Monday, January 27, 2014

The Timber of My Heart

There are very few days I question why I run marathons. But without exception, they are the always the days before, the day of and certainly a couple of days after any course. As I sat there the last couple of days before the Miracle Match marathon, I couldn’t help but ask why am I doing a marathon that bills itself as “the toughest in Texas, no bull.” While I’m a fan of tough courses and PR’s, it may well show the damage in my brain that I signed up for the toughest course while pushing almost half my body weight…

I’d talked to a couple of friends who had done it and they had less than complimentary things to say about the hills. One of my most realistic friends said, there is 0% chance that you are getting your best time on that course with a stroller because some of those hills you should not look up because it will feel like the hill is in your face (I’m like can’t we make .01% chance). So I asked myself again, why am I doing this? And I could come up with a few answers… I could lie and try to say marathons are fun but that’s rarely true… but this marathon was special both because it prided itself on being a challenge but also what it was for ( They exist not merely for the marathon but to help match marrow donors with people who need them. And it’s put on by firefighters many of which run the course in their entire firefighter outfit, IN THEIR ENTIRE FIREFIGHTER OUTFIT. To keep showing you what these guys are made of four of the firefighter had already been donors. And if that wasn’t enough the medals were handmade and cut by a firefighter. For various reasons, I’m not allowed to donate any of my things because of the medication though I used to donate blood since I’m a universal donor blood type, but when my time comes, my brain gets donated to science research but to me, the people who donate stuff while living are far more generous. The race director showed exactly how passionate she was about the cause by flying out to deliver some a few days before the race and flying immediately back... to south America.

So earning the “toughest” medal in Texas, helping out an unbelievable cause would have been enough sell. While I’ve never DNF’ed on any course, when they announced on their facebook status that you got snickers at the end (by far my favorite candy) they all but guaranteed that I would get to the finish line with motivation (turns out in Europe snickers used to be known as the marathon bar so because of the clear connection every marathon anywhere, please step up).  And then it was announced that another man would also be running his second marathon with a stroller because of his child’s health issues (we were both focused on pre race interview called moms everyday and if you’re tired of hearing me talk in English, aqui hay una entrevista en EspaƱol

My friend Penny, one of the shipmates who was there when they found me on the side of the road, someone who has taken me to medical appointments, someone who is a good friend, a good listener, and a good runner was kind enough to drive Kiana and I up to Waco where we got to stay in a gorgeous river house. We went to packet pickup and Penny signed up for the half marathon when we arrived even though she’d done a marathon one week before.  There one of the locals was showing the race map and describing the race course and hills, flat for the first 5 miles then slowly picking up from 5-13, then some incredible steeps up and downs till 23 or so. And then they threw out the idea that there was this small wrap around a hill that you could skip and take these incredibly uneven stairs called “Jacob’s ladder” and earn a little extra medal. I thought it was really cool but looking at the picture, there was no chance I could do that with a stroller so I quickly dismissed it.

Then, before heading to sleep, trying to get into the right mind frame, still trying to figure out exactly why I was doing this race, knowing that while doing the race, a fair share of people would be at church, I listened to a hymn. It’s not one that we’ll ever sing in church but it’s a song called hymn 101 by Joe Pug and it was literally the very last song that had been added to the race playlist (  As I sat there intimidated, happy, nervous, excited about the biggest hills I would ever push Kiana on, the lyrics were perfect:

I've come here to get high
To do more than just get by

I've come to test the timber of my heart.
Oh I've come to test the timber of my heart.

And I've come to be untroubled in my seeking.
And I've come to see that nothing is for naught.

So that was the mind frame I went into the race with, that with the little girl in front of me on a tough
course, climbing more than I ever had with her, I was going to make this the hardest challenge yet to test the timber of my heart, to know believe, hope dream, that nothing is for naught. It was a 10k, a half, a full all starting simultaneously so there were tons of people ahead of me and I had no clue which was from each race. In rookie fashion, I started a little too fast due to that but would slow down in due time.

One of the locals had said that you don’t really notice the inclines early on in the course and maybe that would have been true without a stroller, but I noticed them with it. Then immediately after the halfway point, there was a sign that said “this is where the actual hills start in case you were thinking about turning around.” And there would be the first of many steep hills and I’d been keeping a sub 7 pace until that point but looked down at my watch to realize with all my effort I was keeping almost an 11 minute pace, at the very top it was 12 minutes… Kiana asked someone during the hill how much longer it was uphill because it was a curving hill and she definitely got directed to never ask that again because well I didn’t want to know.

There would be some flat parts in the second half but I don’t remember them. Someone had yelled at me that I was in 7th place at half and so knowing I wasn’t a contender was somehow both disappointing and comforting. I kept going with each hill making both my calves and quads hurt in different ways because to hold the stroller at the “right angle” required me to run in weird leans and on tiptoes at some points… I am sure had I signed up with a little more notice I would have worked in technique but I was doing improv as best as I could. It would be the first race ever that on a couple of hills the calves objected and tightened up during the course but we kept going.

