Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in volume 0.9924 of the ^zhurnal (that's Russian for "journal") — see ZhurnalyWiki for a Wiki edition of individual items; see Zhurnal and Zhurnaly for quick clues as to what this is all about; see Random for a random page. Briefly, this is the diary of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... previous volume = 0.9923 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ...
|"A few years ago my fantasy was to lace up my shoes, go out, and run 20 miles without it being anything special. I never dreamed of doing it the day after running 30!" Three white-tailed deer cross the trail in front of Dr Stephanie. We're in Prince William Forest Park at sunrise, previewing the course of the Race That Shall Not Be Named.|
"Beware the Widowmaker!" Gusty winds sway trees. Half-fallen branches creek and groan, like a giant's violin bow scraping across rusty strings. Leaves blanket the earth. Stephanie trips on a hidden rock and falls hard, scraping a hip; I stumble on a concealed root and go down, tearing up a hand. We turn left instead of right and trot half a mile off course down Old Blacktop Road. I lose a glove. Our feet hurt. And It's All Good! (And Dr SF finds my glove!)
|"Is it Boxer Day?" Beautiful big brown dogs tug their owners along the trail. We start at 7:12am, ahead of the main group of runners but far behind Lucas who began solo in the dark. We find his aid-station-cooler in the woods, refuel, and text him thanks.|
"You're going the wrong way!" A speedy trio that passed us earlier is stopped at mile 15, confused at a trail intersection. They set off purposefully, but we call them back, turn their map around, show them where they are, and send them along the proper direction. Soon they're out of sight again.
"Let's try to be, not just to do!" We resolve not to obsess about achievement, not to worry so much about mileage, not to fret about the future. The shorter trail back is good, even if it leaves us under 18 miles. We give ourselves a gift of time to breathe, to think, to share stories, to take photos, to appreciate the beauty around us, and to get home and relax before starting to work on family duties. We're worth it!
- Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 05:30:25 (EST)
... be kind to yourself, forgive your mistakes, and feel compassion not just for others but for you!
... and as Toni Bernhard says in Chapter 16 ("Compassion: Start with Yourself") of her book How to Wake Up, "... there's no limit to what you can feel compassion for yourself over — even your inability to be self-compassionate!" (that's rather meta-metta, eh?!)
(cf. Essence of Metta (2015-09-01), Mantra - Be Your Own Best Friend (2016-02-16), Mantra - Forgiven (2016-08-02), ...)
- Friday, December 30, 2016 at 04:53:13 (EST)
|"Bald eagle!" says a passing cyclist near Daingerfield Island. One majestic bird is soon joined by another. We stand in awe as the pair perches close by the Mount Vernon Trail, then takes wing. "Almost as good as seeing unicorns!" we agree. "PFA — does that stand for Pretty Fonda Awesome?" someone asks.|
Today the Dawn Patrol makes its farthest journey ever, escorted by kind Dr Stephanie. It's a windy-brisk day, meandering through corners of DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Passing mile 26.2 we pause for fist-bumps: Drs K&K are ultrarunners now. Brava to both!
"Puppies — gotta love 'em!" A young blue French bulldog greets the gang at the bridge over Four Mile Run. Kristin reports that her smart doggie "B/W" is settling down nicely now that he has a cuddly snuggle-doll to keep him company. Kerry is shopping for new Christmas decorations after her pup Sid mistakes ornaments for chew-toys. Stephanie's little Louis remains a Force of Nature, enjoying himself beyond all bounds of decorum.
No aid stations needed today: we enjoy the hospitality of half a dozen Starbucks and the friendly Firehook Bakery. A typo-troubled sign flashes "TRAFFIC INFORCED HERE" and adds the admonition "OBEY ALL LAWS". Holiday lights sparkle along the avenues of Alexandria. The rising sun tints the Washington Monument flamingo-pink.
|"They'll still be there when you get back!" Kerry advises against using household chores or work obligations as excuses not to undertake arduous adventures like long runs. Good argument!|
Our route proceeds down the Potomac waterfront and across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, after a digression to visit the southernmost DC Boundary Stone set in place at Jones Point in 1791. A goose takes off from the bay at National Harbor like a stone skipping over the water, wingtips leaving a dotted line of ripples. Construction is underway for the "ICE!" show at Gaylord National Resort. "Parka Return Here" reads a sign. The huge new MGM hotel and casino is almost ready to open. Trail talk includes memories of labor and childbirth, analysis of the psychology of hair styles, and debate over what post-run pizza toppings are tastiest.
Back again to our start at Potomac Yard Center we drop off night gear and proceed north to DC. Another bald eagle cruises low above the Memorial Bridge. "Will it fly ahead and perch on Abraham Lincoln's statue for us?" A squad of young US Marines out for a run pauses at the Korean War Memorial and salutes as we pass.
"We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all our citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization." Those words and other inscriptions at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial are particularly moving today. After checking out George Mason's statue we visit Thomas Jefferson and then cross the 14th Street Bridge into Virginia.
Nearing our start but a few miles short of the magic "30" according to GPS, we detour along the southern shore of Four Mile Run and return via sidewalks by busy Glebe Road — tired, hungry, happy, proud. It's a beautiful day full of wonderful memories. Thanks be for friends and health and safe places to share adventure!
(trackfile) - ^z
- Thursday, December 29, 2016 at 05:30:57 (EST)
In Chapter 8 ("Tools for Sharpening Your Mindfulness Skills") of Toni Bernhard's How to Wake Up, the discussion "Cut Back on Multitasking" concludes with a funny-insightful tale about Seung Sahn, a Korean Zen master:
... A woman came into a room at his Zen center in Providence, Rhode Island, and saw him eating breakfast while reading the morning newspaper. She said, "But master, you said that when eating we should only eat, and when reading we should only read!" He looked up and laughed: "When you eat and read, just eat and read."
- Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 04:55:18 (EST)
|Very little grows on jagged rock.|
Be ground. Be crumbled,
So wildflowers will come up
Where you are.
You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different.
... from a Rumi poem, "Surrender", as translated/rendered by Coleman Barks ...
(cf. Mantra - Soften Into Experience (2014-11-26), Mantra - Be Earth (2016-10-03), ...)
- Tuesday, December 27, 2016 at 05:15:38 (EST)
"Daddy, you're holding things up!" Kristin's six-year-old daughter wakes her father from a Thanksgiving afternoon nap. He's on the Critical Path to make stuffing for the family meal. On a foggy-soggy morning we meander through Pimmit Hills, admiring early Xmas lawn decorations, sharing bizarre dream-race stories, recounting puppy training tales, and greeting pre-dawn walkers. New flashlights and reflective harness keep us safe from sleepy commuters. Red-green holiday projectors shine moving patterns of dots onto homes. Stand in front of one, and "Yow!" get a laser beam in the eye.
- Monday, December 26, 2016 at 06:15:07 (EST)
Sudden realization during Taiji last week: it's all about nothing!
... all and all and lots of nothing — pointless, essential ...
(cf. Nothingness Shows Through (2005-12-06), Atheist Spirituality (2009-01-29), Nothing But Faith in Nothing (2014-09-07), It is Thou (2014-09-24), Groundlessness (2015-02-27), Mantra - Vast Emptiness Everything Sacred (2015-03-17), Mantra - Cling to Nothing (2016-04-17), Mantra - Be the Silence (2016-12-10), ...)
- Sunday, December 25, 2016 at 05:01:41 (EST)
"Ichi, ni, san, shi, go!" Sako Narita gives a tutorial in Japanese counting. She's training for the Disney Marathon in January and today's trek adds ~20% to her longest prior distance. We celebrate at mile 20 with a fist-bump. Brava!
Sakurako shares stories of family and childhood. She rolls her R's beautifully, thanks to early Hungarian language training; her mom studied the Kodály Method for teaching music. Our route includes a loop around the new Wheaton High School in search of a track (alas, it's still under construction) and a pause for hot coffee at McDonalds. Brookside Gardens offers photo opportunities at the Tea Room. We divert for quick visits with Robin Zimmermann and Barry Smith. To add distance (GPS trackfile has a 2 mile, 30 minute prelude from my home to Sako's starting point near the Mormon Temple) we take a mini-tour of the National Park Seminary. Discussions include the Imperial Palace grounds, shogi, koto, Shinto, and an anecdote involving a dead dog's ambulance ride. (Oops, that's trail talk!)
- Saturday, December 24, 2016 at 06:56:42 (EST)
From Chapter 7 ("The Mindfulness Path") of Toni Bernhard's How to Wake Up:
Moment-to-moment experience does not arise according to our desires. Sometimes the moment is pleasant; sometimes it's unpleasant. Cultivating mindfulness trains us to be calmly present for life's ever-changing joys and sorrows. This calmness of mind frees us from the suffering that arises when we cling to joy and resist sorrow.
Because unpleasant experiences are an inevitable part of life, mindfulness is not synonymous with joy: if you have a headache or have just fought with your partner or your children, careful attention to the present moment is not a joyful, pleasant experience. But mindfulness can be synonymous with waking up: this is how things are. Just this moment. Just this headache. Just this heartache. With practice, we can learn to respond to our experience with unconditional openness, even if that experience is painful—even if that experience breaks our hearts.
(cf. Bodhichitta, Maitri, Shunyata (2014-07-16), Wings of Acceptance (2015-05-26), Mantra - It Is What It Is (2016-03-06), Mantra - As It Is (2016-06-18), ...)
- Friday, December 23, 2016 at 04:16:56 (EST)
"My longest streak was 10 years!" Stephen A. Gould, Sirisha ("Iris") Golla, and a motley crew of VHTRC comrades trek this morning along the Maryland side of the Potomac River. It's a beautiful day for a Turkey Trot, cool with intermittent light showers. Golden-brown leaves blanket rocks and roots. A great blue heron poses for pics in the C&O Canal.
"We should stop clinging to goals!" Starting at the Old Anglers Inn we capture a position of power at the back of the pack. Upon gentle interrogation Stephen admits to running 3+ miles daily for far too many years in a row, and to once meeting namesake Stephen J. Gould, the late scientist-author. Today his knees are complaining, so conversation has time to reveal multiple ultras we've run together, multiple parks we've visited, and multiple other common threads, including a daughter currently visiting Mumbai and plans for upcoming long races.
