That locker room feeling

IMG_3924.JPGIt is hard to describe the desire I had as a little kid to grow up to be an athlete. When I was so young, all I dreamed about was being big enough to wear a baseball uniform, put on spikes and run around the ball diamond with my own baseball cap. I got to do all that eventually, and had a blast in that career and many other sports. I’m grateful for that.

But it wasn’t until middle school that the first real locker room experience came around. Our 7th grade gym class used the locker room every day. That meant learning locker combinations and following rules about personal conduct. Our gym teacher Mr. Davis was a strict man. He believed in the merit of order and responsibility. Any breach in decorum such as forgetting your jockstrap resulted in punishments such as writing 50 times on the chalkboard; “I will not forget to bring my equipment to gym class.”

Classic lockers

The lockers we used the were classic, and that style of locker has not really changed to this day, fifty years later.  They were painted some brand of military blue back in Martin Meylin Junior High in Lampeter, Pennsylvania. The school was brand new, and the lockers were toned to match the school’s decor.

But the latches were all silver, and all worked like lockers handles still do. There’s a hole in the handle where you can hang the lock. The latch slides up to open the locker, which always makes a familiar clanging sound as you pop it open. The classic locker has hooks up near the top shelf where things like hats and keys or socks and underwear go.

IMG_2539Competitive locker rooms

All through high school and college there were lockers like that in the gym. Many nervous and excited nights were spent standing before some locker getting dressed for games. The feeling of suiting up for a basketball game was like nothing else in this world. The anticipation of putting on that slick, clean uniform. Pulling up long socks. Lacing up tall shoes. Pulling on wristbands and other bling meant to give some kind of mental advantage. Then slamming shut the locker, popping the lock shut and trotting out onto the hardwood floor. That was magic, I tell you. Simply magic.

There was similar allure in getting ready for cross country races and track meets as well. The equipment was different with spikes clicking loudly against the floor of the locker. Running kits were thin affairs. Just a wispy jersey, most times, and a favorite pair of running shorts. Just short of naked, if you think about it.

Open affairs

The lockers were sometimes open air affairs once we got to college. That let your equipment dry out, which was a good thing for runners especially. But we also had traditional lockers in rows. I don’t know if the metal lockers we use in America are the same kind they use overseas, but it seems like every locker I ever used in gym class or hallways in high school were made by the LYON company out of Aurora, Illinois. I live right next door to that town. But I’ve seen those lockers all over the country. The metal tab logo on those products is so familiar. We almost take these thing for granted, but I still look at that logo every time I suit up for a workout. It’s a little piece of home in so many ways.

Stuck on lockers

During my senior year in college, our cross country lockers were all marked with athletic tape bearing out names. The captains all lined up on the same north wall of the locker room. Magic marker was used to write our names, and it bled a little into the tape. So they were fuzzy when they were written.

They were still fuzzy but legible 20 years later when I returned for a college reunion and went downstairs in the fieldhouse to change before going for a run. I stood there stunned at the idea that somehow our names had remained stuck to those lockers all those years. It meant that perhaps we’d actually done something worth remembering?

We had managed to place second in the nation in cross country. That was something. In doing that, we set the stage in some ways for the teams that came after us. One of them won the national championship in 1985, seven years after our first breakthrough.

IMG_3552Sacred places

So the locker room is sort of a sacred place in some respects. Yet it is only elevated by the efforts of those who stand before those lockers. Otherwise it’s just another line of gray metal doors in another school locker room.

These days the locker rooms I visit tend to be quite public affairs. The locker room at the little hometown gym where I pay $25 a month to lift or run during the noon hour has remained unchanged for twenty years. The lockers show little signs of rust here and there on the inside. Years of moisture and sweat will do that to plain old metal lockers.

By contrast, the lockers at the Vaughn Center are fresh and newly painted. They show no signs of rust at all. Those lockers are also tall enough to hang your clothes and still have room to store your bag of extras on top of the shows below.

IMG_1503Perhaps the reasons that I spend time in locker rooms aren’t as exciting as they once were. I must admit that the world looks a bit different looking back down the rows of lockers rather than ahead to another cross country or track season like in school days. Yet that locker room feeling you get from suiting up for a workout always bears a hint of excitement. I still plan for races. Still like to compete. Still like to lock it up and go see what I’ve got in the tank.

That’s because the feeling of getting ready to do your best never really changes. And sure, I still forget a piece of vital running or cycling gear now and then. Then I’m glad there isn’t a Mr. Davis around to catch and punish me. It would still be a bummer to this day to spend an hour writing on the blackboard in chalk.

But when I shut the locker and pop on the lock, I cherish that locker room feeling. I’m grateful to be working out. Grateful to be alive. And I’m not Lyon about that.

 

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The Ecco of a good man

CudworthMuesFamily

Melvin Mues, at center in plaid shirt, was a family patriarch.

Yesterday I wore a pair of dress shoes to work that were previously owned and worn by my late father-in-law, Melvin Mues. He loved practical, comfortable clothing and shoes, and when Mel passed away six years ago, the family passed along some of his shoes and coats and clothes. The Ecco shoes I wore yesterday morning were part of that litany.

 

Ecco oneBut something funny happened yesterday that meant the end of the Eccos. They had a blowout on both sides of both shoes. During the day I actually noticed some chunks of rubber below my desk chair. It was brittle, granular rubber, the type that typically flakes off the arm of a desk chair arm. But there was no new evidence of that on my new chair, which did lose a chunk a couple weeks ago. That sucked. But yesterday was a busy day at work, so I did not dwell on what might be going on with my chair. Things to do, you know.

Yet this morning when I went to retrieve the Eccos from the living room where I’d shed them the night before,  I picked them up and noticed a hole in the side of the shoe near the heel. Obviously, the rubber that made up the bulk of the shoe had suddenly decided to give up the ghost.

I took the shoes straight out to the garbage because there’s nothing that can be done for shoes in that condition. No sane shoe repairman will touch them. You can’t fix aged, crumbling, rubber. It will decompose at will.

They lived a full life, those Eccos. As did their previous owner. My father-in-law was a gracious, kind and intellectual man. He was a graduate in biology from the University of Colorado were he spent his undergraduate years chasing insects to identify up in the hills above Boulder. At one point while talking about his love for the outdoors but his disdain for the formalities of the sport of golf, he smiled at me and said, “Nature is my country club.”

