A semi-daily chronicle of my life as a musician, a family man, and a citizen of Oregon.

Nov 30, 2008

Lessons in Running II: The ego filter

One of the amazing things about running for a long ways, or probably doing anything kind of extraordinary, is the reaction you get when you tell other people what you are doing or planning to do.  It's truly amazing how human minds are put together to filter every piece of new information that we receive through our own filter.  Our brains are put together to respond to new information by parsing what that information means to us personally. 

When you're running a marathon you get to experience this all the time.  Here's how the conversation goes:

me: I'm getting ready to run a marathon later in the month.
them: Really? Where at?
me: In Olympia, it's just a little marathon on the Sunday before Christmas.
them: I can't run, I have bad knees.
me: ok.

A good percentage of people, upon learning about something another human is doing, have the involuntary reflex to either join them in that activity or to reject the possibility of joining them based on past accomplishment or personal obstacles.  The funny thing is that I never asked anybody else to run.  I just said that that's what I'm doing. 

I know a number of people reading this are probably recognizing that they've participated in this conversation with me.  I really don't intend any harm or shame in pointing this out, it's just an interesting aspect of how our human brains are put together.  It's almost an involuntary reflex.

So to address the issue directly, I must admit that I do feel in the dark recesses of my mind like many people *think* that they have bad knees or some other personal situation that keep them from running, but just have never really had a good first-hand experience of running. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I thought *I* couldn't run because of my knees before this year.

I know that in the past I've started running and made some bad assumptions that ended up causing me to give up on the whole thing before I really got out of the starting blocks, so to speak.  I would become inspired to run and put forth great energy to do so, but without prior knowledge on how to best get started I was doomed before I ever started. 

I would figure I would try to run a mile at 10 miles per hour, which seemed to be a pretty low baseline to start running.  I would start these self-directed programs without a good pair of running shoes, figuring my gym shoes would probably work until I met some kind of criteria for commitment that would make the trip to the fancy running store worth it.  I wouldn't have much more direction or much more of a plan than to run as far as I could until I felt tired and then walk until I felt like I could begin running again.

The problem with my approach was that I was trying to do far too much too soon.  Since I was out of shape I would get out of breath easily, and then I felt like I would need to stop. I felt terrible for not being able to run for farther and the whole enterprise would be kicked off in a state of failure and shame.  Not an inspiring place to begin a new routine.

So what did I do differently this time around?  Really I kind of lucked into figuring out a better way. 

I've tried off and on over the last few years to start running, usually linked to an attempt to quit smoking.  This time around was no different.  I quit smoking in July of 2007 and with that event came the same jittery nervous energy that always accompanied quitting smoking.  I was looking for an outlet for all that bottled-up crazy when I ran across a blog post on lifehacker about the Couch to 5K program.

I bought a nice pair of expensive shoes from the fancy running store and I've been jogging since. After the 5K program I moved on to a 10K program which had me running 3 days a week and now I'm nearly done training for a marathon. 

It's funny because this is not something that would probably have been possible for me if not for the internet.  It is this particular delivery method for the message that would get me active. More to the point, I can't think of any other way I would ever be able to successfully start running.  I'm that kind of self-directed, personal research biased, own-counsel-holding person who needed to read all of the information and educate myself before I was willing to give it a true go.

I do think that at least 80% of the people out there have the capability to run at some level.  It just takes knowing how to get started and how to manage the program so that we're not overdoing it right out of the box.  If you don't choose to run, that's fine too.  Just because I like broccoli doesn't mean the whole world has to eat broccoli, but let's recognize it as a choice.  The biggest lesson for me is to remember to congratulate others on their successes before I put my ego-filter on and go through the list of why I can't do the same thing.

Nov 29, 2008

Lessons in Running

Today I completed the longest run I'll have before the marathon - a 20 mile run that took me around my neighborhood in northeast Portland and then down to my work in downtown Portland and back. The route looks like this:

As I was running today I felt great. These long runs are
always a good time to think through what's been going on in my life and how I feel about different things. It's a weird Zen state that one enters into, very peaceful and objective. The Zen of the iPod.

