Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How Solid is My Commitment?

This morning I headed out for my usual early morning Wednesday run. As I ran along, it occurred to me that I ran last night and failed to follow through on my commitment to pick up at least three pieces of trailside litter. It totally escaped my mind.

I thought about my options. I could start fresh again today. I could make-up for last evening's missed collection. In terms of athletic training, generally the philosophy is not to try to make up for missed training sessions. This, however, is different. Those three pieces of uncollected trash do matter to the environment. And it also leaves this uneasy feeling inside of me - I know the choices I make around this have to do with just how committed am I really to following through on this promise.

As I am mulling all of this around in my brain, I ultimately decide to pick up six pieces of litter this morning - three for last night and three for today. That allows me to feel in integrity with myself and the promise I made to my fellow trailmate.

I thought you might be interested in exactly what I picked up this morning.

1) An empty Idaho Potato plastic bag
2) A dryer fabric softener sheet
3) A kleenex - eew
4) An empty plastic wrapper from "Hot & Spicy Crunchy Nuggets" - not sure what that is
5) An empty diet Pepsi can
6) A lunch sack still containing the remains of a partially eaten lunch of 1/2 sandwich, a piece of foil that the sandwich was wrapped in, 2 packages of unopened crackers (does all of that count as more than one item?)

I should also mention that as I turned around at the 1/2 point of my run, after already collecting and depositing three pieces of trash, I spotted him just up ahead. Yup, sure enough - there he was, running along and collecting litter as he went. I ran past him with a cheery "hello", now mindful that I was the "scout". He would be following behind and would notice the pieces of litter that I failed to pick up. I was extra vigilant - determined to have to trail up to his high standard of pristine and litter-free. That very fact was the reason I had to pick up that lunch sack. It was bulky, heavy, rather soggy and less than convenient to carry along to the trail end. But I knew that he would pick it up no matter what.

Feeling pretty good about my environmental efforts, I left the trail and ran along the sidewalks back to where my car was parked. And I noticed something. Trash. Lots of it. Scattered here and there. Would my trailmate stop his collecting efforts just because he left the trail? I doubt it. While I didn't pick up any of those pieces of trash on the way back to my car, I have decided that when I am out and about, if I see some trash I will pick it up and throw it away.

One benefit of scanning the trailside, is that I also noticed many things that I would have ordinarily run by without a glance. Did you know that there are yellow tulips planted about every 100 yds in one section of the trail? There was also a very vocal woodpecker that seemed to be "thumping me along side of the head" (kind of like the V-8 commercial) with his loud hammering on the tree trunk, when I nearly ran by a piece of trash.

All of this got me thinking. When we make a commitment to something or someone, is it a solid commitment? Or a partial commitment - only when we remember, when it's convenient, or when nothing else gets in the way?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Earth Day Eye Opener

This morning I was running on the Constitution Trail about 5:30 AM, when I came across an older man that I frequently encounter on the trail. Typically he is slowly walking along, carrying a small plastic garbage bag, gathering assorted trash from the trailside and depositing it into the garbage bag. No piece of trash is too small to escape his careful scanning of the ground - paper cups, discarded plastic bottles, small bits of paper or plastic, cigarette butts, he indiscriminately picks up each and every item that he encounters. Generally I murmur a pleasant "Good morning" and thank him for his diligent environmental efforts. He keeps the trail beautiful for all of us who enjoy it on a regular basis.

And then I go along my way, rationalizing to myself that I am running, whereas he is walking. Naturally he has the time to pick up trash as he goes along. I also convince myself that it gives him something to do while he is out walking. After all, he's not going that fast. He's just walking.

Something interesting happened this morning. He was running. His pace was much faster than I would have expected. He was moving right along. And then.... he suddenly veered off in pursuit of an almost overlooked piece of trash. Then I noticed that both of his hands were filled with the pieces of trailside litter he had collected during his run.

As I pulled up alongside him, I said my usual "Good morning", thanked him for his unwavering care for the environment. And then I told him that I intended to collect at least three pieces of litter every time I run on the trail. I also told him that I would challenge other runners I know to do the same. Three small pieces of litter - that won't slow us down much. It won't take that long.

