Thursday, January 22, 2015

High Hopes

Give me help, give me strength
Give a soul a night of fearless sleep

Give me love, give me peace
Don't you know these days you pay for everything
Got high hopes - Bruce Springsteen

God willing, this year will cap off 14 years of running nearly 90 marathons culminating in running a marathon in every state and Washington DC. Its been a long journey through some turbulent times in life. Quite frankly, running has kept me sane and marathons have kept me engaged in the insanity of being sane. With sanity comes high hopes. If you look at Bruce's words above, he appears to be asking God for these things. 

Mathew 21: 21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, ... 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” 

Today, as I got up to finish this post, the verse of the day delivered to my mailbox was this:

Ask, Seek, Knock

Mathew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

In the realm of life, with the struggles and challenges people face, I know that running is a trivial pursuit. However, there are countless stories of how running has changed people's lives giving them hope for a different life, an enriched life. Some Christian purists see the bible as doctrinal, which it certainly is, but without applying it to our daily lives, not finding anything in it that can help with our day would be a sin in itself. With the internet it is easier than ever to search the Bible for keywords, verses, people and put ourselves into the context of what we find.  The Mathew 21 verses above comes from Jesus cursing a fig tree. Yes, the doctrine and context is pure and important but how does cursing a fig tree play into our lives?  Maybe Bruce believes and is asking Jesus for help,strength, fearless sleep, love and peace.

In many ways running a marathon requires these things but in order to receive we must believe, we must ask and we must pay the price.  The price we must pay is in the daily grind of running and training, getting out the door, putting one foot in front of the other, running in the rain, snow and heat, enduring, persevering year in and year out, injuries, aches and pains, sacrifice of time.  The Bible is really the training guide of life and I find comfort in knowing that but I also find comfort in being able to apply it to running.  The Word uses analogies related to running, challenges, endurance, perseverance maybe not in the context of marathons specifically but certainly to the point of application. Again, I am sure that some purists will say that running a marathon and the Bible have nothing to do with one another and should not be put into the same context.  I disagree.  The Bible has everything to do with life particularly the gospel, the teachings of Christ and the good news.  How we apply it to our lives, whatever our pursuits, in the light of its teachings is most meaningful.  I love doctrine as well as application is is why Alistair Begg and Andy Stanley are two of my favorite pastors.

So, you would not know it with this post but this blog isn't about Christianity.  It's about running.  My high hopes this year in running is simple.  Complete a 14 year quest to run a marathon in every U.S. state and DC.  In March I will run the Rock n Roll DC marathon. Although I am not a fan of Competitor who stages the Rock n Roll events, this is one marathon run entirely in DC.  My 49th state will be in Montana, Missoula specifically.  This looks like it will be a great event.  Finally, I will finish in September in Kauai, Hawaii.  I set my sights finishing in Hawaii when I first started.  Although there are many other marathons in Hawaii, most easier, Kauai seems special and it is moderately difficult on a small, beautiful island.  I want to finish on a course that is a challenge (of course, all marathon courses are now a challenge for me). The challenge will represent the 14 years of challenge laid out before me after the 2001 Baltimore marathon.  Kauai will be at least my 86th marathon.  Besides these 3 marathons, I have already made plans for Cincinnati Flying Pig and Baltimore (my 15th consecutive).

Yes, there are other high hopes for my life in 2015 but as far as running goes, this is it.  I will kiss the finish line in Kauai like they do at the Brickyard and then kiss and hug my crew chief, Cynthia Anne who has relentlessly supported me through this endeavor.

Give me help, give me strength
Give a soul a night of fearless sleep

Give me love, give me peace
Don't you know these days you pay for everything
Got high hopes 

What are your high hopes?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2014 - A Year To Remember

Quite certainly, 2014 was a year to remember and one where I felt like I was finally back on my feet in life. No year is without its challenges but part of life is finding the enjoyment and happiness we all seek and let these things counteract or surpass those challenges.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
This post is going to be a bit about life and about running which has been such a big part of my life. However, without God and the teachings of Jesus, I would not be where I am today.
"Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6
 It will be filled with stats and references to other posts on this blog (click on anything orange) along with some commentary.  Frankly, it is more for me than you, whomever you are, but with our social voyeur tendencies these days, we all like a little insight into the lives of others.  This is also not just my life but Cindy's as she has been part of it every step of the way. OK, let's get started.

First and foremost, the highlight of 2014 was the year Cindy and I were married, April 25, 2014 at Triple Falls, DuPont State Forest near Asheville, NC standing literally at the base of the falls.  We spent a long weekend in a premier B&B, 1900 Inn on Montford in Asheville.  It was a special day and God parted the clouds for us to have sunshine to start our married life together.  The blog entry can be found here.

