February 28, 2010

A place of peace

This morning we went to Sunday school (lead by our friend Wendy), and right after I took off on a run along the Pacific Ocean.

I had heard this piece below by George Sheehan this week on a Phedippidations podcast and found it interesting. I have more to say about this morning, but I wanted to pass this along before I forgot about it. I have shortened the piece a bit, but the full version can be found here.

"Running is not a religion, it is a place."

The reporter in Anchorage was skeptical. "Is it true, " he asked, "that you have called running a religion?"...

I thought about the question. If I hadn't called running a religion, I had certainly implied it. I had repeated Jim Fixx's story of the woman who described her husband by saying, "Ted used to be a Methodist, but now he's a runner."...But fortunately, now I knew the answer. I looked at the reporter and said, "Running is like Alaska. Running is not a religion, it is a place."

This idea had been germinating in my head during the flight from Seattle. I had read an account of a seven-month stay in a Trappist monastery by Father Henri Nouwen, a Belgian priest well known in literary and academic circles. His book, A Genesee Diary, gave me a new insight into the true nature of the running life.

Nouwen's problems are remarkably similar to mine. The things that drove him to retire to the monastery are the same as those that plague me day after day. He was caught in an ascending spiral of activity. Each talk, each article, each book, ignited requests for more talks and articles and books, every ring of the phone another demand on his time.

This way of life is addictive...The priest who had been teaching and lecturing and writing about the importance of solitude, inner freedom, and peace of mind had become a prisoner, locked into unceasing activity.

Finally he made the decision to step back. The time had come, he said, to restore some solitude, some stillness, some isolation to his life. He needed to take a long look at himself and his role in preaching the word of God. So he took a leave of absence and entered the Trappist monastery at Genesee, near Rochester, New York. It was, he found, a perfect place to retreat and restore himself.

And of course, the monastery is a place for the soul. "The monastery," says Father Nouwen, "is not built to solve problems, but to praise the Lord in the midst of them."...But all the while, he knew he was there because of an inner "must." And he stayed because, he says, "I knew I was in the right place."

And all the while, the priest expected to come out a different person, more integrated, more spiritual, more virtuous, more compassionate, more gentle, more joyful, more understanding. "I hoped that my restlessness would turn into quietude, my tensions into a peaceful lifestyle, my ambivalence into a single-minded commitment to God."

But upon leaving, Father Nouwen knew there had been only a lull in the battle with himself. He was the same man, with the same problems. So he asked the abbot for advice. "You must put 90 minutes aside every day for prayer," the abbot told him. If Father Nouwen was to take Genesee home with him, he would have to take time for his daily dialogue with himself and his God. Without constant renewal, what he had experienced at the monastery would vanish. Otherwise, for the rest of his life, he would awake in the morning with the same tendencies, the same desires, the same sins that he conquered only the day before. Only a return each day to the monastery would save him.

Running, I told the reporter, is just such a monastery - a retreat, a place to commune with God and yourself, a place for psychological and spiritual renewal.

Copyright © The George Sheehan Trust

February 27, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Do-it-yourself, doesn't mean go-it-alone."

~ Wisdom from the Quikrete bag of stucco.

February 26, 2010

Climate change

It has been raining more than normal down in San Diego, but their normal is certainly different from Seattle. In fact, the house didn't have rain gutters until last week, unthinkable in the rainy northwest. But this winter has been wet, and the area has had as much rain in January 2010 as in all of 2009.

I was running in Balboa Park last week and saw this tree that had fallen. The ground had become so wet that the tree came down, root ball and all. Below is my first video shot with the iPod Nano.

But even in a wetter year, rain is going to be much more unusual here. Here are a couple photos that capture the difference between running and riding in Seattle vs. San Diego. I went for a ride with Brian, Cherie and Jim a couple of days before I headed down. I snapped these photos on a very shaded switchback path in Issaquah.

And a couple of similar shots from my Seaport Village run this week.