Off I scurried down the trail towards the road that would take me back to my car. As I ran along, I quickly spotted and picked up my promised three pieces of trash. Lesson #1 - try not to select a 32 oz. empty glass bottle as one of the items - it becomes quite heavy rather quickly. I suppose it also might not have been the safest option to carry a glass bottle while running. Most of all I know that neither of those two things would have entered the mind of my environmentalist friend - he would have quietly gone about doing what he does to take care of our earth.

I wondered to myself what his thoughts were regarding yesterday (April 22nd) which was Earth Day. He celebrates Earth Day each and every day. We should all do the same.

I'll let you know how my promise comes along. Will I eventually forget my promise? Will it become too burdensome? Too much trouble?

If you happen to see me out and about running on the trail and if I don't already have three pieces of litter in my hands, ask me about it. Hopefully, my answer is either that I have already collected and deposited my three items in a trash can, or I've just started my run.

We all live on this earth. We can all do our small part.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Rejuvenation in the Adirondack Mountains

I'm back from the Bigger Game Train the Trainer training in Silver Bay, New York. What an amazing experience! I learned so much, met some wonderful people and enjoyed the beautiful retreat setting. Lake George is a beautiful lake. The day that I arrived (Monday, April 7th) the lake was still completely frozen. Two days before I left the ice had "gone out" as the locals call it. This is apparently a very special event to witness. It marks the transition from winter to spring. Somehow it seems fitting for those of us attending this week-long course. We all, each in our own way, are transitioning into something different and hopefully more impactful.

Here are some of the things I learned during my trip:

1) Don't park under trees if you visit Sydney, Australia! Huntsman spiders are known to drop from the trees and make their way into vehicles parked underneath the trees. Another good tip if you must park under a tree - don't leave your windows cracked open unless you want an unexpected visitor while you are driving. Apparently these spiders, which can get quite large, are the cause of many car accidents. We had three Australians in our class that shared this "good to know" information.

2) Thai food is really good! When I arrived at the Albany airport, I rented a car and drove to Burlington, Vermont to visit our daughter and son-in-law. Kristin had play rehearsal (Annie), so she left within 30 minutes of my arrival. Adam and I went to a Thai restaurant for a wonderful dinner.

3) I can make a delicious orzo pasta salad. Kristin and I spent Monday morning and afternoon together. We went to one of my favorite little restaurants in Burlington for lunch. I ordered a grill chicken and orzo pasta salad. Kristin and I talked about what the ingredients were and I was able to successfully replicate it at home. After lunch with Kristin I drove back to Silver Bay (I had passed by the retreat center on my way from the airport to Vermont) to join my classmates for dinner Monday evening.

4) Running in the Silver Bay area is much hillier than in Illinois! This was a great opportunity to let go of covering any certain distance at any certain pace and simply enjoy running.

5) I really love the Bigger Game model and how it can be used effectively in any context of life. It is an innovation model that allows us to step into our full potential. The recipient of expression of full potential? The world.

6) We can all benefit from "stepping to the right of our left hemisphere". (More on this in a future posting.) On the first day we watched an amazing video about a neuro-anatomist (in other words a brain scientist), who had a stroke and decided while having the stroke to learn about her brain from the inside out. The video is about 20 minutes long. It is fascinating from a medical standpoint and powerful from a how to live your life perspective.

Jill Taylor says the following about her experience:

"How many brain scientists have been able to study the brain from the inside out? I've gotten as much out of this experience of losing my left mind as I have in my entire academic career." ~ Jill Bolte Taylor

7) The difference between a maze and a labyrinth. A maze is designed to get you lost, while a labyrinth is designed to help you find yourself. On Thursday evening we had the opportunity to walk through a labyrinth right alongside of Lake George. Four of us walked through the labyrinth while Sarah (wife of BruceTamlyn, the Pastor of the YMCA retreat center there at Silver Bay) sat beneath a tree playing a wooden flute. After walking the labyrinth, it occurred to me that is exactly what draws me to the Bigger Game model. Especially when you are feeling stuck, the Bigger Game gameboard allows you to find where you are and then, how to move forward.

8) If we let go of "performing and/or achievement" we open ourselves up to greater learning. On the very first day of class, Rick Tamlyn (co-founder of the Bigger Game) said the following; "You all have an "A" already. The application (rigorous application process) was your final exam." What a gift that was to each of us. Rather than being focused on how we looked, performed, and demonstrated our skills, we were encouraged to soak up the learning.... even to fail spectacularly!