As far as the run today went I made it in just over 4 hours, which is about on target for what I thought it would be. I anticipate finishing the marathon on 12/21 in just over 5 hours. Today at around mile 18 I got this great feeling like I could do anything, and for the first time I realized I would complete the marathon. I know it'll be fine now, and a euphoria came over my whole body.

Of course, when I got home I stretched and took a shower and then laid on the bed, at which point every muscle and tendon below my waist decided to form into tight little angry balls that are still hurting me now. But I'll be fine by tomorrow or the day after.

During my run I was inspired to post about the different strategies and life lessons that the marathon training has taught me. I want to get this down before I move on with my life and the insights I've had float off into the ether.

The thought I'd like to share with you now is this: no matter how bad you feel when you're running very long distances, don't stop or give up. Walk. It's amazing what walking can do for you.

Firstly, sore and cramped muscles that are rebelling are placated. Panic is avoided and rational thought is given the opportunity to return. Running creates a sense of other-worldliness in which
you are simultaneously both very aware and very separate from your body. By walking, you can focus on what you are feeling and what might be causing your problems.

Luckily, I've had a pretty healthy time of it as I trained for the
marathon, but I did have at least one occasion where I felt seriously ill during a run. (Never mind the time last May when I fell and broke my elbow - then got up and completed my run before going to urgent care.) Walking for a little while gave me the time and presence of mind to make a good choice (to call Jen to consult) and ultimately to end that run early. Likewise, during my 18 mile run I would have given up at mile 15 or so if I hadn't taken the time to walk about a mile or so until my muscles loosened up and the pain in my joints subsided, after which I easily completed the run.

I've always been pretty patient, but I think this lesson is also
helping me in my daily life. It's a good lesson that when
things aren't feeling right or a situation is calling for drastic
change, sometimes the best thing is to ease up on what's
occurring at the moment. Maybe not halt completely, but slow down and think through the inputs that I can observe and what hidden message might be escaping me in my haste to finish a task. I might indeed decide to bag my current course of action and take a completely different tact, or it might just be that I need a new emphasis in what I'm doing now. Either way, letting up can give me the breathing space to validate what I should do next.

Nov 28, 2008

I'm Published

I received an email today from the managing editor of schmap guides letting me know that my picture of the KOIN building has been accepted as part of their application for their new iPhone app showing information about Portland.  You can see the picture I took right here.

How did this all come about?  This is actually a picture I took last May after Jen and I completed the Cinco De Mayo run in downtown Portland.  You may recall this picture of me enjoying a beer after the run.

When I uploaded these pictures to flickr I also did so under a creative commons license, stating that the picture may be used by anyone so long as they a) attribute the picture to me b) don't use it in a commercial manner and c) share the picture or any work resulting from the use of this picture under the same license.  By using creative commons one effectively says "hey, I've got some work here and I don't have any problem with others using it". 

In this instance, the folks at schmap then contacted me to let me know that they would like to use this work in a commercial product, and asked if I would be interested in submitting the picture for them to do so.  If I had wanted to I could have said "sorry, I want you to pay me $50 too."  This would have been my prerogative.  I didn't however, and I gave them permission to use the photo if they wished.  Thus, voila.  They have a free picture and I have a blog post.  The system worked just as intended.

If you don't already share your work using creative commons I'd encourage you to give it a thought.  Similarly, if you have need to use photography, music, or videos, I'd encourage you to seek work provided by creative commons license, and to follow the protocol for attributing per the license.  It's a great resource and many sites have built-in options for searching for creative commons content.

Nov 27, 2008


Well, Happy Turkey Day Everyone!

We had a great time - it was a small laid-back deal with just our
family and our friend Heather, who also spent Thanksgiving with us last

The menu was:

  • Salmon with creamy garlic sauce
  • Roasted Potatos with fresh rosemary, garlic and olive oil
  • Challah Bread (from our friend Gail)
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Creamed Corn
  • Salad
  • Numerous Appetizers
  • Snow White Cake with Cranberry filling
  • Apple Pie
As usual, we went around the table and shared what we were thankful
for.  For Brianna it was: Family, Jen and I (for cooking good
food), and her pets.  For Andrew it was: Family, leftovers,
and his legos.  For Jen it was: Family, good food, and
friendships.  For Dave it was: family, not getting injured
during Marathon training, and our pets.