The signs kept being there, some to inspire, some to make you smile I suppose. At each mile marker, there was a name, someone who had donated part of themselves to help someone else be more whole. There were also signs to make you smile like “last hill,” “okay just kidding this is the last hill,” "look back at the hill you just did, it'll help you feel better" (I did, it did),  “you won’t even believe us if we tell you this is the last hill,” “the race director is a masochist,” “these challenges just make sure you’re getting your money’s worth,” “if this were an ironman you would have covered 100 something miles already.” Earlier in the race they made me smile… later in the race they made me grimace.

Still, there were various friends there from Austin and locally cheering along the course. It was really good to see them each time though they said that I looked more like I was grimacing at them then acknowledging them. There was even one local woman who said she had seen me on tv and that my butt looked better in person… I smiled back at her and if I’d had a little more wit or breath I would have tried to have a comeback.  And then around mile 23… I saw Jacob’s Ladder. I don’t know why it’s called that and Kiana quickly pointed out that it wasn’t a ladder, it was stairs. With a second’s worth of notice, I’m like ah I’m never going to get a race that has this again, let’s do it. And so in what probably took several minutes of actually getting it done time and who knows how much of post ladder performance time, we climbed it. Part of it I did by myself, carrying the stroller and Kiana, part of I did with the help of a volunteer who took the front wheel to get up some of the steepness while Kiana got carried even more princess style and the three or four steepest steps, Kiana got out and I just carried the stroller. Let’s be clear that exercise would have hurt in the middle of a 5k, no it would have hurt by itself and it definitely hurt when at the end of it you still had a few miles to go. I guess the Spartan Races taught me take the challenge of extra obstacles in the middle of a race. Like I said, I don’t know why it’s called Jacob’s ladder but if it’s in reference to the story in Genesis where Jacob gets to see a ladder going up to heaven…. Let’s just say if that's where the reference comes from they sure emphasized that the stairway to heaven gets your heart going.

The last few hills, miles are a blur because the heat kept getting hotter… And for all that “this is the last hill” signs, the last hill was literally around mile 26 as you were up to a bridge which held the finish line. It was a great suspension bridge and accurately symbolized that some of the things that connect us are great little moments of design that connect life. I ended up getting roughly 3:20, not my best time or my worst one but took 9th over all and 3rd in my age group (turned out I had heard wrong and I was actually in 3rd when I went up the ladder and since only one person passed me after that, I guess that’s where I was overtaken but there are bigger things in life than where you place). And I have been on 7 marathon courses, 5 in Texas and two outside of it and it was definitely the toughest one I’ve ever faced, no bull.

After the race, you better believe we got our snickers (Kiana preferred skittles so I might have eaten both of them). And then Kiana and I cheered on the other stroller participant as he finished. After that we went to the local zoo because like the marathon itself, the race was just the excuse, and enjoying fully the adventure of life was the reason. The marathon was more meaningful because it was a bridge where they made matches for the sick and the donors. The races Kiana and I do are just bridges to keep hanging.  And while, I’m pretty stiff and sore right now, I’m grateful to have been part of a race that remembered that none of it was for naught and I believe at least for one day we passed what tested the timber of our hearts.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Back in April a little over a month after I’d won Gusher,  Rep. Deshotel from the Beaumont area was kind enough to submit resolutions about me and others to the House of Representatives. I got to stand there while it was read out loud but the simple truth is I was just taking being in the House of Representatives in and not listening to what was said… We had a lunch afterwards where they gave me a copy of it in Representative Deshotel’s office and told me they were preparing a more formal one. I put it to the side intending to read it when I got home but talk about memory issues, I forgot it. Unfortunately that was when the Boston marathon occurred and it was when a lot of things were going on and when they called me to pick it up, I dropped the ball. By the time I realized and remembered, the government was no longer in session (here in Texas they meet only every two years… insert your political statement here).  But then last week, Representative Deshotel himself called me and asked when he could drive it over and did so yesterday. And here is a copy of it. Reading/hearing it for the first time was both humbling and emotionally moving (though a friend who saw it said that what he likes about the J-wire, as he calls it, is that they should have added that I was humble which he says is his favorite part about me. I struggle with compliments and also couldn’t resist the humor and said that humility is my strong suit, that there’s a picture of me next to humble in the dictionary. He rolled his eyes and said that Iram comes actually right before ironic in the dictionary).

The day had already had some interesting moments before that arrived. I’d had lunch with a friend as he’s preparing for colon cancer surgery and chemo. He had run a marathon in the middle of it all (who does that kind of stuff? That’s insane). We sat and talked about serious stuff and joked around various things (perhaps one of my favorite cancer jokes yet is if he’s learned anything from the colon cancer experience it’s that while he plans to beat cancer, he definitely couldn’t have survived prison for long).  But we sat and talked about the athletics, the emotions, the family experience that he’s doing with it all which from what I can gather he’s doing it holistically much better than I did (and somewhere my mind is laughing at the fact that I used the word holistically completely unintentionally).

But from there, in the strange life I lead, I went to an interview (I’m sure in due time that will get linked on here and why the interviews keep coming I don’t understand since the story hasn’t really changed it’s still one foot in front of the other) and for the first time ever, I cried in the middle of an interview (luckily it was for a print one). We were talking about various things but crying came when referencing the song that has been on many stroller playlists (first song on the Waco playlist), Steven Curtis Chapman’s Cinderella (\

I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never new
Oh I will dance with Cinderella
I don’t want to miss even one song
‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight

So it was a heavy emotional day… and in science it’s often said that correlation does not mean causation. But it may tell you that when the emotions get heavier these blog entries tend to get more direct and sometimes goofier and the runs a little more intense.