9) Unplugging is a great way to plug into what is really important. I don't miss not having TV, e-mail, or phones. That's right, there were no TV's, no computers unless you elected to bring your own laptop, and no cell phone service. (Actually we discovered on the second to last day that cell phones did work if you stood directly underneath the flagpole on a higher elevation part of the YMCA campus.) I did make a call home, standing beneath the flagpole - in the rain, on Friday morning.

The evening hours after dinner were filled with walks outside, breathing fresh air, talking with new friends, reading before bed and being still. By the way, there was also a "no alcohol" rule in place at this retreat. Once all the outside noise was eliminated, and with no alcohol to alter perception, what resulted was being fully in the present moment - the "be here, now" experience. We need more of that in our lives I believe.

When I arrived at the Albany airport everything felt so loud and so bright. The technology seemed especially intrusive. Perhaps that is why it has taken so long for me to return to writing a post for this blog. I encourage you to "unplug" for a day (or more) and notice how much more alive you feel.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Well, I'm still sick. It is very hard for me to give up racing the Springfield 1/2 Marathon tomorrow. Exactly why is that? Is it ego? Look at me.... I'm racing a 1/2 marathon! While it wasn't one of my key races of the year, I was looking forward to seeing what I could do. I had a goal time (beating last year's time) for this hilly course. Even more opportunity for ego to shine - I can run 13.1 miles over hills and run it faster than last year.

Of course, if I run it feeling the way I do, my time will be less than impressive. So, perhaps choosing not to run is just as ego-based as choosing to run. Am I making the decision not to run out of ego or out of wisdom?

Wisdom, let's go with that (as my granddaughter Madison says). Wisdom tells me that I am getting worse, not better. Wisdom tells me that I have a very important course (Bigger Game Train the Trainer) this week in New York. In order to bring my "A" game to the course, it will be important to be healthy. The course is an important next level in my profession.

Sometimes we need to be willing to let go of something now, in order to support something bigger that awaits us. Sometimes we have to be willing to let go of our ego.

P.S. I have a doctor's appointment at 11:15 this morning. I'll let you know what I find out.

Update - bacterial bronchitis is the diagnosis. I now have antibiotics to help me get over this. I guess I'll have to continue to be in acceptance mode because I'm certainly not enjoying being sick or enthusiastic about it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


I'm sick! What started out as a slight scratchy throat on Monday night/Tuesday morning, what I hoped was merely weather-related sinus stuff, apparently is the real deal - sickness. More than likely it is a viral bug. Very few athletes are good about acceptance when it comes to illness or injury. Typically I tend to move rather quickly out of awareness and acceptance into denial.

This time, however, I decided to do things differently - in part from my reading of Eckhart Tolle's book "A New Earth". Eckhart describes "awakened doing" as the alignment of your outer purpose--what you do--with your inner purpose--awakening and staying awake. He uses three modalities to describe the ways in which you can align your your consciousness so that it is not what you do, but how you do what you do that becomes the primary focus.

The three modalities are acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm. Eckhart says the following: "You need to be vigilant to make sure that one of them operates whenever you are engaged in doing anything at all--from the most simple task to the most complex. If you are not in the state of either acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm, look closely and you will find that you are creating suffering for yourself and others."

It's pretty clear that I don't enjoy being sick. I'm not enthusiastic about being sick. So that leaves the modality of acceptance for me to step into while I recover. Thinking about it, I must acknowledge that I have brought suffering upon myself or others by my stubborn refusal to accept injury or illness.

Here's how acceptance has looked so far this week:

Monday - I accepted that I was

a) either tired from the weekend, or b) coming down with something. I elected to skip all of my workouts on Monday (the morning swim and the evening ride on the trainer).

Tuesday - accepted (with some degree of reluctance) that I was, in fact, probably getting sick.
I decided that to do my Monday interval swim workout with the 10 x50 yd repeats @ VO2 Max pace, 3 x200 yd repeats @ INT AT pace, 300 yds of kicking drills, etc. was not a wise plan.

I opted instead to do my Thursday swim workout (longer, slower repeats of 500 yds @ EXT AT pace with no particular attempt to hit my times for those repeats). I just settled into swimming at a pace where my body did not feel like it was exerting too much. Much to my surprise I hit the times for the two 500's only a few seconds off pace. Let me see if I have this right, I swam easier/slower which resulted in almost as fast as my regular 500 yd pace. Hmmm... And I enjoyed this swim workout even though I'm sick and it wasn't the scheduled workout.

