Tag Archives: gratitude

Being Gratefully Miserable

I sat in the passenger seat of someone’s car, depressed and feeling very sorry for myself. A few minutes before, I had reluctantly handed over my timing chip and withdrawn from the 2015 Glacier Ridge 50-miler. Only ten miles remained but I was dehydrated and lightheaded. The aid station captain and medics had agreed it was a good decision.

A race staff member kindly drove me back to the start/finish area. In an effort to take my mind off myself and what had happened, I asked him if he was an ultrarunner, too.

“I used to,” he replied, “but I can’t anymore.” An enlarged heart had not responded to surgery and even short distances left him out of breath. Running had been big in his life (“my stress relief”) but it was no longer possible.

His story instantly cured my self-pity. I’d failed to finish one race, but there would be more to run. He was done for good. Talk about restoring perspective! I came away from it all the more determined to return the next year and finish the damn race. In 2016 I did just that, and have completed every race since, including two 100-milers and a 150.

2016 – a much happier ending!

I was reminded of this story when reading one of the fitness blogs I follow. A fellow athlete over fifty has developed knee problems. She continues to be active but can no longer run, and it took her some time to come to terms with that. In this post she describes the grief she felt and how she dealt with it.

This year I’m working toward improving my speed and performance at shorter races (up to the half marathon). Training can be hard and uncomfortable, and races can take place in some pretty miserable conditions.

The Winter Switchbacks a few years ago – one of the better sections.

But I can remind myself, even at those times, how fortunate I am to be able to run, and to push myself toward new goals and face new challenges. With trail ultrarunning in particular there’s a sense of adventure and shared experience (re: suffering) that brings me deep satisfaction. I guess that’s what keeps me signing up for the silly things.

When the time comes that, for whatever reason, I can no longer run, I expect that like the people in the stories above, there will be a period of adjustment. But I hope I can look back without any regrets, and be grateful for whatever comes next, and for what I can still do to make life enjoyable.

Learning a &@$#%! Lesson

Dr. Wayne Dyer believed that everyone he met had something to teach him. All he had to do was open himself to the possibility that in every encounter with other people, be they family, friends, or complete strangers, there was an opportunity to learn.

I find this remarkable coming from one of the most influential teachers of recent times. Perhaps his success and his insights were due in part to being so receptive, taking in at least as much as he was putting out.

I’ve applied this principle many times. I can’t say exactly what I’ve learned as a result, but it helps me deal with unusual or unpleasant situations. The ability to think, “What is this person/encounter trying to teach me?” allows me to step back from a reflexive emotional reaction and view things at least partly from a detached perspective. It can get surreal, like a kind of out-of-body experience, but it works.

Why, just this morning. . .

I’m at a recycling conference in Kalamazoo this week, sustainability being one of my passions. I began the day with a run (another passion) around the Western Michigan University campus, including this pretty little park that began as storm water containment and became a wetland with local plantings.

As it was a beautiful spring morning, I ate breakfast outside and then, almost reluctantly, changed and headed to the conference. As I walked down the sidewalk toward the hotel, a woman on an old bike passed me from behind, pedaling hard. She yelled several obscenities at me as she went by.

After the initial shock, I wondered what the heck I’d done. I hadn’t blocked the sidewalk, and it couldn’t have been personal; we didn’t know each other, and the whole thing lasted maybe three seconds. Perhaps she had some mental challenges, or was just in a bad mood. But there was no point in speculation. I had to let it go.

So – what could I possibly learn from that? Yes, that thought really did come to mind. Most likely, nothing. Regardless, I told myself, I couldn’t let her bad attitude ruin my day. Getting angry at her would have been “yelling at an empty boat” – accomplishing nothing and spoiling my good mood.

But then I realized what kind of mood I’d really been in.

Right after the run I had indeed been in a good mood. It’s one of the benefits running provides me. But during breakfast my mind had drifted to our current political situation, which I happen to despise, and gradually I’d slipped into cynical mode, coming up with “snide yet humorous” things to write about our government leaders. I’d been slowly poisoning my good mood, withdrawing into myself and closing off the world around me.

And her blast of expletives, however shocking and unpleasant, had been a reboot, a mental defibrillation. For my bad attitude had vanished, and in its place came forgiveness and gratitude for what she’d done. Ass-kicked out of self-absorption, I had reopened myself to learn, and could make full use of the conference. Which was a good thing, because today’s sessions and conversations were packed full of things I hadn’t known about, or that improved my existing knowledge. It was one of the most productive learning and networking days I’ve ever had.

So thank you, mysterious bike lady, for the lesson. And Dr. Dyer, even though we never met and you’re now beyond my ability to do so, thank you too.

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!

Honored Beyond Words – But I’ll Do My Best

MOST VALUABLE RUNNER of 2014.

All I can say is – WOW. And thank you all so much.

Yesterday when I crossed the finish line at the Holiday Hustle 5K, I accomplished my goal of competing in every single event on the 2014 Running Fit calendar. It was a total of 23 events from January through December, including a snowshoe race, three triathlons, and six ultramarathons. Here’s the calendar (click it for a larger, more readable version):

Running Fit Calendar of Events 2014

No one has ever done this before, and throughout the year the wonderful staff at Running Fit Events cheered me on. And at each event I collected the little button pin. At each year’s Holiday Hustle, you bring your pins along, and the person with the most pins wins a prize. Since I had every 2014 pin, I was pretty sure I’d win, and I wanted to something more than just dump a pile of pins on them. So I put them on a posterboard along with some photos, to have something to display later in my man cave – when I get around to having one. So here’s what I made:

Collage - 2014 Running Fit races

Well, it received oohs and aahs from the staff, and they said they’d put it on display after the race. Little did I know how polite they were being, as they made an oblique reference to a “special award” for me.

So I ran the race, and got congratulations all round. Then they showed me what they’d prepared for me as the first-ever “Most Valuable Runner”. Not only had they come up with that awesome title, I had been out-postered! Check this out.

RFE poster - 2

And I got a couple of free race entries, too!

I was speechless. This has got to be about the coolest thing I’ve ever received. This is going up on a wall even if I never get around to that man cave. Thank you Randy, and Mandy, and Dawn, and Joanna, and everyone else at Running Fit Events for helping make this year so memorable for me. And special thanks to my family and friends who helped me reach the goal despite some challenges in other areas of life this year. I love you all.

Coming up soon, I will recap the year in running, cycling, and Aikido, including the highlights of a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience. And lowlights too – those are more fun to read, aren’t they. Until then, thank you all very much once again.