"It's called chikki!" Sirisha shares squares of sweet sesame-honey trail food. She has run today's event several times, and leads us safely back via a maze of branching tracks through the woods. Thanksgiving plans include marinated baked tofu, fresh breads, and other delicacies.
- Thursday, December 22, 2016 at 05:17:07 (EST)
| Pull Back|
... from Adrienne Maree Brown:
Things are not getting worse.
They are getting uncovered.
We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.
(cf. Yes, Virginia (2004-12-26), Saying Yes to Life (2014-07-08), Veil of Separation (2015-10-14), Mantra - Go for the Moon (2016-07-18), ...)
- Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 04:39:38 (EST)
"I'm racing my nose!" Cait declares between sniffles, as she and Kerry trek along Ridge Road. A wrong turn leads to a dead end reward of sunrise glimpses through the trees. A lady walking her giant poodle directs us to the correct corner. Icicles form on the beard. We divert to explore a new cut-through, Dogwood Drive, past attractive architecture.
"You need to be my coach!" I tell Cait at the 200 meter point of a Lane 1 sprint around Langley High School's track. She runs like a greyhound and finishes the lap in 1:31, a second ahead of me. Kerry, big smile as always, cruises in comfortably just behind. "Wow - we need to do more intervals!" — an early resolution for 2017. Trail talk includes family Thanksgiving plans, movie recommendations, political analysis, and wedding preparations. "Send photos of the dresses — I'll crank up the estrogen!".
- Tuesday, December 20, 2016 at 20:55:49 (EST)
"You don't need an extreme bucket list to find happiness. Just eat more waffles" is an August 2016 essay by Mary Elizabeth Williams in The Guardian. It expresses great Zen wisdom, from the perspective of a cancer survivor. Her punch line:
... Life is happening now, and the whole big lesson I got out of almost losing it far sooner than I ever planned is to not put off anything that catches my curiosity or moves my heart.
Anything, however insignificant it seems. The smaller the better, in fact, because of ease and immediacy. And if you see me at the table next to you at the diner sometime, eating waffles, know that you are looking at a woman who is absolutely crushing it on her bucket list.
No need to be dramatic ("... jump out of airplanes ...") or large-scale. Just remember: live now ...
(cf. Not Always So (2009-07-04), Power of Now (2011-12-14), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), Attention (2015-03-03), ... )
- Monday, December 19, 2016 at 04:31:57 (EST)
"That sounds like a dare!" is the response to Kerry when she says she doesn't know where Clinton Place leads — so of course we have to explore it! The Dawn Patrol surveys a new cut-through, admires the homes of Holyrood Drive, and discovers that Wemberly Way and looping Lupine Lane connect back to Benjamin Street. Other groups of early runners encounter us repeatedly as we meander.
Kristin spies lights ahead that look like birthday candles. "So where's the cake?" A man holds a wee baby up to the window to watch us pass by. A lawn sculpture embodies see-no-evil/hear-no-evil/speak-no-evil. A pastel sunrise rewards our final mile.
- Sunday, December 18, 2016 at 20:59:11 (EST)
Chapter 7 ("The Mindfulness Path") of Toni Bernhard's How to Wake Up quotes Zen master Maureen Stuart:
Life is suffering, the Buddha taught, because we want some permanency, some guarantee. If we let go of this desire and just follow a path of doing finite things in an infinite way, then ordinary becomes extraordinary; secular is sacred. Preparing the food, washing the dishes; everything is a sacred act.
(from Chapter 15 ("Peace of Mind") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, edited by Sherry Chayat; cf. This Is Water (2009-05-21), What is Zen (2009-07-21), Zen Soup (2012-02-09), Mantra - Vast Emptiness Everything Sacred (2015-03-17), Learning to Pause (2015-08-10), ...)
- Friday, December 16, 2016 at 11:21:46 (EST)
"Aromatherapy!" Dr Kristin prescribes a potential answer to indoor winter blues, and in particular suggests sugar-cookie-scent to cheer the soul. Pink sunrise greets a Dawn Patrol duo this morning, running on behalf of those who are far away or have early-meeting conflicts.
Frost covers parked cars as a nearly-full moon sets. The gym scale reveals that every slice of pizza has done its evil work. We practice mindful listening, acceptance, non-judging, sharing. In spite of stress-headache-exhaustion and cold knees, there's so much to be thankful for in the world — not the least important of which are good friends.
- Thursday, December 15, 2016 at 05:23:08 (EST)
| Do Less,|
... especially when resources are limited, time is tight, and the situation is critical ...
... especially if it's not clear what to do, or how to do it ...
... especially as one gets older, and can't do as "much" or as rapidly as in former years ...
(kudos to bb-SMB; cf. Less More (2005-03-14), Do Without (2005-06-04), Do Less (2007-08-24), Let It All Go (2011-09-03), As Much Nothing as Possible (2016-08-05), ...)
- Wednesday, December 14, 2016 at 05:38:31 (EST)
|"Ha! Love seeing you stop mid-race to take a selfie!" A passing runner laughs at my attempt on the C&O Canal towpath to get a four-foot tall great blue heron into the image before it flies away.|
|Hours earlier, dawn at Clopper Lake paints the world in gold. Gulls honk and cruise low overhead in V-formation, sunlight glinting off the underside of their wings. Soon thereafter I stumble and fall on Mink Hollow Trail. Combing leaves out of my beard, a surprise discovery: icicles! It's a perfect day, and the resulting sub-14 min/mi average pace is a new Personal Best at this race. I only go off-course once, for ~10 minutes of bonus mileage.|
Plus there are good lessons-learned, especially at mile ~20 after a major stream crossing: it's not wise to take off your wet socks and wring them out, without taking off your gloves first!
|"And now we just have to be kinder — to everyone!", a runner tells her companion what she concludes from the latest election results. I step off the trail for them to pass, and give her a namaste-salute.|
(trackfile; prior races here include 2011-11-19 - Stone Mill 50 Miler DNF, 2012-11-17 - Stone Mill 75k, 2013-11-16 - MCRRC Stone Mill 50 Mile Race, 2014-11-15 - Stone Mill 50 Miler, 2015-11-14 - Stone Mill 50 Miler, ...)
- Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 05:03:21 (EST)
Boff Whalley, former lead guitarist for an anarcho-punk band, is a trail runner. Bits of his 2012 book Run Wild appear in "I Get Knocked Down by the Hill, but I Get Up Again" that was published in the New York Times Sunday magazine in November 2016. The book itself is a fast romp through a year of Whalley's rambles and musings, along with flashbacks to his youth.
There's fine poetry and insight in Run Wild — but there's also far too much jeremiad: repetitive carping about big marathons, tired complaints about cars and road running and fancy shoes and gyms, and uncharitable mocking of plodding joggers. There's silly-bad math, e.g., in Chapter 10 during a screed about the New York City Marathon, where the multiplication is wrong by three orders of magnitude and various other figures cited are clearly impossible. And when Whalley channels Thoreau his prose slips even farther into the bleating zone.
But leap across those cracks and much good remains. From the Introduction, for instance:
The band is called Chumbawamba and, to most people, we had just one 'hit' song, called 'Tubthumping', that was built around a chorus of: I get knocked down, but I get up again. Which, funnily enough, is incredibly apt as a description of trail running. Self-determination. Falling, pulling yourself up, carrying on. Optimism and confidence. Tree roots, loose rocks, mud and bloody scrapes. And always, despite every fall and trip, every lung-bursting climb that brings you to your knees, getting up again.
And in Chapter 1, describing a chill December run in northwest England:
A quick change and I'm off, running straight out of the town of Ambleside and onto small lanes winding outwards and upwards, lanes becoming tracks becoming trails becoming the vaguest of paths, all under snow. The sunlight grows redder behind me and it begins to get cooler and darker. Up, up, up towards the skyline hanging like a starched apron between Dove Crag and Red Screes until, after an hour, I crest the top at its lowest point. It's getting dark now, properly dark, the cloudless sky losing the last thin thread of an orange glow, but fortunately I can see well enough to follow the route, to watch my own feet in the deepening snow, and it's easy to see the summit of Red Screes off to the east, where I'm headed. As I top one more low, false summit there's a sudden blast of light, bright and shocking. I stop. It's the moon, right in front of me, a huge glow-in-the-dark disc, big as a planet. I reach the ridge and stand with the last of the sunlight behind me and the fierce glow of the moon in front; I have two shadows.
On up to the mountain's peak, only 6 p.m. and the stars coming out. Puffing and panting through the snowdrifts and jogging, heavy footed, into the understated drama of the mountain's high point, a plateau with two small tarns hemmed in by tumbledown rocks. I stop for a few minutes, turning to follow the circumference, an unbroken circle of uneven, spectacular horizon. The snow is sparkling in tiny random twinkles in the moonlight, and the lights of small Lakeland villages gather and cluster far below. It's almost Christmas, and I'm the only person in the world with this view. I haven't got a camera, but I have a memory now, a memory I can carry around forever. And this, all of it, the dark sky and white mountains, the moonlight, the sparkling, untrodden snow, and my two studded feet planted into the landscape — this is what I call running.
Yes! This is running!
(cf. 2008-03-23 - Sunrise Service at Seneca Creek (2008-03-24), Mantra - Vast Emptiness Everything Sacred (2015-03-17), Up Again (2016-12-04), ...)
- Monday, December 12, 2016 at 04:28:22 (EST)
"You REALLY don't know what that word means?" Dr Mary is astounded at her friend's level of naïveté, and as he blushes supplements her tutorial with examples from recent "South Park" episodes. Great Falls National Park glows golden this morning, with steep descents on the rocky Ridge Trail. A red-headed woodpecker pokes at a stump, then flies up to perch on a dead tree trunk. A young deer stands close to the path and stares. Conversation covers cognitive fallacies, yoga pants (yay!), evolutionary psychology, Internet trolls, current US politics, and long-term plans to long-distance speed-hike with friends.
Earth is such a beautiful planet — much love to it, and its inhabitants!
(trackfile ... plus a solo prelude walk upstream, ~1.1 miles @ ~16.9 min/mi as per earlier trackfile ...)
- Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 06:32:33 (EST)
| Be the|
... the pause between words
... the chasm separating mountains
... the yin that defines the yang
... the void that surrounds and embraces every thing ...
(cf. No Method (2010-01-21), Empty Cup (2012-05-08), Space Between (2013-10-15), Nothing But Faith in Nothing (2014-09-07), Mantra - Pause and Breathe (2015-02-25), Mantra - Vast Emptiness Everything Sacred (2015-03-17), Mindfulness of the Body (2015-06-14), Betwixt (2015-07-04), Mantra - Gap (2015-11-11), Seeking Negative Space (2016-04-21), Holding Space (2016-07-22), ...)
- Saturday, December 10, 2016 at 10:29:39 (EST)
"Or we could split up, like in a horror movie!" Kerry suggests two routes through McLean Central Park, both equally attractive. We pick the one less-traveled and scout the 'hood to prep for back-road rush-hour commute detours.
"Amazing how happy one feels after a run with friends!" Not to mention the benefits of Iced Coffee Therapy: Kristin leads the Dawn Patrol through light rain to Starbucks. Autumn leaves drift down and coat slippery wooden bridges. Life goes on. Conversation includes Trail Talk about world affairs, happy family news, and plans for upcoming travel. Soundtrack: "Red Rain" vs. "Behind Blue Eyes", plus allusions to "It's My Party" and "Story of My Life". It is what it is, and it's all good!
- Friday, December 09, 2016 at 04:26:54 (EST)
| Most letters|
- Thursday, December 08, 2016 at 04:43:32 (EST)
"Sun Dog!" A bright spot of light floats above the eastern horizon as the Dawn Patrol loops through Tysons Corner. (But maybe it's actually a "Solar Pillar" or "False Sunrise" phenomenon?) Kristin foresees a hectic week of evening STEM activities with her kids. Cait reports that wedding plans are almost done already — cake, DJ, officiant, rings, dress, etc. — yay! Kerry runs this morning to recover from a too-busy weekend of too-little sleep and too-much work.
Pace is brisk, thanks to crisp November air and early meetings to prep for. Kristin spies a huge hawk, perched on a gable peak. It takes wing at our approach. Four jet contrails arc high across the sky.
- Wednesday, December 07, 2016 at 04:18:39 (EST)
In Chapter 4 ("Want/Don't Want: The Unquenchable Thirst") of Toni Bernhard's How to Wake Up a suggestion of how to handle desire without invoking meta-desire:
... Rather than trying to force a desire out of our minds with yet another desire—the desire to be rid of the desire—I suggest the more compassionate let it be.
Simply be aware of the presence of the desire in question, acknowledging that not all desires can be satisfied, and allowing compassion to arise for whatever suffering the desire is causing. ...
... that is, holding one's self in lovingkindness ...
(cf. Heartfulness and Mindfulness (2014-12-15), Radical Acceptance (2015-05-13), Mantra - Let Go and Let Be (2015-12-02), ...)
- Tuesday, December 06, 2016 at 05:15:33 (EST)
|"Kids, let the hikers through!" says a father. At mile ~19 Ken Swab and I overtake a family out for a stroll near Turkey Run Park and yes, we're mostly hiking now. Our ramble through the lovely woods is fun and uneventful — other than missing turns and going off-course briefly for bonus mileage at several places. No problem!|
"Thank you, but not right now!" is what I should have said at mile ~25 when offered two jalapeño quesadillas by a kind volunteer at the Chain Bridge aid station. Instead, every quarter mile thereafter as my digestive system, uh, complains, poor Ken hears a voice say "Quesadilla!"
Nonetheless, it's all good. We finish in about 9.5 hours. Graffiti underneath bridges is bright, weather is near-perfect, terrain is beautiful, and people we meet along the way are splendid. As usual!
(trackfile; cf. Potomac Heritage 50k 2007, 2009-11-01 - Potomac Heritage 50k 2009, 2010-11-07 - Potomac Heritage 50k + Potomac Heritage Trail 50k 2010, and 2014-11-02 - Potomac Heritage 50k, 2015-11-08 - Potomac Heritage 50k, and Ken Swab's report, ...)
- Monday, December 05, 2016 at 04:49:12 (EST)
| I knock me down,|
But I get up again —
'Cause I'm never gonna keep me down!
(with a hat-tip to "Tubthumping", the 1997 song by the British anarcho-punk group Chumbawamba; and cf. Come SAIL Away (2011-11-26), Mantra - Be Your Own Best Friend (2016-02-16), Mantra - Forgiven (2016-08-02), ...)
- Sunday, December 04, 2016 at 06:34:58 (EST)
"Mark, does the term 'Batsh*t Crazy' mean anything to you?" Sara Crum is in town for a quick work-visit, and gently critiques my training regime. She and Gayatri set out early along Rock Creek Trail, logging some sunrise miles before the rendezvous with Rebecca, Barry, and Ken. Even Apple's iPhone Siri's language is surprisingly earthy today; she takes dictation for a text-message and mistranscribes "fog on the meadow" with the F-word instead of "fog". Hmmmmm!
"For the past six weeks our front door has been a sheet of plywood nailed over the opening!" Home improvement sometimes encounters stress-provoking delays. Likewise bedfellows and neighbors sometimes diverge in their politics. Trail Talk therapy is helpful in treating that!
It's a brisk morning, frosty grass, car thermometer 36 F. Deer watch, then retreat. Birds take wing with loud calls. Leaves are changing color and falling along the trail. Gayatri tells of her recent trip to India and of progress for her suicide-prevention foundation. New friend Andrea (stress the first syllable!) introduces herself, trots down Rock Creek Trail with the gang, and instantly fits in. She runs half-marathons, has a teenage daughter and a younger son. We chat about families, share anecdotes, commiserate re common frustrations, pause for group photos, and hope to meet again soon!
- Saturday, December 03, 2016 at 05:11:11 (EST)
In Toni Bernhard's How to Wake Up near the end of Chapter 3 ("Can't Get No Satisfaction"), after a wonderful quote from Byron Katie ("You can argue with the way things are. You'll lose, but only 100% of the time.") the author describes a humorous-loving "complaint practice" that she credits to her husband:
... "It's too cold in here," one of us declares and the other responds: "Complaint!" "It's too hot in here." Complaint! "You never turn the lights out when you leave a room." Complaint! "There's nothing on TV." Complaint! "Politicians should stop fighting with each other." Complaint! ...
Bernhard recommends it as an aid to recognizing dissatisfaction ("dukkha") and thereby relieving it ...
- Friday, December 02, 2016 at 03:31:16 (EST)
"DFL! DFL! DFL!" Results have been posted for the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon team competition, and the Dawn Patrol captures Last Place honors not just in its own category but across all entries. Yay!
"Normal people ramp up their mileage, peak, taper, race, then must recover. WE can do a marathon or 50k any time we want!" Kristin and Kerry commence comparing calendars, seeking optimal dates to run long. Cait unembargoes Great News: a wedding is in her near future! We brainstorm plans and priorities. Her attitude is perfect: "That day isn't important - it's all that comes after!"
We take a wrong turn, loop through McLean Manor, and eventually find our way to Starbucks where Kerry explains how to place a proper order. (Flat white? Long black? Toto, we're not in Australia anymore!) Trail talk concerns chafing in delicate locations and ways to deal with it.
- Thursday, December 01, 2016 at 05:22:21 (EST)
|Body, treat your mind well:|
Breathe for it
Send it news of the world
Distract it when it panics
Put it to sleep if it becomes weary
Tickle it with joy beyond its comprehension
And when you've finished, send it back
To where it all began.
- Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 04:10:59 (EST)
"That's WONDERFUL!" The Dawn Patrol shares awesome-happy news (still embargoed) — and since engineers are involved discussions inevitably include system process diagrams, critical path methods, the simplex algorithm, decision criteria, optimal scheduling, and rearrangement of virtual sticky-notes ... all accompanied by Halloween jack-o-lantern-sized smiles. Kristin and I shake out twinges after Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon. Cait stretches the legs before a Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas half marathon 11 days in her future. What a fine morning!
"You look like ninjas!" Apparently it's Black Pajama Day for the exercise group at the library parking lot. We ramble through Tysons Pimmit Park cautiously, since one of us forgot his flashlight. Pause to peer northward at 0625 but spy no Iridium satellite flare through thick clouds. Rabbit count = 1.
- Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 04:25:03 (EST)
|Like tea leaves|
Unfolding in hot water
Acts of kindness
Infuse the world
- Monday, November 28, 2016 at 04:20:03 (EST)
|"Just another long run for the Dawn Patrol!"|
No drama today: the second marathon for Dr Kristin and Dr Kerry proceeds uneventfully — if "uneventfully" means a comfortable ~6:06 result, ~15 minutes faster than last year in spite of near-record heat and high humidity. Alas, only one unicorn appears (a rainbow-maned balloon creature).
As planned The Team meets at 0645 in Rosslyn at the Metro and strolls a mile or so to the starting area. Our training has been good, a gradual ramp-up of distance combined with sedulous injury avoidance and careful experimentation with nutrition, hydration, electrolyte balance, and garb during long runs. We try not to cling to goals, and vow to accept whatever the day brings.
|"It's a kilt, not a skirt!" says the fellow standing near us before the race begins, when asked whether he's "full regimental". His minimalism also extends to running barefoot. Wow!|
"Now we're getting serious!" Kristin observes when Kerry doffs her outer layer as the day begins to warm. At mile ~5, where Key Bridge enters Georgetown in DC, ultra-comrade Dr Stephanie meets us.
"Don't believe anything that we say about each other!" both Stephanie and I warn. A dozen miles of cheerful-frank Trail Talk ensues. We spy Dr Betty Smith at mile ~6 and chat with her; she's still awesome-strong in her mid-70s. Wow!
