Saturday, April 22, 2017

Distance On My Mind

I am in the middle of a special period of time; the Sri Chinmoy Ten and Six Day Races. There are these marvelous people, some very fast, some slow and old, who are spending 6 or 10 days completing a 1 mile loop around a park in Flushing Meadows, New York. There is also a daily blog which gives pictures as well as spiritual insights of the runners. It always inspires me to want to do more miles.

At the same time, at least for 48 hours this weekend, there is a similar race here in Texas; the Jackalope Jam. A one mile out-and-back on a treeless Texas cattle ranch. And it is already hot here in the Houston area. I know one of the people in this race. This race is posting live results. So I have been checking in on my friend. I know her physical struggles and I know she only walks. I know it was hot yesterday. But she did get 56 miles in her first 24 hours. I am impressed. As of the moment I write this blog, she is up to 71 miles, with 20 more hours available in the race. I wish I had the patience to walk back and forth on a dirt road for 71 miles.

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I wish I was like that. By myself, I took 2 long runs this weekend. Yesterday I got myself 21 miles and today I got 20 miles. In the heat, my speed slips to nearly 4 miles per hour since I walk so much. I'm impressed I stayed out there and did it. It is a sweat fest for every run until November.

Most of my runs today were spent jogging back and forth in a small forest near me. I need the shade. I was saying my Course in Miracles lesson. I kept diverting my brain from wanting to argue about some work issues. But finally, I remembered this line from the lesson, "...and I choose the world I want to have..." Immediately, this caused my brain to shut down and instead I felt as if I was beaming positive light into the world. Like I was choosing joy and sending it out. I need to remember that. I have a challenging week ahead.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The People Side of Retirement

I am reading a book about the joy of retirement. It says that one reason people fail at early retirement is that their buddies are at work and they miss them when they retire. On the other hand, it says that one reason people retire early is that the people at work are an irritation. These are seemingly contradictory reasons. Two camps of people.

I am in the camp that would be glad to be rid of the people at work. Not because they are bad people; they are a very nice group of people. But because I am never my real self when I am around them. For instance, the depth of spirituality I experience in the fellowship is incredible. But the fact that I am a recovered alcoholic at all must be hidden from the people at work.

For instance, my boss is a very competitive man. So if I allow my natural creativity and quick thinking to come out, he squelches it. He has to win against me. Work coaches say that I should sell my ideas in some undercover way so my boss accepts it. So, guess what that means? It means I can't just freely be myself. Politics and corporate hierarchy cause people to not be themselves.

The whole spiritual side of my life is hidden from the people at work. Is that necessary? Well it is until I can figure out if someone there has any sort of practice close to mine. So far I have noticed one person who belongs to an alternative church and we are inching towards more disclosure. Perhaps if there is someone else, they are hiding as much as I am.

There is my problem of being gender non-conforming. As far as I can tell, all the people are normal heterosexuals with statistically normal families. Suburban families all the way. Divorces here and there as you might expect.

There is the problem of being an ultra-marathoner. You know, I don't run for training or for running races. I run for quasi spiritual reasons. I can't discuss with someone who never exercises at all exactly what is going on with my workout regime.

For my whole career, I've not related well to the people at work. For most of my career, I worked with white males. I had no interest in golf or fishing or hunting or football. So these were nice guys but not my buddies.

So for me, yes I am tired of not being myself most of the time. My handicap is that I don't really know what it is like to be me around other people. The true inner me wants to be alive. Where should I go? Is it possible in a corporation?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Enlivening Activities

This morning I ran 11 miles at an 11 min/mile pace. That might not sound like very much to many people. To me, it felt great. It was a hot Texas morning and I sweated like crazy. It felt great.

Earlier, while I was doing my morning spiritual study, I thought about my life and the dilemma of retirement. Recently, my employer offered a small incentive to people who retired within a certain time frame. I was eligible. The deal caused me to really look at my desire to retire as well as my finances. I decided that it was just a little too soon for me to retire. But I also decided to do something about my life. That is to do something about intellectual stimulation in general but more specifically my declining intellectual stimulation at work, and the sapping of energy which goes along with it.

Some people retire because they want to do something meaningful with their lives. At some point the factors of money, age and desire for enlivening come together and the decision is made to leave. I am near enough to that tipping point that I need to prepare consciously and seriously.

So this morning, I made a list of enlivening things in my life. It turns out that running, fitness and racing are enlivening. That is why I do it. It is enlivening to be on the starting line of a race with a number pinned to your front. Just being there ready to finish the race. It doesn't matter how fast, just that you are. "Beingness" at its finest.

I thought about a 70 year old lady I met at a race once. She plans to do 7 ultra marathons this year. She got one done already. She walks them in races which have a generous time limit. I want to be able to walk 70 miles when I'm 70.

Last week, I did my first ultra marathon in a couple of years. There were 16 ladies in the 50 something age group who also did the ultra marathon. That is quite outstanding.

Enlivening just to think about.

I've signed up for a 50 mile event in October, including cashing in my frequent flyer miles to get there. Enlivening.

My morning spiritual study is very enlivening. Sometimes AA meetings are enlivening.

But work is usually not enlivening. I need to drop the rocks and let it be.