Tuesday evening - I accepted that I wasn't feeling well enough to run outside with my training partners. I skipped the run entirely and had a nice warm bowl of soup instead. I enjoyed the soup. I wasn't enthusiastic about the soup, but I enjoyed it. The warmth felt soothing on my throat.

Wednesday morning - I called my running partner at 5:00 AM to say I would not be meeting her. I settled back in under the warm covers, and after some coughing, managing to drift back to sleep for a bit. I enjoyed the warmth and the taking care of myself.

I slipped slightly out of "acceptance mode" into "envy mode" when I read AJ's blog about her great brick workout this morning. I found myself wishing that I could have had that experience of a great workout this morning.

Then I realized that acceptance of being sick is what allows me to experience the other two areas Eckhart mentions - enjoyment and enthusiasm. Part of what reminds me of how much I enjoy my training and sports (marathons or triathlons) and how enthusiastic I am about participating, is a taste of what it is to not be able to participate, even if only for a few days.

A new level of acceptance awaits me. I'm ok with being sick for two days. I can accept being sick for two days. Tomorrow is the third day. I have a 1/2 marathon scheduled for Saturday.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Are you wearing "negativity" goggles?

This past weekend I went to visit my sister, Shelley, in Elk Grove Village (Chicago suburb). It was a good visit. It doesn't really matter what we do, we always enjoy spending time together. Saturday afternoon and evening were filled with good food, a little shopping (really just looking, no purchasing), watching a movie, and just hanging out.

Sunday morning I planned to do a swim at her workout club, while she did a cardio workout. The morning was cold, damp, and drizzle pelted us as we headed inside. Not exactly enough to inspire me to want to get into the "cold" pool and swim. I decided to get in and give it a try, dreading it all the way from the locker room to the pool area.

To my surprise, I had a wonderful swim. The water temperature was just right - not too cold, not too warm. The pool was filled with just the right number of people - not too few, not too many. We each had our own lane and there were a couple of open lanes available. The water was perfect as well - not too much chlorine. There was some music playing in the background, again just right - not too loud and not so soft I couldn't hear it. It was one of the most enjoyable swim workouts I've had in a long time.

I could have so easily missed this swim if I had allowed my negative mindset to impact the choice I made to swim or not. Even wearing my "negativity" goggles, I managed to get a clearer picture of my swim that morning. Imagine if I had entered the pool wearing "positivity" goggles. Then, I'm guessing, my good swim might have been even better.

The workout was followed by a nice warm shower, coffee at a local Starbuck's while sitting in front of a fireplace, and lunch. Sounds like a perfect time for a nap! Or.... a two hour drive home.

Once home, I had a 30-minute client call, followed by a scheduled 1 hour ride on the trainer. The 60 minute ride was to be a EXT END (83-86% of maximum HR), which is not always easy to maintain. I'm still on the learning curve of cycling. It is easy for me to run for a long time at a high HR zone, much more difficult for me to do that on a bike. Luckily I had borrowed a CD from my sister for the trip home. The music was energizing as I drove home, so I decided to listen to it while riding.

I found myself pedaling through 1:07 minutes with no problems maintaining that HR. What was I listening to? The Doors Scattered Sun CD. In case you wondered, "Light My Fire", "Riders on the Storm", "Break on Through" and "Not to Touch the Earth" are all over 7 minutes long. And, they are great songs to ride to.

The CD comes with a little booklet about the Doors and Jim Morrison in particular. I find myself drawn to Jim Morrison's music. The booklet describes Jim Morrison has being strongly drawn to poetry, literature, mysticism, religion, psychology and philosophy. Apparently one of his favorite philosophers was Friedrich Nietzsche and his favorite writers included Blake, Rimbaud and Byron. Perhaps that is exactly what draws me to his music.

Once again I was given a lesson in the importance of mindset. A friend of ours often would use the phrase; "Get off your Huffy bike". It made us laugh every time he would say it. And it is so true. We have choice as to whether we stay angry (on the Huffy bike), dread a workout vs. look forward to it,or any other mindset we elect to camp out in.