November 2, 2015

This Day

The boy remembers.

The date was Nov. 2, 1975. The boy was 14 and a high school freshman.

Waiting on him at home after school was a package from his much older brother. Inside the box was a pair of adidas SL-72s. Blue with white stripes. His first pair of real running shoes.

Inside the box was a note. It said, "Start running. Love, Joe." He signed it with a backwards J, a family joke because that's the way the boy had written his brother's name on one of his brother's senior football schedule when the boy was 4 years old.

The boy held the SL-72s as if they were treasures. He turned them over. He unlaced them and re-laced them so that the laces were perfectly even at the tops. He slipped them on. The size 10.5s fit perfectly.

The boy wore them outside. He walked around in the yard. He almost walked into one of the End Zone Trees (a different story for a different day) because he couldn't take his eyes off the shoes. Running shoes. Real running shoes.

JV football season was over. JV basketball season hadn't started yet. The boy had dreams of being a star athlete like his older brother, who owned football, basketball and track during his days in their small town. The boy was always dreaming.

The boy went back inside and dug around until he unearthed a pair of shorts. He slipped them on over the SL-72s, walked down the driveway and started running.

Down Chestnut, right on F down to the bottom of the hill, across North, across Jackson and up to U.S. 340. Left on 340, the boy ran, reveling in the thwack-thwack-thwack sound of the shoes scuffing along the pavement. Left on Spotswood Trail, left on Lee, right on another cross street, then left on Jackson and eventually back to F and what seemed like a Mount Everest-sized hill that led him back to his house.

The boy was out of breath. The boy had finished his first real run. In his very own adidas SL-72s. The boy was enthralled. Even at age 14, the boy somehow knew that he had found something. Or that something had found him.

The boy appeared devoid of running talent at first, but hung in there because the act of running gave him a feeling that none of the other sports provided him. Running, the boy came to realize, was special because it was all his. His losses. His wins. His journey.

Much has happened to the boy since that day. Many successes. Many failures. Many, many happy times. And through it all, Running has continued — over and over and over again — to find the boy and fill his cup to overflowing.

It's been 40 years now. And the boy still remembers.

October 7, 2015


Blessings, blessings, everywhere
Which ones will you choose?
Calm your mind, expand your heart,
What have you to lose?

Blessings, blessings, everywhere,
Strength and joy and peace,
All of this and so much more
Deserve your heart's release.

Blessings, blessings, everywhere,
Come along with me,
A climb atop a mountain range,
A walk along the sea.

Blessings, blessings, everywhere,
Focus on the Now,
Take the time to really see
Each and every Wow.

Blessings, blessings, everywhere
Which ones warm your heart?
Take a moment, inhale joy,
Find a place and start.

September 13, 2015


Sometimes, I can be such a pompous ass.

I just had to do this lifting exercise called a split jerk. And I just had to use 20-pound dumbbells because, well, my 5-pounders the only other dumbbells would be way too easy. Also never mind that it's the first time I had done the exercise. Main result: Tweaked my right IT Band.

And — because I'm scared witless about my upcoming attempt of the oft-attempted-yet-rarely-completed Wild Oak Trail 100-Miler — I just had to do a 6-hour runwalk the next day. The low-back stiffness dissipated after 4 hours, so I thought it was fine. I didn't really even notice the IT band. I mean, it only hurt every time my right foot hit the ground. (Pompous. Ass.)

So, of course it's only natural that I would go out the next day for 2:30:00 with my buddy Bob. I mean, the IT band wasn't too bad at all. And we did the whole thing on soft ground. And I always go Sundays with Bob. (See the pattern here?)

Then I just had to go short on Monday because it was Day 140 of my current run streak. And I'm sure that the dull thud in the hip was more because I hadn't done yoga yet that morning than because I'm a pompous ass. (Impressive, huh?)

Same same with Tuesday's 2 hours, Wednesday's 20 minutes. And Thursday's 3:15:00.