Now that is the title of a book I’m working on and expect to have completed by late this year.

Glacier trips

Ecco twoMel and his wife Joan made an annual trip during the summer to Glacier National Park. They always took the same route, driving up from Illinois through Wisconsin and Minnesota to link up with Route 2 in North Dakota. Then they drove straight across the top of the lower 48 states and straight on through the long stretch of Montana to reach Glacier. They visited the park for more than 20 years, then announced they’d had enough. Their hiking days were through.

Yet the nature of that trip explained how the man lived his whole life. He was one to focus on the present and appreciated the little things as much as the big things in this world. He was brilliantly informed about the structure and makings of the universe from his studies as an amateur astronomer. He owned a big Celestron telescope through which you could see the rings of Saturn and moons of Jupiter as clear as day. In 1996, we all made a family trip out to Cortez, Colorado in league with the Adler Planetarium to study the archaeoastronomy of the Anasizi Indians one summer. It was the best summer vacation we ever took together as families, filled as it was with pre-dawn trips to view solar and solstice events in Four Corners region of the United States.

Despite his chill dude attitude, Mel had his share of tensions, for sure. At his funeral it was revealed that he kept a half dollar in his pocket that was rubbed smooth from years of him fingering it in his pocket. That was his stress relief. No drugs. No drama. Just a half dollar in the pocket, rubbed daily.

Running on

Mel only saw me run races a couple times. Fortunately, I won a couple of those races, which might have gone some distance in him trusting that I had initiative and believing in my character. But one can never be sure. He was not a person who was big on frivolous exercise, preferring to walk more than run.

His true favorite hobby was sawing up wood in the form of tree branches that fell from the oak and hickory forest in his large backyard. That’s what he was doing the day he collapsed from some sort of heart issue, falling face first into the sawdust. His wife shook him back alive, but the next year was spent trying to cure the side effects of surgery and other problems, and he never fully recovered. As a guy who generally avoided doctors most of his life, he once spent a couple weeks leaning on a portico near the front door because his back hurt too much to sit or lie down. His philosophy was stoically German and rather inane, if you ask me. “Most things go away in a couple days if you wait them out.” Well, it didn’t always work.

Hard worker

Mel was simply one of the hardest workers you could meet, and applied that ethic in everything he did. Some of that “work” was organic to his occupation. During multiple decades of managing Northern Hydraulics, the machine manufacturing company he owned more than forty years, he made thousands trips up and down the steep stairs from the second-floor office down to the plant floor. “That kept me in shape,” he once told me. And he was likely right about that.

But his formative years helped explain his real-life ethic. Part of his persona was that he also loved to tell stories about living on the family farm out in Nebraska where he was raised. He was one of eleven kids, if I recall, and had to fend for himself on a lot of fronts. That included living in a farmhouse where there was no heat in the attic where he slept. The outhouse also was unheated. So the choice to visit the bathroom late at night during subzero weather toughened the child as well as the adult. And at some point in his elementary school years, he contracted some sort of congestive condition and the doctors performed a tracheotomy to keep him alive. The scar was still visible on his neck.

He loved telling country-living stories such as shooting squirrels out in the big cottonwood forest down the lane. “Sometimes they’d get stuck up there in the crotch of a tree after we shot them,” he’d chuckle. “That always made me mad.”

Ecco threeThe emerging ethos

That was his way of telling us that life does not always go the way we’d planned. Generally, he was patient and virtuous in all respects. But there was an anger that sometimes boiled beneath the surface. Mel was a deeply conservative man in the traditional sense. He read the National Review religiously and believed enormously in self-sufficiency. It angered him to watch spoiled professional athletes mumble about their problems on TV. He’d sometimes mutter and curse at the TV during post-game interviews.

As Fox News emerged as a conservative news force, he fell into a pattern of aligning his views with their talking points, and that sometimes vexed our family. His kids would roll their eyes and this son-in-law frequently bit his tongue rather than attempt to contradict the patriarch.

Yet no one really blamed him for a bit of frustration in life. He’d earned his right to complain about the world, having been sued for ridiculous reasons having to do with companies that removed the safety arms from the hydraulic machines his company manufactured. A worker somewhere would get their fingers or limb chopped off and turn around to sue the maker of the press. It was an unjust outcome, and Mel had to put up with that and other absurd vexations that afflict business owners.

The American Way

Ultimate the company floundered not from lawsuits but because the American manufacturing sector was fading from existence as American capital and manufacturing operations migrated overseas. That left men like Mel holding onto thin shreds of the machining and repair market for existing products still in operation. Then for a while, he hired a Korean salesperson who was ordering machines for the Asian market. But soon enough, that market dried up and blew away too. Those companies could get cheaper products made on Asian soils.

I deeply admired how he handled himself through all that. One can only imagine the pressures and nightly worries as he strove to keep the company afloat and took no income himself for years. There were eight or ten machinists on the payroll. Every Christmas the company would host a wonderful little Christmas party for everyone who worked there. Bonus checks were handed out even in lean years. The staff was largely loyal and intensely devoted to doing a good job.

We all wish that world could have been sustained here in America. It was built on the backs of World War II vets and the GI Bill that educated so many and fostered growth and prosperity in America following the war. At one point, manufacturing was more than 40% of the American Gross Domestic Product. But not any more. It’s closer to 9% these days.

4th Of July.ChristopherCudworth

4th of July, watercolor painting by Christopher Cudworth

Keep on keeping on

Yes, there are still great companies making things here in America. Perhaps some of that ingenuity and manufacturing business really can be brought back onto our shores. That’s the promise that’s been made to Americans voting for Trump. But it may be unrealistic in a global economy where emerging countries have labor forces ten times the size of the American population and willing to work for wages that are perhaps less than half what an American worker needs to make to survive.

I think about Mel frequently when I read the promises being made these days. I genuinely wonder what he’d have thought of Donald Trump. I do know that Mel despised the shallow instincts of contemporary society. Perhaps that explains it well enough.

All I know is that the legacy of the man I knew, who taught himself how to engineer and design hydraulic presses all on his own volition. I’ll repeat: He taught himself how to do the drawings used to design those machines. That is real genius.