Any questions?

February 24, 2010

Learning the town on the run

After a couple of weeks of very little running, and too much fast food eaten on the road, I have gained both pounds and fat percentage points. It is tough to get back out on the road when you're feeling fat and out of shape, but the longer I wait, the harder it will be. I haven't done enough exploring of San Diego yet, but I have been checking out a few scenic places to bike and run to help entice me back into the exercise routine.

I have taken a couple of runs in Balboa Park, one by Mission Bay and another on the waterfront near Seaport Village. Balboa Park has a number of paths to run, complete with numbered signs to help you find your way. The east side of the park features a number of hills, and it punished my out of shape legs on Monday. It is a beautiful park, a 1200 acre oasis in the center of the city for tourists and locals alike. The Rock n Roll Marathon route starts and runs the first few miles through the park. Running there again brought back a few fond memories, and I've been seeing streets in town and thinking "hey, I ran down that".

On Friday I dusted off the bike that hadn't been ridden in months, and rode around the bay to Mission Beach. I rode along the boardwalk on Mission Beach, feeling a little out of place on my road bike since the beach cruiser is the bike of choice there. There were plenty of people along the path, and the speed limit is 8mph anyway, so it forces you to slow down and take in the world at cruising speed. I will eventually need to find some good bike routes to get in more speed and miles, but I need to make time to slowly cruise as well.

Seattle has a great bicycle club (Cascade) that not only sponsors events like the Seattle to Portland ride, but also has daily rides to help you learn new routes and meet other riders. I am hoping to find a similar club in San Diego. In the meantime, I will keep looking for routes that show off the great views of the city. Beautiful scenery makes the exercise go down easier.

February 23, 2010

First week

I have only been down in San Diego for a week, but it seems much longer already. Part of it is that I was down here only a month ago, so the time has just run together in my mind. Matt and Holly and their welcoming arms have also made the transition to calling this place home much easier.

This week I have been doing all the odds and ends of setting up camp in a new home and a new town. The first weekend was largely unpacking, finding places for things, and realizing that I still managed to bring too much stuff. I have been checking out the area to find all the outlets for the mundane stuff of life like groceries, pet stores, post office and the like. I've also been spending a fair amount of time at Target to pick up (cheaply) the things that didn't fit in the truck, as well as some bins to organize the stuff that did make the cut. Since I am trying not to spread out too much, I am leaving most things in boxes and taking out only what I need day to day. Clear bins make it a bit easier to keep track of where everything is.

The pooch has been slowly getting used to the new place and her new roomie. Matt and Holly's dog is a younger pup, and is used to playing and rough-housing with other dogs. My pooch is about eleven years old and a little broken, so she isn't up to wrestling anymore. They have mostly worked things out, and she seems to be on the mend from the long trip down.

Matt and the two Seans worked on the house this weekend. There are still some unfinished projects from the Extreme Home Makeover of 2008 (great video here), and the permit was due to expire this week, so we did our best to finish the work called out by the inspector. Unfortunately the makeover opened up a can of worms that had the inspector making us repair things that we hadn't touched (and were working just fine, thank you very much). Hopefully we can wrap up the added projects in the next couple of weeks so we can get back to working on the stuff we want to.

The internet is still down at the house, so I headed down to Starbucks this afternoon for a little coffee and web time. And their internet was down as well. Conspiracy! Fortunately, one of the things I did this week was to get a library card, so that is where I am now, getting caught up on e-mail, blogs and such. I also had a book on hold about improving your resume, so that is on this week's project list as well.

In some sort of odd trade off, the tv only started working a few days ago and the internet has been down for most of that time. The bonus of getting tv all of the sudden is that we have been able to watch the Olympics, which has been great. But after the Olympics are over, if I had to chose between tv and internet access, I think I would pick the internet. It can certainly be a time waster, but it has really become an everyday tool. We needed it for research on the house this weekend, and it has made just finding my way around my new town so much easier. One of the goals this year is to simplify, but I don't think I want to go back to using the yellow pages.