Another highlight was running the Diaper Dash in Cincinnati with Bree, my step-granddaughter.  It is ironic that after the hundreds of races I have run, the thousands of miles I have run and with the 91 marathons and ultras I have run, I found a complete and pure joy in those 25 yards running with Bree seeing the excitement and joy in her face when pinning on the racing bib, getting her first medal and then doing another 100 yards out of the pure joy of running.  That blog entry can be found here.

A third highlight was giving meaning to running.  I adopted the Durham Rescue Mission as my charity of choice.  I committed in January that I would give the cost of a meal $2.05 for each mile run during the year committing to at least 1,500 miles.  As you will see in the stats below, I surpassed that commitment and provided 1,668 meals to the homeless, addicted, and those in programs to resurrect their lives.  I am humbled that I have been given the health and means to be able to do this.  That blog entry can be found here and the Durham stats page can be found here.

As for running, 2014 was filled with marathons and travel to places that may be once-in-a-lifetime destinations.  In my quest to run a marathon in all 50 states, I added three premier destinations in 2014 giving me 48 states,  Alaska, Wyoming and New Mexico.  All were unique both in the marathon itself and the destination.  Although I could continue to write about these, I already have so the blog entries can be found by linking to the posts: New Mexico (Bataan Memorial Death March), Alaska (Cordova Salmon Runs) and Wyoming (Jackson Hole Marathon).  Other posts related to these events:

I tend to write long posts which I'm sure people don't read and not even sure I would but it is a good chronicle and remembrance of the year.  Pictures and words of life experiences capture the essence of the moment.  I just wish I had started it earlier in life.  What? there was no internet back then?  Oh yes, that's right, there was (and still is) paper and pen! So here are some other highlights and then I will provide stats for the year.
OK, here are some stats for the year.  I love stats and I am in the process of organizing my lifetime racing and running stats.  I believe that I have every bib and time for every organized event that I have run.  Here is how 2014 panned out.
  • Ran 309 of 365 days
  • Ran 1,668 miles
  • Avg. per running day: 5.3 miles
  • Avg. over 365 days: 4.5 miles
  • Number of marathons: 8
  • Avg. marathon finish time: 4:24:39 (Cincinnati best 4:12:37 and Darlington worst 5:13:32)
  • Avg. age-graded time: 4:08:25 (3:43:13 best)
  • Number of states: 8
  • Number of new states: 3
  • Total number of states: 48
  • Total marathons: 82
  • Total marathons/ultras: 91
  • Number of races at other distances: 1 (half-marathon 1:54:47 age-graded 1:40:00)
  • Number of blog entries: 134
  • Number of meals donated to Durham Rescue Mission: 1,668
  • Ran over 100 miles in every month in 2014 102-172 miles
  • Avg. 139 miles per month
  • Avg. 32 miles per week (6-45 miles)
So there you have it, 2014 in a  nutshell.  Of course there are many more things that we did during the year with family like Thanksgiving with Cindy's family, Shelli's April party, Shilling family reunion and Christmas dinner, , shows at DPAC, 2 trips to England (for work), changed role at work, trips to Asheville, camping with Sandy and Paul, Hammer visit, Maniac cheer zone, etc.  It was a packed year and I am thankful to God for it.

The next post here will be called High Hopes and will layout running plans for 2015 when I will finish the 50 states and DC.  I have already had a good start to the year in running so Godspeed the year will progress at His will.

Married at Triple Falls
The Diaper Dash - Bree
Our Backyard
Casey Puppy Boy at Jordon Lake

Casey Boy grown up

Favorite all-time picture of Casey and me
3 Generations

Grandkids at Thanksgiving

Sisters Family Reunion

Bree and her uncle Calvin

Hammer time
Me and my Bro

New Year's Eve at Becky's

Cindy and me after a climb in Alaska

My favorite race finish this year - Bataan Memorial Death March

Showing Casey where I proposed and we got married

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fonctionnement - Running in Paris

The French translation for running is fonctionnement.  It doesn't even sound right.  In Paris maybe I wasn't even doing it right.  When I was running the streets of Paris a couple weeks ago (for no good reason, i.e. there was no marathon going on) the Parisians seemed to look at me oddly.  It might have been because I was in shorts with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees.  It may have been that the sidewalks are reserved for walking.  I don't know.  I just felt like I was getting strange looks.  Maybe they smelled the scent of an American.  Actually, all week, the Parisians that we (Cindy and me)  interacted with were all very nice except for the kid who called me "crazy" after I found his hand in my pocket trying to pick-pocket me. "I'm crazy? dude, you have your hand in my pants!"