Born on the 4th of July

Mel was also born on the 4th of July. That was another big day of the year for all of us. We’d gather in the backyard and in some years, Mel made hand-churned ice cream in a wooden bucket. We’d all take turns churning it until we could churn no more.  Then we’d slather that tasty stuff on the apple pies he’d make in autumn and store in the freezer until he hauled them out in the heat of summer. He’d sport bright 4th of July clothing in  red, white and blue and one year even wore star-spangled boxer shorts, a rare concession to his wild side. It was epic, I’ll tell you. We all just shook our heads, lit a bunch of illegal fireworks and sat out in their dark front yard with the fireflies and mosquitos watching the Addison fireworks show over the park a mile away.

So it prided me to wear Mel’s Ecco shoes. The man was a testimony to honest beliefs and earnest living. They were the echo of a man who was kind and loving and endured my pontifical dreams and plans even when they were stupid or didn’t work out. He knew that I loved and cared for his daughter and his other children. And in the end, that’s what matters most to a father or a mother. He was a doting grandfather to my own children and taught them many life lessons they’ll never forget. I loved the man, and still have another pair of shoes, a solid pair of Timberlands that are wearing out these days, but should last another couple years.

This is the type of dedication love that drives this world. It echoes through all of us, if only we’ll listen.

 

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A total eclipse of the run

Moon Eclipse One.jpgPerhaps we’ve become so accustomed as a society to seeing things hyped beyond reason it is normal to feel jaded when something really special comes along. Here in northern Illinois, last summer’s total eclipse of the sun was indeed dramatic if you had time to get outside with the proper eyewear to look up at the sun being blocked out by the moon.

This morning from our vantage point on planet earth, the earth’s shadow blocked out the moon. I was vaguely aware that it would happen early in the morning. My daughter lamented that it would be taking place during her commute east on the interstate.

So I went out for a customary run at 6:15 or so and the moon appeared to have clouds blocking it out. So I didn’t get too excited. But then I ran a loop through a neighborhood and saw that it was not clouds, but the earth’s shadow that was cutting the moon in half.

I turned toward home to fetch my camera and tripod from the house. I’ve seen a lunar eclipse on several occasions before, including one blood red moon at my previous residence in Batavia. It was fun and spooky to watch.

Back at the house I snagged the tripod and stuck the camera into its clamp with a satisfying click. Then I walked outside and perched behind a thick set of pine trees in our back yard to block the southern wind.

Moon Eclipse Two.jpgThe sun still reached the lower 4/5 of the moon as I watched it glow through the 150-600mm lens I use for photography. Slowly the crescent moon shrank and then dimmed. When the earth’s shadow completely covered the moon, it did not show completely orange as predicted. It vanished completely. I stared through the camera and waited and looked for some sign of the moon. But it was gone. It did not come back.

Many times I’ve waited while the sun sank through the same form of haze in the western sky. As long as the clouds are not so thick that no light can get through, the sun will turn into a flat yellow orange disk. Sometimes it even glows red. With a spotting scope you can stare at the sun in those moments and not have any ill effects on the eyes. Usually those black dots called sun spots will show. As described on a Wiki about sun spots,

“They are regions of reduced surface temperature caused by concentrations of magnetic field flux that inhibit convection. Sunspots usually appear in pairs of opposite magnetic polarity.[2] Their number varies according to the approximately 11-year solar cycle.”

Think about all this for a moment. We are daily witnesses to the incredible forces of nature. Yet it’s only when a shadow or some haze gets in the way of our view of the moon or the sun that we stop to pay real attention.

Moon Eclipse Three.jpgEven then, some people prefer to deny what they’re truly seeing. Don’t laugh, because members of the Flat Earth Society are very seriously in denial about the fact that the earth is indeed a round sphere moving through space. The website LiveScience.com has gone to the trouble of assembling a summary of these beliefs and the credulity that drives them. Here is a quick take:

“Earth’s day and night cycle is explained by positing that the sun and moon are spheres measuring 32 miles (51 kilometers) that move in circles 3,000 miles (4,828 km) above the plane of the Earth. (Stars, they say, move in a plane 3,100 miles up.) Like spotlights, these celestial spheres illuminate different portions of the planet in a 24-hour cycle. Flat-earthers believe there must also be an invisible “antimoon” that obscures the moon during lunar eclipses.”

“The leading flat-earther theory holds that Earth is a disc with the Arctic Circle in the center and Antarctica, a 150-foot-tall wall of ice, around the rim. NASA employees, they say, guard this ice wall to prevent people from climbing over and falling off the disc.”

How interesting it is that the leading theory about a flat earth involves a wall of ice guarded by government employees. Sounds so familiar! Does that have any relation to other walls based on equally specious conspiracy theories and fears of the unknown?

And does such emphatic denial of science and reality exist in any other social sphere? Can we include the fact that between 30-40% of America’s population believe that the earth was created in seven literal 24-hour days, and that some believe the earth is only 6000-10000 years old?

Moon Eclipse Four.jpgTo believe these things so earnestly people have to base their entire worldview on denial of facts staring them right in the eyes. Their grasp of reality, you might say, is eclipsed by their religious and/or political worldview. And they like it that way.

Even a simple glimpse at the moon provides evidence of the span of time the moon has sat out there in space. All those craters came from outside and inside the moon. The NASA website shares the history of this visible record of the moon’s long history:

“The moon’s surface is riddled with craters ranging in size and structural complexity, and billions of years ago before life emerged, the Earth looked the same way.

“The bottom line is, everything that happened on the moon happened on the Earth,” said David Kring, crater expert and team leader for Center for Lunar Science and Exploration. “The Earth used to look just like that.”

But Earth has several things the moon doesn’t — an atmosphere and liquid water that cause erosion. And the trump card*, plate tectonics, that recycles much of the planet’s crust over millions of years and smooths away blemishes left by cosmic impacts. As a result, there are only around 160 known impact craters in existence today (though there are surely more that haven’t been discovered).

Craters come in two flavors: those that aren’t caused by asteroids or comets, impact craters, are formed by powerful volcanic explosions.

Such outbursts can be violent enough that once the eruption is over, the volcano collapses in on its empty vacant magma chamber and forms a caldera, or volcanic crater.”

Now that’s all pretty cool stuff. We are daily witnesses to an amazing record of the lifeless yet dynamic body of matter we call the moon. But it all took a long time to happen, and some people just can’t conceive that time is that big or that the cosmic cycle is that patient. So they camp it with God, who apparently with a wave of his hand installed all those craters and the detritus they flung across the moon’s surface in highly predictable fashion. If you accept science, that’s what happened. If you don’t, you have to find a way to deny that it happened in any other way.

