Living Up To My Own Expectations

I asked a question on my personal page about how many people believed I would get this done, and how many believe now. I was a bit surprised, because the majority who responded did believe, and do.

This year, though, is about so much more. Make no mistake; this will be the single most difficult thing that I have attempted at this stage in my life. I do not, however, intend it to be my last.

With every step, I grow stronger. With every step, I erase the doubts both of myself and others as I move forward. What once seemed impossible now seems merely difficult.

I wish I could describe the emotional ups and downs to you. It is beautiful, yet terrifying at the same time. It reminds me in many ways of a discussion on meditating, which I don’t do because, frankly, I’m terrified of what I will hear in those quiet moments.

Today we did an evening run. It was short, but I do kind of appreciate my morning runs for the relative coolness (although it has not been cool lately). I did get advice that I am running too fast in my running intervals, so I am going to have to discipline myself and slow those down. I don’t expect to get it all right, not this soon, but it is helpful to know where I need to adjust.

But I am going forward. I am sitting only 40 pounds overweight, and have seen so much change in the past year. I am looking forward to this chapter in the journey!

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The First Quarter

I started this journey on May 7. This chapter will end May 7, 2020.

Today marks the first quarter of a year. When I started in May, I was running 3/10 a mile out of 3 miles of walking. Today it is 3.6 miles of walking, with 1.3 of that being running. Tomorrow, who knows?

I’ve logged 1 5k, with a net time of 42:06, and in fewer than 60 hours, will notch my second of the year, en route to a half marathon in November. I will begin the training workouts for that Sunday.

I have more energy and flexibility than I have in years. I wear a 36 pants, and XL shirt. My blood pressure is amazing, and my blood sugar is consistent. Everything has happened at a rapid fire pace.

I have been at a bit of a plateau as I have increased my workouts. On most days I add 10 minutes on the exercise bike to my daily walk/run, as well as an assortment of weights. And I’m healthier than I have been in years.

The November half marathon will come very close to the half year mark. The OKC memorial run next year will be close to the year mark. With every step I am appreciating the new opportunities that are open to me because of the decision to take charge opf my health.

It feels good. And a little less scary over time. I am more confident in the me I’ve become.

Today I ordered a Whopper meal with no bun. I didn’t eat the fries (saved them for my wife), and honestly was interested to note that I didn’t even give them a second glance as they sat on the tray in front of me. The old diet is simply not appealing.

In about 2 weeks I will be seeing the doctor. A new set of labs, and hopefully a new medication list will follow. I’m ready to move forward, and eager to have the doctor see that as well.

Let’s see what this next quarter will bring!

Return from WoodyFest

Every year, around mid July (Woody Guthrie’s birthday is on July 14), we make a pilgrimage to Okemah, Oklahoma, where Woody was born. It is the annual Woody Guthrie Festival celebration, dubbed WoodyFest, and it has been part of our family’s life for a very long time; about a quarter of my life, and most of my childrens’ lives. Through a lot of ups and downs, and many moves, it has been the one constant since we have started going.

We have only missed 2 festivals since our first trip in 2006, when we stayed out in a borrowed tens and were subject to the torrential rain that so often happens around that time of summer. We slept half the night in our old Suburban, and dried our clothes at the only laundromat in town, basically a couple of machines in the room of an old decrepit motel.

The key to it all was Mary Jo Edgmon, whom I had met in Pampa, Texas the year prior, and who was part of my first audience. At the conclusion of the festival, she gave me her card and encouraged us to go to Okemah. We didn’t have any money, nor did we have a tent, and the neighbors said we could borrow theirs.

Mary Jo passed a few months ago, but she was, essentially, a part of my beginning as a folk musician. Her positive spirit and amazing optimism taught me a lot about living, and has, literally, changed my worldview over time. And so, of course, we had to make it to her funeral.

I arrived at the festival with a mostly written song based on the words she gave me in our final, brief conversation: “Every day’s a good day. If it ain’t, I make it good”. While I have been doing well health wise, I’ve been in a bit of a creative funk, and so I went down to the Woody Guthrie statue looking for inspiration to finish the lyrics, as I hoped to get the song to the family before the festival week concluded.

