God is good, God is …

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, ...
Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, face detail of God. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a twelve mile run deep into the woods of the Upper Salmon River in Welches Oregon, I realized that I grew up Christian, learning early in my life to fear and to love God, the same God who often took the shape of my “father” who snapped his black leather belt as warning when I misbehaved and who sometimes whipped me with it, blistering my thighs and back with red welts whenever I continued to defy him, the same God who also embodied my “dad” who bought me a brand new red and blue huffy bike with spider-mag wheels just because I told him I wanted one, meaning I can never extinguish belief in the divine, I can only interpret it. 

On the drive home, while flipping through the jangle of tunes and talk on the radio, I heard a warm and intriguing voice say,

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; Acts 17:28.

I fell under the spell of that verse immediately, with its pleasant assurance that all things are divine. The flow of the scripture spun my mind to running–for in him we move. I run, not to become faster so I can win races, not to develop fitness so I can stay healthy, and not to burn calories so I can eat  pizza and guzzle Oregon’s finest beers; instead, I run as an act of worship, each springing knee bent over the wild terrain honors the cosmos, moving me forward, bringing me closer and also distancing me from my ultimate destination. I am not a Christian, but I do feel God surging in my blood, heaving in my lungs, screaming at me to stop and also to push harder whenever I’m bouncing over the landscape of this vast planet. I grew up Christian, learning early in my life to fear and to love God, who sometimes takes the form of my “dad” and “father,” and who, at other times, takes the shape of the man casting my shadow.

Honesty in 3 Letters

I was disappointed and frustrated that my race times were so pathetically slow this year. I thought I trained well. But obviously I didn’t. So I asked myself what did I do last year that I didn’t do this year?

The answer was clear. Last year, I used my GPS for every run. It kept me honest. Every time I hit the streets or trials I knew exactly how far and how fast I was running. This year it was all guesswork. For instance, I added a “10 mile” trail run to my schedule. I estimated the mileage by the Upper Salmon River  signs and by feel. When I wore my GPS watch  on the run last week, I discovered that the trail markers were correct, but my estimates were wrong. My “10 mile trail run” was only 8.97 miles. The miles felt  longer because the trail has some steep, technical spots that slowed my pace considerably. Because I used this “10 mile run” as the basis for other mileage (I looped the route to get in my 15 and 20 milers) all of my training mileage was off. I was also running the route much slower than I should have.

This year I learned that honesty can be spelled with just three letters: GPS. For now, I’m still using my ancient Garmin Forerunner to track my mileage. But here some top of the line models that are in my wish list. These watches are perfect some of the longer ultras that I’m planning next year:

 

How I Tricked Myself in to Running 15 Miles this Morning

If you don’t wedge clay properly, it will explode in the kiln. Wedging also aligns the particles making the clay much more receptive to shaping and throwing. Right now, I suck at wedging. My “wedging” technique makes the clay pliable, but it also fills it with ballon sized air-pockets. Don’t even get me started on the difficulties I face with throwing clay. Yesterday, I was almost in tears because everyone else managed to throw a cylinder, while I was left with a spinning spitting sodden heap of grey mud. I was tempted to throw it across the room punch myself in face. (When I was a teenager I gave myself a black eye–seriously, I used to hit myself that hard). But I didn’t. Instead I just breathed and when I did happiness filled me up. Somewhere in frustration and madness of trying to shape the malleable pieces of earth–the same earth God* used to form humans–there is joyfulness.  It’s astonishing what failure in ceramics teaches me  about running.

Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep. I kept thinking about my failure to wedge properly and also somewhere smashing through my brain was the fifteen mile run I had to do in the morning.  It thrashed my thoughts, leaving me jittery and awake. I kept thinking about how I would have to work a full day after running fifteen miles. It was depressing. Try as I might, I couldn’t fall asleep. Then brilliance struck: Why not call in sick? That way I could sleep off this insomnia and have time to recuperate from my long run.  With that one thought, I skipped happily into dreamland.

Without an alarm, I arose at six o’ clock. (I was planning to sleep in until eight). Since I was up and felt rested, I decided to strap on my heart rate monitor and GPS, slip into my blue shorts,  and drape on my white shirt. The first two miles were horrible and I questioned my decision to run a marathon, but by mile four my youthful vigor kicked-in. The carbohydrate packs and homemade gatorade helped tremendously.  Mile twelve was difficult, and the last three miles forced me to dig deep, but I did and I found a treasure chest of strength and stamina. I finished my run in under two hours, which is right on track with my goal pace for the Boring Oregon Marathon.

Since I would’t have had to have left for work until eleven, I had plenty of time to stretch and rest. After a long hot shower, going to work didn’t seem so bad; so, I pulled on slacks, flung on my short sleeve dress shirt, and headed off to work. I wasn’t even stiff or sore. I did, however, let  out a few great yawns, but I was fully functional. Maybe, I’m not so bad at wedging after all.

* I use God and reference Genesis rhetorically, I am a pantheist.