Moon cratersThis is what the AnswersInGenesis website, an apologetics source for those insistent on a literal interpretation of the bible, says about the craters of the moon. Notice that there are no quotations of scripture to support these suppositions. They are basically all “made up” from the whole cloth of the imagination.

“The cratering patterns observed on the moon were formed during two distinct impacting episodes. The abundant small craters on the lunar highland surfaces were caused by meteor impacts around the time of the Fall or perhaps during Creation Week itself. The large impact basins and resultant maria were formed at the time of the Flood by a narrow, intense, swarm of meteoroids travelling on parallel paths. The meteoroids were likely comets or fragments of a large comet. Those which missed the earth or moon left the solar system on a very long-period orbit. This model explains the uniform distribution of craters on the highlands of the moon, the non-uniform distribution of lunar maria, and the near absence of impact features on the lunar maria. A specific pattern of cometary impacts on the earth and moon is predicted by this model providing direction for future research. Apart from the earth and moon, significant impacts would not have occurred on other bodies in the solar system at the time of the Flood. Therefore, evidence of a second episode of large, non-uniform impacts on other bodies in the solar system is not expected to be found.”

This is a complete and utter line of bullshit based on nothing more than totally fabricated crap created by people so desperate to protect their medieval worldview they have to make up lies to defend their grade school belief system. They are childlike and pathetic, a scourge on the health of our society and an insult to the God they claim to be the author of the universe. But what do I really think? They’re fucked up in the head. 

But here’s the truly scary part about the belief system of creationists and the religious worldview they abide. They’re infectious, like a disease of the brain. Some 30% or more of America’s population believes this stuff is somehow true. There’s a word for all this: delusional. And a couple more words: cognitive dissonance.

th.jpgThus it is no coincidence that 30% of America’s voters remain staunchly in support of a certain orange politician who also has a loose relationship with the facts, tells them he’s a Christian just like them, and denies global warming to boot. But because he says he doesn’t like abortions and maybe black people, they vote for him. And his two sons? They’re little more than sonspots, “regions of reduced surface temperature caused by concentrations of magnetic field flux that inhibit convection.”

This truly is the age of the eclipse of reason. It moves across the face of knowledge and truth like the dark shadow of ignorance. These are the times we live in. There’s no denying that.

I was so glad to cut my run shot and get some photos of the eclipse this morning. But as you can tell, it got me thinking about what’s really going on this world, which is vexed by denial of truth, the eclipse of all that is good and true and wise.

 

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Bloody good to be alive

Blood cells

This morning’s training session was conducted on a very busy indoor track at the Vaughn Center, the health club facility to which we belong in Aurora. There were two separate youth track teams working out, a pickup basketball game infringing on the inside lane at one end of the track, and a full team practice for the Aurora University baseball squad.

That meant we had to choose our lanes wisely. To be respectful, I chatted quickly with the head coach of the Aurora Christian track team, letting him know our workout plans. “We’re doing 12 quarters,” I told him. He smiled and told us they weren’t doing much running for half an hour anyway. We could have the inside lanes for now.

Drilling it

While we worked out, the track team did all sorts of plyometrics, stretching and high knee drills. Getting in shape for indoor track is a question of getting muscles to do things that winter discourages. Outside the temps were down in the low teens. Yet here were kids in their low teens working out at 6:00 a.m. in the morning. The coach had them stop now and then to take their pulse rate, the indicator of blood coursing through their arteries and veins. Carrying oxygen. Replenishing fatigued muscles. It’s the same for everyone. Young and old. We are all bloody lucky to be alive.

blood-vessel-interior.jpgThere were guys and gals of all shapes and sizes on the track team. Compact little sprinter girls no taller than 5’3″ but with thick thighs and the sprinter’s butt to match.  Long lean high school boys whose shirts collapsed into their skinny guts as they ran. Thin as heck. Knees still stretching with growth. Loping their way down the track. They hardly looked thick enough to allow blood flow to occur.

Threading it

We threaded our way doing 400s through these groups and had a good workout despite the human obstacle corpuscles all around us. We were like blood cells inside a vein. Wending our way through the masses.

Meanwhile, inside the big nets hanging down from the ceiling, the baseball players with thick beards and flat-brimmed caps did stretches and engaged in throwing drills. They looked like they were on a stage rehearsing for some big play. The smack of baseballs into leather gloves gave me a latent thrill. I’d grown up playing the game.

Throwing it

I was an avid and decent baseball player all the way through high school. The last year I pitched for a summer league, my record was 5-1, a record equal to my friend Corky who went on to become All-Conference for the high school team.

Thus I was conflicted on what sport to do. At that time I actually wrote to my brothers living back east that I was planning to go out for baseball rather than track my senior year in high school. When the season approached, I recall talking to my St. Charles track coach Trent Richards. He’d also been my baseball coach when I lived out in Elburn. So he understood the conflict I felt and told me that he’d let me do both sports if I wanted to try. But my grades were so average the guidance counselor put a stop to that right away.

Yes, those were confusing times indeed. Yet that period in life comes back with such clarity while running laps around an indoor track where track kids and baseball players share the same space. All those sights and sounds are familiar to me.

Heart of the matter

Blood cells in vein2.jpgIt’s a fact sometimes that our life choices get made for us by circumstance. There is little we can do to change them. They become habits, a calling, then a way of life. Running around a track has been a part of my life for so long now that I feel like a corpuscle swooping through a curving artery until I get back to the heart and start it all over again. I’m like a science experiment with no results but a sense of satisfaction. But is that bad?

But I’m happy. Generally so. I can still do this thing. And I remember what it feels like to be a kid.  The stride smooths out and I’m running fast for my age, just like I did at any age. It’s all so relative, this being alive and kicking. And it’s bloody good to be alive.

 

 

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Sock drawer politics

IMG_0861This weekend a band of twenty-something children moved out from our house into their own apartment 15 miles away. The move was a delightful mix of chaos and organization. I’ve packed moving vans so many times over the years the process is almost like an art to me. The mixture of furniture and boxes and plastic bins is performance art in the making.

But no matter how well you pack stuff, it always shifts when you start driving. You sit in the cab of the van and wait for the inevitable CLUNK or THUMP to happen. And you drive on. Nothing you can do about it until you reach your destination. So much of life is like that.