"Sir, you can do this!" a young lady tells me as she passes us during a walk break. Stephanie takes umbrage and has to be restrained from telling the woman, "He's an ultrarunner — this is nothing!" She also refrains from mentioning her 11 mile scamper to the race this morning from her home in Maryland, and my pre-dawn odyssey. At the National Mall Dr Stephanie branches off to trot back to her home. Wow!
|"No photos, please — we're doing drugs!" With the US Capitol in the background a cameraman captures us sharing capsules of blue naproxen sodium gel ("Aleve") and white electrolyte powder ("Succeed!"). Chemistry works — we reach the critical 14th Street Bridge with plenty of time to spare.|
Midway across the Potomac K&K reenact their Jersey barrier stretch from last year (see 2015-10-25 - Marine Corps Marathon). We play leapfrog with other runners, repeatedly passing and being passed by pair of ladies in bright tights we saw at the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon in September.
"BEAST MODE: ON!" says a spectator's sign. Beard jokes abound, as does current Presidential-political humor. Costumed racers suffer from the heat but persevere.
This year there's plenty of swag for finishers: a massive medal, boxes of food, bananas, water/Gatorade. En route I pick up a dozen unopened energy gel packets from the road — so many that my shorts start to fall down from the extra weight in their pockets. Roadside trash cans and midden heaps yield several nearly-new headbands, neck-scarves, and arm-warmer sleeves. Woot!
"We could still run some more!" is the verdict at the finish line.
- Sunday, November 27, 2016 at 08:49:58 (EST)
"Peaceful, easy feeling" — lyric for the solo jog from home to Rosslyn. The DC Metro system doesn't open early enough to reach year's Marine Corps Marathon start in time and parking costs too much, so why not go on foot? Leaving home at 0430 makes for a calm journey, with one rabbit sighting and one portajohn visit at a convenient construction site on the way. In Georgetown young Marines set up aid stations, direct traffic, and check their cellphones. Drs Kerry and Kristin arrive at the rendezvous point as planned and all's well for the Dawn Patrol's second MCM together!
- Saturday, November 26, 2016 at 05:48:01 (EST)
|Like the squeaky step on the staircase,|
When you're coming home late:
Sneak past it?
Tiptoe over it?
Tread on it, wake the family,
And embrace the shame with pride!
- Friday, November 25, 2016 at 05:26:56 (EST)
"Jefferson? He wasn't anywhere CLOSE to Adams!" says Dr Mary, hiking along the Cabin John Stream Valley Trail. We debate genius versus flaw, success versus circumstance. Society has come a long way, has a long way yet to go. A blue jay flits across the path to hide in a stand of bamboo. Above the creek a Frank Lloyd Wright house tempts someone into bushwhacking for a photo op. Polite cyclists and off-leash dogs scoot past.
"Don't pulverize your femur!", wisdom re accident avoidance on the steep hills, rocky and rooty. A two-point buck poses for the camera. Post-trek lunch at nearby Attman's Deli more than cancels out calories burned, alas.
- Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 06:15:43 (EST)
"Curse you, Autocorrect!" My text-message to Caitlin, synchronizing arrival for today's Dawn Patrol run, has a highly unprofessional typo. She forgives: "Lol, I needed a good laugh today! Thank you :)" We both recall worse mistakes, including embarrassing texts sent inadvertently to the wrong recipient. Mom, please ignore!
A Halloween yard near mile 3 features Dia de los Muertos skull, Despicable Me minion, ghostly totem pole, trick-or-treating dog, Hello Kitty witch, plus yet-to-be-inflated creatures including a giant dragon-snake. Cait's hip flexors and my right ankle are iffy but tolerable. Gusty winds make 50-degree temps feel brisk. The old moon rises next to Jupiter, blurred by low haze. Trail talk includes process flow diagrams for cat-box systems engineering.
- Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 06:13:16 (EST)
Poorly-poetic translation? Prior-generation amorality? Misunderstood-ergodicity? First-world problems of an Angst-ridden, exiled, aging author? Deep political-philosophical insight overlaid with proto-pornography? Prudish, picky, envious, and/or unsympathetic reviewer? ... <sigh> ...
For whatever reason(s), upon recent reading Milan Kundera's much-praised and high-literary novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being falls, rather than floats. Distracting implied racism from the first pages? (Do African lives count for nothing compared to those lost in the French Revolution?) Near-constant male-oriented voyeurism and sexism? (beginning with "But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body.") Near-constant focus on coincidence vs choice, fortune vs fate? Overly-mystical philosophizing about mathematical recurrence, but without any equations?
There are admittedly rhapsodic moments:
But then, so much literary erotica — existentialist-meaningless sex-scenes shot through testosterone-tinted filters:
Does the context of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia give gravitas to otherwise-pointless prose? Is the disclaimer disingenuous, that the author's characters aren't aspects of himself, real or imaginary? Whence the aside, "... The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented. ..."?
... <big sigh> ...
- Wednesday, November 23, 2016 at 05:00:56 (EST)
"Fox!" It's small and definitely red, with bushy tail and thick coat to insulate against pre-dawn frost. By headlamp and flashlight Kerry and Kristin identify the creature lurking by Anderson Road. It flees as we near, circles back behind us, then runs ahead to dig through grass in search of something. Perhaps a mouse?
"The few, the proud!" Hardy exercisers gather in the library parking lot. A dozen Halloween lawn decorations lie deflated, dark lumps on the grass at the corner of Storm and Pimmit. Front doors feature DIY ghosts with paper-plate eyes. Other houses show generic seasonal displays, red and green lights juxtaposed with pumpkins and cobwebs. A chilly dog watches us as it awaits readmission to its home. A rabbit scoots across a yard, and several blocks later a gray cat crosses the road. Today's trot is the last planned this week. Fingers-crossed: no major injury or illness before this Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon!
- Tuesday, November 22, 2016 at 04:44:47 (EST)
PRIVATE ROAD - NO TRESPASSING, says the sign at the entrance to Hickory Hill Avenue. "Do you think that means us?" someone asks. "No!" is the obvious answer. It's terra incognita, one of the few lanes in McLean that the Dawn Patrol has yet to investigate. Kerry and I follow the gravel street past lovely homes to a dead-end brushy slope. Half a mile later we're looking up from the bottom of that same hillside as we trot along a creek-side path through the woods. Small world!
On aptly-named Dead Run Drive a life-sized skeleton holds the leash of an equally bony dog. Three deer munch the grass beside the central library and eye us fearlessly as we pass close by. Within two blocks of our finish line the GPS shows us just above 12 min/mi pace. "Final sprint - start your kick now - GO!".
- Tuesday, November 22, 2016 at 04:41:19 (EST)
|Like a clearing in the forest|
Surrounded by fire but not yet ablaze —
Nothing that happens here will be remembered.
Nothing will survive here.
Nothing but ashes will remain here.
So here is where we must hug.
Here we must whisper, "I love you."
Here is where we must do
The meaningless, the forgotten, the unknown.
(cf. 2008-03-23 - Sunrise Service at Seneca Creek (2008-03-28), Lost Mind (2013-04-05), Vast Openness (2014-10-16), ...)
- Monday, November 21, 2016 at 06:41:26 (EST)
"Sorry, man — didn't mean to invade your space!" apologizes the pitcher after an inadvertent brushback ball. Barry leads a Sunday afternoon ramble along Sligo Creek and around Wheaton Regional Park. Old men take the field for Ponce de Leon League baseball games. Barry drinks from the water fountain nearby, but youth remains elusive. Brilliant-hued autumn leaves and garish Halloween decorations provide ample pretexts for photo pauses.
- Sunday, November 20, 2016 at 20:56:57 (EST)
| Always Keep|
... stay strong, take care of yourself, and you'll be better able to help others when they need you! (remembering of course that there are no "others")
... and as the joke goes, there are Two Great Secrets in life; "Keep something in reserve" is the first.
(cf. Strong and Lasting (2013-02-02), ...)
- Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 06:33:24 (EST)
|"It's an ULTRA, not an ACCURATE!" Stephanie tells the guys standing around an unmanned aid station, debating how much farther they have to go. We're doing the Patapsco Valley 50k (which turns out to be quite close to 50 km by my GPS). The day is beautiful, chill and windy, and the course is likewise lovely with steep hills, wide meadows, waterfalls, stream crossings, and lots of rocks and roots to trip on. Thankfully we don't stumble (much), though by the final miles my right ankle is rather achy.|
|After one climb we find a rescue squad clustered around a man strapped into a stretcher. He's grinning, and it looks like an evacuation exercise rather than an emergency. Tiny blue flowers line the trail. Stephanie points out places where last year, running solo, she missed turns and repeated loops for multiple bonus miles.|
|A furry caterpillar crawls along a railing that we have to clamber over. "Don't crush it!" I beg the runner behind me. Weathered stone arches lead into tunnels along the "Old Main Line" of the B&O Railroad. Trail talk, as always, ranges across the cosmos of ideas and experiences. Wind gusts of 30+ mi/hr roar through the treetops. Gigantic leaves, blown down perhaps from paulownia trees, bring fig-leaf Freudian associations to mind, as does a huge cleft boulder that we climb. Say no more!|
|"Be Awesome!" is our advice to a young woman struggling up a hill who admits she feels tempted to drop at mile 20. Comrade John Hord runs with us mid-race; multiple other good friends greet us before/during/after the event. (Hi, amazing Adeline!) We pursue "The Pink Lady", who turns out to be Carol, an Ironman and grandmother enjoying her second ultramarathon. We sprint the final mile to the finish and collect our reward: hand-made ceramic mugs. Neat!|
- Friday, November 18, 2016 at 08:19:20 (EST)
|Moon, in an odd corner of the sky|
Wink, sigh, dissonant chord
Crimson flicker, sly allusion
Glimpse of flesh, arching curve
Bad pun, clock tick
Scent of fresh-baked bread ...
Thanks be, for all lovely surprises!
- Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 04:44:35 (EST)
"I OK!" Caitlin reports her 3-year-old niece's declaration when she falls but is uninjured. In the opposite case, a tearful "No 'Man up'!" was Kristin's daughter's response at that age to Mom's suggestion that she shrug off pain.
And speaking of twinges, both Kristin's right knee and my right ankle are iffy today, so we cut short the survey of Halloween decorations and close the loop after only an hour. Faux-cobwebs are in vogue this season, as are skeletons emerging from the earth, giant inflated creatures, pumpkin pyramids, and orange light arrays. At least five cats, two dogs, and a possible raccoon are on watch this morning. A waning moon is within a degree of Aldebaran.
- Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 04:14:09 (EST)
... at meetings, after conversations, when something needs to get done ... for the record, to avoid confusion ... and above all, to clear your mind so it can be more relaxed and creative and aware!
|Write It Down!|
(cf. Practical Productivity (2004-01-20), Helpful Homilies (2007-09-02), Ementor Emantras (2011-05-02), Mind Like Water (2011-12-24), Mindless Mind (2012-10-06), ...)
- Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 07:06:38 (EST)
|"It looks like the edge of the world!" says Kristin, as fog shrouds the Potomac. After briefly debating the route we cross the Woodrow Wilson Bridge from Virginia, touch the southern point of DC and loop through National Harbor in Maryland, pausing for photos at statues and scenery. It's an awesome-cool adventure, a last long trek for Drs Kerry and Kristin before the Marine Corps Marathon.|
Sunrise is a golden gift, cirrus clouds creamy pastel pink. Jets rumble and morning commuter traffic roars. A small pack of Australians greet us as they pass. The Capital Wheel reflects in the river.
"I'm here!" — a personal mantra, shared. Important to remember: we're all here for each other. Always.
At mile 13 somebody notes that, unlike years past when there was a rush within a mile or two, "Now I just don't feel that runner's high any more." The reply: "Hmmmm ... maybe you don't notice it because now you're always feeling it?"
On the way to the showers afterwards, meet Al Manning. Last week he finished a Quintuple Ironman, swimming 12 miles, cycling 560, running 131. Bow down and tell him, "I am not worthy!" He kindly awards a fist-bump anyway ...
- Monday, November 14, 2016 at 04:30:13 (EST)
From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Chapter 16 ("What's in It for You"):
... You search for that thing you call "me," but what you find is a physical body and how you have identified your sense of yourself with that bag of skin and bones. You search further and you find all manner of mental phenomena, such as emotions, thought patterns and opinions, and see how you identify the sense of yourself with each of them. You watch yourself becoming possessive, protective and defensive over these pitiful things and you see how crazy that is. You rummage furiously among these various items, constantly searching for yourself — physical matter, bodily sensations, feelings and emotions — it all keeps whirling round and round as you root through it, peering into every nook and cranny, endlessly hunting for "me."
You find nothing. In all that collection of mental hardware in this endless stream of ever-shifting experience all you can find is innumerable impersonal processes which have been caused and conditioned by previous processes. There is no static self to be found; it is all process. You find thoughts but no thinker, you find emotions and desires, but nobody doing them. The house itself is empty. There is nobody home.
Your whole view of self changes at this point. You begin to look upon yourself as if you were a newspaper photograph. When viewed with the naked eyes, the photograph you see is a definite image. When viewed through a magnifying glass, it all breaks down into an intricate configuration of dots. Similarly, under the penetrating gaze of mindfulness, the feeling of self, an "I" or '"being" anything, loses its solidity and dissolves. There comes a point in insight meditation where the three characteristics of existence — impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness — come rushing home with concept-searing force. You vividly experience the impermanence of life, the suffering nature of human existence, and the truth of no-self. You experience these things so graphically that you suddenly awake to the utter futility of craving, grasping and resistance. In the clarity and purity of this profound moment, our consciousness is transformed. The entity of self evaporates. All that is left is an infinity of interrelated nonpersonal phenomena, which are conditioned and ever changing. Craving is extinguished and a great burden is lifted. There remains only an effortless flow, without a trace of resistance or tension. There remains only peace, and blessed nibbana, the uncreated, is realized.
(cf. Unselfing (2009-01-14), Unselfing Again (2009-11-01), No Me (2016-01-18), Mantra - No Self (2016-10-25), ...)
- Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 16:56:45 (EST)
"Rhodesian Ridgeback!" the owner of an exotic dog reveals its breed. On the Matthew Henson Trail today we meet a Pomeranian, multiple mutts, and a Laurel-and-Hardy pair consisting of tiny poodle juxtaposed with mammoth St Bernard. "You need one in between," Ken tells the owner, "not too large, not too small, but just right!"
Sako is on her longest-ever training run, prep for an early-2017 marathon. Ten minutes before sunrise we set off downstream along Rock Creek, then reverse course to pick up Ken at the eponymous Ken-Gar. Sako humors me and allows a detour for a few bonus hill repeats. She's amused to learn I've visited Akihabara and that the fam includes fans of Japanese educational TV. Local marathon training groups greet us, as do 8 deer.
We keep the pace under control and finish strong. Trail talk topics include money, beer, and freedom. Yay, America!
- Saturday, November 12, 2016 at 03:14:37 (EST)
Toni Bernhard's "Buddhist-inspired guide to navigating joy and sorrow", How to Wake Up, is like many such books: distractingly, repetitively first-personal. The first few chapters do, however, showcase some well-stated and insightful gems. Three big challenges of life, in nutshells:
With careful, practiced attention, we can become acutely aware of the impermanence of everything in the moment. Seneca, the first-century Roman philosopher, said to count each day as a separate life. To me, this means that every moment is a fresh start. In the previous moment, we may have blamed ourselves for something, but in this moment, we can change that response to one of kindness and compassion toward ourselves. And if we miss that chance, the very next moment offers another fresh opportunity. Every moment holds the possibility of awakening to a feeling of peace and well-being.
Freedom comes from not clinging to any identity at all, whether we think of it as desirable or not. Not becoming attached to identities we perceive as undesirable—depressed person, for example—frees us to think of ourselves as multidimensional, as opposed to being limited to a few painful characteristics. And not becoming attached to identities we perceive as desirable—law professor, for example—frees us from the suffering that will arise when those identities yield, as they inevitably will, to the law of impermanence.
It's important to recognize that "the cessation of dukkha" doesn't mean that we can put an end to life's unpleasant experiences. Bodies get sick and injured and grow old. In our emotional lives, we'll experience the grief of separation and loss. No one gets a pass on the ten thousand sorrows. By "the cessation of dukkha," the Buddha was referring to putting an end to the dissatisfaction we experience with our life however it happens to be at this moment.
Using emotions as an example, dukkha doesn't refer to the mere presence of an unpleasant emotion. It refers to our dissatisfaction with its presence. Dukkha arises when we resist a painful emotion instead of accepting that this is what we're feeling at the moment. Acknowledging the presence of an unpleasant experience is itself a moment of awakening because it's a moment of gracefully engaging our life as it is for us right now.
Metacognitive and enlightening that last is. In other words:
| It's ok to feel bad —|
but don't feel bad
about feeling bad!
More to follow ...
(cf. Unselfing (2009-01-14), Plenty of Time (2009-03-09), Unselfing Again (2009-11-01), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), No Me (2016-01-18), Mantra - No Self (2016-10-25), ...)
- Friday, November 11, 2016 at 06:33:53 (EST)
|"When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose!" Mary and I discuss letting-go — of the past, of judgments, of accomplishments and abilities, of limitations, of goals — and salute Nobel laureate Bob Dylan as we hike the hills of Great Falls National Park.|
Crowds near the Visitor Center thin quickly a few hundred yards down the old Carriage Trail. A cellphone tower disguised as an evergreen tree stands bolted to a concrete pad in the woods. A huge English Mastiff tugs on a leash held by a tiny girl. The Potomac splashes and churns over rocks below the Ridge Trail.
- Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 05:05:02 (EST)
"Let's skip the laps!" Kristin suggests as we approach the track. She and Cait lead the way past McLean High School and along Westmoreland Street. Headlights from a phalanx of bicycles simulate a big truck. Cute dogs greet us along the W&OD Trail. In honor of Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize we review other classic faves: Édith Piaf, meet the Traveling Wilburys! Trail talk includes injuries, politics, and weekend plans.
- Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 04:50:36 (EST)
Yesterday afternoon dear friends encourage each other. "Am focusing on good today," says one in a text-message. The other quotes from Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem "God's Grandeur":
| The world is charged with the grandeur of God.|
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
... and yes! — there is so much love and kindness and hope in the world — and after the darkest night ah! comes dawn ...
(cf. Thanks For (2001-11-22), Flying Eagle (2002-04-16), Saros Cycle (2003-11-06), Ode Less Traveled (2006-12-18), Tmesis (2010-02-09), 2010-10-09 - Andiamo 2010 (2010-10-16), ... )
- Wednesday, November 09, 2016 at 04:33:12 (EST)
"Nostalgia Tour!" Kerry names today's route, past well-remembered schools that her kids attended during the past dozen-plus years, by playgrounds and parks via newly-resurfaced pathways. Dense fog drifts across meadows and scatters flashlight beams. Kristin and Cait share family stories, including sibling size-rivalries and wrestling matches. Pet store visit observations include parrots perched on steering wheels and noisy engine-revving wars between a blue Lamborghini and a red Ferrari.
And then there are decision paradoxes: why is it so easy to pick a house or a spouse, and so hard to select window trim? Paul Krugman's comments come to mind: "... My happiness depends almost entirely on a few important things, like work, love and health, and everything else is not really worth worrying about — except that I usually can't or won't do anything to change the basic structure of my life, and so I worry about small things, like the state of my basement. ..." We resolve to enjoy the day. Rabbit count = 3.
- Tuesday, November 08, 2016 at 05:15:13 (EST)
"... and he would put powder on his behind, so the audience would know that it wasn't ventriloquism!" Somebody describes a recent documentary on the history of, uh, passing gas; see "Mr. Methane" in Wikipedia for further details.
The Dawn Patrol claims dominion over the empty streets of McLean on a chilly Federal holiday morning, stars twinkling overhead. Kerry tells of a teenage party game: go around the circle imitating the sound of your car starting. Kristin leads us past Halloween-themed yards, including a well-decorated mansion on Chesterfield Ave that has added even more ghosts, skeletons, and witches within the last few days. An excited dog dances and barks from a bay window.
A sign on an elementary school playground fence forbids kids from using tobacco products there. We discuss accidental fires that folks we know well may or may not have started. Somebody's spouse is reportedly trying to teach the family puppy to howl whenever a siren wails. After taking a few cobwebs in the face for the team, Cait recounts a spider attack in a Parisian bistro.
