Monday, March 23, 2015

Sibling love

Charlie is absolutely, quite totally, obsessed with his human sister, Lily.

In the morning he will sit outside her bedroom door and wait for us to open it when she wakes. Once in the room, he jumps up to her crib, carefully pressing his cold nose between the bars so that he can get a glimpse of her.

He gets away with much more at mealtime now, pacing below Lily's chair waiting for food to drop his way. He often licks her slimy hands clean.

Lily loves her puppy brother in return. In the mornings when Charlie comes into her room, she looks for him as she hears the tap tap tap of his paws and nails hitting the wood floor. Once she is able to spot him through the bars of her crib, she waves and tries to say his name. It basically comes out as gibberish sounds: aaahhhieeee.

Lily constantly watches Charlie pace below her at mealtime. She antagonizes him by leaning over and drooping one hand down to his level so that he can lick her dirty hands. Once in a while, though, she will also dangle a piece of food in the process despite us telling her and Charlie, "No, no!"

Charlie and Lily love each other. Yet, like all siblings, they regularly irritate one another. This love-irritation can coincide at the same moment. Lily scoots along to wherever Charlie leads her. She tries to grab his hair and pull his tail. When she reaches out to him, he proceeds to incessantly kiss her, licking all over her little face. Her only recourse is to hold up her hands in protest, but he is much too wise for that deflection to stop him. He will finally get the point to stop when Lily lets out her high-pitched-throaty-grunt. Yet when he stops licking, she smiles, and goes after him for more.

It's sibling love at it's finest.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Random Racing Ruminations: Week 7, The unexpected around the curve

Before I left work today I went for a four-mile run around the lake. The trail is a moderately challenging one, with multiple inclines and declines. And many twists and turns.

This run had me dwelling on the unexpected around the curve.

The Mallard Duck sitting brightly, standing out from the brown background.

The kite soaring high above the trees, appearing detached from a person on the ground holding the line.

The rustling in the underbrush, making me jump, unable to see what animal caused it.

The other runners, appearing to be moving much faster than me.

But this blog post and my running thoughts were most focused on the unexpected parts of my day. There is much about my work that I can't plan or predict. Obviously I prepare each day and week for what I will prioritize and accomplish. Often, though, my work is dictated by the next person to walk into my office, call my phone, or send me an e-mail. I walk in each day predicting my plan A, B, and C. I learned this early on when I was a high school teacher. Good teachers have a plan for each period they will teach. Great teachers have at least one back up plan just in case something doesn't pan out as anticipated (and that is a regularity with teenagers). Excellent teachers not only have their backup plan, but they are also able to anticipate and read others, being finely attuned to what is happening, and harness the momentum of others incorporating it into the overall good of the plan. Or maybe they just abandon all plans and wing it.

Every corner approaching on the horizon today was a test, pulling me away from my plan. I did my best to hold my composure, anticipate what was ahead, and be as productive in the process. I may have failed miserably, losing my composure.

A solid run around the lake today was exactly what I needed. The blisters on my feet, bigger than ever, are indicative of unpredictable challenges, seemingly metaphors for what I really want to say.

(4 miles)
Temperature 53
Mile 1 = 8:14
Mile 2 = 8:12
Mile 3 = 8:29
Mile 4 = 8:16

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Random Racing Rumination: Week 7, Sacrifice can lead to great feelings

I'm not trying to be a hero. I don't care much about my pace when running or my final time when completing a race. I'm training for the Lincoln Half-Marathon because it is a personal challenge--a mental and physical one. I just want to finish the face and feel good at the end of it. I want to run this race the healthy way.

These were the ruminations in my mind as I was running today. I was thinking about how far I have come. My average pace was 8:38 per mile. When I started running again, my average pace was closer to ten minutes per mile. It's amazing that my pace changed in a short amount of time.

But it was far from easy.

It took steady determination and dedication. It took an early focus on short two to three mile runs. It took a concerted training plan, well-thought-out, researched, and put in my calendar forcing me to stick to a schedule.

It took overcoming my body adjusting to what I was asking it to do: achilles and other foot pain, stretching and strengthening muscles, controlling breathing, dealing with blistering feet, and getting healthy after being sick.