Then comes the lugging and the shoving and the dragging of furniture and mattresses and boxes of stuff that won’t be sorted for days, even weeks. But when you’re not the one moving in, that’s not your problem. Instead, you literally brush your hands of it and drive away. Good luuuuck with that!

Detritus

Back home, there are still bits of household detritus to engage and arrange. The kids’ rooms needed to be cleaned, and my wife did that. The basement needed some reorganization after the extra stuff was removed. I did that.

And then there was the remaining issue of the Lost Sock bag back in my bedroom. 

I’d been holding out hope that during the moving and sorting of clothing, some of my Lost Socks would magically reappear from the drawers of the stepdaughters and boyfriend who were moving. One or two socks did show up, but some of those were actually refugees from behind the washer and dryer where my wife found them during a general house inspection.

After the joyous reunion of rediscovered socks, there remained a foot-tall bag of orphaned socks to be reconciled. Alas, the siblings of those socks remained missing. Some of them are cycling socks. Others are for running. There are also lonely-looking dress socks, whose forlorn stripes have no purpose without a kindred soul.

Somewhere in the universe, their sibling likely rests among strangers. That happens when six or eight people try living together. The melting pot of the laundry basket has no real rules. Orphaned socks are like DACA refugees living in America. They didn’t ask to be lost, and can only hold out hope they’ll one day really have a home.

One could argue the whole world is subject to such Sock Drawer Politics. Where do any of us really belong? We can either accept that we’re all orphaned socks or keep on treating each other like sock puppets worthy of abuse. Which will it be?

finishedstuffeddoll.jpgstuffedmonkey.jpg

That’s why I’ve held onto my refugee socks for months on end. My sentimental sympathy for orphaned socks is strong. I hate squandering resources and loathe giving up on something before its time. But with something so dispensable as socks, one has to accept that all socks abide the Dust to Dust model of existence here on earth. Ultimately they must be discarded unless you’re really into recycling socks.

They can be converted to other uses like the monkey sock above, but that is only delaying the inevitable. Some sport socks are so small they could never be used to create a sock monkey. One could hardly make a sock shrew out of them.

Sock it to me

And this fact is largely true: All socks wear out sooner or later except for Darned Tough Socks. My buddy swears by those, but that still doesn’t prevent them from becoming orphans if you live for a year with a band of 20-somethings for whom socks are just an annoying necessity to consider between games of Cards Against Humanity.

thumb_2895_product_photogra_qp_full.jpegEven my expensive and prized tall ThorLo socks turn soft and slack at the upper end sooner or later. The shorter socks don’t have that problem, but they don’t keep out snow when it is deep.

To their credit: my ThorLos usually last ten years or so. That’s 100 annums in Sock Years. They’ve long since exceeded their Return On Investment in that case.

I once numbered my ThorLos with a Sharpie to  keep them together in pairs. That action drew such teasing from my family members, I never tried it again. Besides, if I had a #1 and a #2 sock in the drawer, it never felt right to wear them together.

Mismatched and still useful 

The problem with some mismatched socks is that they really could function together if one did not care about the color. A pair of mismatched socks of the same brand and the same model––but different colors––should work just fine. But should you pair them up and continue using them that way? Hmmmm.

That would work out alright in running. But if you wear mismatched socks on the bike the comments would likely get snarky in a hurry. Cyclists are typically not a laid-back bunch when it comes to mis-matched or worn out attire. Even a pair of slightly threadworn cycling shorts can be subjected to cruel inspection in certain crowds. If they are so worn your ass crack or genitals show, no one wants to look at that. But even a bit of pilling and fading from excessive washing or wear is unacceptable in certain circles. Dress well and ride hard. Those are the rules. It’s a bit anal-retentive, but such is life in the Lycra crowd.

So the idea of heading out on a ride with one red sock and one blue one is simply not acceptable. Not unless you want to get ridden off the shoulder in disgust.

Making do

I’ve admittedly worn mismatched socks inside my running shoes. But it never feels quite right to do so. Something feels askew in the universe when you know your feet are covered in socks of different colors or textures. That is not a testimony yin and yang. It is less a question of balance as it is a confession of guilt over poor preparation.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been grateful to scrounge up a pair of socks from the bowels of my vehicle when I’ve forgotten to pack them in the gym bag for an afternoon run at some far-flung forest preserve. When you’re doing the requisite car change and find that you’ve neglected to bring the right equipment, gratitude for a simple pair of mismatched socks jammed down in the seats is a welcome sight. Who cares if they’re dirty or stink? This way they can go back in the wash after another six miles. They’re earned their keep for sure.

Don’t take it lightly

That’s why I don’t take it lightly when socks find their lonely way into the mismatched sock drawer. Typically it’s my own negligence that got them there. That layer of emotion calls up all my other flaws. The mismatched socks absorb my guilt like colorful remnants of bad memories. They recall the worst instincts and habits in our lives. Broken relationships. Political divides. Harsh family. Getting off track. Feeling lost or broken. Like mismatched socks. 

It all reminds me of a beautiful song by George Harrison titled Isn’t It a Pity. The words seem to cover so much about life, and possibly about the colorful world of lost socks, and the regrets that go with them.

Some things take so long, but how do I explain
When not too many people
Can see we’re all the same?
And because of all their tears
Their eyes can’t hope to see
The beauty that surrounds them
Isn’t it a pity

 

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Testing, testing

I’ve never been the best test-taker in the world. Part of my challenge is what my brothers and I call Artistic ADD. All through grade school and high school I struggled with the ability to pay attention. There were times when I could not make my brain focus on topics that were not highly stimulating. And algebra? Forget it. I’ve never used that again anyway. Formulas? Pretend math. They lacked real substance in my mind.

Distraction is both the product and price of an artistic mindset like mine. At one point my grades were so flat and average the high school guidance counselor sent me to some back office where I took some bogus test doing repetitive tasks in case I ever needed to go into factory work.So I purposely messed up on that test. The school must have been thinking, “Look, this kid is getting Cs and Ds in some of his classes. Maybe he should go the vocational route…” but I fooled them, didn’t I?

Years later I took a psychographic test at work and the results came back, “Chris does not excel at repetitive tasks.”

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Drawing by Christopher Cudworth, circa 1972

Meanwhile, what I really spent my time doing was drawing. All day. Every day. In class. Study halls. Draw, draw, draw. Yet I never took an art class in high school. Confining myself to whatever they felt like making me do seemed stupid.