Pretty sure that Thursday's effort gets me the nod as undisputed president of the Pompous Ass Club.

Silver lining: I haven't run a step since Thursday. It's Sunday evening and the stiffness is gone. I'm waiting at least until Tuesday to try it out. Might extend the break until Thursday. Dear Body, thank you for this wake-up call. Received and acknowledged. Good will come from this little blip.

More silver lining: Thanks to sage advice from someone who knows much — "You have the physical strength. Start to focus on mental strength." — I'm changing a lot about this time's Wild Oak approach.

I've used much of this thumb-twiddling time the past several days to focus on how this Wild Oak should go. And that's when it hit me — dramatic flame-outs in my two previous attempts are all on me. I've tried to bull my way through them. Little attention to planning. Less attention to execution. Just train myself up, roll out there, be all bad-ass and take it by storm. So far, that's gotten me to 37 miles once and 54 miles the other time.

The game-day Wild Oak approach this time? Take what it gives. Soak it all in. Look forward to the hard parts and laugh with them. Easy breezy. Think. small.

I'm running with buddies. And getting help from other buddies. And pledging to use good sense on all things physical this next month-plus. And working on getting my mind really, really right.

If things break well, Sunday, Oct. 25, may find the Pompous Ass Club president's post up for grabs again.

August 12, 2015


I looked into your eyes this morning and was moved to tears.

So young, even in that full Marine dress with your newly minted face of stone.

The inscription below your photo reads that you were one day shy of 20 years old when you breathed your final breath back in 2005. One day from 20. Damn.

And there I was, dripping wet after pushing pretty hard on this morning's sweet run around our little country town under perhaps the most vibrantly starry sky I've seen in years, when I happened past the house where I think your mom still lives. It's the one with your photo tacked to a tree out front, and the words "Freedom Isn't Free."

So I looked in your eyes, and I wished that I had known you. And that you were still here. That you hadn't made the ultimate sacrifice in that faraway land one day shy of turning 20.

So I hope you'll forgive an old guy, LCPT Daniel Bubb, for shedding some tears in your honor.

And then I did the only thing I could think of to do in your honor — I dropped to the pavement and started cranking out push-ups. Maybe it was the moment, but those push-ups were a whole lot easier that normal. Maybe I'm crazy, but I swear I could feel your presence urging me on. 10, 20, 30 ... So I kept going ... 40, 50, 60 ... 75. Complete failure. Plastered flat. Gasping for breath.

Then I rose, and I looked into your eyes again. And I said a short prayer for you and so many others who have given their all for others.

Although I didn't know you, Daniel, I am honored by your life, your service and your sacrifice.

You are not forgotten. I will carry this time with me for many, many days. 

I hope, somehow, that the connection I felt this morning was felt on your end, too.

Rest in peace, brave warrior. What is remembered lives.

July 16, 2015

That Soft Way

Mike Pearson, I will miss you.

You were the first Calvary UMC person to shake my hand, and your gigantic, soft smile was one I came to cherish during our decade plus of time together there.

And not too long after that first meeting, there you were again welcoming me into the back row at choir practice. After that first night, you asked me what I thought and I told you that it was pretty cool and that although I was rusty as an old nail, I'd be back for sure. I got that patented Mike Pearson full face smile and a "Wow, this is gonna be fun." Prophetic, for sure.

Oh the memories. So many songs. Cantatas. More than our share of duets together. That quartet with you, me, Sam Robb and Ron Hartlaub. Cherished memories of mine.

I'm not sure I shared this with you, but I only jumped in as a lay reader because I didn't want you to be the lone wolf there. Man did I struggle with that — I'm still sure I butchered way more of the scripture readings than you did — but it was well worth it mainly because it gave you a break a couple Sundays each month.

Your kind, soft way made me a better dude, Mike. And I'm pretty sure that the pride and love you showed for your Meghan and Nikki tipped the scales for me in deciding to chase the dad thing. Grateful every day for that, by the way. I wish we'd come back to Calvary a few times lately. I think you'd like this 15-year-old version of Ben Gentry. I know he would have been taken with you.

