Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Usually Wednesday is my favorite day to run.  It's an easy pace, a nice distance (usually 8 or 10 miles right now) and I can just relax and play for a little bit.  But tonight just wasn't that fun.  I doubled yesterday, though not a very intense double, so maybe my legs were tired from that.  Also, I didn't sleep very well last night, so that probably had something to do with it, but either way I just didn't have much tonight.

I went out and back along the Lakewalk.  It was a really nice night to run, temps in the mid 20s, no wind and even a few snowflakes falling slowly.  I knew after a mile or so that it was going to be one of those runs where you just don't feel 100% so I focused on not focusing on that, and just let me mind drift.  For me, these runs are a kind of meditation, a ritual of sorts.

And while my legs just didn't have it tonight, I still had a nice run, and enjoyed my time out there.   Tomorrow's another day, another chance.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Company You Keep

I remember a few years ago, when I was running a lot and getting more serious about it and setting PR's,  I was engulfed in the sport.  I'm not really one to obsess about things, generally I'm laid back and take everything in stride, but I was getting obsessed with running.  When a recent issue of "Running Times" would come in the mail I would drop everything and read it cover to cover.  I would spend hours on  reading message board threads both informative and inane.  I would listen with awe as some of my local running heros, men and women who had been running as long or even longer than I had been alive, as they would tell of races past and wisdom earned. I look back on those days now and I have to say that I'm grateful that I did become obsessed.  I can't quite go to the length of saying that running changed my life (for our change comes from a myriad of sources and our ability to recognize and then use those sources) but running drastically improved it.

Running taught me the value of self discipline and the importance of commitment.  I learned that consistency makes you stronger, that effort is itself a great reward.  I discovered the joy and strange paradox of being completely depleted from a hot, August 10 mile run and yet completely filled with a feeling of life's abundance.  And while I had to learn these things on my own, I couldn't have learned them at all without those heros of mine, whom I looked up to, who showed me the way.

And it continues to this day.  I have new running heros to look up to now.  Some faster than me, some slower (it's never been about faster/slower anyway).   I can find inspiration in every runner I see, for they all have a story worthy of their effort.  They all have a reason.

We runners share a common bond, and that is to continue.  To continue to move forward, as fast and as far as we can.  And in the interims, we can reflect, we can dream, we can appreciate.  And as I sit here on this windy Sunday night, I see an unread "Running Times" on my coffee table, to my left I have work that needs to be done but I'm happier right now to think about those who have taught and inspired me.

Health is the greatest gift,
Contentment the greatest wealth,
Faithfulness the best relationship.

                                                                                    -The Buddha

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Our training group

Tuesday night and tonight were our first two group runs for the latest edition of our Training Group.  The interest and turnout has been tremendous so far, I'm really pleased with the direction we're heading.  I'm sure this will be a fun and motivated group.

We're taking things nice and slow so far, just 3 miles, easy for both runs.  We're doing this just to get everyone physically ready, to get their respective minds and bodies prepared for the consistency of training.  By keeping things short and easy early on, most will be able to be fully recovered for their next workout.  In about 4-6 weeks, we'll be getting into harder and a bit more intense stuff.

I've really enjoyed leading these training groups.  I'm a believer in the power of running to create confidence and joy and of course to improve health.  But I'm also a believer in people and their respective abilities.  I've seen, in these training groups, people come a long ways and become strong runners.  They are very inspiring to me.

Little by little.  Everyday.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Long runs

If only my legs could talk.  I guess in a way, they were talking to me all morning during my run with Dave and Henry.  During all 18.76 miles of the run.  They were basically saying, "Stop!  Right now! I don't want to do this!"  I, in return, told them to shut up and trudged along the lakewalk and Hwy 61 for a decent run that was only made better by my company.

These are the days when running with someone is invaluable.  I used to be a solo runner, mostly because I lived in small town Iowa and only a handful of people there ran anyway.  But also, because I preferred running alone.  Now, I've come to learn the value of running with others on occasion, that it's not only important because having others there helps push you through the days like today, but also because it's really good just to get out and be with the guys for a bit.

That being said, I do still like to run solo at times and to go inside myself for a while, that's needed by everyone, and me in particular because I'm a pretty introspective person.  (Indeed, I probably self-analyze too often!)  But by now I've grown pretty sick of myself and need to have that time with others, so it's really nice to have these guys to run with.  I think I've found a good balance.

And so speaking of balance and self-analyzing, I've been thinking a lot lately about my life.  About where I'm at and where I'm going.  I have friends that I love, a job that I love, and a supportive family.  I have pride in who I've become but I also have a commitment to trying to improve myself, everyday.  It's true that there's an area or two in my life that's maybe lacking, things I need to work on, strengths to be gained and potential for an even greater life, but all in all I'm overwhelmingly happy and content.

Even on those long runs, when I don't feel 100%, there's still value to be taken, still an opportunity to learn.

"I ate so much SPAM last night." -Dave H. (I can't take credit for that one!)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Better Than Yourself

"Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors.  Try to be better than yourself."
                                                                                                        -William Faulkner

Easy 8

One of my favorite runs is a simple, 8-12 mile out and back run.  I love to just go out at a casual pace and not have to think too much about the course or my effort.  It allows me a chance to decompress and even relax.  (Funny to think of running up to 12 miles as relaxing, but we all know that it is!)