Nov 22, 2008

Linux off a USB stick

I've been thinking about the things that I have learned over the last few days.  Sometimes you go through times in your life when you're absorbing more of the information around you.  More open to the little lessons of life.

Firstly, I've learned that Ubuntu Ibex and Fedora 9 from a USB drive is a wonderful thing.  The distros are basically the same running Gnome, with one very important difference; the package managers.  Not long into my experience with Fedora I remembered exactly what was such a pain about it going all the way back to when it was redhat.  RPM hell.  Conflicting dependencies, inability to work around the rpm manager, the limited availability of apps, and the feeling that the good folks at RedHat are far more concerned about their enterprise server business than the desktop user experience. 

I am now happily back to Ubuntu. The add/remove programs app manager is a pleasure. As we speak I'm using Ubuntu off of a USB stick on my work laptop.  It's pretty sweet.  I've got a 4GB jump drive and I set up the other 3GB as a persistent overlay.  I'm becoming quite addicted to having my own computer setup wherever I go for whatever hardware I can get my hands on. 

The only limitation I've run into so far is that there doesn't seem to be a very good WYSIWYG blog editor for linux.  I'm open to suggestion if someone has something that they like, but all I've seen is blogtk and drivel.  They're both fine enough, but they are not WYSIWYG and for some reason I don't seem to able to add titles to posts in either one, which is ridiculous.  I'm very spoiled from using Microsoft Live Writer in windows.  I diss MS as much as anyone, but Live Writer is a killer app.  My normal course of action on a linux machine would be to run the app I like under Wine, but unfortunately Live Wrtier doesn't work in wine.  :(  Epic Fail.

Nov 9, 2008

Run Like Hell

I ran my second race on October 19th, 2008 at Oregon's Run Like Hell.  For both Jen and I this was our first half marathon.  The race is a really fun deal, it's themed around Halloween and a lot of people dress up in costumes.  You can see some great pics here.  There was a Donald Duck, a Minnie Mouse, a Disco team, and a group of ladies dressed as bees.  Of course, there was a queen bee too!

Jen and I didn't dress up - I was exclusively focused on finishing and Jen was trying to beat an 8:30/mile pace.  Thankfully, we both met our goal.  I finished slow, but finished.  Jen finished at 1:50:41 and came in with a 8:27 pace.


Nov 8, 2008

Dynamic Stretching

They say you learn something new every day. For me, today, that is dynamic stretching. After reading this article in the New York Times I was a little shocked. I do static stretches religiously before and after my runs and have done so ever since I began running in January.

After googling I found a routine here that I'm going to try this morning. The plan is to do some dynamic stretching prior to the run and then some static stretching afterwords. I'll let you know how it goes.

Nov 6, 2008

Halloween '08

We've had a bit of a tradition going on for the last few years where we head over to the Sauvie Island and pay a visit to the pumpkin patch.  It's quite well known and well attended in Portland.  They've got hay-rides, pumpkins, a corn maze, a haystack, and etc. 

Brianna was really happy about her pumpkin.

Andrew and Brianna playing on the haystack.

They have this thing called the cow ride that's pulled around by a tractor.  The kids were very impressed.

After Sauvie Island we carved pumpkins.

Andrew, Jen, and Brianna with the final result.


On the big day our friends Keagan and Kai came over to join us trick-or-treating.

Of course, we got a great haul candy-wise.  I've been trying hard to make sure I don't eat more of the candy than the kids do.  :)

Nov 5, 2008

Running Update

We've targeted a specific marathon - the Christmas Marathon in Olympia WA on 2/21/08.  Everything is going good so far - I ran a 16 mile run on Sunday, which I must admit was really hard.  I learned that it's really important that I eat a piece of toast w/ peanut butter and a piece of fruit just about an hour before my run, and that gu works a lot better than mini snickers for during the run (even though I heard different advice from friends).  It was a rough run, I got really hungry after about 6 miles and my energy was quite drained by the end.  I had to walk a little bit around mile 14.  As I've learned, though, there are good days and bad days running and the best thing is to just get the miles in at this point.

In terms of speed I'm still really slow.  The idea is to finish the marathon in December and then start working on speed - maybe dropping back down to 5k training plans and then building back up from there.  The shamrock has a 15k  which would be a good run next year.