So I painted birds and the things I really loved. Then I started selling the pictures I made. I’ve lost count of how many paintings I’ve sold. Still painting. Still selling.

Over the years, I’ve become much more disciplined and able to concentrate on important tasks related to work and life and such. But once in a while, a test of one kind or another comes along, and it just seems too stupid and trite to care. It’s like I’ve got Algebra Disease all over again. I can’t bring myself to care enough to concentrate and dig through the books and find the questions they want to hear.

That happened last summer after the Road Runners Club of America coaching clinic I hosted. Everything went well during class. I answered questions and led groups. Filled people in on things they did not know or with which they had no experience. I’ve been coaching all my life and thought I knew a thing or two about it.

Then I got an 81% on the goddamned test. I had to get an 85% on the test to pass. They said for $50 I could take it over again. But I knew I’d do no better or worse, get an even lower score. Second guessing gets you nowhere in life. So move on.

The questions weren’t hard. But when you actually question the material at hand, it’s hard to take the material literally. Call it ego, but midway through the course I thought I knew more about coaching and running than the people doing the teaching.

The course was centered around “made up” athletes about which we were supposed to answer questions and draw up hypothetical training solutions for them Maybe I overthought the whole thing. Or maybe I didn’t. Because when it came time to answer those questions I went with my gut instincts and got too many wrong to pass the test.

Like my wife said, “You know, everything they want you to say on the test is in the book. Just give them that. It’s easy.”

IMG_8421

Etching by Christopher Cudworth, circa 1977

But for me, it’s not. Is it possible that the brain of some people does not work that way? Is it possible that some sort of transitory factor shifts in my brain from the left (the artistic side) when asked to answer a question right (the practical side)?

That type of crossover or misapplied thinking cost me a few times in running races. Back in high school, I was leading a cross country race against a keen rival when I came to a point in the course where we were supposed to go straight down the track the second time around rather than doing another lap around the outside. But I’d forgotten.

I lost my 200 yard lead and narrowly missed catching him at the end. Obviously I was pissed. How was one supposed to remember that subtle change of course on an Away course after one shot at a course tour?

There had been no one at that straightway to send me the proper direction. So was it my spaciness that actually cost me the race, or was it instead a poorly managed race?

I’d passed the test of running faster than my opponent. That’s what races are supposed to be about, not how well you can remember the twists and turns and loops of the typical cross country course back in the 1970s. So I wound up running longer, and lost by four yards. A small percentage of the total race.

Just like my RRCA test. 

There was another time I was winning a college steeplechase race and the meet officials miscounted the laps. They shot the gun for the final lap when I was in the lead. So, I sprinted a quarter mile for the win. But as I approached the final few yards they started waving at me to run another lap. I just stopped instead. I’d passed the test they gave me.

Was it my fault they had the number wrong? 

During indoor track it was really difficult at times to keep track of the actual laps. Back when we ran on those tiny 176 yard or even 110 yard tracks it was something like 20 laps to the mile. You’d come past the starting line and they’d be flipping numbers back and forth. It left you wondering how many laps you really had left to run. My former college teammate laughs as he recalls a relay race in which I kicked like a madman and thought I’d won… only to hear from the officials there was another lap to run. “You should have seen your face,” he told me years later, laughing at the memory.

I’ve passed many a performance test over the years, but what still puzzles me are the moments when I’m not sure what the test is really all about. There is either and art or a science to knowing that. The problem is, I sometimes can’t tell one from the other..

So I just stay positive and act like that character Jeremy from the Yellow Submarine. “Yes! Ah, “yes” is a word with a glorious ring! A true universal, euphonious thing! Engenders embracing and chasing of blues! The very best word for the whole world to use!”

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Drawing by Christopher Cudworth, circa 1972. 

 

 

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Have you any dreams you’d like to share?

IMG_1044.jpgLike so many people, there are periods when the dreams I have at night are so vivid they almost make my head spin when I wake up in the morning. Some of the dreams are clear and direct. You can tell the brain is processing some life event or challenge in abstract fashion.

Others evidence the fact that the mind is shedding stress or trying to untie the knots of existence. Dreams can be so vexing they drive people insane. The bible shares an interesting incident in which the prophet Daniel is called to interpret the dream of a king named Nebuchadnezzar whose dreams were keeping him awake at night. The king fears their meaning and hires all kinds of seers to figure them out. But no one was up to the task until Daniel arrived.

36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

Whoa! The king was so relieved to find out what the dream meant that he placed Daniel in a position of authority. The story puts a whole twist on the notion of “when dreams come true.” Sometimes it means more to know how the mind works even when if it does not necessarily bring good news.

I once had a dream in which I was sitting out my senior season in cross country. I’d watch practices from the upper campus while my former running teammates ran their hearts out below. In the dream there was some kind of injury or other conditions keeping me back. But that was never specific. I just felt this angst of not running. And it felt like I was letting them all down. At the same time, there was a weird relief. I know, strange.

Crow's feet 1I’ve always been a person who wants to please others. Call it the Middle Child syndrome. At the point in life when I had that dream, I was likely in some position with family or work where I felt like I wasn’t meeting the self-imposed obligations rattling around my brain. That dream was my way of working through the nighttime angst.

It’s proof that these things we do, the running, riding and swimming, have deeper significance and literally do affect the way our minds work. Sometimes it’s clear and at other times, so abstract we wonder why we dream such things at all.

Yet it’s the waking dreams we have that rest at the front of conscious minds. We dream of success. Dream of love. Dream of financial security. Dream of having that book published. Dream of getting that promotion. We dream and dream on.

In the end, it’s the action we apply to our dreams that counts. In that moment when we make our waking dreams come true, there is a satisfaction that surpasses all others. If we apply a little gratitude at the same time, life itself is richer and more contemplative.

The ultimate dream in life is to be thankful for the ability to do your best, whatever that means. And working with others to make that happen. Have you any dreams you’d like to share?

How weird is this? As I sit finishing this blog at Graham’s 318 Coffee Shop, the famous song “Dream a Little Dream for Me” is playing. 

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Black and white ice in a grey world

IMG_9581Early morning freezing rain made the roads slick for running today. I got out the door by 6:30 a.m. and immediately found my daughter scraping away the thick crust of ice on her Honda windshield. She’d gotten through the top layer of ice but the visibility was still zero through her windshield. I stopped to take the scraper for her and ground away as the ice turned to powder and fell like little bits of snowstorm on the now-bare window. It turned from black to white ice before our eyes.