I feel better already

Internet Use Linked to Depression
New research connecting the Internet and depression is a classic chicken versus egg conundrum. People who spend large amounts of time on the Internet are more likely to be depressed, according to a just-released British study. However, the researchers admit that it's unclear if the Internet addiction is causing the depression or if depressed people are somehow drawn to the Internet. "What is clear," say the study authors, "is that for a small subgroup of the population, excessive use of the Internet is a warning signal of depressive tendencies." 

Internet access at the house is still down 

February 22, 2010

Is this thing on?

So, we haven't had internet for the past few days. No idea what the problem is. We have been working on the house all weekend, so there has been plenty to do besides surf the web. But it is surprising how cut off I feel without it. I can feel the e-mails piling up.

Sent from my phone.

February 20, 2010

Olympic quotes

In 1998, the same year his brother Robin competed in the Nagano Games, Canadian Olympic cross-country  skier Brian McKeever was diagnosed with Stargardt's Disease, a genetic disease that robbed him of his  central vision. 

"There's not a day goes by that I don't wish that I saw better," McKeever, 30, said, talking to a small  group of reporters earlier this week. "And yet, it's made me who I am. It's a part of who I am and I like  the person I am. If that's the case, then this can't be all bad. But I certainly wouldn't wish it on anybody else."


Alissa Johnson's favorite part of ski jumping is letting go of the start bar atop of the scary-steep, narrow tower.  Jumpers reach speeds of 50 mph before liftoff. But it's not the speed she likes best. It's the commitment. 

"You do so many things in life where you can stop yourself and turn around and if you're scared you don't  have to go through with it," Johnson said, standing at the bottom of the Olympic ski jump on a sun-splashed Friday morning during large-hill qualifications. "But in  jumping, the second you let go of that bar, there's no way to stop yourself. There's no backing out."

Both stories were clipped from today's Seattle Times.

Sight-impaired skier Brian McKeever makes Olympic history
With no Olympic women's ski jumping, sister roots for her brother

February 16, 2010

The second Christmas gift to myself

...was an iPod Nano. I received a free iPod Shuffle from the Ragnar Relay in 2008, and it opened me up to the wonderful world of podcasts. I listen while out on runs and doing work around the house, but can also plug it into my car stereo. The problem with the Shuffle is that there is no screen to pick out what you want to listen to. Since I was primarily listening to podcasts, I had to continually set up playlists and sync the Shuffle to my computer. With 1GB of storage, there wasn't really any room to add in music.

I was originally looking at the Microsoft Zune HD. In addition to being an MP3 player, it also had an FM HD radio. It also had wifi as well as video, but I was really just looking for a music player. My old MP3 player had an FM radio, and I used enough that I was hoping to have it again in my new player. I hesitated to buy the Zune because podcasting is so slick in iTunes, and I read it wasn't quite as easy on the Zune. Before I pulled the trigger, Apple came out with the new iPod Nano, and it included an FM radio as well. Sold!

I have been using the Nano for about a month now, and it is a great improvement over the Shuffle. With 16GB of storage, there is room for not only all the podcasts I listen to, but quite a bit of music as well. I can decide on the fly what podcast I am in the mood for, and I can watch the occasional video podcast as well. And another slick feature of the Nano is that once you listen to a podcast, it will be removed from the Nano the next time you sync with iTunes. This frees up memory for all the new podcast episodes that are queuing up to take their place.

The FM radio also has a Tivo-like feature in that it constantly records the last 15 minutes being broadcast. For those that have become so accustomed to rewinding their tv shows that they try to do the same on the radio, the Nano is your kind of machine. The Nano also shoots video, but this is one of those thrown in features that I may not use anytime soon.