There were (and still are) many reasons to stop. Give up.

This takes sacrifice. Giving up time. Prioritizing. An example was today: I packing my running gear with a plan of running during lunch at work. But then meetings got scheduled. I got interrupted. I pushed my lunch run back to an early afternoon run. Then I convinced myself not to do it. I procrastinated and decided to run when I got home, before I ate dinner. Then there was an accident on the Interstate driving home and I got home late. I was demoralized that my plan was once again changed. And I almost talked myself out of running. But I forced myself to go.

I pushed myself to fight through picking up my pace. I did well until mile four when I had a half mile hill that made me loose control of breathing. I wanted to walk. I thought about walking often. I kept pushing. And after the hill, I was exhilarated, and my breathing fell in line, and I returned to my record pace again.

I'm not trying to be a hero. This is for me. It's a little selfish. I think many runners would agree that running is a selfish act for them also. It's the drive to succeed. It's the determination to overcome sacrifice.

The more I ruminated about sacrifice while running today, the more clarity I had: the sacrifices, no matter how large or small, are a part of our lives. We decide daily where we will and will not sacrifice.

So here's where these thoughts on decisions and sacrifices end tonight. Michelle now has to commute further to work. We have more shared sacrifice on dropping off and picking up Lily from daycare. We both negotiate our careers and parenting, trying to be good at both. We would love for one of us to not have to work so we could stay home with our daughter. But we're not that fortunate. Could we sacrifice more to make that happen? Absolutely. However we've found the most caring, nurturing person to watch our daughter when we are at work. Lily loves this person and we've never felt any angst, guilt, or regret for taking her there. Is it still hard? Yes, oftentimes. But just like running, you push through it. You have a goal. You stick to your plan. You persist. You negotiate and make life work with what you have. Because when you pull up to the house to pick up Lily from daycare, and you see her looking out the window waiting for you, that is one great feeling.

(5 miles)
Temperature 52
Mile 1 = 8:20
Mile 2 = 8:43
Mile 3 = 8:27
Mile 4 = 9:05
Mile 5 = 8:23

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Random Racing Ruminations, Week 8: Going for distance

(4 miles)
Temperature 61
Mile 1 = 9:01
Mile 2 = 8:33
Mile 3 = 8:54
Mile 4 = 8:53

Thursday night I stepped out in the dark of night again. I was tired and had zero energy for running but I forced myself to do it anyway. I'm glad I did because the run felt great and my pace was decent compared to the over nine-minute miles that have been typical. I needed to feel good on this run because the week was a rough one, un-fulfilling with many moments of frustration.

(9 miles)
Temperature 68
Mile 1 = 9:15
Mile 2 = 9:18
Mile 3 = 9:12
Mile 4 = 9:02
Mile 5 = 8:48
Mile 6 = 8:32
Mile 7 = 9:04
Mile 8 = 8:52
Mile 9 = 9:01

Saturday was the longest run since I started running again. Nine miles initially seemed a bit daunting when thinking about it, however, it was quite manageable. I decided to scope out a section of the Omaha Riverfront trail. I parked near Omaha Eppley Airfield, knowing that this section of the trail was not glamorous. I quickly discovered that the view was, in fact, much to be desired. The portion of the trail I was on wound through mostly industrial areas. The sights were dismal and the pungent smells pushed me along. I had a view of the Missouri River for a great deal of the run, but for those of you who have seen the Missouri before you know that it is not a pretty river.

After mile six, the trail slightly redeemed itself. As I approached a light pole looming over a street, I saw a red-tailed Hawk perched up on it. My plan was to stop and take a picture of the stunning beast, but it immediately spread it's graceful wings and took flight before I could get within distance. I watched it just glide across the extremely dry, brown ground caused by winter. I was also able to watch multiple airplanes lift off the the runway of the airport and quickly ascend into the sky.

I did manage to take a couple of pictures to document this running feat, the first one was standing under Interstate 680. The second picture was at the beginning of mile 9, on the way back to my car, when I was able to see the downtown Omaha skyline far in the distance, reminding me how far I had come. And at that precise moment my phone died, erasing the record of my run on my phone. I'm almost certain the run was longer than nine miles, because when I turned around to head back I was already at five miles.

When I returned home and took my shoes off I discovered blisters forming on both of my feet, markers solidifying how far I'd come.

(2 miles)

Temperature 75
Mile 1 = 7:56
Mile 2 = 8:23

Sunday I went for a quick tempo run. I'm sure this was a poor choice with the blisters on my feet but I've become even more determined to push through the challenges. It makes me feel better.

The best days this week were the days I ran. And the two best days were the weekend, spending time with Michelle and Lily just doing ordinary things. I look forward to the weekends (and running) now more than ever.

Lily turned ten-months old and I devoted my tempo run to her.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Random Racing Ruminations, Week 8: Nocturnal

(5 miles)
Temperature 62
Mile 1 = 8:45
Mile 2 = 8:49
Mile 3 = 8:41
Mile 4 = 9:02
Mile 5 = 9:00

Here is the daily battle taking hold of my thoughts and actions: where do I compromise and where do I give in?

This has been the theme for this entire re-dedication to running in my life. I want to make time to train the right way. But I'm competing not just for race day, but also for a fulfilling life. The challenge has been compounded by my need to take care of the people and organization where I work. There is much to do; I've been overly dedicated with my time and the projects I've undertaken. I'm not complaining because my focus at my job is my conscious, deliberate choice. It's my career development and reputation. The faith I have is that the investments I'm putting in now will pay me back in other rewarding endeavors.

Then the guilt sets in. Life is too short to miss moments with my daughter, Lily, growing up. I don't ever want to look back at where I am today and regret my lack of commitment to her and my wife.

And then I will run.

I logged a five mile nocturnal run after staying late at work, eating dinner, and putting Lily to bed. I was one of two (yes, someone else was out in the shadows) crazy souls dedicated through the darkness. My mind was focused on not giving up. Powering through. Keeping up and improving my pace. Centering on the positive. Blocking the negative. Offering up the battle for others. I can honestly say I feel better with each run. My times and distances seem to indicate progress.

Tonight's racing ruminations will lack cohesion since I'm writing this post at 11:37 p.m. It's past my bedtime. Then the battle will begin anew, another day.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Random Racing Ruminations: Week 9, Inspiration

There are nine more weeks until the Lincoln Half Marathon. My runs scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday didn't happen. Extra long hours put in at work have zapped every last amount of energy. While I abandoned my plans for runs on both days, I was determined to accomplish my long run Saturday. The bright sun and mild temperatures were the motivation fueling my excitement to hit the sidewalks of Omaha.

My route was through my favorite parts of Omaha, areas that have rich history yet have also accomplished significant change or are slated for updates and improvements. It was great to be off the treadmill and back outdoors again. My running thoughts were about how great the city is on foot.

I began with a loop around Hanscom Park. I had a great view of people and their dogs at the dog park, youth at the playground, and the thawing pond. I steadily made my way through the well-established historic Hanscom Park, Field Club, and Gold Coast neighborhoods. I cruised the edge of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. As cars rushed down Farnam Street, I plodded the sidewalks of The Blackstone District where, the night before, Michelle and I had dinner at Mula to celebrate my birthday.

My decent but almost slow pace was halted during mile five by a sidewalk closed for construction and I was unable to safely cross traffic. Once I made my way to the other side of Farnam Street I was quickly at Midtown Crossing and made my loop around Turner Park.

Omaha on foot is an inspiration. There was nothing bland about the sights on my run, except the yet to turn green trees, shrubs, and grass. I was inspired by both the surroundings and the process I've made over many weeks. The human body is amazing at adapting and building up endurance through slow and steady determination. Even though I have been unable to stick to the entirety of the training plan I had set out, I've come a long way from three mile runs and uncontrollable breathing. The end of eight miles felt good. That feeling has me even more inspired for the longer runs scheduled in my calendar and the ultimate goal, the Lincoln Half-Marathon.
(8 miles)
Temperature 58
Mile 1 = 9:10
Mile 2 = 9:41
Mile 3 = 9:43
Mile 4 = 9:50
Mile 5 = 10:38
Mile 6 = 9:14
Mile 7 = 9:47
Mile 8 =  9:28

Monday, March 2, 2015

Corn cob trays bring on years of age

It's that time of year again: my birthday. I've blogged about age in the past. Once last year, several months after my birthday, I wrote a post titled The years of age. At the time I was inspired by the beautiful weather and the delicious beer in my hand. I was thinking about my health status and how time was slowly starting to change me. Two days later, Lily was born.

If I hadn't changed before then, I've definitely changed now. Back in 2013 I blogged the day after my birthday, in a post titled Achieved another year, reflecting upon birthday cliches and traditions. That was when I didn't feel any older.

This year I feel older. Maybe it is fatherhood and all the responsibilities associated with it. I'm certain that's part of it. But I can pinpoint exactly where the feeling originates. It's the joy I get from seeing Lily progress and incrementally change. I'm sure this feeling of joy is relateable for all parents as they watch their children grow and develop.

It's like last week when I was making dinner in the kitchen and Lily was playing on the floor. She had her favorite toys that always keep her occupied. This particular evening she wanted nothing to do with those toys. She had, only a week earlier, perfected the art of quick momentum from one thing that peaked her interest to the other. Now she was interested in one of the bottom kitchen cabinet drawers, happily grabbing the knob, troubleshooting how to pull it. Determinedly, she was able to inch it open, dip her tiny hands inside, and wiggle out the corn cob trays. Those trays were her new fascination as she tossed them around the kitchen floor.

The corn cob tray moments bring me more joy than I can describe. The corn cob tray moments are the happiest moments I've had in a very long time. Yet the corn cob tray moments are the realization that time is passing by so very quickly. These corn cob tray moments are the moments I've pinpointed that make me feel older.

In seeing each variation in Lily's development, I see myself older and changing along with her. She is the catalyst transforming me. Basically fatherhood has made me soft and mushy. It's flipped my world in ways unimaginable. This all makes me feel age like I've never felt it before. So to celebrate these new found feelings, I'm documenting these reflective thoughts with a birthday blog post and a birthday beer. Cheers to more years of age.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Random racing ruminations: Week 10, Why we must do what we dislike

There are ten more weeks until the Lincoln Half-Marathon and I'm trying to get back at this running schedule again. Since I've missed multiple runs, I'm playing catch-up to increase my distance. The achilles pain is gone (probably due to the fact that I haven't been running) and my new running shoes feel fantastic. Work has consumed my every waking moment when I'm not on dad duty. I go in to the office early, stay late, and log in at home from my laptop. The frequent disruptions to my training plan are a broken record, representing the chaos that is my life. I'm determined to do whatever it takes to get back on track, even though I would rather be a sloth sleeping on the couch.

Tuesday night I got on the treadmill in our basement and put in 5.2 miles. Then Saturday I was able to put in another 6 mile run. Doing that kind of distance on a treadmill makes you want to be brain dead. It's painfully boring. But I did it. I'm ready for warmer weather and clear sidewalks because I can't stand running indoors.

Here is my confession: I don't like running. I understand that may not make sense, especially if you are a runner.

Why engage in activities we don't like? I propose we do this all the time. For example when we have to do laundry or clean the house. Maybe it is school or studying subjects that frankly are uninteresting or un-engaging for us. Sometimes it is our job or careers. Or there are those people who avoid anything they don't like. They refuse to engage and become lethargic because they are unwilling to persist through what they consider undesirable. I posit that the avoidance of an activity merely due to the fact we dislike it is unhealthy. By doing what we deem "unfun" we gain appreciation for the other feelings, experiences, and after-effects connected to having engaged in the unpleasant. We attempt the undesirable because those activities, while not inherently exciting in their own right, lead to other forms of good accomplished by doing.

That is why I run. I like the challenge. I like being outdoors. I appreciate the challenge and grit required. I feel great afterwards. The exercise is a stress relief and keeps my mind sharp. Great ideas present themselves when I'm running. Oftentimes I offer up my runs as a form of prayer for whomever or whatever is on my mind. Running makes me feel accomplished and purposeful. Those are the many reasons why I run.

After I run, I have much more appreciation for other enjoyable experiences: relaxing with a book, hanging out with Charlie, playing with Lily, drinking a delicious beer, or being a sloth relaxing on the couch.