That was all I needed to learn about the conditions outside on the roads. The footing was not going to be great.

It took quite a bit of concentration to keep my stride even as I made my way down the back streets. I wasn’t worrying about how fast I was going. My plan was to just keep going and see what the morning would give me.

The route I chose was along Orchard Road where the salt trucks had already traveled past. Under the glow of the traffic light ahead, one could see a clear line between black ice and the wet road. Different kinds of shine.

I ran mostly flat-footed, not quite forefoot-striking. I used the pad of rubber for gripping all I could on the alternately slick and sodden road. That meant my shoes sometimes skritched from the crunch of salt and squeaked as rubber met wet asphalt. It was a very tactile experience, running in such conditions.

Days of ice dreaming

This was certainly not the most extensive ice storm I’ve ever seen. There was a massive ice storm in Pennsylvania when I was a child. It laid down a coat of ice an inch thick even on the streets. It looked as if the entire world was encased in rippled glass, as if the world had been cloaked in some sort of icy dream.

We lived next to a golf course, yet the first thing I saw while dragging my sled out toward the sledding hill was an older neighbor who could ice skate gliding up the center of the small street behind our house. Then he stopped, stepped over a chunky snow bank and skated away across the fairways of Meadia Heights Country Club. The world was one giant skating rink.

Making the grade

I was in third grade or so when the ice storm hit. There was no school for several days, so we were free to explore the icy world at our leisure. As an experiment, we took our red Coleco sleds out to the head of the practice range of the golf course. There was perhaps a 2% grade leaning toward the creek in the valley. We didn’t know what would happen when we pushed off from our spot on Niblick Avenue. To our surprise, we quickly gained spiraling speed as our sleds whipped across the ice layered on top of snow. The sensation was was both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Had we chosen a steeper grade, we could easily have been killed by losing control of our sleds and running into a tree.

As it was, we slid down the entire length of the 400-yard practice range, picking up speed as the incline increased toward the creek. Fortunately we’d aimed luckily and wound up spinning our way down a wide open fairway. It finished with a long cascade downhill. Our sleds roared across the ice down toward the valley until we bottomed out and went slinging up the other side. In summer that hill was a steep one to run up or climb. But in icy conditions, the physics were ideal for us to come to some sort of sliding, sideways halt. We lay there on our sides laughing and somewhat out of breath. I think my friend and I had both been holding our breath for most of the run.

White ice fever

We’d covered close to a half mile on what amounted to white ice. But then came a long, slippery trudge all the way back home. “That was fun,” I said to my friend. “But let’s not do it again. I’m exhausted from walking back.”

After a couple days, school beckoned and the streets finally melted after multiple applications of salt from snow trucks.  But even after we returned to school and life got a bit back to normal, talk around school centered on all the cool things we had done. The sensation of being freed from normalcy stuck with us a while. Even the teachers indulged us in conversations about the ice storm that had changed the world for a few days. We all had white ice fever.

Back to reality

Thoughts of that ice storm ran through my head as I ran 4.5 miles on the slick roads this morning. I treasure those memories about the ice storm in Pennsylvania. Then it struck me that they date back five full decades. Yet they still contribute to the sensations I still feel today. How miraculous and wonderful is that?

Admittedly, I have grown much more cautious when it comes to encounters with black and white ice these days. I learned some hard lessons over time.  Twenty or so years ago while out running on a cold morning in February, I got frisky and elected to hurdle a low-hanging chain blocking the entrance to a forest preserve. Unfortunately, on the other side of the chain there was a large patch of snow drainage that had frozen overnight into a layer of clear black ice. My lead foot went out from under me and I crashed to the ground. In trying to catch myself during the fall, my hand and wrist jammed into the hard ground. That resulted in a sprain whose effects lasted for a full year.

So I took no chances while out running this morning. Even stepping up a curb level was risky business, so I stuck to flat sidewalks and where possible, ran on the crunchy snow left over from yesterday’s snowfall.

The world is a slippery place in both literal and abstract terms. The dangers of black and white ice are not exactly yin and yang. They can combine to make danger and turn the world into a grey and dangerous place.

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Come with me on a little run in the morning light and falling snow

CloudsA near silent hiss of granular snow had fallen overnight. This was a surprise to see as I opened the blinds to peek into the pre-morning gloom. “Huh, snow,” I muttered to myself.

Sue was already down in the exercise room riding her bike on the trainer. The sound of her wheels on the cylinder thrummed through the house. She was on the bike by 4:45 a.m. I was just rousing myself to the task of a half-hour run at 5:00 a.m.

My clothes were piled on a chair next to the dresser. This is the most important step of all for an early morning runner. Chasing down equipment is the greatest delay and the most difficult task in the early hours. For one thing, the cats come begging food if you dally too long. I also did not want to wake our newest house guest, the dog Chuck that has come to live with us while my daughter and her beau plan their next stage in life.

Sue’s kids are still with us another week. Their stirrings on the way to work usually do not start until 6:00 a.m. Some mornings there are vehicles to move so that everyone can get on their way on time. That always comes before my runs. The basic consideration of joint living.

With all that out of the way, I stepped into the morning air outside our house and felt the first draft of what the day would be like. By chance of availability in the running gear drawer, I was wearing my black balaclava hat. Despite this covering, the crisp kiss of blowing snow still reached my face.

Snow scratches.jpgIt turned out to be the perfect solution on a brisk morning with a north wind pushing icy crystals of snow southward. The street was covered. Only one set of tire tracks circled round the cul de sac. That was the newspaper delivery truck. The track of the skidding paper slid up the driveway. Later I’d come back to find the thin tracks of mourning doves around our bird feeder, and the clean lines of the primary feathers of a bird that lifted off the ground when I approached.

Looking to the south, the sky was lit by the cluster of car dealerships down by Interstate 88. The car stores bleed light into the sky, the mark of eternal commerce.

I turned east and then north, straight into the wind and the snow. It flecked my eyes and bounced off my cheeks. Then it is forgotten somehow. The elements of the day are what they are. You can’t change them. So you run.

A half mile in the urge to pee comes over me. There is not a soul around, so I stop just past the reach of a streetlight and pull it out for a pee. When finished, I bend down and write in the snow. “Wee wee.”

I know, stupid, right? I can’t help myself. I like stupid stuff.