- Monday, November 07, 2016 at 04:19:19 (EST)
A mysterious much-quoted Rumi poem — or maybe a mysterious Coleman Barks poem, based on a translation of Rumi? — with bits perhaps worth pondering: the complementarity of inside-outside, past-now-future, here-elsewhere, bad-good ...
|Lovers think they're looking for each other,|
but there's only one search: wandering
this world is wandering that, both inside one
transparent sky. In here
there is no dogma and no heresy.
The miracle of Jesus is himself, not what he said or did
about the future. Forget the future.
I'd worship someone who could do that!
On the way you may want to look back, or not,
but if you can say "There's nothing ahead,"
there will be nothing there.
Stretch your arms and take hold of the cloth of your clothes
with both hands. The cure for pain is in the pain.
Good and bad are mixed. If you don't have both,
you don't belong with us.
When one of us gets lost, is not here, he must be inside us.
There's no place like that anywhere in the world.
... it's credited to "Furuzanfar #425" in some sources, "translated by John Moyne and Coleman Barks" ... perhaps that's Badiozzaman Forouzanfar?
(cf. Meditation - Sound, Music, Silence (2014-10-06), Watch the Wound (2015-07-24), Mantra - No Goals (2015-07-26), ...)
- Sunday, November 06, 2016 at 05:02:35 (EST)
|Amy and her son Quinn demonstrate their strength by lifting a boulder! (cf. 2013-09-29 - Northwest Branch and Sligo Creek with Barry and 2013-10-20 - NWBT and SCT with Stephanie for others showing off at the same spot ...)|
It's a happy autumn afternoon ramble with friends along Northwest Branch in Wheaton. Tree trunks are covered with fungi-ears ... Pokémon lurk by the water of Northwest Branch ... friendly dogs greet us ... we step aside and pause for a parade of horses to pass ... a Boy Scout troop of hikers ambles by ...
... and of course there's nonstop great conversation! Quinn analyzes the evolutionary history of an alternative civilization composed of giant ant-man creatures he is inventing. His elders share their more mundane woes and joys. It's All Good!
- Saturday, November 05, 2016 at 06:42:55 (EDT)
An amusing sight nowadays is the "McMansion" (and its MiniMansion variants) strewn across the suburban landscape. An amusing site is "McMansion Hell", Kate Wagner's currently-popular scathing critique of ugly architecture. From her introductory tutorial "McMansions 101: What Makes a McMansion Bad", four big Design Principles of architectural composition:
... fine themes that, themselves, cry out for a better mathematical-logical structure of meta-conceptual parallelism and necessary-sufficient organization! (Category Theory for Architects, anyone?)
(cf. Conversations in Paint (2000-08-18), ...)
- Friday, November 04, 2016 at 04:44:06 (EDT)
|"ANGER - KEEP OUT!" reads the slightly-altered sign at Fletcher's Boathouse. An hour before dawn Gayatri and I commence her last long trek before the Marine Corps Marathon. Dogs' eyes glow emerald green in flashlight beams on the Capital Crescent Trail. Conversation is wide-ranging and delightful: current politics, running injuries, extreme poverty, the 1907 Nobel Prizewinner in Literature (an Indian but not a Hindu - guess who!), family, films, friends, and more.|
"Is it raining, or are those droplets of your sweat hitting me?" someone jokes. Crew teams row the Potomac. Multicolored shells are stacked high at Thompson Boat Center. We detour to tour the National Zoo for bonus mileage, with pauses for selfies in front of flowers and bison. Some of Gayatri's fellow Experienced Marathon Program training group members begin to catch up and pass us here. "XMP! XMP! XMP!" we cheer them along. Two of them lead us astray, however, to a dead-end from which we must all backtrack to find our way out of the zoo and back into Rock Creek Park.
Über-hilly Leland Street closes the loop, past houses featuring early Halloween decorations. "When I die, bury me like that!" says Gayatri, pointing to a front lawn where a skull and skeletal arms emerge.
- Thursday, November 03, 2016 at 05:34:54 (EDT)
"What is that?" Two glowing eyes stare down at us from atop a bushy knoll beside the road. "Big!" answers Kristin. The first few miles are a fast-paced celebration of cool temperatures. We roam before dawn through the Chesterbrook neighborhood, joy the only goal. We pause at a corner to study a map, then ignore it. "Plans are worthless!" Kristin applies General Eisenhower's maxim to run route selection.
Witches, giant spiders, skeletons, and ghosts rise from a front-yard Halloween cemetery to attack a house on Chesterfield Avenue. Bunny count = 1, spied by Kristin, who also clears most of today's cobwebs for the Team.
- Wednesday, November 02, 2016 at 04:16:02 (EDT)
From Khalil Gibran's 1912 novel The Broken Wings:
| Thus, the appearance of things|
changes according to the emotions,
and thus we see magic and beauty in them,
while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.
... and maybe more magic and beauty appear when we lose ourselves?
(cf. Beautiful Virtue (2003-12-15), Foul Is Fair (2004-07-13), No-Self and the Space of Wonder (2014-10-20), No Thing and Every Thing (2015-09-20), ...)
- Tuesday, November 01, 2016 at 05:36:47 (EDT)
" #ExactWordCount !" Caitlin proposes. Kerry's daughter needs to describe herself in a single hashtag for a college application, and her paranormal ability to compose an essay precisely to meet a specified length parameter seems noteworthy.
Kristin leads the pack on a loop through Tysons Corner. Fog blankets soccer fields as a rising sun tinges clouds tangelo-pink. We divert to inspect the Spring Hill Recreation Center, where a for-sale display case features polychromatic goggles and intriguing "Power Gloves". Cait explains that they're not actually magical artifacts, just swim-fins for the hands. Drat, another fantasy dashed!
- Monday, October 31, 2016 at 05:33:07 (EDT)
"So he stands there, hand dripping blood, for 15 minutes before they figure out how to bandage him — but when I walk up to the desk six guys spring into action!" Cait tells of packet pickup at the Disneyland Paris half marathon last week, where Gallic attentiveness to a young lady's needs didn't extend to an older gentleman. The Dawn Patrol enjoys a stop at Starbucks for iced coffee, then rambles through Idlywood and Pimmit Hills, catching up on news. The busy weekend included a successful garden party, despite heavy rain. Somebody got sneezed on by a pig at a children's zoo. Ocular migraine blind-spots are no excuse to stop running. And at mile 5 my phone chirps and I share a sad press release with Kerry, Kristin, and Caitlin: none of us has won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Maybe next year!
- Monday, October 31, 2016 at 05:30:06 (EDT)
"What is the sound of one hill repeat, Grasshopper?" Barry asks, channeling the martial arts master of the old TV series "Kung Fu". I single-dog-dare him to climb the steep path to the KenGar neighborhood, and he accepts the challenge. A deafening-noisy freight train clatters by. We loop north to Randolph Road, returning 30 seconds too late to cheer Rebecca as she sets off with a group for a long fast run. Speed-walking Santa Steve greets us. Later today his hair will be dyed pink to support National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A big deer munches the bushes as we pass, and downstream two more doe-fawn pairs stand by the trail. After yesterday's trek the right ankle is achy but tolerable.
- Monday, October 31, 2016 at 05:27:48 (EDT)
... explain reasons and motivations to others — and listen to their explanations! ...
(cf. Fundamental Attribution Error (2013-11-13), Big Biases (2014-01-09), There Are No Secrets (2014-02-26), ...)
- Sunday, October 30, 2016 at 03:29:25 (EDT)
|"You are all such badasses!" says the woman hiking with trekking poles at mile 27. Reply: "Uh, thank you — but there are still 4 miles to go." Hmmmm, more practice needed in accepting compliments without self-deprecation or argument!|
It's the VHTRC "PB&J 50k", a soggy trek along the trails of Prince William Forest Park in northern Virginia. Comrades Stephanie Fonda and Gaynor Bourgeois run most of it together; Stephanie's ankle is injured and she toughs it out to finish only a few minutes behind me. Jennifer Hotchkiss chats near the start, then blasts ahead but later goes off-course, suffers bad foot problems, falls a couple of times, and declares victory at mile ~27. I trip on a root and plop into the mud at mile ~4 while admiring the whitewater flood-rapids in Quantico Creek.
Giant white toadstools by the Turkey Run Ridge Trail ("phallic mushrooms" as somebody describes them) decorate the course. Loud rushing water in the stream sounds like a washing machine on max-heavy-load cycle. Drizzle turns into moderate-heavy rain mid-morning, then fades away. Flooded puddles on the trail get bigger when the showers stop as water drains down from the hillsides. Wooden bridges and walkways over swampy zones are slippery-dangerous.
"But they're VEGAN anchovies!" says Quatro Hubbard, offering optional toppings for the Everything bagel I snag at the mile 22 aid station. And "Way Down Yonder in the Paw-Paw Patch!", the classic children's song, plays on the mental jukebox after mile 30 where a couple of runners are in the woods by the trail, "Pickin' up Pawpaws". At the finish line pavilion, Gaynor persuades me to eat part of one; it's rather banana-like in texture and flavor.
Pushing hard on the final four miles brings a finish under 7.5 hours total time. No selfies with the waterfall in the background - maybe another day!
And the Recovery of Champions: on the way home, Gaynor takes us through a Burger King drive-through window in Lorton and kindly buys Diet Cokes for all and fried onion rings for me - Thank You!
- Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 07:49:13 (EDT)
"You've heard of the Molly Maguires?" Kristin asks. We're enjoying a cool misty morning trek around Pimmit Hills, and conversation random-walks into the history of Pottsville Pennsylvania. "Knowing you, you really wouldn't like John O'Hara's novels!" The Pottsville Historical Society and other local residents know well the mapping between fiction and reality. Neat!
A fuzzy sphere on the wet grass unfolds upon closer inspection into a bunny that scampers away. Another rabbit flees along the new Idlywood Road sidewalk. The wooden bridge over Pimmit Run is slippery. We pause at Starbucks to snag a free birthday coffee and then walk the hills while sipping. It's a good day to give thanks for health, friendship, diversity. Cute canines strain at their leashes. "There should be a runner-rent-a-dog service!".
- Friday, October 28, 2016 at 04:27:29 (EDT)
"Why do little boys insist on 'going commando'?" Kristin wonders. She recounts a weekend children's library activity, where a kid's wardrobe malfunction requires quick action by his mom. Kilt-clad trail running banter comes to mind.
