Sunday, May 13, 2012

The One Where I Learn Humility

A serendipitous turn of events led to me deciding to run in a 10K race this weekend. I'm sure now that this was the universe teaching me a lesson, but at the end of the day I'm really glad that I did it. 

This week I planned on running Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. On Monday I was feeling lousy and only got 2 miles in. Wednesday I did a steady 4 miles on the treadmill, felt a bit better and planned on doing another 4 miles outside on Friday and stretch it a bit to 5 or 6 on Sunday. Well Thursday night my wife's old friend arrived to stay with us and I drank a little bit too much wine. I slept through my alarm Friday morning and didn't make it to work out at all.  I was a little disappointed with myself to say the least. Then on the ride home from work Friday night I saw a billboard that reminded me that there was a 10K race Saturday morning that was taking place on the Greenway, which is where I usually run.  

I looked up the race information when I got home and decided that if i can get out of bed, I'll go and run there instead of just going on my regular 6 miler. I was confident that I could finish 6.2 and figured I might as well get someone handing me water along the way. This seemed like a simple decision, but it led to me learning how far I really have to go.

I arrived early, around 6:30, and registered for the 10K. I walked around the area there, put my stuff in the car, pinned on my number and hung out for a bit. It was at this point that I started to realize I had a good chance of a DFL (dead f'ing last) for this race. There were about 20 people lined up for the registration and every single one of them looked in shape. I grabbed a bottle of water and got on a bus to the start. The start of this race was quite unorganized. We were the first bus to get to the start area, which was in an abandoned housing development and nobody seemed to know where we were supposed to be. 

On the bus I sat next to a guy who ran a marathon last weekend and was just doing a "recovery" run. As more and more people arrived at the start, I didn't see very many who I could confidently say I would be near at the end. I started to get a little nervous, but figured I was here already and there was no way back but to run, so that's what I did. Somebody finally showed up to set out the start line and everyone gathered. They called out a 5 second countdown and we were off. I had to put my headphones into my ears as we ran down the starting straight.

The first half mile around the development were downhill and I was just moving along pretty quickly for me, but almost everyone else was quicker. As we turned onto the bridge for the greenway, I looked behind me and all I saw was a volunteer on a bike. I was the last person onto that trail and I started to panic a little bit. I started to look ahead of me and picked out a few people (I say people but it was all women in the back of the pack) that I thought I could keep up with and I did that for the first couple of miles. It was dead flat and I was just trying to maintain a 12mm pace. I did pass a few people and caught up with a couple of Gallowalkers (people who run a minute, walk a minute, repeat) who I played leapfrog with. I felt good through the first two miles and I started to get into part of the trail that I was familiar with. 

My pace though was far from competitive and it was a mental struggle to keep myself steady and ok with that. I knew that everytime I pushed my pace a little bit that it was going to cause a struggle for me at the end. The last two miles contained all the hills on the course and I had that to look forward to. I started losing sight of almost everyone ahead of me. There was one pair of women who I was keeping in sight and there were the three Gallowalkers who were pacing with me, catching on their runs and falling back on their walks. They were wonderfully supportive and credited me for running the entire way.

As we left the trail and ran through the neighborhoods near the finish, the rolling hills came in. I slowed up them but kept running, and tried to recover as best I could through the downhills. The last mile was on a main road that was supposed to be closed off still had several cars on it who were inching down the road and squeezing between the cones and the few runners left. There was a steep hill about a quarter mile from the end and I walked a few steps up that one, but then came in just as the clock flipped to 1:17.

I don't know that there is much that I could have changed in my approach to the race other than to be in better shape and lose more weight. Going 10K is a lot different than going 5K. I was much more wary about burning too much energy early and maintaining a steady pace. The mental battle I had with myself was interesting. It was very hard to swallow my pride and not try to catch up to people. It was very hard being the last man on the course and being beaten to the line by a group of run/walkers. I can't say that I'm happy with my performance, but I do know it was the best I can do at the moment. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Music has always been an important part of my life, though I think most people can say the same thing. I remember when "Fight for Your Right" was released and became a big hit. It was catchy and funny and had a cool video.  All the kids at school loved the song. I distinctly remember having a conversation in class where I took the position that the Beastie Boys were idiots, and while the song was catchy, that type of ridiculous kitsch wasn't sustainable. I'm sure I didn't use those types of terms, but my point was the same.  These guys are a bunch of fools jumping around and shouting, not musicians.

Little did I realize how wrong I was. Fast forward 10 years and I was a huge fan of their music. Check Your Head was in regular rotation in the dorm room. Ill Communication blew me away. But not only the music had improved, they also took on a more mature approach to their persona. The one thing that I was right about in their early style was that they were idiots. But as a group, following the lead of Adam Yauch (MCA) they took great pains to rectify that. See those early roles they played were just that, a role. An image that was funny, sarcastic and over the top to effect a reaction from their audience. As they matured, they began to realize the influence they had over their fans and started to use that for positive causes.

Adam Yauch who passed away late last week was the driving force behind that maturation. After all the misogynistic lyrics of their early albums, they opened Ill Communication with Sure Shot, where Yauch raps:

I Want To Say a Little Something That's Long
The Disrespect To Women Has Got To Be Through
To All The Mothers And Sisters A And The
Wives And Friends
I Want To Offer My Love And Respect To The

Not your standard rap fare, and certainly a departure from their early works. But it was important to them that now that they had the ears of their audience, that they used that power to share a positive message. Yauch went on to champion causes he believed in, such as the freedom of people in Tibet. He left that drunken idiot persona behind, and made me realize that it was just a persona while he did what he could to make a difference with the people he influenced.

Any of us can change. Most of us have the ability (and the responsibility) to influence at least a few people, maybe not the millions that a chart topping artist can reach, but at the very least our friends and family. Its important that we are always aware of that influence and ensure that we use it responsibly.