But while I’m a guy who is betting huge chunks of his life on sciences’ approach of correlation and causation, there are other things that come to mind. But while that’s how I’m staying alive but what I’m living for is something that was said in dead poet’s society:

“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

I joke and I run but I also read poetry and appreciate art like Van Gogh (shh even though tons of poems and songs have been quoted in here obviously a guy who is a marathoner, a Spartan, and a centurion doesn’t read poems. That would be so not tough and macho; it’d be like painting your toenails or something).

So the simple truth is I’m three days away from the race that has most intimidated me… well ever… with the Waco marathon. The interviewer said you’ll have to let me know how that goes and I showed her the elevation profile and said “I can tell you how it’s going to go, I’m going to get across the finish line and no other promises.”

But while running continues to be the how and loving continues to be the way, the why I actually rarely say I love you to anyone. It isn’t that I’m scared to say it’s that it’s that I try to be effective in communication. In a famous anthropological study, if you ask people to make a facial expression describing joy, sadness, anger, frustration, disappointment, surprise, the facial expressions are pretty universal worldwide. But if you ask them to put on a face of what it “looks like” to love there is a gigantic range. And many many languages have more than one word for I love you.  So I don’t say I love you much because when I say something I want the person to hear what I’m saying so when I say it, I usually describe what I mean for it in relation to them.
But that is another resolution this year, to say I love you more…. With the caveat that we both understand what the other is saying. Except I always say it to Kiana and my puppy… cause I think they both get it. (Which by the way the song we’re listening to the most, but only on youtube cause I can’t find a digital version of it is Dean and Martin’s “Side by side” so if you can point me to a digital version of that, I’ll seriously appreciate it).

Resolution, like love is a word that can be applied in many things. I’ve received one from the government; I’ve made some for New Year’s, last entry I talked about chemistry and physics but there resolution is the act of separating or reducing things to its component parts (an important process yet somehow I subscribe to the idea that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts). In medicine, it means that you’ve terminated a condition and I hope that day comes for me assuming termination means healing not death. In music, it means taking dissonant tone to a constant tone. Resolution is what it will take to get through this marathon Sunday.
With so many different meanings, I wondered about the etymology, origin of resolution. I thought maybe it literally came from the idea that you solve something again, you re-solve it. But it apparently comes from the Latin word to release something, to let it go.

I don’t know if it was due to the references to my blog and social media in the resolution, or part of the interview or if it was just human curiosity, the interviewer asked what I was trying to achieve in facebook and social media. It was a question I wasn’t prepared for nor  did I have a great answer and simply answered, the same thing everyone else is but I don’t know that I immediately knew what that was. But I think we share on facebook, in this blog for the same reason my dog wants to be walked, for the same reason we want to scream or cry sometimes, the same reason Kiana wants to draw sometimes and other times she wants butterfly kisses, because we are human and we need/desire/hope for release of that humanity and we’re all just trying to find a way to do it. (If there’s anything we learn from the Richard Sherman’s yelling after a win (I screamed after my marathon win too) is that there’s some that are more socially accepted than others.)  And so today I do my last training run before the marathon, I’ve got some music playing in the background right now and so there’s many releases for my humanity. For mine, this social media is one of them but you have to wonder whether the days that I write about something in here that most people take as private whether or not by being so public I’m only hiding in the open since telling everyone about your emotions something is only slightly braver than telling it to no one., In my view, the bravest approach may well be the balance of sharing it and investing it most with significant people knowing that hurt may come tougher that way. And while I post way too much on here and on facebook, my favorite moments still in life are the face to face ones and it’s some how disappointing and makes sense that in some of my favorite moments in life I only manage to get out the camera for a second and capture a moment rather than trying to capture them so much to remember the future that I miss the present.

  People who have come with me to medical appointments wonder if my doctors get annoyed at my 500 miles worth of questions. I wonder if it’s disappointing for those who interview that I don’t have great answers. But even if they aren’t great in sophistication, I hope to keep "releasing" my humanity in many ways, in those runs and races, in those songs and poems, but above all, far above all, to keep releasing those emotions into the people who mess with you honestly. At least that’s my resolution. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Learn to Be Lonely

I continue to write raw for the same reason I’ve started writing, to remember the story the way I see it, in real time, aware that the present view, the past view and the future view of life don’t line up for any of us. But if you write it like I’m about to write… well sometimes you have to figure whether future hope, present out look or past coloring is more honest…

It’s Martin Luther King Day. It tells you something that he’s been quoted multiple times in this blog. This is a man who was a serious leader who has a statue in our nation’s capital and who had serious loyalty flaws at least in regards to his romantic relationships. All I’ve got in common with him is the last part. In the previous blog (which started a debate on pot use on my facebook wall and in private messages; look if you need a defense of pot this is a good year for you the two states where not just medicinal but recreational marijuana use is legal both made the Superbowl so those of you who think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread go use that as an argument just don’t do it with me because it’s illegal in my state). Anyway, in the previous blog there was an anonymous comment posted about my hopeless romantic approach (anonymity is necessary sometimes but it generally annoys me). It appeared to also be about how I blame my wife and or the George Clooney girls for relationships failing. Let me be clear: I do not. I also do not take full responsibility since that’s rarely true in failed relationships (hell even in the video livestrong has me in, I talk mostly about how it’s my fault!. And two blogs ago I said I was more than likely the cause not the effect.)