I'll see you again, Mike, if I play my cards right. Have "People Need the Lord" ready, and we'll sing it one more time. And yeah, I'll still be good with the harmony part.

Love you, buddy.


June 8, 2015


Maybe it happened because it was the second long run of the day.

Or because it was 86F, and I was doing laps on the middle school's paved track. Or maybe it was the all-at-once absence of that previously sweet breeze.

I hadn't looked at my watch yet. Just before sneaking a glance I told to myself, "Betcha it says 1:25." It didn't. It read 1:07. "Oh wow. Is that right? Oh. Wow."

So I thought about changing things up and heading out to the nearby trail system. Or bouncing up the hill and knocking out the remaining 53 minutes somewhere in town.

I mean, seriously, what difference will it make if I don't do the entire 2 hours of today's second long run on this stupid track? It's still gonna be 2 hours. And that will give me 4:30:00 for the day. And it's still gonna be just as hot and muggy. It's just a training run. I mean, really, here or elsewhere ... what's the true diff?

So, you know what I did? Staying right there on the track, I turned my music up just a little bit. And I focused on the lyrics and the beat. And I kept on running. And running. And running. Totally lost in the running. The gentle rhythm of my breathing. The relaxed roll-through of my arms and legs. And the next time I checked my watch, it read 1:51.

And there is was in all its crystalline glory.

This. This is why I love running so much.

And I smiled at my deep, full sense of joy and satisfaction.

And I kept on running.

May 28, 2015

Day 28

The short version: Meditation is a game-changer.

The longer version ...

So as a stiff, fidgety old dog who just entered his 38th year of running, I've been fiddling around with meditation since March, and decided to go all in for my birthday month of May to see where it might lead me.

A solid 28 days later, some observations ...

• It's absolutely fabulous and mind-expanding to get so completely lost in space during meditation that I feel myself floating on each breath.

• 10 to 15 minutes whoosh past in no time when I focus first on my breath and then next on whatever thoughts pop into my consciousness.

• Routine mechanical things -- knotted cords, lawn mower stuff, changing the bag in my vacuum cleaner -- that once brought me such frequent frustration are no big deal now. Meditation is helping me see that you can't solve a problem while giving yourself a rash of shit for being an idiot. No big deal for most. Huge big deal for me. So freeing.

• State of Chill only comes to me when I am not trying to grasp it.

• I am sleeping so. much. better. I rarely have trouble with falling asleep or staying asleep, but this meditation thing has taken sleep to a whole new, wonderful place.

• My patience outside of meditation is, at least for now, at an all-time high. Circumstances that typically aggravate me get noticed, observed with curiosity, then pushed aside. I'm intrigued to see what happens during high school basketball ref season this winter.

• Meditation saved my recent 72-hour race. Combo of being a little off in the heat Day 1 and then oversleeping by two hours gave me zero chance of making my dream goal of 216 miles. Dejected, I scooched my ass out of my tent at sunrise Friday and -- bam -- found myself in the appropriate half-lotus position that's become my meditation friend. Some 10 minutes later, the message was clear — get moving, go have fun, make new buddies and give somebody a helping hand. Oh, and learn some new tricks for the years to come. Check, check, check and BIG check. Final tally of 185 miles is my third best among tmy five 72s. And I had a blast. Very nice save, indeed.

• I'm finding great joy in the little things. How I can do 10 more push-ups in a given set if I focus on relaxing my cheeks. How it feels when my fingers dance across my laptop keys. The kiss of a cool morning breeze on my cheeks. The glint of a sunrise off my neighbor's bird feeder. My footfalls when running. Meditation is re-connecting me with my inner kid.

Will I keep it up? Yes. Every day? Not sure about that, but I think it's safe to say that I am a convert.

And that I'm intrigued to see where this leads.