It was, appropriately, a homeless (or, at least, near homeless) woman that broke the funk. As I finished writing the words, she came up to the statue. I began talking with her, and picked up something I’ve learned from the great David Amram: for that brief moment, she became the center of my universe. I straightened out my back, pulled up my guitar, and played some old familiar standards. That moment unlocked something that had been put away for a moment: I remembered who I am and what my gift is to the world.

That is part of the WoodyFest magic. We find nuggets and gems where we never expect to find them.

I decided I was going to try to pick up the vibe around town, and scheduled gigs all over. A coffeeshop here, a flea market there, busking in front of the dispensary, and an impromptu version of “The Unwelcome Guest” for a fellow who asked me as I was walking by to play him a song. I’d like to think that over the week I delivered my own small chunk of that Woodyfest magic.

I had an unlock moment as a songwriter as I was trying to assemble some words and realized it would take me too long to get to the chorus. I had a brilliant rhyme I didn’t want to throw away, and on the advice of another song writer, decided to dig up the meaning of the word I was using (a great word for a song, by the way). When I came out of it, I realized I had to write¬† songs, and the second song would be the key to compressing the first. Because the meaning of the word was too big to throw away.

That’s been the magic of this commitment: I am finding more inspiration than ever, mainly because I am looking it. Much as I watched a scissortail flycatcher (Oklahoma’s state bird) flit around the entrance gate to the campground, I am seeing trails and nuggets that I never saw before, wondering how I missed them.

It was a terrific festival, with terrific friends, and it was a welcome (and much needed) pause from the busyness that has consumed me lately.

Race 1:Brent Morrison Memorial Run

So I went in today knowing I could notch a 45 minute 5k, hoping for a 43. I really wanted to finish under 42, but checking with my friends, I realized setting that mark could be an invitation to injury. Finishing was most important.

I didn’t come into this cold: I am up to about 22¬† miles a week consistently, and running 1/4 of that. I run more than a 5k distance every morning, 6 days a week, so conditioning was not a concern.

I have learned a little about running through the years: hang back and move up, so that you are not surrounded by runners who will cause you to overrun the start. I’ve done this enough, though, that I know my limitations and how to pace myself.

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I started surprisingly strong. I ran as far as I could, then pushed myself to the top of the first hill. I checked my app when I dropped to a walking pace, noting that I had completed a full quarter of a mile.

One of the things I love about a competitive event is how others push you. You may not be able to beat everybody, but sometimes you can beat the person ahead of you. I saw people of all different fitness levels, pushing themselves to their very best. I set my mark on the next person ahead of me, and the next, and at the 2 mile mark realized I was pursuing a 13 minute mile pace.

I always taught my daughter to run across the finish line, and I try to live the words I teach. As soon as the finish line was in sight, and I knew I could run the distance, I began running. My form could be best compared to a wounded rhino, but it’s running all the same.

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As the finish line neared, my pace increased. I’d like to note this was uphill. I finished, with a young escort from Ainsley’s Angels leading me across. I glanced at my fitness app, and my recorded time was 43:26. I couldn’t get it stopped in time, so a good deal of additional time lapsed.

When I looked at the official time, my net time was 42:06. Very close to my goal timme of 42 minutes.

5 weeks till the next race. Shaving 6 seconds off is an easy ask considering where I started!

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Breaking Through the Wall

Today was mid level tough. Not bad, per se, but the physical demands are definitely wearing on me. Fortunately, with the 5k 2 days out I am on sort of light duty. I walked the distance today (no running), will walk half the distance tomorrow. The movement is necessary for blood sugar management.

This is tough some days, and yes, it would be easy to surrender, but I want to share something with you that I learned when I was too young to appreciate it:

I was invited to go running with friends when I was about 20 or so. I started out, and because I was not conditioned, burned out pretty quickly. One of the things I have always appreciated about the running community is the “leave noone behind” commitment. It wasn’t long before a friend was beside me, offering some encouragement: “can you make it to that lamppost? Good; now let’s keep going till we hit that intersection. Got it? OK, let’s push it till we hit that parking lot”.