Last fall, there was so much running and housework, that I was running out of things to listen to. I ended up subscribing to more podcasts to get more material. By December, the housework and running came to a stop, and I ended up with a backlog of over 150 podcasts. The road trip last week helped me get back down to double digits, but I may have pare down the list of podcasts I can keep up with.

So, two thumbs up on the iPod Nano

Apple iPod nano 16 GB Silver (5th Generation) NEWEST MODEL.

February 14, 2010

My funny valentine

It all works out

"On just about any trip through Chihuahua, someone is sure to have to console you with the local motto: "Nothing works out according to plan, but it always works out."

~ From Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

So the flashback trip down the coast didn't quite work out. We retraced the route as far as Newport, OR on the first day, but had to head inland after that. But we made it safe and sound yesterday around noon, and best of all for the pooch, we don't have to hop in the truck again.

She was clearly not fond of the trip. At the risk of making my dog out to be a person, it felt like a child in the back seat constantly saying "are we there yet, are we there yet?" She didn't agree to the move - well I didn't really ask her - and she certainly didn't sign up for the scenic route. In the end, it felt like I was forcing an unwilling participant to sit through a live slide show of my vacation. She was not interested.

We had a shorter day yesterday, so I was hoping to find a perfect breakfast spot where we could take a leisurely meal and enjoy the ocean scene. I drove along highway 1 looking for a cafe with outdoor seating, but couldn't quite find what I had in mind. We drove through a couple small towns, but nothing matched the picture I had made in my mind. As we went along, and I grew more hungry and impatient, I was willing to settle for a Starbucks with an outside table. In the end, I settled for coffee and donuts and eating on the run.

The trip down the coast was kind of a last minute addition. A way to give the trip more meaning (not that it needed any). And like my quest for the perfect breakfast spot, maybe it was just a bit too much to expect, a little too contrived. Maybe in this one instance it was more about the destination than the journey.

It would have been a great trip, and I would have really liked to go through the Redwoods again, but the coast and the woods aren't going anywhere. I can get back to the someday alone, or when everybody is on board. And I have plenty of new stuff to explore without worrying about revisiting the past.

February 12, 2010

One more sleep

We are almost there.

We hit the road a little earlier this morning, thanks to the early riser staying upstairs at Motel 6. He was a "heavy walker" and liked to slam doors. Since we were on I-5 and past the mountain passes, I figured we'd make pretty good time today. The pooch appeared to be feeling a little better as well, so I was looking forward to a good travel day.

Mapquest said it would be over 10 hours to make it to our final destination. This of course assumes little traffic and few stops. Since we kind of plowed through the last two days, I wasn't planning on another long day to make it to San Diego today. If the travel gods were with us, maybe - but I figured we'd stop a few hours short and enjoy a short day on Saturday.

One benefit to being on the major highways is the 70+ mph speed limits. Another is the rest stops along the way. The freeway rest stops with their open grass areas were so much better for the pooch than having her sneak out for breaks at the fast food joints. We made good time while driving, but took rest breaks every couple of hours. She seemed to be doing better when she had a chance to get out of the car to stretch her legs. When we were stopped, I let her take her time, roaming around to enjoy the scents and sun.

Oh, and there was finally sun! It had rained most of the last two and a half days, and it was really dumping when we were in the Siskiyous Mountains yesterday afternoon. It was leaning toward snow at the pass, and I had to have the wipers on high. So glad I replaced the wiper blades before hitting the road. It was raining again this morning, but sunny California finally showed its face in the afternoon. Spirits were lifted and smiles resurfaced.

Even with dragging our feet a little, we reached the LA area at a decent hour. It was tempting to press on to San Diego, but we would arrive pretty late and wiped out. I didn't want to show up, say hello, and then fall into bed. One more night at a hotel and a short day tomorrow meant we could show up more rested, ready to greet the new life in the manner it deserves.

