Freedom Run

Most of you know that I am an avid runner. Well, maybe not so much since my hip replacement a little over a year ago. Since my 1 year checkup showed that my implant has been incorporated into my skeleton I have given myself a license to return to my addiction.  Kind of.

I went for a 4 miler yesterday and did something I haven’t done in at least 5 years. I didn’t use a running app on my iPhone to track my mileage and time. Sure, I took my phone because having that lifeline is good, just in case. And pictures. I like to take pictures.

What has changed?

A few things. While recovering, maybe regenerating is a better word, from the surgery I started to read about the human body. I bounced around among tomes on evolution and fitness. As I read more, I started to focus in on a couple of areas – biomechanics and anatomy . NOTE: The links I just provided are a sampling of what is written and represent my gateway reading. There are many other books and articles. I encourage you to read all you can.

As my recovery continued I found myself looking for a job. That process, which is worth its own post or two, took several months and occupied a lot of my time. There was a guilt paradox going on. I had the “free” time to do more cycling and running but felt guilty if I wasn’t pursuing a job with that time. When I did find a job (a great one that has been very much what I hoped for) I committed to a long commute that kind of puts a twist on my typical morning workouts. I’m still adjusting to the timing.

All I’m saying is that my ramp up to distance has been slower than it would have been a year ago. And that has turned out to be a good thing. Since I couldn’t run, I read about it, and I found alternate forms of exercise. All of that informed my running going forward.

As a writer, I decided to start a book about what I’ve learned and to distill that learning into something readable and prescriptive. In taking my own medicine, I’ve re-thought how I run. Not my form, but my pace and mindset.

Photo Sep 20, 3 33 34 PM

I used to run to a clock and work on specific workouts. Statistics embraced me at the end of each run and were automatically uploaded to social media. I loved it because I got in contact with other runners, many of whom have become friends beyond the running. All of it reinforced my process. Was I addicted to running or to the tracking of my running.

Admittedly, I am not fast. I’m average or a little better, but I will never win a distance race. Period. Why was I working on speeding up my running? Did I really enjoy that?

On a run one weekend I was thinking about running. It was only 3 miles, but for my point in recovery, that was my goal. I looked around and started to play a little as I ran. On a wintery, Sunday morning in the New England town in which I live, the roads are quiet and the woods are stark and graphic. Sections of snow and ice make force you to pay attention, and I ran out into the road to avoid some of the obstacles. Then I started to run out and around in the road just for fun, like a kid pretending to be an airplane or stepping around some obstacle course. I smiled without thinking about it.

The run became fun. I’ve always enjoyed running, but this was a different kind of enjoyment. I still had my iPhone app running, but I was having too much of a good time going down some side roads I hadn’t traversed and stopping once in a while to hear a woodpecker hammering on an oak tree. That sounds carries on a cold, brisk morning.

Yesterday, taking advantage of a warm spell, I went out and followed my instincts. Although I didn’t run on a trail, I am able to use the margins of our country roads to good IMG_5122effect. My neighbors don’t seem to mind me running on the edges of their lawns. As you can see, that area is usually offered up to the gods of snow plowing anyway, so I’m not doing much damage.

I continue to use a natural style of running, meaning it stems from a barefoot mode of movement that prevents overstriding and encourages a forefoot to midfoot landing. What I have found is that it isn’t about how your foot lands, it is about not overstriding. In other words, your foot should not extend out beyond your knee when you step forward. The only way to do that is to keep a bend in your knee, which eliminates heavy heel striking. You can still heel strike, but without an overstride, you significantly reduce the impact.

That said, I do wear shoes. What I wear are have a low lift – only 4mm – and a nice wide toebox. IMG_5128

These are Saucony’s and besides the low cushion, low lift they have a cool color. Why shoes? Well, the side of the road is not a prestine trail. There are many interesting deposits which are the outcome of human activity.

 

The shards of glass are pretty common. The computer remnant was a bit unique, but there is always something. True, you hardcore barefooters will rightfully say that over time my skin will thicken and these things won’t matter. I started down that path and found that shoes don’t hurt in pursuit of good form. Sorry. Plus, I can take a running break at Starbucks and not have worry about putting on those gauze booty things.

More important, I gave myself permission to not worry about time or distance. Just run and enjoy the motion. Those times when I felt the pace going up, I slowed myself down to where I was breathing normal and not huffing too much.

What’s it matter?

Slower, means better form. Better form means less injury. I’ll post more about that sometime, but not right now.