I realized much later it was about continually setting reachable goals. About being in the moment, and doing what you have to do to get through that moment and on to the next one. And you can learn a lot through that that applies to life.

I have used it myself recently. On my running legs, I’ve begin stretching it out another 100 or so feet. And on the very last lap, when I do not have to reserve any energy for the remainder of the distance, I pour everything I have in it. Because it is day to day, it is still technically optional, but nobody wants to head backwards.

I figure a fitness plan that works should center around pushing yourself to your personal limit, doing it multiple times a day, and then repeating each day. If, for instance, you can make it to the mailbox, do it every day. Then do it twice a day. Then do it three times a day. Eventually you will reach the end of the block. Stretch those goals consistently, and you will be pleasantly surprised.

Break that wall, and pretty soon you will be breaking ceilings and exploring new possibilities.

The People You Meet

I am probably up before you are. As the heat intensifies, I move my morning start time up to 6 AM, which means I am up at 5 to get my mind out of hibernation mode.

There aren’t many folks out in the park at that time. Just the die hards. Most are far more ft than I am. A few at my level. And a few who are, like me, building back in various stages. Like the stroke survivor who puts in up to 5 laps around the park, depending on what she can endure. Or the elderly gentleman who is flexible enough to step with one step onto the picnic table surface as part of his warmup routine.

In the mental part of this process, I have been thinking about what drives me. I am well aware that the majority of my friends and family do not think I either can or will complete my journey to a half marathon in November. They don’t believe. And I get that. A lot of tilts at windmills, a lot of crushed dreams. There’s reason for cynicism.

And it hit me today: in a curious way, I actually FEED off of that. One reason I am being successful is because my entire life, despite trying to be a positive individual, I have been taught and conditioned to be driven by NEGATIVE energy. So when I am surrounded by positive energy, I’m not equipped to handle it. This is one reason I don’t handle compliments well.

How much different outcomes could have come about if I had been fed the positive instead? If I had been motivated and driven by positive expectations instead? More importantly, how can I be that for those coming behind me?

The truth is, I have succeeded to this point even beyond my own expectations. To the point where I can sit and wonder what the possibilities even ARE. But between now and November, I need to change my fuel. The negativity surrounding me can get me across that line, but it won’t keep me there.

Be the positive.

The Emotions of the Journey

I want to take a moment here to unpack a lot of the emotions that I have been feeling lately. If you haven’t been here, you cannot understand it. I will try to unpack it as best I can.

When I worked (almost 20 years ago) managing group homes for developmentally disabled adults, we had a 68 year old client come to us. His mother had passed away, and she had been his sole caregiver his entire life. Because of the culture she had grown up in, he spent virtually no time in the community. When we would take him to the store, it was overwhelming. He was transfixed by the variety of products around him, and would often get distracted by the wonderment of it all.

I am starting to understand that feeling. When I began this journey, my hope was controlling my blood sugar, and in doing so, hopefully giving more to my family. To say that I have exceeded beyond my wildest dreams is a massive understatement.

Suddenly, dreams and ambitions that I long ago surrendered. Suddenly I am not embarrassed by my physical reflection. Suddenly I feel…well, unchained.

And I am only 2 months in on a 1 year journey. Five months removed from that day in February when I stopped and said, “no more!”

And when you cast it against the backdrop of the past two years, it becomes an even more incredible story. I was on the long path of giving up because I didn’t feel there was more to life to look forward to than I had already experienced.

As I tell people with the time to listen, this journey is not about the physical. It is about everything: mental, spiritual, the whole package. I frequently refer to the line from “Redemption Song”:

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind”.

And that is precisely what I am doing, in every way possible. As I look at the possibilities suddenly before my suddenly overwhelmed body, I am as overwhelmed as the older gentleman who had been shuttered off from society his entire life. I won’t discuss them publicly, yet, butt as I get nearer, you will know.

For now, as I am beginning to run regularly, I am working on a branding campaign. The goal is to have shirts made to help offset the costs of running, and because I want to help inspire others to reach the same heights.

For those reading along, thank you. And please share. Because I have something very important to share.