Last night was one of those nice runs where my mind wanders pleasantly, and my body feels light and responsive.  I started out and ran most of my miles in the 7:50s to 8 min pace but decided to throw in a couple of quick surges too, just to see.  Just to see how I responded from Tuesday's ladder workout I did on the treadmill and to see how long I could hold the surges.  I've always felt that a great way to gauge fitness is to test my surges weekly and see how long I hold them.  Once I see that I'm able to hold them longer, then I start getting confident that I'm getting fitter and stronger.

All of these surges are simply done by feel.  I don't care what pace I'm running at but I do care about the distance.  Last night, I probably went about 800-1000 meters per surge.  The next time I do these surges within an easy run, I'd like to be able to hold them longer, maybe 1200 meters.  Again, I don't use this as a workout but as a way to gauge my fitness, and I don't do them for every easy run, just occasionally and only if my body is feeling good.

Last night was a good one, a confidence booster.  I'm looking forward to more of those!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The DRC Super Team Party

Last night was our Duluth Running Co. Racing Team Party.  We met at the Thirsty Pagan in Superior and proceeded to stuff ourselves with beer and pizza and good conversation.  It was really nice to have our team party in a more relaxed setting so that people could mingle and chat with everyone.

I think everyone had a good time, I know I did.  It was great to see so many people there, especially since we had it during the Super Bowl, which I don't think too many of us cared about.  Seriously, what's a Super Bowl party anyway?  It's a gathering of friends with food and drink and conversation, there just happens to be a silly football game on in the background, which people only half-heartedly watch anyway. Last night, we just eliminated the silly.

It turned out that our party was also the day after my 40th birthday and totally unknown to me, a plan had been put in place, to acknowledge that.  When Steve, the owner, came out and turned off some of the lights I thought "Oh that's nice, Steve has something special planned for us."  And then when everyone started singing "Happy Birthday" I thought, "Oh cool, it's someone's birthday, I wonder who's it is."  And then they started walking toward me and I thought "Tony, you're an idiot, it's yours!"  It was a real surprise and it was really nice of everyone to do that.  I appreciated it very much!

So hopefully this 2011 brings everyone a great running season and much happiness.  I think last night's Team Party was a good start.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

15 Along the Lake

It's not very often that I get a chance to run on February 5th in upper 20 degree weather.  Usually it's cold or snowy or windy or all three.  At least it has been for most of the February 5ths of the past 40 years.

So with the nice weather and other incentives, it was nice to get out and run with Dave H. and Henry.  We started out along the lakewalk, headed east and continued on up the North Shore for a few more miles, turning around at about 7.5 miles.  The lakewalk wasn't too bad to run on, the corn snow actually provided a little bit of grip compared to the surface on Wednesday when I ran it last.

We started out running 7:50's or so, which was probably a bit too fast to start with.  After getting to some more appropriate 8 minute miles, Henry turned off to head home and Dave and I sped up a bit.  We got to 6:20s for a bit before I fell off.  I haven't held that pace for quite some time, so my body wasn't ready for that.  It was fun to go quick for a bit though and to be honest, probably good for me too.

Other than the quick pace at the end, I felt totally comfortable the whole time.  It's such a great feeling to be getting in shape, to be getting stronger and fitter.  And then, of course, to know that there's a lot of training to do.  That's a nice thing about having done this for a long time now.  I know what needs to be done and how to go about it.  That knowledge gives me a lot of confidence for the upcoming season but what's really important is having the foresight to know that there may be some bumps in the road.  And if they do happen, I know I have the tools to handle them properly and in turn, to come back stronger.

All in all, a great day.

"It's good to be on the road again."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Finding Contentment in the Modern World

Recently I made a trip to visit my family in Iowa.  I stayed for a few days with my sister and brother-in-law and their two children.  My brother-in-law, Rich, and I always have some great conversations.  Rich is a very talented musician and a piano tuner who has a very strong reputation in the music industry.  (he's tuned for such notables as Ben Folds, Jack White and Lori Line: she wanted him to go on tour with her)

Rich spoke to me of how he was impressed with how I'm able to seemingly be content in all situations.  How I seem to be at ease at all times.  Rich, himself, is not.  He's a very nervous and worrisome person.  I think he's right about that, though, I am often very content.  It's something that comes easy to me.

I believe firmly in keeping life simple, to not surround yourself with too many burdens or too much drama. I think this is where my contentment comes from, my belief in the simple.  Desire, of course, is fine and not to be discouraged, it can keep us moving forward.  But at what cost?  Far too often, I feel, we are driven by desire, and thus we have no control over ourselves.  It's our desire that is in control.  The late Serbian author Danilo Kis (sp?) once said, "When you hit the bullseye you miss the rest of the target."  I think that quote speaks to my contentment.  I understand that the rest of the target still has value.  (indeed the bullseye isn't even the space with the highest point total on a dart board!)

If we could only find value in everything, for there is value in everything, and more importantly, in the simple things, then I think everyone would find much more contentment in their lives.  And what I've found is that once I'm filled with contentment, and I'm truly at peace with myself, then all of the other aspects of my life become more beautiful, more important.  Somewhere in the Bible (imagine me quoting the Bible!) someone asks "What are the most important things in life?" and I don't know for sure, but it's probably Jesus, says "The things you cannot see."  That is contentment.  Knowing that and understanding that and eventually living that.

Health or reputation: which is held dearer?
Health of possessions: which has more worth?
Profit or loss: which is more troublesome?

Great love incurs great expense,
And great wealth incurs great fear,
But contentment comes at no cost.
For who knows when to stop
Does not continue into danger,
And so may long endure.

(from the Tao Te Ching)