If you’re dense enough to wonder why I’m writing so much about this in the last 3 entries, it’s because there’s a girl messing with my head and heart right now. Like any girl whose messed with anyone’s head, you can’t help but think they are amazing, out of your league, and be cheering for them and yet still have zero surprise when they do something impressive. But if you’ve read this long enough, you’re aware I mainly start thinking about relationships when the medical appointments have gotten further apart and then I push them away after the medical appointments come around. One of the witty girls from my running group says that I should use running as a pick up line (hey I can break a five minute mile so I’m good for a quickie and I run marathons so I can last a while) and while I never have and never will use that line it’s pretty funny. I do wonder if my actual pick up line should be let’s have some adventures till my medical appointments start again. If the appointments keep getting further apart maybe these relationships can grow from timed miles to 5k to 10k’s etc ;).

But with all that said, this weekend, I erased my hopeless romantic playlist which was both the longest playlist ever and the one I’d worked on the longest (if you call working on something adding songs that speak to your heart about what someone who you would love to be loved by would be like). I am not sure that you should be feeding a stray animal (my heart is the reference point there) if you aren’t sure you’re willing to keep it. But also, you should fall in love with someone, not with the idea of them (one of my favorite “relationship” plays is not a happy one but it is brilliant enough to where you should read it Different people have different wiring for different capacities. We accept those limits physically because they are more evident and obvious. I was out cheering for my friends at the 3m half marathon in great weather and tons of them got PR’s (their personal best) but I was there early enough to watch  the winner who came in at 5:05 pace for 13.1 miles, the world record for the marathon is at a 4:42 per mile pace. I can’t even run those paces going my hardest for a couple of miles. But I still try for my personal best times. And there were friends there who were proud of PR times that other friends who came in ahead of them could jog in. Neither the world record not the variance of best times cancels people pushing for their best. But we all have a range and trying to balance both accepting the limits of that and pushing them is what makes the best people at all ranges, better. (On a complete non sequiter course sometimes we should do like I did yesterday and be a good sport about things we’re passionate about, I ran in a skirt in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma society which my daughter’s class was the lead fundraiser for her school).

No one will argue with the previous paragraph that most of humanity no matter how hard they tried could not break certain running times. But I see relationships similarly. Some of us weren’t wired for friendship. There are people who I know who are incredibly kind and interesting, amazing but um we aren’t ever hang out that much because like in the world of chemistry, some of us don’t have any capacity for bonding our elements even if both are necessary for a healthier world (just for the record in 33 years of life I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t interesting and fascinating but listening and interacting with great people at parties and family elements you realize they are different enough to where figuring each other out can be great and impresive but its not the same as bonding). Some elements also have a variety of ways they can bond and some only have one (let’s not discuss the scenario that some elements appear to bond only to explode). Speaking of the girls I’ve been attracted to, while there are zero who I hate and any I’ve ever loved, I will love till my dying day (or to quote MLK I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.) They are all people who when something goes well in their life I’ll be cheering loudly if I’m nearby or if nothing else from my heart if I’m further away. There are some of those who the range could have been friendship to a serious commitment. I’ve mostly stayed at the lower end of any risk from previous heartbreak because to quote MLK again There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. The ones who I loved most intensely I wonder if all we are even capable of being friends, the typical break up line of “let’s just be friends.” I am sure plenty of people will disagree with me when I say this but there are times saying that is as shallow as if I said “let’s just make out.” There are people who were attractive enough to where I’d be happy to make a bet on who would kiss the other first or people who I’d be happy to be friends with but the ones who scare are the ones who even when you’re talking about something deep, funny, insignificant you’re flirting across the table and realizing you want to both be their friends and make out with them that moment, people who you want to rip your heart open with and rip their clothes off. If they are any relationships I’m jealous of (and I can honestly only think of a few), it’s the ones who are clearly still having great conversations, are flirtatious and intense long after the initial chemistry.  So while there are relationships I regret and were “mistakes of my life” but I’m also a fan of the idea that I’d rather regret things I have done than things I haven’t.
I’m a little late to the ball game this year but I finally got the final two big New Year’s resolutions added to the list (by the way I don’t get people who knock New Year’s resolution, to me that’s the equivalent of knocking going to college because people drop out or knocking relationships because people break up). Maybe I’ll share the other resolution in due time but one is a dream to go to the Grand Canyon .Now it’s literally in a newspaper that that’s where I’m going to if treatment is not effective and I’ll have a few seizures on the way in/or out and die when I did (if you want more detail as to why read  While I hope that doesn’t come in 2014 and if it does it does, what I mean is that I want to go sometime this year for fun. I haven’t figured out any details or if I’ll take Kiana or friends or finally be brave enough to get a girlfriend and take her or whether I’ll go by myself but it’s a place I’m afraid of because it’s where I’ve talked about going when the fears are no longer beatable and therefore a place associated with fear. That may never be fully overcome but things have been stable for a while so I’m going to go sometime and make it a place that at least in our initial meeting is only a place of joy and wonder and amazement.
But I’ve also started a playlist which is somewhat the opposite of the hopeless romantic. Keeping in my style of listening to cheesy musical playlist it may well be the last playlist I listen to when the final trip to the Grand Canyon comes. (If anyone can guess the title of the playlist, I’ll buy you breakfast)
The first song is from Les Miserable:
Drink with me
To days gone by
Sing with me
The songs we knew
Here's to pretty girls
Who went to our heads
Here's to witty girls
Who went to our beds
The other is my latest download, an addition that they put in the movie of the Phantom of the Opera, another guy who struggled less than adequately with the scars on his face and his damaged emotions and perhaps a better perspective than my current one in regards to dating
So laugh in your loneliness
Child of the wilderness
Learn to be lonely
Learn how to love life that is lived alone
And there are those who will hear the pain, and the loneliness of this blog. Those moments absolutely exist and I’ve never pretended otherwise. They were somewhat painful this weekend when Kiana’s mother was here at my house for Kiana’s birthday. The combination of the girl in my head and the one who I thought I’d die next to may well be where all of this flowing out of. Even my mom picked up on that… but it was a good birthday party and while it was only a slice of time, it was the first time in years that Kiana got us both (and the cousin that lived with us) in the same picture for which I’m proud of all 3 of us because it’s progress. (I’d joked before about the difference between in laws and outlaws is that outlaws are wanted but still followed a sign in DC that says be kind to strangers, invited your inlaws over).