This is about enjoyment of an activity I have done the majority of my life. I’m in it for the long run, so to speak. I already admitted that I’m not fast and my 3hour, 37minute and change Hartford Marathon is going to be my best. I managed a sub 47 minute 10k, too. That was my best at that distance. I’m okay with those times. Clearly, I’m not setting any records and improvement means taking a “work” perspective to running. That’s not my mode anymore. I’m running untethered.

What I’ve learned is running is about finding your pace and enjoying motion.

RUN FREE, RUN EASY

 

 

Same Sex Marriage and Information Technology

An odd combination for a blog topic, but not really.

In the world of IT the pendulum of control has found a logical resting place. For the majority of enterprises those services within the enterprise that are considered common are under the  management of a central IT department. Services like email, data center servers and storage, shared network, remote access, security, and local connectivity are examples of services that fall into that category.

Before the pervasive use of IT, each line of business was best served by doing their own thing and focusing on their own bottom line. As technology became pervasive and the enterprise recognized that information was foundational, the recognized the need to share and interconnect systems. Barriers were quickly seen in technical, process and financial areas and acceptance of common standards developed to resolve those differences and make information readily available so the lines of business could focus on generating revenue.

handshake

You see, most enterprise leadership recognizes that IT is too complex and having each line of business do their own thing is not only inefficient, it leads to high risk from a security and financial perspective. Consistent delivery of connectivity, server, storage and desktop services provide benefit to the enterprise. Even for applications that are specific to a business process, there are still basic guidelines that are followed – not using static IP addresses in code, as an example. It is all for the common good.

The millennium transition (remember Y2K?) and a need for constant security readiness have taught most enterprises that they need to accept and enforce the right level of common infrastructure and standards. Times have changed and business has adapted.

global IT

Now, think about our national infrastructure. What would it be like if Eisenhower and Congress had thought to let each state make it’s own highway decisions? We’d have varying gauges a roads and different numbers for the same streets. Yes, there is a lot of local influence and investment in the national highway system but the foundational structure and rules of operation are mandated by the central authority.

US interstate

The examples of “common good” mandates can go on for quite a while. In almost all cases there is a transition point where local authorities or lines of business are given control, but they have to play within the standards that promote the common good.

When it comes to the rights of individuals, the common good in the United States is synopsized by the first 10 amendments of our Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.

It was primarily penned by James Madison and is one of the most eloquent and simple statements of human liberty ever made into law. My favorite of those amendments is the first one, which guarantees freedom of the press, speech and religion all in one simple sentence.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That is the entire amendment. It means that people have the freedom to practice religion in their own way without government interference. The counter is also true. The government can not force a religion onto its people (no law respecting an establishment…). This is a fundamental difference between what is civil action as expressed in law and what is moral action as expressed in individual religious belief.

Constitution and gavel

Kind of a simple construct. You may legislate civil actions but you may not legislate morality. Morality, expressed through religion, the press, and speech is an open forum, within the tolerances of civil action. Civil action is all about guardrails. Killing someone in a premeditated manner is murder and, as a society, we have decided that it is wrong. There are religions that concur with that fundamental, but it is not because of those religions that we hold it true that murder is wrong. As a society we have made that compact. Clearly, we do not agree on the consequences for murder, but we do agree that murder is wrong.

Marriage is both civil and social. We have wrapped legal fabric around an action that is a social construct so that there are basic rules that we follow in terms of licenses and dissolution. Even then, there are nuances in every state when it comes to how marriage is created or dissolved.

If the only reason for stating that gay marriage is not allowable is because of a religious cannon, then that is not defensible from a constitutional framework. The first amendment does not allow the government to make a law “respecting an establishment of religion.”

We the People

If your religion mandates that gay people can not marry, then do not allow that, but do not force your beliefs on the rest of the country. When it comes to the law of the land, you are totally allowed to follow your beliefs, but a) you must accept that other beliefs are just as valid under the law and b) you can’t ask the government to make your religious cannon into law.

I’ve tried to write a better ending to this post than the paragraph above, and anything I say beyond that seems trite or argumentative.

I often end my blogs with the wish that you run free. That, to me, is the purest expression of freedom. The freedom to move under the power of my own body and enjoy the world around me. Today I exhort you all to celebrate freedom. It can be difficult to hear what other people say, but at the end of the day, we should all be grateful that we have the freedom to say what we think.

Be Free

A Conspiracy of Women

Something sinister is afoot.