So glad I had decided not to press on, because as soon as we hit LA we hit a wall - a wall of traffic. After flying along, taking the miles down in big chunks all day, we hit rush hour traffic and time seemed to stop. Well, I wished it had. We spent 2 1/2 hours getting from LA to Costa Mesa. The pooch had been doing a little better, but sitting in traffic for this long made her a stress-ball again. When we turned onto 405 and traffic was still moving, I thought, "the sun is still high in the sky - we could make it to the beach before going to the hotel." Not even close. We pulled in at about 7:00, both stir crazy and overdue for a pee break.

Tomorrow we may sleep in a bit. Then maybe we'll find a non-fast-food restaurant with outdoor seating for breakfast together. Hopefully with a view of the ocean. Its going to be great.

February 11, 2010

The best laid schemes of dogs and men

We took off around 7:00AM, and after taking the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton, it was on to the scenic route. The 2006 Pacific Coast ride was one of my best experiences, and I was looking forward to seeing the route again. We meandered southwest toward the coast and crossed into Oregon over the Astoria Bridge. The bridge is almost four miles long and is subject to frequent high winds. The shoulder looked so much smaller than I remembered on the bike.

Our route followed 101 most of the way down the coast, with a couple of scenic offshoots. It was great seeing all the hills we climbed, and they were impressive even in a car. Unfortunately, it was rainy and foggy, so the scenery wasn't as good as expected. We stopped off in Cannon Beach for lunch, and the tourist town was mostly deserted. We found a restaurant with a covered table outdoors so we could dine together. We stopped in Newport for the night.

It turns out the pooch isn't much into the long road trips. She seemed to be stressed most of the time, constantly panting and occasionally whining. The winding roads of 101 along the coast meant that she couldn't relax. Getting out of the truck for a while seemed to settle her down for a while, but not for long. Of course she has no idea what is going on. Wish I could explain it to her.

She also has a couple of bad knees, so she can't jump into the truck anymore. It has been a while since she has been able to hop into the bed of the truck, but now she can't even make it through the door to the backseat. I have to lift her into the truck, and by the end of the day, she wasn't even willing to jump out of the truck.

Then this morning she was really hobbling, unable to put much weight on one leg. And the kicker was she didn't finish her breakfast, which is a bad sign since she normally inhales it in under a minute. I was pretty worried about her, so we left the coast and headed inland to faster, smoother roads.

So we're now going down I-5 and we're in Willows for the night. We probably have another day and a half to go. Hopefully the pooch will be feeling a little better tomorrow.

February 9, 2010

Scenic route

The pooch and I are on the road tomorrow morning. This day has been on the horizon for about a month, and it is finally here.

Normally when I go on a trip or vacation, I don't get amped up with anticipation as the day grows closer. It is like I don't count on it until the day actually arrives. I also don't shake the Christmas presents that are sitting beneath the tree. I like to save the surprise for the moment. This time the build up has been a little different, and there have been some presents along the way, but it still doesn't feel totally real even though it is only nine hours away.

I have spent the past week or so meeting with friends to say goodbye (for now). It has been wonderful to see everyone, share old stories, and talk about my plans for the future. Everyone has been very supportive, and have offered thoughts on what I should do with this opportunity. One observation was that I am not on any schedule, so I should take my time on my way down. Point taken.

In 2006, I rode my bicycle from Seattle to San Francisco to benefit the American Lung Association. It was two weeks of hill climbing, gorgeous scenery, and riding with old friends I'd just met. As I mentioned in my first post here, "I find that my head is clearer when I am away from home and on my bike. At times it seems even my vision is clearer." The pursuit of this feeling of clarity was one of the goals of writing this blog.

I have decided to go back to the beginning, and retrace my route down the coast. It is a beautiful route that will force me to go slowly. Force me to take my time and take it all in. It won't be the same as riding it by bike, but it should still be great way to go.

When we took off from Seattle in 2006, we took a ferry across Puget Sound to Bremerton before setting out by bike, and I'll be doing the same tomorrow. I think leaving Seattle by boat, seeing the skyline from the water slowly recede, will be particularly poignant. There will be lots of feelings rushing through my head tomorrow and for the next few days - some good, some difficult. It is probably best that I take my time, to take it all in.

Time to get some sleep.

February 7, 2010

A smaller version of my stuff

Language warning - It's George Carlin after all.

One of the many goals for this new year, this new chapter, is to live more minimally. Less clutter, less distraction, less things demanding attention and money. A cleaner life will help me have a clearer mind.

The first phase has been to cut down on some of the excess stuff I have been carrying around from home to home. I have never been driven by the accumulation of stuff, but it has piled up nonetheless. I actually avoid buying new things, but the flip side is that I have a tough time throwing things away.

While getting the house ready for sale, I sold, gave away or threw out lots of stuff. Several truck loads in fact. But I still have a storage unit filled with things. For the past couple of months, I have been living at my parent's house, and have been trying to keep less stuff around. I've tried to limit my footprint to my bedroom and the garage, but of course after a couple of months I've spread out a little bit.

I'll be moving to San Diego in the next couple of days, and will be bringing an even smaller version of my stuff. I will be trying to keep most of my things in the bedroom, and I am only bringing a dresser as far as furniture. I am also limited by how much stuff I can fit in the back of my truck for the drive down. And I need to leave a little space for the dog and her stuff after all. Fortunately she travels pretty lightly.

It has been a difficult to decide what needs to make the trip, and what I can do without for at least a few months. I over pack for a week-long trip, always throwing one more thing in the suitcase just in case I might need it. I have a feeling there won't be much empty space in the truck when I hit the road. I hope I don't leave something important behind, but I also hope that after a while it feels like I brought too much.

When I find my own place, and come back for furniture and things, I also hope I will be tempted to leave even more behind. Like my 4th grade arithmetic papers.

February 3, 2010

On the roads together

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."

~ A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)

My running and biking friends hosted a "see you soon" party last Saturday. I thought I would be leaving sometime this week, so last weekend was going to be the last chance to get together for a while. The party was put on with short notice (my fault), but it sure didn't feel that way. 

The meal had a theme of my trip from Seattle to San Diego. There was Salmon from Seattle, cheese and wine from Oregon, Avocados from California, and chowder in sourdough bowls from San Francisco. There was also some Mexican tamales with the note, "you've driven too far". They also put together a photo album with some pictures of us at running and biking events, as well as photos with their families for me to take along. It was all a great surprise.

I started biking in 2002 when Cherie talked me into the Tour des Lacs ride, and then the Seattle to Portland ride the following summer. We started running in 2005 when she threw out the challenge of running a marathon. Tami and Wendy joined in on the fun a little while later, and we became Team Drunken Promise. More have joined our group over the years, taking on the challenge of exercise while spending time with friends.

Biking and running can be solo pursuits, but like anything else, it is better with friends by your side. A couple of my California friends run but I don't think any of them bike. And since I need to find all new places to ride and run as well, I'll be looking to find some local groups. I will be traveling new roads, meeting new people, and maybe even a making a few new friends.

I don't know when, or even if, I would have started running and biking without the ecouragement/goading of my friends. It has become a big part of my life, it has taken me to great places, and I have met even more great people through events like the Big Rides. It is going to be really tough to leave any of these folks behind, even for a little while, and for reasons that go way beyond running and biking. 

Like I've done with the California group in the past, we need to plan an epic run or bike ride where we can meet up and get the band back together.

February 2, 2010

The Far Side

I went out to for drinks and appys with my brother and a friend last night. As we were heading out, my brother said "have you checked out the bathroom? You should." The walls were covered with Far Side cartoons.

The comic strip was one of a kind when it came out, and when Gary Larson retired (somewhere locally I think), it was one of those times when someone walks away at the height of their game - hint, hint, Brett Farve.

I remembered finding a couple of his comic strips stashed in my desk when I moved. Click on the images to enlarge.