And when I say alone, I don’t mean by myself because I am blessed with great friends and family. I just mean, maybe like erasing that playlist, it’s time to delete some ideas of people. But even as I am trying to figure out this trip to the Grand Canyon and learning how to be lonely, I promise I will still laugh in my loneliness and still love life even if its lived alone.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sex, drugs and rock n roll

(This is one of those raw, uncensored stream of consciousness blogs where anyone who reads this regularly knows I write to get emotions out and no other reason really. I clean this stuff up more for when I speak formally and obviously it gets edited better for more formal stuff but I hope I always keep it pretty sincere in here.)

People have seen me smiling through a lot of life's difficult circumstances. Even my neuropsychological in the emotional section mentions that I smile sadly and crack jokes while talking about cancer and divorce. People have asked how do you do it? I try to come up with a witty answer tailored to the person here or there but usually I resort to one of two standards, "It's against my religion to have bad days and I rarely sin" which people then start asking what religion is that when they don't realize I'm trying to be funny. So the more common joke answer I give is "Cocaine and prostitutes." Now just for the record, I have never taken cocaine or done anything with a prostitute but people laugh and say "oh that's your secret" or "oh whose your dealer/pimp?"

A simple reality is that some other people who have been through hard times find joy in that things could have been worse because they've compared it to other people, knowing that 20 years ago this technology wasn't there etc. For me, I compare it just to me. I woke up in an ambulance... wrong place or time I wouldn't have woken up at all!

Throughout human history, we've learned to cheat the brain's coding. The brain has reward centers that reward the good things we are supposed to do like exercise, work hard and love/be loved... we runners call the feeling at the end of the workout, the runner's high. I live in Austin and went to college in California where there's plenty of hippies who tell me there's a more efficient way to get high and exercise your lungs. Actually every time a media thing comes out I get a slate of new cures to cancer, seizures etc. This happened shortly after the first media pieces . The most common one is always pot/marijuana/thc. Now because I have those hippie friends, once many years ago I tried pot once and unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale. It's to many people around the world the magical drug that will fix everything. Now I know it's becoming legal in more and more places and I don't know enough about it to advocate for or against it but when you send me a link as to how this will cure all my issues and the next article on the website is "best sexual positions to use when stoned," you see why there are those who struggle with the medical credibility of it all. But then again, I am a guy who takes drugs twice a day to not have seizures. Leaving everything to nature would likely kill me much earlier than I would have imagined.

But anyway, my answer as to why I'm "still alive" may have to do with human knowledge and invention. But the reason I'm ALIVE! is things that weren't invented, they were simply discovered and then we decided to have some fun with them. Running is definitely one of them and there's a media interview again next week (how these keep coming is beyond me because it literally is just one foot in front of the other). But we may have fine tuned running with sports, random distances, tracks, GPS watches and medals but it is just a simple instinct. If you don't believe me, go watch any kid growing up and shortly after they learn to walk, they want to run!