I feel compelled to warn my fellow men. And I mean men, since women are already conspiring. Let me deconstruct that thought.

As men we are quite comfortable with seeing and understanding conspiracy, usually, in video games, politics and between cubicles in our offices. We do not have the genetic code to recognize conspiratorial activities among women. Mostly because we are interested in having sex with them, so our depth of thought regarding their actions mostly stops at whether or not we are going to get laid.

The conspiratorial hand was tipped by a friend of mine, @allieburkebooks. She is the queen of selfies and quite a wordcrafter.

allie

proxy

Anyway, a post of hers almost slipped by my unnoticed. If it hadn’t been for the narcotic effect of the oxycodone I was on because of my hip surgery I might not have become aware of these machinations. In her post Allie commented how thankful she was for all the strong and supportive women she had connected with. In my state, I was able to see what this really meant. There was a conspiracy of women. Somehow they had deformed social media to make alliances and tender support across the ether to share stories of success and offer consolation and advice to each other.

Once I unmasked this dastardly endeavor I began to see it everywhere. Following the trail left by Allie led me to a nexus of activity. I saw this woman frequently on social media and it surprised me that I could have missed all the signs. So clever of her to hide in plain sight. Among her many virtual personas the one I first encountered was @RachelintheOC.

rachelintheoc

 

Sure, she looks innocent enough and professes to be a social media expert, but her real intention is to use her multiple personas to align women of all makes and models in such a way that they feel good about themselves and gain a sense of power through self worth. So devious. So blatant.  I was so upset when I realized her true intentions. I mean, at one time she gave me sage advice on how to improve my online presence. Of course, I ignored it because, well, I’m a man and following advice wasn’t going to get me laid. It is kinda like asking me to read a map.

Through the clarity instilled by the opiates in my blood I saw that she was helping women to help themselves. Even covering her tracks by throwing occasional assistance to men. She started discussions and threads to help women understand their emotional states and face their inner fears and uncertainties. And encouraging women to be honest about those emotional things that we men spend 28% or our caloric energy on keeping bottled up. I saw her influence on the young and impressionable mind of Allie Burke. She is helping create a generation who know what they want and are content to help each other find ways to be happy in their own skin.

I was so devastated that I decided to ignore it and do something I liked instead. That was running. Since I was having hip issues, I couldn’t actually run, so I went to my running magazine, Runner’s World, to find solace. To my surprise I saw an announcement that they were creating a new ezine, called Zelle, about running. Except is was running for women with a focus on how the activity helps build personal strength. The subterfuge continues. This time the instigator is @EJComeau.  Don’t let the cute dimples fool you. She is dedicated to promoting the conspiracy and showing any who care to listen how running can improve the quality of life in many ways.

ejcomeau

These women only marginally care about times, pace and distance. Many are accomplished, world class runners, but most are just normal – whatever that is.

In anguish I slipped into Twitter again and tried to find a twitter crush to waste time and develop hormonal alignment with. Instead, I found other women who were doing more than just running to find their inner strength. Sure, there were some like @SheRunsforLove who uses running to develop strength beyond the purely physical.

sherunsforlove

Then the is @muscleboundmama and a host of other women who pump iron. I mean serious iron. They don’t glisten, they fucking sweat when they workout. Furthermore, she coaches on fitness. Do you know what that means? She is helping other people become self-confident. Men and Women.  muscleboundmama

Here’s the deal. When you ask them for help or input, they just give it to you. I mean, I tested it by throwing our some questions and I got honest, heartfelt responses. Not the wiseass, half assed, intellectualized, palp that I was expecting.

It is diabolical!

My head reeled. The conspiracy was all around me and there was nothing I could do. It was revealed. All out in the open and I was powerless to stop it. I had but one option left.

I grabbed a beer and turned on Netflix to watch a marathon of Arrow because the IT chic, Felicity, is pretty hot.

Felicity

 

POST SCRIPT:

Just in case someone doesn’t get my sense of humor, all of the women mentioned in this post (sans Felicity) are real and are friends of mine. They are amazing, strong and smart in their own individual ways and I am graced to know them.

Run on National Running Day!

June 5, 2013 is National Running Day!

I run...

I encourage all of you to get out and move. It doesn’t matter how long or how fast (a walk is just a leisurely run). Go solo. Go with friends. All I ask is that you smile while you run!  It’s about having FUN!

I’m going to do a very short run. I’ll tell you why.

The day before National Running Day I got a nice cut on the bottom of my foot when I stomped on a nail head on the deck. The string of invectives that followed the cut would have made my friend AJ Aalto proud, even though I lack her innate creativity for slang.

It means I have to lay off training for a while. That will be hard to do because I am just ramping up and it has been fun feeling the form come along.

I’m not that anal about my training, except I just publicized that I am running the Fairfield Half Marathon in 18 days. I know that if I try to run before the cut has healed it will open up again, sending me back to day one on the recovery calendar. The cut is right on the bottom of my foot on the outside of my forefoot (the ball of the foot). That just happens to be the place that hits the ground first with every stride.

My impatience has me looking at the tube of Rhino glue in the cupboard.

Photo Jun 04, 8 07 00 PM

Don’t laugh. I’ve done it before, but not on my foot. Did I mention that men are generally stupid and that we apply the same technology to our bodies that we do to broken furniture? Air guns and shelac go a long way in remedying what ails you. Really. I’ve seen the staples doctors put in incisions and my Porter-Cable staple gun can do about the same job.

The good thing is that we won’t use those same curative methods on our spouses or significant others. But, beware ladies. We might do try some of this on our kids.

Funny how these blogs take on a life of their own. It’s like most of my writing. I start out with a hint of an idea and where it goes surprises me.

When you put your feet in front of each other today and run down the driveway or across town, think of me with the tube of Rhino glue in my hand while I do the risk analysis on whether I’m being stupid or brilliant.

And…

RUN FREE!!!

Parallels

I don’t know why, but I often find parallels between two or more unrelated concepts.  Some call it peculiar, but I call it a gift.  During an early morning cup of coffee, as I sat down with my Aurora fountain pen and a clean sheet of paper, it hit me that there are several parallels between writing and working out.  Since I am an avid runner and cyclist as well as an author (SYN:FIN) I was surprised it had taken me so long to see the relationship. Let’s take a look at the parallels.

Passion

To get good at either writing or a sport requires you have a burning desire in your gut.  The kind of desire that gets you out on the road or sitting with a writing device to ply your craft.  It isn’t a one time effort, either.  Writing and running are lifetime commitments to me.  I may finish running a race (jlgrunr.com) or complete writing a novel, but I know those are just milestones along the way.  There is more to come and, if you have passion, you relish the idea of what’s ahead.

Discipline

An emotional draw is only the calling card.  To be successful and grow requires discipline.  As a writer, if you sit and start throwing words out you may feel fulfilled, but are you creating something of value that is truly the best you can do?  As a runner or cyclist, if you go out on the road and cover the same track every time are you really gaining anything?

A long time ago I made an attempt to race bicycles.  It was a great learning experience, which led me to improving my riding, even though I never attained much in terms of racing accomplishments.  Early on, I went out with some experienced racers on a training ride and got dropped.  Twice.  Tucking my tail between my legs, I pedaled back to the bike shop on my red Pinarello racing machine and talked to the team manager.  After hearing that my training consisted of putting on miles by just riding progressively longer routes around town he told me “You aren’t going to get there by doing what your’re doing.” Those miles were like empty calories.

What he prescribed was a different approach.  One that actually had fewer miles with a more focused effort.  It made a world of difference.

A Mixed Regimen

For the last several years I have been working on novels.  My normal writing time in the morning is either writing or editing those works.  That has been a bit of a mistake. It has been through some discussions with other writers on Twitter and Facebook that made me realize the error of that approach.

In running, I learned that I need to do diverse efforts to really improve.  The past 7 months have been a little different for my running since I am converting to a minimalist style of running.  That has had me going back to square one in terms of form and mileage.  It also had me re-gearing my training program.  In order to get the most advantage out of low mileage, I did several runs during the week that focused on hills and hill repeats (yes, running up and down the same hill several times in a row).  Other times I slowed my pace and went for longer distance or just went out and had fun.

In writing, I am now taking that same approach.  I started to write some short stories, a craft that I have a growing respect for.  Those shorts are in genres that I don’t normally write in.  I penned some erotica or YA fantasy (I’m not combining the two!). I haven’t tried poetry or a screenplay, but they are goals.  Hell, practice writing book blurbs or new copy for advertisement.  It all applies

As a runner, I have found growth and strength come from changing the level of intensity and the terrain on which I run.  In finding that strength, I have confidence to push myself further and harder.  You know what?  Each time I go to a new limit I discover I have a lot more I can do.

The same with writing.  Just in the few weeks that I have started to vary my writing challenges, I am discovering that I can pen my main WIP with more focus and clarity.  So go after it.  Try something new and totally fail at it.  You’ll never get success until you blow up.  Jump into a Flash Fiction challenge and see how bad you can write in 15 minutes.  Accept a wordmongering challenge from someone, or even throw one out there.  I did that a few days ago for the first time and added over 400 words to a blog post I had been putting off.

Structure

I am not a creature of habit, but I am one of structure. Seldom do I do the same thing exactly the same way.  I have a flexible plan now for my writing, the same way I do for my running.  In transitioning my style of running I knew I had to establish some limits on a weekly and monthly basis.  To go too fast too soon would lead to injury and a much longer transition.  It takes a while to develop the muscles and form.

For writing, I gave myself some targets in terms of words and also made a commitment to try a different style sometime during the week.  I knew that by the end of the week I wanted to have achieved some goals, but exactly how and when I got them was more spontaneous.

Focus on Form

As I said, my early running transition focused on short runs following good form.  If you haven’t tried a new genre, then take it slow.  Don’t worry about word count, worry about quality.  Make sure that even if you write only one sentence, that it is a good sentence. A poet friend of mine (Eclipsing Winter) enters contests and writes in forms that she is unfamiliar with. Not everything works, but I have admiration for the way she exercises her poetic muscle.

I do suggest that you don’t delete, just start a new line and keep the mistakes for reference.  Once you start to get the form down, you can go longer, faster and with more ease.

My initial focus on minimalist running was becoming more “barefoot” aware.  I did a portion of the runs barefoot (it was November and December in New England, so it was a challenge!) because barefoot on the pavement gave the most immediate and effective feedback on form.  If you run wrong barefoot, you feel it immediately.  As the form became engrained, I ran longer distances and less time barefoot.

Outside Your Comfort

As part of the development, you need some stretch goals.  In running, I plan for a run or a race that is more than I’ve ever done or a faster time than I’ve ever done or a more challenging course.  There are many ways to vary the effort to make the stretch goal something that will make you reach further than you think you can.

In writing, your comfort zone might be more than just trying a new genre.  It might be having a different peer review.  Don’t give your work to friends and other supportive writers all the time.  Find someone who you respect but have had little interface with and ask them to review.  Develop that thick skin that will breed confidence in your prose or poetry.  Put yourself out there and welcome the feedback.  Post a sample to your blog and invite people to tear it apart, but be sure to ask them why they don’t like it or where it fell short.  You want constructive feedback.  Ignore the pissants.

Forward Motion

I want to encourage you to keep moving forward.  Another virtual friend of mine (Marissa) has been challenging herself for fitness and improving her self perception.  It has been an up and down roller coaster to witness, but the one thing I see her doing is moving forward.  Any step backward is followed by a couple of steps forward. She makes mistakes, but who doesn’t.

Just as in running, there will be setbacks.  Early in my transition I went out and ran a lot more than I should have.  For two weeks I had massive pain in my calves and it set my transition back about a month or so.  That said, I had capped any individual run at about 10 miles the last few months and was still nursing some achilles tendon sensitivity when I signed up for a Half Marathon.  I ran that last weekend and pushed past the limit I had set.  At home after the race with lots of leg pain I wondered if I was back in the same boat.  But, two days later I had no pain, did several runs, including a 9 miler yesterday, and have reached a new level of readiness in how I feel.

There are times when you have to say, “fuck it”, and go past the limit.  You need the base before you do, but when you have the base, don’t hold yourself back.

Rest

I closing, I want you to recognize that rest is as important as effort.  Yep, the key to development is to find the right space to rest.  In running, it is pretty common to have a rest day where you do much lighter workouts or a different type of exercise to let you leg muscles recover after a hard effort.

In writing, take some time away from the keyboard (or paper) and spend a day reading, but think like an editor.  What would you do differently?  How would you improve the plot or characters?  What has the author done well and why did it work?  You can also watch a movie and think like a screenplay editor, always keeping a critical eye on how to make the work better.  Believe me, it will improve your work.

So there you have it.  I have had the pleasure and good fortune of virtually hooking up with a lot of authors in a forum that I love.  Some are newbie and some very successful.  What I have found is that the ones who keep moving forward are the ones who challenge themselves in lots of different ways.  They build a discipline around that challenge and then work toward the goal.

Don’t stop writing, but don’t just write.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Please, post those comments.  It is all part of that feedback loop!