The morning is brisk and Kerry's bad sniffles persist, so we loop around one side of Tysons and enjoy the sunrise. Long-duration management training offers two of us a chance to be guinea pigs for the third. "You can display leadership. 'Attack that hill!'; 'Don't quit!', etc. We'll agree with whatever your instructor says!". A huge St Bernard tugs at its leash, eager to run. Glowing eyes on a front porch are early Halloween decorations.
- Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 04:39:59 (EDT)
"Have I explained 'Run Rate'?" asks Ken. Rebecca immediately slows her pace to drop back while I sprint ahead — but to no avail: Ken launches into a discussion of cricket scoring calculations. Both questions "Is that 'cricket' the insect or 'cricket' the game?" and "Where does the phrase 'that's not cricket' come from?" fail to distract, as does Rebecca's analysis of how tax law requires pro rating of profit and loss.
"Is there a race today?" Faster runners speed past us on the Capital Crescent trail this brisk autumn morning. We turn back at the DC line, divert to tour park trails, and loop onto Leland. Ken's 100 mile/month streak demands 8 miles/day maintain, so 8 miles we achieve plus a bonus bit from tunnel GPS glitches.
- Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 04:23:58 (EDT)
... become invisible — take a walk through the Fourth Wall — and remember, We're all One ...
(cf. Unselfing (2009-01-14), Unselfing Again (2009-11-01), Nonattachment to I (2012-01-15), 01 (2013-11-05), 0-1 (2014-08-29), Mantra - For Us (2015-11-28), No Me (2016-01-18), Mantra - No Others (2016-06-27), No Watcher, Only Watching (2016-10-07), ...)
- Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at 05:40:38 (EDT)
(click for larger image)
|"It's the carrot — we're the horse!" Sirisha (Iris) Golla and I are climbing a heart-pounding super-steep trail, where contour lines on the topo map snuggle too close to resolve. Every switchback tempts us forward with a promise of the crest — and then the next corner reveals another slope.|
We're official sweepers for the second half of the VHTRC Big Schloss 50k trail run  in the George Washington National Forest. We start behind everybody else at 7:30am, following paths around Rockcliff Lake and up toward Long Mountain. Soon the first-half sweeps, three fast young ladies, catch up with us. "Go ahead!" I tell them. "We'll find our way!" And we do, getting lost only once for a few minutes at a complex intersection. We pass a backpacker doing the loop as a three-day trek.
After enjoying 8 miles of wilderness at ~20 min/mi pace Sirisha and I reach Aid Station #1 several minutes past the official cutoff. We briefly and unsuccessfully sue for forgiveness, then acquiesce to Doug Sullivan and hitch a ride with him to AS #2. A ~4 mile hike up-course along Little Stony Creek, cheering runners along the way, gets us to the cabin atop Sugar Knob where the first-half sweep trio meets us. We now estimate that we're likely to be ~2 miles short of the full ~32 mile distance. So Sirisha makes me promise to run extra with her at the end if needed to reach her 30+ goal. OK, Ma'am!
Sirisha's ultrarunning backstory resembles mine: start with a local 5k, try a 10k, enjoy a half-marathon, punch out a few road marathons, then graduate to trail ultras. In her case, though, the progression takes less than two years! At the most recent Bull Run Run 50 miler she finishes a couple of minutes ahead of me, so our paces are quite compatible. So are our personalities, our vegetarian diets, our fascination with philosophy, and our optimistic attitudes. "It's all good!" is a mutual mantra.
As we prepare to descend from Sugar Knob super-fast Alyssa Springman surprises us by appearing from behind. She explains that she got lost driving to the start and began a few hours after everybody else. Conveniently though, she has been taking down the few remaining course-marker ribbons left by the sweeps to guide stragglers. Onward she runs!
|Back at AS #2 we leave before the 1:30pm cutoff and commence plucking blue course marker ribbons from trees and harvesting red "Don't Cross!" ribbons that block wrong-way paths. The Big Schloss Cutoff Trail offers an average ~10% ascent to Great North Mountain, the border between Virginia and West Virginia. At the top we pause for selfies on Big Schloss itself , a sandstone peak that offers awesome vistas of Trout Run Valley and ridges where we struggled several hours ago. Then Sirisha leads us down-down-down a scree-covered slope. The song "Landslide" plays on the mental gramophone.|
"Have a vegan no-bake chocolate cookie! It's got chia seeds!" Heather welcomes us to AS #3 with tasty morsels. Sirisha recognizes her as a kind Bull Run Run volunteer at the Marina earlier this year, and gives her a big hug. We meet Jim ("Rhymes with Bagel") Nagle, who started late and took multiple wrong turns, missed earlier Aid Stations, and is now quickly recuperating. He leaves ahead of us, well before the 3:45pm cutoff, and is soon out of sight on the final ~8 mile leg to the finish.
"Beware any trail with 'Mountain' in its name!" The yellow-blazed route to Tibbet Knob starts steep and gets steeper, with scrambles over jumbled boulder piles and across gnarly rock gardens. I roll my right ankle several times; Sirisha rolls her left. Hopeful vultures circle lazily overhead, anticipating a feast. "Not yet!" we tell them. After another pause for panorama pics we pass a pair of women tending their campfire and follow the trail to a dirt road. A chain saw lies on the shoulder next to a pile of fresh-cut sweet-smelling logs; nearby a pickup truck holds a cheerful couple. My phone's battery is dying, and I try without much success to recharge it. Doug Sullivan earlier suggested that pocket lint is a common cause of Intermittent Plug Syndrome, a hypothesis to test when I get home. Meanwhile, we continue to gather blue ribbons.
(click for larger image)
|Sirisha shares chikki, a square of sweet sesame-seed brittle that gives a energy boost. We discuss oneness and nonattachment, religion and reverence. In the woods again, as the sun sets a peaceful silence settles over the land. It's a holy time.|
In the final miles we catch up with Jim Nagle, limping rather badly but still making relentless forward progress. "Fourteen Boston Marathons!" he tells us, when we ask about his running history. He's a triathlete, active in the Reston Runners Club, but suffering today from dehydration. "Want to hear something gross?" he asks. We're trail runners, so the answer is obvious. Jim describes major knee surgery in clinical detail. Neat!
We deliver Jim safely to his truck, sign him out with Race Director Kirstin Corris, confirm that no runners are missing, toss a mountain of course markers into the trash, and turn in a fistful of blue flags for reuse. Sweeper Mission Accomplished! Veggie burgers and pasta salad fuel my drive home. Sirisha's GPS reads safely over 30 miles; we fist-bump salute a successful day. She insists on giving me more chikki plus a package of gulab jamun, a sweet Indian dessert. Thank you!
- Monday, October 24, 2016 at 05:33:23 (EDT)
| No Panics|
... in times of stress, take a breath and stay calm — give early warning if events may take an unexpected turn — build long-term friendships and alliances ...
(cf. Big Lessons (2001-02-17), Ementor Emantras 2 (2012-04-10), ...)
- Friday, October 21, 2016 at 05:31:03 (EDT)
"How much is that doggie in the window?" A portly Jack Russell terrier yips at passers-by as the sun rises. Kristin spots a rabbit munching the grass at McLean High School. Another bunny scampers along the middle of Susquehanna Drive. Crickets chirp, in the hallway near the gym as well as outside.
We meander through familiar neighborhoods, enjoying the cool first morning of autumn. Lawns glisten with dewdrops. On Kirby Road a tight peloton of eight cyclists, headlights blazing, looks like a cluster of cars from a distance. A pickup truck serving as storage-locker has its cab full and its bed overflowing with boxes, papers, pipes, and an old water heater. A pyramid of pumpkins in a front yard is labeled, "HAPPY FALL, Y'ALL!".
- Thursday, October 20, 2016 at 05:34:25 (EDT)
"It's 'Ed's Loop', not 'Ed's Loop Reversed'!" Kristin corrects me at the end of today's soggy jog. Once when we did it the temperature was 0 degrees F (see 2013-03-14 - Ed's Loop without Ed). Today is the opposite, a hyper-muggy morn as thunderstorms prepare to move through the region. Dr K is mostly recovered from yesterday's Navy-Air Force Half Marathon. We compare notes on shoes and foot injuries, welcome the drizzle that begins midway through our trek, and shiver when we reenter the now-arctic-cold air-conditioned building. Kristin spots one creature by my headlamp's glow. "A baby unicorn, disguised as a rabbit!" I text to Kerry.
- Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at 04:18:03 (EDT)
A thoughtful proverb, variously attributed but without detailed sourcing:
|"If you want new ideas, read old books;|
if you want old ideas, read new books."
Perhaps a better version, credited to G. K. Chesterton:
|"You can find all the new ideas in the old books;|
only there you will find them balanced, kept in
their place, and sometimes contradicted and overcome
by other and better ideas. The great writers did not
neglect a fad because they had not thought of it,
but because they had thought of it and of all
the answers to it as well."
(cf. Old News (2011-09-16), ...)
- Tuesday, October 18, 2016 at 05:38:10 (EDT)
"Have a banana, Sir!" Volunteers at the end of the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon distribute box lunches and fruit. Drs K&K join me in a cooldown walkabout for a few minutes after the race, then head for home. So do I, reversing the route taken six hours earlier. Now, however, temps are higher, traffic is heavier, crosswalk lights are slower to change, terrain is net uphill, and legs have logged 20+ miles. Much walking ensues, therefore, and the temptation to stop for a Slurpee at 7-11 is harder to resist.
But in compensation there are sidewalk vendors, cute little kids in their Sunday best, church doors wide open revealing stained glass, picnic luncheons set up on lawns, lovely marble statuary, and fellow runners sharing the sidewalk. I wave one by who notices my backpack and sweat-soaked shirt. "You look like you're going a lot farther than I am!" he says.