I've been working on my Waco playlist, each playlist always kind of reflecting the mindset I'm in and/or the one I'm trying to over come. Music is another one of those things that we fine tuned as well. My facebook status yesterday was getting people's suggestions for good running songs. One of the songs on the list is Bon Jovi's last man standing for a variety of reasons. It has some great lyrics:

It might change the way you think
There's no dancers, there's no diamonds
No this boy he don't lip synch

And if you've watched the youtube video of me singing, it's bad enough to where it's obvious that I'm not lyp synching. But it's also cause I've been thinking/feeling about that whole haven't had a girlfriend since high school thing. There's obviously enough references on here and that my longest playlist ever made was entitled hopeless romantic that shows I have that same basic human longing of both companionship and intimacy that most of us desire. But when the memories/trauma of the last relationship come up, it just leads to bad nights and bad dreams.  But the next set of lyrics which appropriately/ironicallly I will be listening to on a digital download:

Kiss the lips where hurt has lingered
It breaks the heart to hear him sing
The songs were more than music 

They were pictures from the soul
So keep your pseudo-punk, hip-hop, pop-rock junk
And your digital downloads

And every time I'm getting too close to a girl, the guy with memory problems remembers that he once invested 14 years into someone who walked away overnight. In simple frankness, I've literally asked the George Clooney girls that if they decide to end it, to tell me and then be kind enough to do it and then hang out with me for a day to just let is sink it. You're welcome to judge how sad/pathetic/whatever that is. But I remember fondly the ones who were kind enough to remember that. 

There are various arguments that could be made of why I'm thinking about it so much these days but let's go with the excuse/fact that Valentine's stuff is everywhere which is what some call "Single Awareness Day" Still, still every time I realize that I'm starting to fall I go back and listen to a classic by Caedmon's Call, Mistake of my life (

"I'm in love, I've never been so sure of anything 
but then again, could be a tumor in my brain tricking me, 
into thinking that we were meant to be
Either way, I'm about to shock my family in my hometown

Since we met my life's been so up in the air
Here today but by next week I could be there
On the street struggling to support my newest vice
With a sign that says 'I will work for love advice.'
'Cause I will mow your lawn
If you'll tell me what I'm doing wrongl

Maybe I'm on my way to find you 
Maybe I'm gonna make the mistake of my life "

Sexuality, various emotions, and affection are oddly enough found near my tumor so this song is perfect (or a perfect cop out) for me. Last year I shared my new year's resolutions and this year they aren't on here but this year one of two I considered as goals were either being chaste the entire year or actually getting a girlfriend by year's end (of course if you're my mom and you're reading this, you're hoping I do both but neither was put on the resolution list).  This stuff is all on my mind enough that for the first time for any race, the Mistake of my Life making the Waco playlist but it's early on. Later on it's more of the fun stuff. (Oddly enough I recently learned that cocaine is the drug that most closely mimics being the wiring that gets affected when one "falls in love." So maybe there's something to my joke about that the way I handle this is cocaine and prostitutes.)

But the end (or at least I hope it's near the end and not the middle) is mostly rock and roll, musicals ranging from Bon Jovi to Maroon 5 to Elvis to Elton John. We all have to get through the day somehow. And some people think that if they can get their bicep to be one more centimeter, or their half marathon to be a few seconds faster, or their salary to be a little higher, or their house to be a little bigger, their soul a little calmer, or their title to be a longer, then they will achieve happiness.. Maybe that's true... I don't know. Maybe the secret really is sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Many of us think that if someone joined our religion, our hobbies they would achieve all they are looking for. I don't know if there is a universal solution but on Monday Kiana ran 1.25 miles prepping for her 5k and on Wednesday she ran 1.5 and today we're doing a mile and each time, each time we've sat and played on the playground afterwards with her friends (she's getting better at the monkey bars than me). Different approaches to happines take the sophisticated way of trying to capture it with art, achievements and music or easier/cheating/efficient ways of doing it with things like pot, cocaine and prostitutes. And even as I am thoroughly intimidated by next weekend's marathon... well let me say this I hope neither Kiana and I ever forget the simple joys that putting one foot in front of the other with people you love is the foundation of meaning and happiness. Maybe, just maybe putting one foot in front of the other with people you love is meaning and happiness. Or maybe it's sex drugs and rock and roll.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In Better Shape

When people ask what I mean by running is my therapy, it's a fairly simple answer to me. My degree is actually in psychology and there are different approaches to therapy but mine is that it's about helping you get better at the present and therefore the future. It may or may not be necessary to address some things about the past to fix/deal with that because when we are completely frank, some things about the past are not that easy to figure out. But what I also mean by saying is that it's where things feel normal to me, it's the place where effort and reward have a high degree of correlation. I do lumosity everyday still and I've been on a downward streak for a bit and I assure you it's not for lack of trying so that's discouraging. The simple truth is there are still things I go and review from past memory mistakes not just from game but from life and can't figure out how it happened. Running is simpler in that it feels like effort and reward more closely correlate.

But perhaps, perhaps, the only thing that matters is that I keep trying to get in better shape in every way I know how. Some runners when taking on new challenges sign up for certain courses that are known to be easier (more likely to be flat, downhill, better weather, shorter distances, more cheering). I have certainly been among them as each of the first few races that I ever did with Kiana being 5k and when we got to longer ones they were flat courses including the marathon I won. But now that I think the stroller days are soon to be over, I want to "retire" knowing that I took on harder challenges that I first started signing up for. The last four races with her and one without her were the hilliest and toughest ones I'd done. They weren't all my fastest times but I was proud to have finished it with or without a PR or a title (though some did come with one or other). But when I spoke at the Pocatello Marathon last summer, there was another woman there who was intense. She broke the record of most marathons in a calendar year on that course (109!!!). And it turns out she's from Waco just north of hear where she'll be running the Miracle Match Marathon... which bills itself as "The Toughest in Texas; No Bull" and if you don't believe them well look at their elevation profile. That's got steeper hills than any road race I've ever done (the Spartan was worse but it was on a ski resort, was trail and I didn't have a stroller). But let's just say I've never been more intimidated by a race and just to make sure it was safe for Kiana I went and did a few miles worth of hill repeats on Wilke, a steep road with weights in the stroller just to make sure I could handle it especially downhill. I even asked Kiana if she'd rather do the half or the full and she picked full after I strongly suggested half several times :). Did I mention I've never been more intimidated by a race? Luckily, I've got friends who've got my back coming out. And while there have been zero races in my life where I wasn't trying to get my fastest time, this one looks tough.

I see videos of people who do a half/marathon/triathlon/spartan etc where they say hey if I can do this I can do anything. I'm not quite that idealistic but I do think that I got lucky/blessed  that I was training for a marathon when this cancer journey that would result in a major life changes started.  And I keep signing up for this events both because there's something comforting about having a clear beginning and end with mile markers. It's also because I hope, I dare to dream that if I keep my body in better shape, that it gives the good parts of my brain, the hope, the endurance, the will that it will fight the seizures, the cancer, fight fear itself off a little better,a  little longer. And that if I sign up for tougher things that if life hands me tougher things, I'll have developed something in preparation.

There are and have been many good things in my life always. But waking up in an ambulance at a birthday party and in the middle of a run, leave you both open, fearful and accepting to that any day could be your last and grateful the next day that it wasn't. We've upped my medications again hoping that I get to start driving. If it does happen, it will have been almost two years. Speaking of better shape, I picked up the new prescription yesterday and seeing the two bottles next to each other, I couldn't help but think that wouldn't it be easier to swallow the idea of the increased medication if they made the bottles shaped like good wine or classy liquor bottles instead of just pill bottles. I keep joking that let's try this and then we will let you drive is like a girl which after each date says, if you take me out one more time, then I'll give you a kiss. 

Speaking of kisses, the George Clooney approach still continues where somewhere between the pain of getting abandoned with staples in your head unexpectedly with a 
small child while you were not cleared to drive or return to work keeps my emotions at bay from getting to deep into a romantic relationship. I use as an explanation that I think (which I do) that it's irresponsible to get into a relationship with my life situation and that I come with more baggage than they allow onto planes but while all of that is my beliefs, that and the trauma of a few years back, keeps keeping certain things in check. It probably isn't helpful that the George Clooney girl who I let in the most also disappeared in what felt overnight while I was sitting there dreaming of taking a trip with her. But obviously if you're committed to being uncommitted, I may be the cause, not the effect. Another brain cancer friend whose wife is leaving him and he's having to restart life jokes that he's going to join my George Clooney approach. Still, a friend of mine recently diagnosed with colon cancer (and if you thought of my jokes about brain cancer were funny at all), he's' taking the humor up or is down to a whole new level ) But he's recently married and it's clear their romance is one of the things that will help him keep his heart solid and his butt and head held high. (My jokes are never quite as good as my friends  like the one who recently said to me that brighter stars have shorter lives so that's why my doctors took out some of my brightness to get me to live longer.)

Still, I get that I am priviliged of being alive, of loving and being loved, of raising a princess. And while there are some things that I am a long way from where I belong (I joked with my pastor that in over a year that I have been attending his church, I've made progress because I went from the very back row to the second to back row to the third from back row), I am grateful to have good friends and family that I think keep helping me go forward. There is a quote that we all find out that sometimes In any journey, who you travel with can be more important than the destination. I'm not sure everyone who I've traveled with or vice versa would sign up to do it again but I like my batting average. And thoughts like that drive me to walk Kiana to school still or to go out and do track workouts where the company is always better than the destination. 

There are people who appear to complain if their coffee spills louder than people who get told of actual problems like deaths in the family. And there are people who dream of days on vacation while others are just hoping for more days. I was trying to find songs for Waco and in checking apparently Katy Perry's "roar of a tiger" or something was on there. I listened to it and have never heard dumber lyrics to that I went from zero to my own hero (how does one get that narcissistic?!?).  It is the people who struggle but do so with honesty and conviction that are my heroes, with realistic and sometimes naive hope. And I learn that from watching Kiana grow up that having child like dreams is not necessarily a bad thing. The balance between holding onto that and fighting reality is one I'm not sure I know anyone has achieved. There are people who seem to settle too easily and then there these instances where things aren't "good enough" unless they feel perfect, where want time and space to stop and live there forever. There are moments when Kiana gets her second report card with straight A's and perfect attendance, moments where on school field trip I see her eyes open with an incredible sense of wonder, moments where the walk to school takes longer because she has to pick up every snail on the sidewalk because it rained and no one should step on it, moments like a track workout that ends in ice cream where Kiana says that "Daddy I love you more than ice cream but it's close. In these moments you wish that Never-never land actually existed and neither of you ever had to grow up anymore.