The hill up Hickory Lane goes by smooth enough. Then I’m on the flats of what my wife and I jokingly call the Penis Route. The three-mile loop goes out, makes a loop on Horsehoe lane and heads back home. On Strava, it looks like a dick. Or so we’re told by our pervert friends who love to tease us about it. We love that. Nothing wrong with some dick humor in this world.

On the way home my body is warmed up and I pick up the pace. This past Sunday I ran with a friend named Jeff Palmer. He’s a lanky guy in his late 40s who can still motor it. While Sue ran with his wife Max, I joined Jeff during the warmup phase of his 1:20 run. We dropped from 8:30 to 8:00 to 7:20 mile pace as we ran together. He threw in an interval or two but I kept trucking along. During the last half mile I shut the hell up and just ran. I could feel that I had about another 1.5 miles of that pace in me that morning. Then I’d have to shut it down.

But it gave Jeff someone to run with for a bit. That was my duty. I’m sort of a Sherpa runner these days. My training takes place by osmosis.

As I tooled back down the hill on Hickory Lane this morning a short burst of gratitude caught up with me. I thought about the fact that I’m sixty years old, have no ACL in my left leg and a torn meniscus poking out from the core of the same knee. Yet here I was trucking along in the dark on a crunchy snow street and fairly loving it. What’s not to like?

On the return trip I stopped where I’d taken a pee on the street and bent over to write the words Oui Oui in the snow below the dark pee patch and the words Wee Wee above it. I had to finish my work of art, you see.

Turning onto the bike path that leads toward home, I saw the tracks of a fox heading down the pure white path. There are coyotes here too, but they seem to come and go. That’s why the fox could move unmolested by his fellow canids.

I ran together with the fox tracks for 400 yards and reached our house. It felt good to be warmed up. Surely I could run another three miles, and probably should. The run cleared my head of any dark little thoughts rattling around my brain. That’s the purpose of some of these runs. To let the darkness and the snow and the north wind blow away the anxieties of real life.

WindowsBehind me, as I stepped up to our porch and the front door, the lights of the car dealerships blared behind into the morning sky. They were diffuse, so different than the illusory images of fluorescent lights reflected on the glass of my office window as I turned to leave work last night. Those were crisp and defiant against the darkening sky. This light thing is all a game. An illusion of self and perception.

On the drive home last evening the clouds to the south flickered with lightning as the last warm air of the week passed over. Those clouds were shedding rain and pulsing with lightning and thunder as they traveled. Perhaps the sky has its own share of dire little thoughts or worries it likes to shed from time to time. For some,  this is the nature of being. Nothing tragic at work, nor habit of mind any longer. Just a part of existence and the daily transition from darkness to light.

Thanks for coming with me on a little run in the morning light and the falling show. May you find the light of meaning on your own today.

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Best efforts

Moorcroft.jpgThirty years ago sportswriter Kenny Moore published a compilation of his best writing about runners for Sports Illustrated.

His stories included profiles of people such as David Moorcroft, the British runner who ran 13:01 for 5000 meters, breaking the world record by a full six seconds. About that day, Moore quoted someone who said that Moorcroft had gone “wonderfully mad.”

There are few instances in an athlete’s career when everything comes together that way. Moorcroft was already a successful miler with times in the low 3:50s. That meant he had the speed to run the 5000 meters at a fearsome pace and not feel like he was burning out his jets.

But when he let loose and ran six seconds faster than anyone else in history, that was a wonderfully mad moment.

Moorcroft’s record stood for two years until a Moroccan named Said Aouita broke it. The continued to drop until 2005, when Kenenisa Bekele set the current world standard of 12:37.35. It hasn’t budged since. But I’m not about to take a shot…

5000 timesMy personal best 5000 is essentially two minutes slower than the world record. I ran 14:45 in the year 1984. That race was an all-comers meet at North Central college. The gun did not go off until midnight, but we all raced as hard as we could. The personal triumph of my PR was essentially my own to share except for a female friend that had come back to watch me race. I thanked her for that. It always meant a lot.

The time I ran that night was roughly equivalent to the women’s world record at the time. A Briton named Zola Budd ran 14:58 in 1985 and a Norwegian named Ingrid Kristiansen ran 14:37 a year later. The women’s world record for the 5000 meters now stands at 14:11, run in 2008 by Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba. 

Womens 5000 mThere’s a chance I could have run a bit faster with other opportunities to race. But likely not by much. We all have limits to our natural abilities. I honestly feel that I ran as fast as I could that evening, and every other race in which I competed. If I ever dogged it on purpose, I cannot recall.

With 99.9% of my races, I don’t look back at my best efforts and say that I could have done better. There is only one exception. During my senior year at Luther College I won the conference steeplechase while holding back for a double in the 5000 meters. That entire race felt easy, which is saying something in an event like the steeplechase, which consists of 3000 meters of running over 35 barriers and seven water jumps. I ran 9:20 that day, and felt like I could have run 5-10 seconds faster.

My teammate Paul Mullen finished second in the steeple that afternoon. But he was coming off a victorious 10,000 meters the night before. Think about that double! His performance was exceptional. He later ran 9:14 to place 7th at the NCAA Division III national meet, missing All-American by just one place and a single stride.

Perhaps I had that 9:14 in me too. Running that fast might have delivered a nice boost in confidence going into nationals had I let loose that afternoon in Pella, Iowa and gone “wonderfully mad.” But our priority that day was trying to win the 18th consecutive IIAC conference title, so it was “all hands on deck” for the distance events where our school had always been dominant.

But times were changing before our eyes. Our competitors from Central College and Wartburg had caught up and even gotten faster than us during my four years. We’d given them something to shoot  and they took aim and succeeded. We lost the meet that by a couple points, but learned a life lesson in the process. You can never, ever try hard enough.

I did try to double back in the 5000 meters but did not produce any points, finishing right in the middle of a quick pack of competitors. In both races I put forward my best effort in the moment. It was disappointing not to place in the 5000 or help the team, but some of us are superheroes, and some are not.

These days I can’t run a single 400 meter repeat at the pace I once used to race. My best efforts are a full minute-per-mile slower than that. There’s no shame. It still feels good to run as fast as I can. Unless you’re the best in the world at a given moment, all our best efforts are always relative. We all try to go “wonderfully mad” in our own way. May you find your wonderful madness your own way.

Posted in 10K, 400 meter intervals, 400 workouts, 5K, aging, aging is not for the weak of heart, running, steeplechase | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment