Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Random racing ruminations: Week 14, Solitude

(4.0 mile run)
Temperature 50 degrees
Mile 1 = 9:58
Mile 2 = 9:48
Mile 3 = 9:07
Mile 4 = 8:56 

Today's run officially kicked off my third week of training for the Lincoln Half-Marathon. As I was packing my running gear before I left for work this morning, I had the vaguest feeling that I was forgetting something important. The notion that I know I'm missing something I need, but not being able to locate what that thing is, probably ranks highest on my most annoying list of what is happening to me as I get older. How is it that my brain can know hey, Todd, don't you think there is something else? but when I run through the list in my mind in order to recall the missing memory my brain is like nope, maybe that is everything because even though you feel like you are without something important you must really have everything. The most infuriating piece of all of this: the feeling is 99% correct every time. It means I'm missing something.

As I was unpacking and changing in to my running clothes, I confirmed that my odd feeling of forgetfulness was spot on once again. I didn't pack ear buds for my phone.

The temperature was 50 degrees, the sun was welcoming, and I didn't need the hat and gloves I had packed just like I probably didn't need my ear buds.

My determination today was to run entirely around the lake and today was perfect. It was more like spring than winter in January. Running without my music, pace, and time updates in my ear was a welcome change in routine, leading me to think about solitude.

Rustling leaves scraped their way along the pavement and made their way to piles on the opposite side of the trail and drew me into my surroundings.

A constant hum of vehicles racing east and west on Interstate 80 not far from the trail combined the beauty of nature with civilization.

I heard the replies of people on the trail as I waved and said hi. Generally I only read the responses of their body language because of my music pushing me on.

A plane soared overhead.

A few birds circled the lake that wanted to be frozen solid, yet the ice was pushing the way back to waves.

Diesel engines idled at the truck stop, their sounds like fumes floating down the hill, across the lake, and faintly reaching my senses, drifting in and out of the wind, becoming the background for what is usually in my ears.

This peacefulness of solitude made me long for more of it. This run felt different. I was no longer focused on the next interval update; rather I centered on my own breathing, how my body felt, and how one I was with my surroundings. Much of my life is focused on the opposite of solitude. My reminders on my computer pull me from thought to thought, communication to communication, task to task, making me feel tarried, incomplete, and unfocused. I'm drawn to flipping through apps on my phone when I should put it aside to focus on doing something productive and beneficial.

I wondered if I should be running more without technology. Maybe less technology in life would be better too.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Random racing ruminations: Urban living, gentrification, and great Omaha locations

This weekend ended my second week of training for the Lincoln Half-Marthon. I'm making incremental progress in my average pace and I'm slowly working up to longer distances. I know I must be patient with this entire training process. I'm impatient to see the results all my hard work will bring.

Sunday brought a great three mile interval run. I'm still struggling to control my breathing while increasing my stamina. Saturday was the longest run in my training schedule so far, a mere five miles. However, it's been over a year since I've run that distance so I will consider it a success. The paved trail near our home is a short one, far from five miles, and it doesn't connect to any other trails. Usually the beginning or ending portions of my runs require me to wind through surrounding neighborhoods to accomplish distances of longer than three miles. I tentatively charted out my Saturday's five-mile trek on Google Maps, and then I hit the streets of cool, older, Omaha neighborhoods. My route took me down some residential streets I previously have not explored. I took in my surroundings: houses of varying architectural styles, sizes, and character; some streets contained large, grand, well-maintained homes; some streets humble, unassuming, and in need of maintenance or repair; all had grand mature trees, indicating a past, a history, a story. I take comfort in these types of neighborhoods, hoping that their stories continue, live on, and flourish. Peoples' choices will determine the fates of neighborhoods like these and that fact is of great interest and concern to me. It is a topic I think of often, and it is the topic where my thoughts lingered while running this weekend.

When we moved to Omaha we consciously decided to live in the middle part of the city. We settled on an old historic neighborhood that, obviously, contains older homes. Our home is unique and has identifiable character. It will also require constant upkeep and renovation, entailing extra financial investment and sacrifice from us. Living where we do is an ongoing resolution that central/mid-town Omaha is not a bad place. Because it definitely is not a bad place. Good people live here. Are there challenges? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Of course not. To deny that there is much work to be done in parts of Omaha would be ignoring the depressing stories that speak truth to certain situations of poverty, crime, and neglected forgotten buildings and neighborhoods. I fear those outlier stories create some blindness in city-dwellers who then choose to be outliers of the outer sections of the city. Instead I want to highlight some amazing work and renovation taking place by government and private entities who are revitalizing the core of Omaha:

Aksarban Village
One obvious shining light is Aksarban Village. We appreciate this bright spot in central Omaha. Offices are located there, including Michelle's. Restaurants, movies, shopping, and great events like farmers markets and live music means there is always something to do. It is where we spent New Years Eve. This Saturday we bought a birthday gift at Learning HQ and then Lily enjoyed swinging for the first time on the swing set at Stinson Park.

Blackstone District
I'm incredibly excited for the up-and-coming Blackstone District. While I haven't explored any of these places yet, this area is turning into a nice place for local, small-businesses. An extreme amount of restoration and renovation has taken place in a very short time.

Historic downtown Benson is slowly being revitalized with small businesses and breweries joining the landscape. This area of town is continuing to create buzz about what is new and exciting in an older part of town.

Urban Village Development
Urban Village Development is amazing! This is a collective of locally owned and managed apartments. They care about the buildings, neighborhoods, and tenants of their properties. They take historic buildings or older buildings with charm and update and renovate them with modern furnishings. Here is their vision, mission, and core values, according to their website:
Vision: To facilitate the transformation of Midtown Omaha into one of the areas strongest real estate submarkets.
Mission: Revitalize urban communities by rebuilding the fabric of the neighborhoods.
Core Values:
        Be a good neighbor.
        Do not own anything that we would not live in ourselves.
        Take chaos to calm.
        Treat the property like you live in it.
        Trust and Respect.  Do what you say you are going to do.
        Never forget the difficulties of the little guy who does not have many resources.
As opposed to the slum lords and landlords of Omaha who purchase cheap real-estate to make quick rental investment income at the expense of lower-income tenants (which perpetuates crime and poverty), Urban Village Development is the exact opposite. They are making a significant difference in the core of the city.

Midtown Crossing
Midtown Crossing is an up-scale area of shopping and living in a central part of Omaha. It has created excitement that is slowly spreading to renewed upkeep in the surrounding, once depressed neighborhoods. Here you can find condos, dining, movies, businesses, and live outdoor music and events during the warmer months of the year. 

Other Smaller Urban Renewal Projects
In addition to larger retail and living developments, smaller projects are taking place throughout Omaha. Some of these are just certain building renovations, while others are blocks at a time, or individual homeowners updating houses. To me, these are the projects that are truly exciting because they are ordinary Omahans making a difference to better an entire city. Landmark Group real estate purchases older abandoned and sometimes historic buildings and renovates them into appealing livable spaces. Finally there are great stories of individuals like an Omaha couple who renovated an old home in the Florance neighborhood and another Omaha couple who worked to update an old and historic home in the Josylyn Castle neighborhood.

Just like running and training for a half-marathon, the results of progress can be slow and sometimes painful. The complexities of gentrification most certainly are at play in the improvements I mention  taking place in Omaha. NPR produced a fascinating project exploring all the issues associated with gentrification in urban renewal projects. I urge anyone reading this blog to spend some time checking out NPR's Marketplace project titled York & Fig: At the Intersection of Change. The setbacks, challenges, and struggles taking place in the Highland Park neighborhood in L.A. at the corner of York and Fig are valuable for everyone to understand.

There are definitely different preferences for suburban versus urban living and I must acknowledge here that those preferences are valid and acceptable. But I hope for a return to older parts of Omaha by more people, those who have a passion and dedication for maintaining, renewing, and strengthening places that might have ill-perceived or misunderstood reputations.

While I wait to see these great changes continue to take place in Omaha, I look forward to another week of running and training. Charlie, who is too old to run with me any longer, looks intently out the window at the neighborhood, waiting for my return, so he can welcome me back home.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Random racing ruminations: Week 15, Time

(3.0 mile run)
Temperature 33 degrees
Mile 1 = 9:31
Mile 2 = 9:38
Mile 3 = 9:17

I once had a leader at work who always talked about time. He would constantly repeat himself regarding this topic, saying that time was the only variable one could control. He was oftentimes pompous, going further about time stating that we had to use time in ways that were smart. By being efficient, he would allude, one could be better. Usually I would take his statements about time as a personal attack, an affront on what I sometimes believed: there was value in dwelling, pondering, and spending or investing more time in something. Efficiency could potentially erode and devalue certain activities.

As I was sitting at my desk glancing at regular intervals to the bottom corner of my computer screen where the clock is, watching the minutes quickly turn over to afternoon, I almost thought about not running over lunch like I had originally planned. That cursed time had once again gotten the better of me. And that fact unnerved me. Until I just decided to stop focusing on it, logging off the computer to change into running clothes.

The laps around the lake near work were chillier than the past week, a mere 33 degrees which is wonderful for this time of year but cold compared to our weather lately. I had my running app set on my phone to give me time and pace updates but surprisingly, even though I know they were in my ear buds, I wasn't paying them much attention. Today's ruminations were all about time.

My training for this half-marathon had a focus on time.

My work day was dictated by time, oftentimes on projects I may not have wanted to dedicate energy to, but a necessary part of work.

My mornings before work were corrupted by time: time I love to spend snuggling and feeding Lily. Moments of talking, laughing, and mimicking each other as I get her dressed. In the past, morning time used to be time I only had to focus on myself, and I was always at work earlier, better prepared for the day. As a dad, I've willingly given up that time. But it is still an adjustment that leaves me feeling disheveled, not quite psyched-up for the time ahead.

The end of the week came quickly and I'm not certain I feel my time has been well-spent this week. I'm sure I can articulate the best and worst moments in time this week, pointing to those as evidence that I'm a productive being on this planet.

I was pulled back from these time-laden thoughts with a reminder that my time running was half way over. I turned around and looked to my destination, directly across to the other side of the frozen lake. I could see my office calling me back, daring me to be late for my 1:00 p.m. meeting. It was time to pick up the pace and overcome the hilly path only to return next week, another time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Random racing ruminations: Week 15, Movement

(3.0 mile run)
Temperature 47 degrees
Mile 1 = 9:08
Mile 2 = 8:44
Mile 3 = 8:49

My short three mile run today was around the lake at work during my lunch. This was the first run since my sad and strenuous interval training run on Sunday. It felt good to get out and move again. Seeing fellow runners making their movements around the trail at the lake during the same time was enough motivation in itself. The quick waves and head bobs as we passed each other communicated membership to some real (or maybe not so real) commitment to a way of living or being. I wondered if I was a poser, since I've only been back at this running thing for over a week. Would the real runners discover I wasn't one of them? I was just on a short three mile stint and then heading back to the office. However, maybe my choice to be out there with them was validation enough.

In other happenings, Lily began crawling for the first time today. Only yesterday, I blogged about how I thought she probably could crawl if she really wanted to. Well, today, it appears she really wants to move. And, therefor, it seemed fitting that today's theme should be movement.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Random racing ruminations: Week 16, Perseverence


Saturday (4.0 mile run)
Temperature 49 degrees
Mile 1 = 9:15
Mile 2 = 9:04
Mile 3 = 9:32
Mile 4 = 9:31

Sunday (3.0 mile run)
Temperature 38 degrees
Mile 1 = 9:42
Mile 2 = 9:49
Mile 3 = 9:15

I've been dwelling on perseverance lately. In watching Lily learn about the world and observing her experience the most casual of ordinary happenings, I see her persist and persevere on a regular basis.

She has extreme determination to figure out the coordination of her hands adjusting them to push, pull, and grasp the moving parts on her toys.

I know she wants to communicate with us using words but, of course is unable to yet. She experiments with all the different sounds her mouth, throat, tongue, and lips can make.

She flings and flips food in every direction possible to find the fastest and most efficient way to get it in her mouth so that she can develop her novice pallet.

And while I think she could crawl if she really wanted to, watching her on the floor is quite inspiring. Her trial and error of coordinating arms, legs, rocking, kicking, and pulling to accomplish systematic momentum is fantastic. I'm constantly rooting for her, hoping she'll figure it out. Charlie seems to be supporting her in these floor-crawling endeavors. He loves to lay next to her on her blanket and give her puppy kisses as forms of love and encouragement.

Charlie, too, perseveres to accomplish what he wants, mainly food. Lily has become his new favorite person, especially when she is eating because he patiently waits under her chair for all the rejected scraps to drop his way. Watching him persist makes me think of an entirely new definition of determination: starving obsession.

For both Lily and Charlie, perseverance and drive appears to arrive naturally. But I know this isn't always the case in life. As my first week of training for the Lincoln Half-Marathon came to a close this weekend, I had two runs scheduled: one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Saturday's run was almost effortless until howling winds seemed more determined than me. Then Sunday seven in the evening came quickly and I first thought about running. I didn't have any desire to make it happen. When I realized that all my running clothes were in the laundry, I quickly convinced myself that I would run Monday instead. I sat down on the couch feeling bad about myself.

Then some serious self-talk took place.

