Sunday, July 27, 2008

Running through the Isle

Our last race was selected courtesy of a co-worker who is from upstate New York - who highly recommended Presque Isle as a scenic and well-organized event. Our experience there lends her additional credibility! The race city is listed as Erie, Pennsylvania - but it is actually run on a small peninsula/isle that juts out into Lake Erie from the city - Presque Isle State Park. Besides being THE scenic and activity attraction for that whole corner of the State, it just coincidentally is about 13 miles to run around it all the way. The course was certainly one of (if not the) flattest we have ever run - and quite scenic through an old-growth hardwood forest, with bogs, ponds, lakes and glimpses both out across the Bay to Erie and, on the other side, out onto Lake Erie. The run was a good one (#18) - notwithstanding typical eastern states heat and humidity for July. Definitely no PRs on this race-day, but the weather really could have been much worse, as the course was shaded most of the way and it was a bit overcast much of the time. After a great post-race picnic (one of the best we've had) and some recovery time, we enjoyed a couple of the Isle beaches with Rachel - and were impressed that there were actually decent-sized breakers coming in off Lake Erie (courtesty of the wind, we were told) - and the water was a pleasant temperature.

A couple of other trip highlights included my first visit to Kirtland on the way up to Erie from Cleveland (our destination airport). They had a really interesting film about Kirtland history from a diary of Sister Whitney and then there were tours of the Whitney Store, with some other original buildings and homes in the little village. We got to the Temple too late to get in, but did get some pictures. The other highlight was a trip to Niagara Falls on Saturday. Having already noted that Presque Isle was THE area attraction, we really didn't see all that many other things we wanted to see or do - and I was aware that the Falls were only about two hours away since we had debated flying into Buffalo instead of Cleveland.

Anyway, after we picked up our race packets at the VERY extensive pre-race expo (two people sitting under an awning with a few boxes of race numbers!), we headed for Buffalo. Karen doesn't recall ever having really seen the Falls, and we all enjoyed the trip. We walked out to the major overlooks, went down to the base of American Falls through Cave of the Winds, and took the Maid of the Mist boat ride around the base of all the falls. Very nice trip and diversion - and it was good having Karen's Mom with us for the duration (she was also our babysitter for the race and, as always, a most excellent choice).
As for profound thoughts during the race - I probably struck out; however, that doesn't mean there weren't thoughts of lesser profoundness! For one thing on this race, I was really focused on achieving my goal time of running an 8:15 pace, despite the heat and humidity. To help me out, I had my new gadget - my Garmin Forerunner 305 - which does everything imaginable for me except actually RUN for me (which I will continue to work on)! This was my first half-marathon with it and it probably had more than its share of attention. That notwithstanding, I have learned over the past two years or so how to gauge whether I am having a really good race or something less - and I find that out in the last 3-4 miles. In a good race, I pass lots of people in those miles and seldom, if ever, get passed. If the race isn't as good, just the opposite is true. I've certainly had some of both. (In this race it was a bit mixed). Anyway, the point is - its not just about a strong start or even just a strong finish; it's knowing what the expectation is and what your capability is - and pacing yourself properly. If you start too strongly you will burn out before you finish; conversely if you start too slowly, you may never make up the time that would get you to your goal. The message? If you burn the candle on both ends, your light goes out before its time. You must be able to do more than endure to the end - you have to finish (although enduring to the end beats quitting). I'm actually reminded of a couple of passages of scripture: Paul talk's about having fought a good fight and having finished his course; he also instructs us to run with patience the course that is set before us; and Mosiah reminds us that we should do all things in wisdom and order and that it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. How many times do we start something and not finish - even good and honorable things? What is our pace in many of the tasks of seemingly daily drudgery - that may not be drudgery at all? Have we "run" enough to really know what we are capable of - so that we can consistently achieve that level without killing ourselves. As I tried to pick up the pace in those final miles at the race a week or so ago, I was reminded that it usually takes more than just willpower - there has to be something left - something stored and in reserve - and then the promise can be fulfilled to truly finish the course.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Who Can Run a Family?

Have you ever wondered if you are really succeeding at what you do? Or if what you are doing is even making a difference? Or whether you really even have any idea about what you are SUPPOSED to be doing....let alone any inkling of how to do it...or how to do it well? (Do you really think you can run a family?!) If you haven't had those thoughts, then I am envious. If you have, then perhaps we share that feeling occasionally (or, in fact, frequently) - although maybe for different duties and responsibilities.

When it comes to work and my duties there, I have always had a certain amount of confidence in myself and my abilities. When it comes to being a Dad.......well - that is a different story altogether. Maybe the oft-used axiom is appropriate here: "You can fool some of the kids some of the time; you can fool all of the kids some of the time; but you can't fool all of the kids all of the time." The operative word here is probably "fool". However, every once and awhile (sort of like that train ride Emily described in a recent blog about her marriage - the one from Pres. Hinckley, I believe) you get that glimpse between the peaks, that view through the trees, that reflection on still waters, or that awe-inspiring sunset - and you have that sudden rush of gratitude and insight. You still know you fall awfully short of expectations - but just for a moment you realize just how wonderful a family can be and that maybe.....just maybe, a few of the things you did (or didn't do) may have turned out all right.

I guess I had one of those moments recently for Father's Day - and I just needed to say thanks to some wonderful kids who made it such a memorable occasion. First, to return home - after multiple weekends on the road - to find a finished play set in the backyard - that was pretty awesome. Many thanks to Joe for working with me to get it started (and Dacia for moral support) - and double thanks to Alan and Jen (and Buggy and Topher) - but particularly Alan - for finishing the project. It looks great; Rachel loves it; and Dad loves it being out there finished! (I was already imagining her going through the entire summer using the slide propped up on the deck!)
Then there was the dinner. Since we were out of town on Father's Day, all the kids and families (with one notable exception - ahem) were over for a great dinner and even better evening with the family - which I have come to particularly love and look forward to. (By the way, I highly recommend the book Buggy gave me: The Dark Summit by Nick Heil - a fascinating book about Mt. Everest's history and a particularly troubling year on the mountain in 2006.)

It didn't end there. After I returned from another trip, Dacia invited me over, primarily to get the promised Father's Day gift. I suspected some small item they had ordered, but not arrived in time. I was in for a surprise. It was a beautiful book (I mean.....with me on the cover....would there be any other way to describe it??).....about Me! Obviously, an enormous amount of time, effort, energy and coordination had gone into this - and I love it! Many, many thanks to all of you for all you put into having this for me and for the things your wrote - and especially to Emily and Dacia for, no doubt, countless hours of designing, making layouts....and who knows what else that is part of such a project. I really appreciate it.
It is not that this year was any particular revelation - but it certainly reinforced what I already knew; I have a wonderful family, great and gifted kids, and have been blessed in unimaginable ways. Thank you.

So....for whoever thinks they can "run a family" - think again!