Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bluegrass and Trail Running

My very favorite song to hear when I am trail running is a Bluegrass number called "Carry Me Across the Mountain." I won't bore you with all the lyrics, but the premise is that the baby is sick and the doctor lives on the other side of the mountain. The guy singing needs to run for help and is asking God to give him the strength and stamina he needs. I guess it is pretty obvious why I love it; only a sociopath would be able to keep from speeding up during that song.

I probably seem like an unlikely candidate to be a Bluegrass fan. I grew up on The Beatles, folk music and classic rock with a sprinkling of Motown. When I was old enough to buy my own albums I was torn between loving to dance and wanting to be cool (which in those days meant hard rock.) Later I morphed into a punk, and from there it just got more and more confusing. Today I have a collection of music on my ipod that bogles any mind that tries to sum up my taste. But if I was forced to name one artist that best reflects my musical sensibility, I would say "Beck." I pick him because he is all over the map with some similar roots, and he loves to use a variety of instruments.

Somewhere along the line I started listening to more and more Bluegrass and found it is my favorite music for trail running. It just feels right to be on a trail listening to banjo picking and fiddles. It sounds like trail running to me. Many songs are really fast which always makes me think "If this guy can pick a banjo this fast, I can pick up my feet a little faster."

But overall, I recommend not listening to music while trail running. Being on the street or bike trail is another story, but on a trail we need keen situational awareness. It is important to keep our ears open for rattle snakes and mountain bikes. Also, part of the beauty of trail running is getting back to nature and taking in the beauty with all our senses. Hearing birds or water flowing should be the music we listen to.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Letter to Joel

Hi Joel,

I thought of you on my run today. I think of you often, but especially running because certain bands shuffle up on the ipod that always remind me of you, like The Damned, The Jam, Stiff Little Fingers. You had a big influence on my music taste. I listen to a lot of Bluegrass these days and although we never listened to it back then, I know you and The Pogues influenced my love of banjo!

When I think of you I often feel angry. I knew you were sick, but those few times I spoke to you those last few years, I kept thinking I would talk to you again. I hoped that in the next conversation you might let me do a little of the talking. I kept expecting you would get tired of the way you were living and become open to hearing what I (or John) had to say. But that day never came.

Instead I had to go to your funeral and it was one of the most frustrating days of my life. I couldn't stand so many things about your funeral, from the 40 something crowd still trying so hard to be punk, to the talk about your death and why you died.

Your mother-in-law spoke about the "mysterious Hep C - they didn't even know what it was when Joel contracted it." I sat on my hands and resisted the urge to shout out "So what! Half the people in this room have Hep C!" I have my own opinion about what killed you, but the thing that caused your demise seemed to be the only thing they had to celebrate about you; Joel's rebelliousness.

The photo of you when we came in the front door with a guitar in one hand and a middle finger up on the other seemed to represent the Joel your current friends want us to remember. Mark Malone eulogized your rebellious nature and how you were too smart to believe in God. Again I fought the urge to shout out "Don't you get it! That is why Joel is dead!"

But you didn't leave much behind for us to talk about. Sorry Joel, but it is the truth. I know you told me towards the end that you lived a great life because you went on some awesome snowboard trips. You got to record some music that some people love. And most importantly in your own mind, you lived most of your life answering only to yourself. There is so much you missed out on and it makes me so mad that you didn't even realize that you only scratched the surface of living. Like Plato's cavemen.

I am glad I have my own memory of you. I remember the Joel who whole-heartedly believed in God, in fact you helped lead me back to that path and a few others too. So you did leave a legacy. Mike Carlson told me about the time he was about to drink and ran into you at Eldorado Park. He said he wouldn't have stayed sober if he had not ran into you that day.

Plus I know how you were during that time of your life. I was there. I lived alongside you and saw how you were when you believed for years. I know you were happy then. No one can erase that memory from me.

The last chapter of your life did have some surprising twists. Most people who live a life of drinking and using drugs end up alone. You were that way for many years, then at the very end you meet up with your High School sweetheart who decides to leave her "Baby's Daddy" and marry you instead. You instantly had a wife, stepchildren, pets, a place to live, and health insurance! I thought it was so crazy at the time, but a friend of mine put it in perspective for me. After describing your life he said "So even though he turned his back on God, God did not turn His back on him. Instead, he got to die surrounded by love."

The other times I think of you is when my life is really good or really bad. Under both conditions I think "Joel doesn't get to experience this. Joel doesn't get to experience anything. His life is over." Whether it is an exhilarating high (usually brought on by exercise and nature) or low (usually spousal and money problems), I know you are having neither. Then I feel grateful just to be alive.