Then I found the places where runners run, the parks and along the Seine River.  I like to explore places by running. After a few days of sight-seeing at the Catacombs (Les Catacombes), Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel), Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, the Ferris Wheel place de la concorde (La Grande Roue de Paris), the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Notre Dame (Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris), and walking past the Pantheon, I decided to visit by fonctionnement.  Since we were staying near the Montparnasse neighborhood, I figured that I would start my run at the Montparnasse Cemetery (Cimetière du Montparnasse).  It was just a few blocks away in the middle of the neighborhood but protected by high walls.  I found my way into what appeared to be a city of the dead as all the crypts were above ground adorning grandiose tributes to loved ones.  It was very crowded.  The placement of the crypts both horizontally and vertically were packed as densely as the city itself.  Ironically, the catacombs offered a similar, yet highly contrasted, view of the dead.  Bones (skulls, femurs, radius', major bones) were literally stacked in piles some resembling grand pieces of art.  The bones could be viewed nose to nose, if you will.

Catacombs of Paris

Montparnasse Cemetery

Montparnasse tower in background

count the number of crosses
After Montparnasse, I ran over Edgar Quinet, up Boulavard Raspail and over Boulavard de Port Royal to the park-like area Jardin des Grands Explorateurs down to the entrance of Le Jardin du Luxembourg which is also now the home of the French Senate.  The palace was created in 1612 by Marie de' Medici widow of King Henry the IV of France.  Finally I had found a place where runners run.  There are many paths inside the gardens so you could spend a whole workout session there.  You could deem it France's Central Park although not anywhere near as large and not as good for running as New York's.  The outer loop appears to be about 1.5 miles but combined with other loops you could easily get in 3 miles or so without repeating paths.  There were runners in every direction including what appeared to be physical education classes from a local high school running loops around the inner garden somewhat laid out as a track and similar in size.  For runners, I guess the idea is to get to a park or along the river to run and not on the busy sidewalks and roads.  I guess this is true of any city.  Many of the larger boulevards have sidewalks wide enough but you do have to do some dodging of  pedestrians and sometimes bikes and pay attention to the crosswalk signs.  Since the French drive on our side of the road, crossing the street was easier to muster.  I followed the same path back that I had come except for staying on Raspail to Denfert to St. Jaques for a total of 7 miles.

The gates to the gardens and palace

Getting ready for spring  - the palace and now French Senate

Not really sure but interesting

Standing guard - how bizarre that they stand in a little box

Runner girl

Cool architecture
On the following day, although a bit rainy, I decided to do a morning run to Jardin des Plantes probably the second largest park on the Rive Gauche (West Bank).  This would take me in a direction that I hadn't been before so I had to map out a way to get there.  From the hotel I ran east on the Boulevard Auguste Blanqui to Place d'Italie along and through an open market that stretched at least a mile long - fresh seafood, meat, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, pastries, sweaters, etc.  In these open markets, I'm just wasn't so sure about the meat (especially blue chickens) that were sitting out.  I made my way, still getting odd glances by marketers, to Place d'Italie.  I am sure there is more to this than a giant circle but it has 9-10 roads either coming into or going out of the circle.  I needed to find Boulevard de l'Hopital which was halfway around the circle.  This road would take me to the entrance of Jardin des Plantes.  My journey on Boulevard de l'Hopital was  like running on any other boulevard until reaching the actual Hospital, Hospital Petie-Salpetriere.  The excessive size and architecture of this working hospital was amazing. Some key facts can be found here although you might need to translate to English.  I took a couple of pictures from the gate and then continued my run.

The Jardin des Plantes houses many things of interest - botanical garden, geological museum, museum of natural history, a small zoo.  Similar to Luxembourg Gardens, there are paths for running and exploring.  Although not as large, the outside loop is probably about a mile.  But, there are many paths that can be combined to get in longer runs in without repeating paths.  In one area, there is also a place to get in some short hill bursts.  Since I was running I didn't get to explore any buildings but certainly may be worth a visit, particularly to the museum of natural history.