But that's not the real world, at least not mine. And yes my bill bottle size and prescription amount have grown. And I really do believe that  odds are in due time this thing in my brain will also grow and that'll be that. But until then or as long as I can, I'll try to keep the beauty of echoing life through Kiana's eyes, through the privilege of having great friends and family, and that will grow the better parts of me. And as long as loving and being loved is the frame through which life is viewed, we can always get in better shape.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Hold Me Closer Tony Danza

Apparently this is one of the coldest winters in decades in the US of A and it certainly is the coldest one the guy with bad memory remembers from his entire life. For the first time since 7th grade, I caught a cold/flu that's how cold it is. I hear that the reason is it's called a cold is that people thought that people originally thought it was because the cold caused it but we're just more likely to be indoors and so the air's more stagnant with disease since we're stuck with people indoors (hey I love people I just prefer outdoor time with them generally speaking).

So 2014 has started rough on the athletic end because when I have seizures I run within a day or two. With a cold, if you cough hard enough and you can't finish a long run or a track workout... I even had to go see a doctor who gave me anti-biotics. Still, I already had a couple of races I'd committed to. I have a lot of friends who are serious runners or trying to become it and so on New Year's day they were doing the black eyed pea run (a point to point half marathon) and then there were others doing a New Year's day commitment run. I went out and did the underwear run again and won it for the second year in a row (and if you've ever wondered why my screwed up brain keeps me single, how am I running ahead of instead of behind the crowd when there's cute girls running around in their underwear?!?). I took some dayquil before and coughed about as long as the run had taken me.

But then there was the fact that I had another race starting the first Sunday of the New Year. The rogue distance festival. It was the second long race that had ever let Kiana and I in with a stroller, 30 kilometers, roughly 18.6 miles. (Running these races with Kiana each time makes me both appreciate and reminds me that there's a reason you shouldn't start running late with your kid because while we've been doing it for almost three years, I think our retirement just due to her size in the stroller and her age is not too far down the road.) Most days I run 4-6 days a week... The week before this race due to the incessant cough and a fever for a couple of days I had run only 2 days (hey I had an underwear run title to defend! and a failed track workout to fail at?).

There are hard core runners who seem to take pride in running in the absurd Texas heat or in miserable cold conditions (it takes just one look at that picture of me in my underwear to realize I'm pretty soft core). The weather for the 30k was going to be in the high 30's, low 40's with winds ranging from 14-22 mile an hour winds. I asked/begged Kiana if she really wanted to do this (I've never hoped she said no more) but she layered up more than she ever has and for the first time ever we put the wind block on the stroller.

The playlists for my music are usually about getting pumped up, to create a little extra push when tired. The race playlist for this race had more songs that had never made a race than any before or probably any after. Because between the cough, the wind and the cold for this 30k, I had never quite questioned why I run these races more with or without a stroller. And the answer, most of the time, most days is because both during training and during races, I run because it is a joy of life, because exercise, especially the way I do it, with Kiana and with a great training group, with people whose company is irreplaceable, is happiness. One foot in front of the other with people you love, that is happiness. It was one of those moments that I was reminded that while I attend church, go to plenty of parties, and have jumped off planes, gone scuba diving and seen wonders of the world, won a marathon that the adrenaline rushes in life are nothing compared to the marvels of daily living.

Or at least that's what I kept telling myself as I was wondering why the hell am I going to do a 30k with a stroller under these conditions!?! So I just went back and found moments to remind myself with music of the little joys in life. When I got to go to New York, I got to meet Tony Danza who in a surreal moment spoke first when we met and because it was the day after the NBC piece said, "Hey I saw you on TV." That's not how you imagine meeting people like Tony Danza will go. But just like all my favorite people that I've ever met my whole life what was so great about him that he just enjoyed little smiles and jokes. He Mc'ed the entire event while balancing himself on inline skates. When a picture of us had gotten put on someone had captioned it "Hold me closer Tony Danza" apparently something that has been misheard from Elton John's "Hold me closer tiny dancer." That song was downloaded the day before the race and it was the first song on the 30k.

It kept on with a gift that a friend who I'd had a few laughs with had sent "Safe and Sound." It had some George Clooney songs to just laugh in the middle of it like "They can't take that away from me" and "Short skirt and a long jacket." I'd explain that  in more detail in an "uncensored" blog but hey  my  mom reads this blog. It had some that anyone passing by might have gotten confused but they served no greater purpose than to get Kiana, the actual tiny dancer, to semi dance while she was  in a covered up stroller like "Boogie Wonderland" and "Feel this moment." Of course kid's songs were on there like always but unlike I had done in a while in any distance other than a marathon, I used to have a standard practice of a song that would come in shortly after the time I had hoped for which is Daniel Powter's "So you had a bad day" so that even if you recognize you didn't hit your time goal, you acknowledge it and smile.

The winds were the strongest and coldest for the end. I took 9th over all and 3rd in my age group. As Kiana and I did some games and puzzles later, she more than acknowledged that it wasn't her favorite race but that she'd had fun most of it. She'd talked to others in the race after math and said, "It didn't sound like it was anyone's favorite race."

In the end, I can say that like the worst days of my life, it was miserable with smiles slipping out here and there. I just wish Tony Danza had been there at the end to warm us up by holding us closer but he was in New York. Still with a PR, a medal and atrophy there was a girl who I held pretty close and danced with even if she was tiny.