudy gray gloom. It felt so good to run in the sunshine that I stretched my original plan of 10-12 miles to fifteen.

PR club run, Saturday, Feb. 22. I’m in the yellow jacket. (Photo courtesy of Bin Xu.)

That afternoon I lay down for a while, accompanied by some of our resident furry nap coaches. I looked out the window at the bright blue sky and thought, I’m wasting all that sunshine. I should be outside doing something. Anything other than lying here doing nothing.

As an ultrarunner I already know I’m nuts, but this was really ridiculous. Not only was there no work to do outside, I’d run for over two hours in the sun that morning. I had to tell myself that resting was okay. Essential, even. Running is the exercise, but recovery is what makes me stronger.

The cats knew better how to take advantage of the sun, stretching out on the patches of sunlight that fell on the bed and basking in its warmth. I guess they were better coaches than I gave them credit for.

These guys understand the importance of rest. And enjoying life in the moment.