You were always kind to me, but I remember one of your harshest criticisms is that I "Don't rock the boat" enough. I know you wished I were more rebellious, but I wish you were still alive.


Joel: (When he was walking on he sunny side)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Chasing Caleb

The Peter's Canyon Trail Run Series is a set of three races that takes place on a Thursday evening in June, July, and August. I love this five mile trail run, although it is a tough course with some brutal hills. It is a family-friendly event that starts and ends at a beautiful park and they even have a BBQ afterwards. Don't come for the food - it is not nearly at the caliber of the race, but who feels like cooking after a five mile trail run.

This year I did not feel like doing the race because I knew I was not in my best shape and it is hard to do the same race without improving. But I managed to put the competitive spirit behind me and thought it would just be a good training run and a chance to run with my buddy Angelica.

We showed up to the race and Angelica looked a little panicked with her two kids in tow. Her husband did not make it home in time to take over kid duty. Her fourteen year old daughter, Micaela, had just joined the cross country team and planned to run the race, but what to do with eight year old Caleb? He kept saying he wanted to run it. Five mile? Seriously. Angelica and I kind of looked at each other and shook our heads. Sure he is an athletic kid, but five miles?

Angelica finally decided to go ahead and let him try. She figured she would end up hiking him in during the second half and that would be better than no race at all for her.

When the gun fired, he took off. (Well, after the 60 seconds it took the crowd to get to the start line.) He kept in stride with us and even worked ahead a bit. We warned him to pace himself, but seriously, he is eight. After the first mile he was still going strong and I decided to just keep with him and let Angelica reel him in. He did the "speed up and slow down" thing that is typically of kids, but he managed to stay with me. He complained, boy did that kid complain! "My side hurts, my throat hurts, I think I might throw up." Some of maternal women around me got concerned that there was a kid on the trail who might hurl, but I said "He's fine." Really, I am not a sadist, I could tell he really was fine. He kept talking and running, would walk a few steps, then run to catch up. And he did get a lot of attention for being the youngest runner out there.

We reached the half way point, the turn around, the point where the hills began and Caleb was still with me. He had to walk up some hills, but did not lose any ground. Then came the downhill and he took off! The kid had no brakes! I was not even slightly worried about him until now, as I yelled "Caleb, be careful!" All that previous belly aching he did the first few miles did not concern me at all, but he scared the bejeesus out of me when he blazed downhill at full speed. I kept expecting him to trip and fall head over heals, but he maintained. I could see him but could not catch him for the rest of the race.

Yeah, he beat me. I got beaten by an eight year old doing his first five mile trail run. He beat us all, actually, but I wasn't ashamed. My time was decent and I was so proud of Caleb. He is already a great runner and I know he will just be phenomenal as he gets older. I hope he always remembers the race he where he left his "Aunt" Donna in the dust. (FYI - Caleb's time was about 53 minutes for five tough miles.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Honing My Archery Skills

Went running with my most annoying companion this morning; myself. Sometimes I really don't mind a solo run, but today was not one of those days. It wasn't the physical part. There are times I really rely on peer pressure to carry me through the miles, but today I ran six miles and felt good. It was my head that troubled me by worrying about business, about money, and compiling a very long letter to my son's future teacher.

I recently learned that my 7 year old son has dyslexia. This is both a relief (because it explains why he struggled through first grade) and a bummer (because it means more struggling is eminent - he is not going to "snap" out of it.) This is a mild challenge, I realize that, but my mind is still processing this information.

I am attempting to get past resenting that his first grade teacher that did not recognize or identify the problem. She did not know why she could not get through to him and was very concerned that he stop drawing his detailed military depictions. He ended the school year thinking he is not one of the smart kids, and this really bothers me.

Sure, I probably sound like on of those over-obsessive mothers. I once heard a speaker say that children are like arrows given to us by God and parents are the archers. It is our job to recognize our arrows uniqueness and give that arrow direction and propulsion. He repeated those words "direction and propulsion" several time. That is what I consider my number one job in life right now.

It is certain that I will re-write that letter to his future teacher many more times in my head. She will receive a very condensed version with just the basics and we will go from there. It is all part of the process for me. I have compiled many letters on a variety of topics that have never been sent or read, it just helps me identify and simplify the problem. Running helps me process. If I am not annoying myself, I am sure I sometimes annoy the heck out of my running partners by processing all over them. I am lucky to have such running friends.