Place d'Italie
Place d'Italie (with palm trees)
Lots of open air farm markets in various places in the city
Hospital Petie-Salpetriere
Jardin des Plantes Musee Natural historie
Geologie Centre
Another place to run like many of the parks in Paris
Green houses in Jardin des Plantes
Ménagerie, le zoo historique de Paris
from the Jardin Des Plantes circular maze
Interesting tree while running up the circular maze

Since the Jardin des Plantes is near the Seine river, I decided to run some along the river.    The river is not wide and the myriad of bridges that connect the east bank to the west bank are worth a visit.  The river is nearly 500 miles long and flows into the English Channel.  There are 37 bridges that cross the Seine in Paris and the view from each appears to be just different enough to want to explore them all.  Pont Neuf is one of the oldest dating back to 1607.  I probably had been on at least 10 during the visit and probably 4 on this run.  I first ran across the Pont d'Austerlitz and took pictures of the Viaduct d'Austerlitz, the bridge that carries trains.  Then the Pont de Sully, Pont de la Tournelle, and finally Pont de l'Archeveche near Notre Dame.  I traversed bridges back and forth and ran down along the Seine looking for perfect views which I seemed to find with every footstep.  Once I reached Notre Dame, I realized that on my previous visit a few days earlier I had not seen the back of Notre Dame from the outside, which arguably is more beautiful architecturally than the front.  I made this my endpoint to begin my journey back to the hotel.

Rain on lens but I think the blur adds to the effect (bikes for rent and freestanding potty)
Viaduct d'Austerlitz
Down along the Seine
Notre Dame from the rear and the Pont de la Tournelle
Found myself running back and forth over bridges for different views
A must - a boat ride on the Seine (consider day and night)
One of my favorite views - Notre Dame
My only selfie
In some ways Notre Dame is more impressive from the rear
Vedettes du Pont Neuf

Bridges (Ponts) are as impressive as the monuments

I decided to take a different route back running along side the Seine but turning on Saint Marcel  from Boulevard de l'Hopital.  I saw a sign for Denfert which I knew was by the hotel so I figured this road would get me close.  Eventually it turned into Boulevard Arago which confused me a bit but not enough to be lost.  I suspect Boulevard Arago is named after the French Astronomer (learning that now) and there is an Arago French Line as shown in the Da Vinci Code.  On the west bank, if you are running uphill you are going away from the river, downhill and you are going toward the river.  Obviously, this makes sense but it's a good way to know if you are going the right way on the streets that run mostly north and south in Paris.

My run ended at 9 miles and change.  It was wonderful to explore on foot.  You just don't get the true experience of a city without walking/running in it.  The Metro is easy and I did take it a few times but I walked/ran much of the time to experience the neighborhoods and to get those odd looks from Parisians wondering who the guy is in running shorts.  Running gives you the lay of the land but the downside is, its probably not a good idea to visit a museum or attraction in sweaty running clothes so it's mostly for the outside view.  As you can see from the pictures, the outside views are some of the best and free attractions.  Other places visited during the week included Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Monmartre, Musee de l'Armee Invalides, Musee Rodin, Boat Tour on the Seine, Les Deaux Magots, Saint Chapelle, Flottes and of course Versailles.  I suspect there were more smaller things or run/walk-bys but these are the main highlights.

Unfortunately, Cindy had to work for a full 4 days and although I would have liked to have experienced all of these with her, I was on my own for those 4 days but we did have almost a full 3 days to explore.  The weather was terrible but how can one complain when they are in Paris.  I can go on and on about things and show over 1700 pictures but I have to stop somewhere.  My basic recommendations for visiting is to learn to read maps (make Google maps your friend), learn the Metro map and how the Metro works (its simple but the Metro and RER work differently), learn some basic French, visit the main things as per above (for first timers), explore the side streets particularly on the Rive Gauche (west bank), be aware of your surroundings (as noted on the attempted pick-pocket on the Metro near Montmartre), and relax.

As for running, runners mostly run in the parks and along the Seine.  I saw runners, in Jardin de Luxembourg, Jardin des Plantes, Versailles, and the grounds between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde.  I suspect any decent size park will be where runners are running.  The sidewalks and multitude of crosswalks are not conducive to constant running for longer mileage.  But for visiting, exploring and experiencing the city, there is no better way to get a feel for the city.  I was probably even safer running than my experience in the Metro although the Metros felt pretty safe also.  I never felt unsafe in Paris. I will say running is a universal language.  While running along the Seine, another older male runner and I came to a corner, we both nodded, acknowledging the universal sport of running and we were both in shorts.  By the way, the Paris marathon looks like a great event.  I looked at the course and, now, being there, I can see how pretty it can be.

I would be amiss not to include one last picture of Cynthia and me.  This is her second time there for work so she needed to cram sight-seeing in around her daily chores.  We got to see a lot together on this trip.  I even walked her to and from the bus stop each day.  Overall it was a fun trip.

Love in Paris - night-time boat ride - Eiffel Tower in background 

Days 337-361: 79 miles, 2014: 1,645 miles