I went upstairs and pulled out old gross running pants that are now yard work and housework clothes, ones that I've painted in many times and there are various colors of paint flecks covering them. It was dark out already, so who cared what my pants looked like?

I put in my ear buds and began my three mile interval training. It didn't feel good. I couldn't get control of my breathing or how tired my body felt. At just the right time into mile 2 came the wise words from Salt-N-Pepa, Ah, push it (yes, this all-time classic is part of my running playlist), egging me on to adjust my stride and persevere. 
Later at the very end of mile 3, on the last stretch of some terrible interval training, came some even wiser words from Bobby McFerrin, 
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy 

I smiled, pleased with my decision to keep at it, sprinting home in weird paint-speckled running pants.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Random racing ruminations: Week 16, Take a break

The weather forecasters predicted some very warm weather for a January in Nebraska. After a run this week with temperatures in the upper twenties, when I heard today's high was going to be 45 degrees I planned to take advantage of the opportunity. Luckily my work is located on a beautiful lake with a paved trail around it. I haven't had a chance to go down the hill to explore this amazing area, and since it gets dark at 5:30p.m., running during the day on the trail around the lake seemed like a brilliant idea.

During my lunch break, I quickly switched from business casual attire to running attire. There was something about the atmosphere and nature that must have aided in me shaving a minute off of every mile.

The run was a nice break from what was an ordinary work day.

Breaks are important. They allow our minds to drift and wander. And when our minds rest, that is when we are the most creative. A lingering mind is an opportunity for our brains and spirits to catch up with our fast preoccupation with what is next. Take a break for solitude. Take a break to speak with a co-worker you haven't had a chance to get to know. Take a break to laugh. Take a break to daydream. Take a break to do something just for fun. Take a run.

(3.26 mile run)
Temperature 38 degrees
Mile 1 = 8:58
Mile 2 = 9:19
Mile 3 = 9:04

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Random racing ruminations

On May 15, 2014 Lily, my daughter, was born. On May 13, 2014, I wrote a blog post about the years of age, which was composed while sitting on my front porch drinking a beer. I had just decided to forgo a run on a beautiful day because relaxing with alcohol was more enticing, which was basically the impetus of the blog post: reflections regarding where I've been and where I'm going in life.

After those ruminations about my health status and impending fatherhood, my thoughts have returned to running and the importance of staying healthy so I can be a great father to a very tiny, precious girl.

Running has been nonexistent in my life since Lily's birth. And I want running back. I need it back. To keep myself accountable I signed up for the Lincoln Half-Marathon on May 3, 2015. I began my official training tonight after work and as my shoes hit the pavement of the concrete steps leading down the front porch towards a long-term arduous goal, the wandering thoughts began.

I thought about my first half-marathon which was also in Lincoln.

I thought about when I convinced myself it was unnecessary to run another half-marathon. This was when my mind really began racing, probably a result of a runners high, bundled up with three layers of clothing in the dark winter air. Running is when thoughts frantically flip, and sometimes clarity presents itself. So here is the randomness (or at least some of it), in no particular order, from my experience this evening:

While I'm running again, I should also write.

A great way to write again is to document my training for the half-marathon; therefore I will do that, blog about every training run.

I'm excited to be running again, but I'm insane to be doing this. I should have a title, a theme, for these blog posts about running. Wait. I'm really not running now. This is more like a jog. Gosh I'm out of shape. I hope I don't slip on ice. I need a play on words for a title. Maybe the theme could be how my mind "races" when I run. Would that be appealing to readers? Running, racing, get it? That's kinda clever. . .

Brown bear brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me. Damn, I will never, EVER,  get that book out of my head.

I've learned a lot about myself since Lily was born. I want to be present as a father, but I also want to provide for my family. Changing jobs has been the best thing for me to accomplish those dichotomous goals. I can't believe I used to spend 10-12 hours a day at work. Life is too short for that.

Lily, is discovering her voice: high screams, rhythmic jaw movements, lips vibrating against the back of her wrist, yells of frustration, the tongue da da da da sounds on the roof of her mouth, and deep guttural sounds combined from the back of her throat and diaphragm. She's fun.

It's a good thing I put my 16 weeks of training into my calendar otherwise I would talk myself out of this.

I wonder what other topics I should write about as I return to blogging . . .

I returned home, three miles later, feeling accomplished and energetic, which is the best part of running: the after-effects. The results of doing something productive will hopefully inspire me further in running and writing.

(3 mile run)
Temperature 27 degrees
Mile 1 = 10:10
Mile 2 = 9:45
Mile 3 = 9:54