See you on the trails:


Sunday, April 9, 2017

It Takes an Ultra

Yesterday was the first 50k race I've done for awhile. The reward was 11 hours of sleep. I haven't slept that long in ages.

For once in Texas, the day began rather cool at 55F; though it would get into the 80s by noon. So I decided that even though this was an "ultra", I'd get lots of miles done before the heat set in. I decided to run the first loop and then do walk jog on the second loop. I knew I'd be dying in the heat and the sooner I got done the better.

So, I ran the first half in 2:58, and completed the whole race in 6:35. The time includes 3 bathroom breaks and 3 slow pit stops in the final 10 miles to get ice and take an icy sponge bath.



This was my 78th endurance race of 26.2 miles or more. I know there is more to running races than shiny medals or the goal of 100 marathons. I wish I had some words of wisdom.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Lure of a New Dream

I have mentioned before: maybe I will leave my high paying corporate job, leverage my nest egg and seek phase 3 of my life. I thought I had put that dream to bed and would stay at my corporate job. But I realized this week, I can't do this anymore.

Some inner part of me decided I am done. I need to withdraw my commitment to the company.

That still leaves me with a decision to do what most people don't do. Downward mobility.

I have one gig lined up for post retirement already. But after that, I may well go hermit and discover solitude in earnest. Go hikkomori!

This morning, I jogged in a forest for 3 1/2 hours. It was slow jog walk. I liked it.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Seabrook Trail Challenge

Yesterday I ran a marathon and today I ran a half marathon. It is called the Seabrook Trail Challenge. I got some very interesting swag. Three medals which magnetically link together.



I put alot into this race. I always put more into a race than I do a training run. But I pushed myself hard this time. Maybe because I knew that it was going to be hot and I wanted to get done as soon as possible. Maybe I wanted to see what kind of shape I am in. On Saturday, there was a chance of winning an age group award.

But I surprised myself. For several years, I've mixed walking with running in marathons. It is to reduce impact and injuries. It is because I'm not really sure of my knees. It is also because I do alot of miles every weekend, and run many marathons per year; so tearing myself up too much in any one race makes no sense. But recently, I've only been doing one race a month, so I've been working on more running and less walking in marathons. Well, at least during the Texas winter (it is not possible to run that much during the summer). In my February marathon, I pushed the "all running" out to 14 miles before that race got too hot. Yesterday, in my marathon, I ran all the way to 20 miles before switching to 4x1s. I knew I was hot at 18 miles and was slowing down. But my average pace for 20 miles was 10:40 minutes/mile. That is amazing to me. Then today, for the half marathon, I ran the whole thing at an easy pace of 11:30 min/mile.

I did get first in my age group yesterday; but only because the faster ladies weren't there. But I was happy about it none the less.

This total performance makes me wonder what I can actually do. How good are my knees and achilles right now? Is all that cross training doing a good job? In 2018 I'm signed up for the Houston Marathon. I wonder if I should actually "train" for it. A big race should provide plenty of competitive urge; none of the loneliness I usually have in small races.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Re-imagining the Dream

My last post claimed I'm thinking about leaving my job; leaving the American dream. Then I got my bonus. Adding up all the money I actually make convinced me that continuing to work makes financial sense.

So the real problem with my life is me and my attitudes.

And I have spent 31 years working on said attitudes; but with a major distraction. If only I could be spiritual, float around and never work again. Such a dream landed me in a monastery for 4 years; which cost me about $500,000 in lost wages.

As a result of my current investigation into quitting my job, I realized a couple of things. Yes, work is hard and I'm like most people in not wanting to do it. Spiritual directors say that we should follow our dreams and not work at "jobs". But is working at an engineering job in a chemical plant really killing my soul? If I believe so then yes, it is. If I am consciously going to work with some other attitude, then no. Any emotional problems I have with the people at work are no different than the emotional problems I had with the sisters in the convent. And quitting work altogether would leave me with the same emotional problems.

So the real problem with my life is me and my attitudes.

I have access to attitude improvement. Mostly, it is practicing A Course in Miracles. Keeping in my mind, Course thinking instead of ego thinking is a challenge. Daily opening of the book puts fresh healing cooling balm into my brain.

Another result of this "quitting" investigation is that I seem to have pushed away my 2 spiritual advisers. I need to accept my own choices as the best for me no matter what these so called spiritual advisers say. I am an engineer and I must have chosen that for this life's purpose. I am not a spiritual author; and I won't suddenly become one just because I quit my job. My life is not a worthless life because I work as an engineer.

Yesterday, the bug man came so I don't have bugs in the house. Today, the AC man came to check the AC, so the house is cool. Is having the money to pay for such services so terribly un-spiritual?

Tomorrow, I'm going in a marathon. On Sunday, I'm going in a half marathon. Because of doing the 2 races in a row, I get a special medal. The swag gets hung on a wall with numerous other bits of swag. Am I guilty of a terrible shallowness because I love medals? I love races, even though I come in behind. Does this make me a spiritual loser?

The problem with my life is not my life. It is how I feel about it. And I can change my decisions about what a good life is. I need to drop the rocks.

The Dream can be a dream of inner joy. Joy just is. Joy does not have to be caused. Just think the word Joy, and I feel better instantly.