- Monday, October 17, 2016 at 04:09:16 (EDT)
|"That guy who asked for my number? He's already mine — really!" the lady reassures Kerry and Kristin and me, a mile after a strange man cuts across the road apparently to try to pick her up. We promise her that (1) we never judge; and (2) it's hilarious in any case!|
We're at mile 10 of the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon, a mini-tour of many monuments in downtown DC on a cool but muggy morning, accompanied by ~10,000 new friends. Our pace is a bit fast during the first half, so after the sun comes out we slow down and lengthen the walk breaks. From the street I rescue an unopened energy gel and a cute "Run Now, Wine Later" sweatband. Speedy yellow-jersey US Naval Academy runners blast by, the leaders with motorcycle escort, as they race a five miler on an overlapping course. We pass and then are passed by runners in frilly pink tutus, American-flag-themed compression socks, crazy-pattern tights, and a Superman shirt.
Big GPS errors, esp. when we run under the Kennedy Center and various bridges, add half a mile or so to the true distance. "You're almost there!" countless spectators swear. "We should strangle the next one who says that!" someone suggests.
After the run I pause for a tipsy selfie in front of the Washington monument, while Drs K&K head for their cars.
- Monday, October 17, 2016 at 04:06:25 (EDT)
"Good morning, deer!" At 4:45am a big doe, eyes glowing emerald by headlamp light, munches the grass next to a speed-camera on 16th Street. A few blocks later four rabbits with orange retroreflecting eyes graze the lawn of an apartment complex. I'm running from home to the start of the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon near the Washington Monument in downtown DC.
An almost-full Harvest Moon peeks between clouds. Zinnias and moonflowers blossom by the sidewalk. Suddenly the air is full of tiny whirling specks. Night gnats? Nope, just droplets from a pre-dawn garden sprinkler.
Approaching the White House sidewalks suddenly fill with runners walking toward the starting line. Horns honk as cars stack up in search of parking spaces. On 14th Street NW near Independence Avenue who should appear but Drs Kristin and Kerry, bearing my race bib. Rendezvous accomplished!
- Monday, October 17, 2016 at 03:57:05 (EDT)
"And now I've told you more than I know!" Rebecca quotes an aphorism on the slide from explanation into speculation. She and friend Sako (aka Sakurako) start trekking at sunrise along Rock Creek Trail. We chat about Mormon missionaries, marathon training, and the merits of various construction materials — wood vs steel vs stone — for centuries-old temples and railroad trestles. Orange cones and red-blue police car strobes prepare to protect runners in the Kensington 8k. Four big deer startle us as they stand in the gloomy woods close by the path.
"Ragnar! Ragnar! Ragnar!" We cheer tired-looking relay racers near mile 180 of their 206-mile course. Barry meets us at the Old Spring Rd water fountain and gives chase as we sprint to get back by Sako's 9am deadline. She's training for a January marathon and this 11+ miler at an average 11:11 min/mi pace is her longest thus far. Rebecca and I do a cooldown walk, then join Barry to bring his GPS total into double digits.
- Sunday, October 16, 2016 at 17:26:38 (EDT)
"I placed a jar in Tennessee, / And round it was, upon a hill." It's a Coffee Run morning, a sunrise sprint straight for Starbucks. Once caffeinated we slow the pace and give thanks for health, family, friends. Kerry tells of her daughter's super-busy schedule, unstopped by sniffles. The looming weekend promises no rest. I recount metacognitive bumper-stickers from a recent conference: "We need to discover methods to discover new methods" ... "Our metaphors are too linear — 'momentum', 'tension', etc. — for a nonlinear emergent world" ... "It's not a collection problem, it's a cognition problem!" ... "How can we generate hypotheses we cannot imagine?" Perhaps poetry can help.
- Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 06:33:15 (EDT)
A collage of my Mother's recollections, gathered and shared over the decades:
... and above all, her love for family and friends, and her gratitude for being blessed with such a happy life!
(cf. Bird's Nest on the Ground (2009-07-19), ...)
- Friday, October 14, 2016 at 04:42:51 (EDT)
"A train full of gorillas!" Outré dreams set the stage for a quiet architectural tour at sunrise that includes 1 rabbit and 1 chipmunk sighting. "Dead End" and "No Outlet" signs don't lie, as McLean Manor streets loop back without cut-through opportunities. A mannequin stands forlorn by the donations box at the thrift store; a springy Bryn Mawr Park see-saw beckons; a backyard miniature golf course demonstrates the love that some parents have for their kids. We compare notes on exuberant youthful indiscretions, mostly involving ethanol. Nathan and Cait sprint ahead to finish as Kerry, Kristin, and I begin a cool-down walk early.
- Thursday, October 13, 2016 at 05:25:16 (EDT)
"How do you know if somebody does CrossFit? It's the first thing they tell you!" Nathan is back in town for a few days and joins the Dawn Patrol for a brisk loop on a pleasantly cool and low-humidity morning. Black-eyed susans grow in profusion along the W&OD Trail. Kristin reports on her kids' first-ever experience of snow-cones at the outdoor office fair on Saturday, where they also met Cait. Kerry spent much of the weekend power-washing, but did get to take the family pup Sid out to the Reston water park for a special "Dog Daze" end-of-summer splashabout. Nathan is feeling the stress of grad school, where it's hard to find time for exercise even though that's when one needs it most. He and Amanda do manage to get in some hiking in the mountains, and their grab-and-go bags are ready for when the Big One strikes the Pacific Northwest. I caution Cait, "Just don't let him tell you about the statistics of leaving toilet seats up or down!" Nathan overhears and continues the lecture from a year ago. (cf. 2015-08-17 - Falls Church Loop)
- Wednesday, October 12, 2016 at 04:27:37 (EDT)
Lovely trails, loud cicadas, weird mushrooms, gnarly roots, rocky hills, beautiful brooks, and lots of wrong turns in the woods! Many thanks to Janet Choi and Lucas Moten for telling me about this opportunity, and to pawpaw-loving ultrarunner Sarah Curtis for organizing the event and for kindly providing great aid stations at the midpoint and the finish line.
Today's trek is an informal affair put on by the DC Capital Striders (DCCS) trail running "Wolfpack" group. The event begins in the company of J&L, who do the first ~5 miles and then, because of time constraints, turn back. Onward, solo, it's a chance to go off course and miss the turn from the South Valley Trail onto the Oak Ridge Trail at mile ~9. At the Oak Ridge Campground cast about, refill bottles at a water faucet, backtrack, and discover the proper route.
The "Aid Station" in the woods at mile ~11 is a big cooler filled with fruit and drinks. After a text-message to reassure RD Sarah, miles ahead, that all's well, excelsior! — only to veer off course again at mile ~12, turning the wrong way on Old Blacktop Road. But within a quarter mile the mistake is obvious, so again backtrack to find the official route.
Now it's deja vu all over again along the North Valley Trail, familiar from "Red Eye" VHTRC New Years Day races, past noisy streams and densely wooded terrain near an abandoned pyrite mine. Cross the creek on a bridge to explore a new segment there instead of the gravel road route, arrive safely back at the start/finish parking lot, visit with Sarah and rehydrate, eat hummus and chips and grapes, then head for home. What a great day!
(cf. trackfile, and 2008-01-01 - Red Eye 50k, 2011-01-01 - VHTRC RedEye, 2015-01-01 - VHTRC Red Eye 50k, 2016-01-01 - VHTRC RedEye 50k)
- Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at 05:47:18 (EDT)
Arguing about a flag, seen flapping in the breeze:
| "The flag is moving."|
"The wind is moving."
"No — mind is moving."
(cf. The Gateless Gate, Nimbus, Halo, Glory, Aureole (2001-11-15), 2015-05-18 - Not the Wind, Not the Flag, ...)
- Monday, October 10, 2016 at 04:39:58 (EDT)
| Ask New Questions|
Question Old Answers
... another metacognitive suggestion by Apollo Robbins, and others ...
(cf. No Dogs or Philosophers Allowed (2003-10-13), Question Everything (2015-08-22), Hide the Magic (2016-09-25), ...)
- Sunday, October 09, 2016 at 12:44:05 (EDT)
|"Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table; / Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets ...", quotes Amy as we trot toward dawn. "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" I parry. Amy ripostes, and Tori Amos meets Gerard Manley Hopkins via Elizabeth Barrett Browning. We vow to read, and write, more poetry.|
|Orion strides high over Bethesda. By headlamp's glow we miss the Trolley Trail and find ourselves on Old Georgetown Road. Humidity is hyper-high. Moonflowers sprawl onto the sidewalk and brush our calves.|
Geese take wing from Walter Reed Medical Center. Herds of crepuscular deer graze, lead fawns to drink from Rock Creek, and stand fearlessly close by Beach Drive. We give thanks for hands, for cars that pause for pedestrians, for walk breaks and sunrise. "Running helps takes the edge off — and my edge is big!".
- Saturday, October 08, 2016 at 04:51:01 (EDT)
From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Chapter 16 ("What's in It for You"):
Once your mind is free from thought, it becomes clearly wakeful and at rest in an utterly simple awareness. This awareness cannot be described adequately. Words are not enough. It can only be experienced. Breath ceases to be just breath; it is no longer limited to the static and familiar concept you once held. You no longer see it as a succession of just inhalations and exhalations, an insignificant monotonous experience. Breath becomes a living, changing process, something alive and fascinating. It is no longer something that takes place in time; it is perceived as the present moment itself. Time is seen as a concept, not an experienced reality.
This is simplified, rudimentary awareness which is stripped of all extraneous detail. It is grounded in a living flow of the present, and it is marked by a pronounced sense of reality. You know absolutely that this is real, more real than anything you have ever experienced. Once you have gained this perception with absolute certainty, you have a fresh vantage point, a new criterion against which to gauge all of your experience. After this perception, you see clearly those moments when you are participating in bare phenomena alone, and those moments when you are disturbing phenomena with mental attitudes. You watch yourself twisting reality with mental comments, with stale images and personal opinions. You know what you are doing, when you are doing it. You become increasingly sensitive to the ways in which you miss the true reality, and you gravitate towards the simple objective perspective which does not add to or subtract from what is. You become a very perceptive individual. From this vantage point, all is seen with clarity. The innumerable activities of mind and body stand out in glaring detail. You mindfully observe the incessant rise and fall of breath; you watch an endless stream of bodily sensations and movements; you scan the rapid succession of thoughts and feelings, and you sense the rhythm that echoes from the steady march of time. And in the midst of all this ceaseless movement, there is no watcher, there is only watching.
In this state of perception, nothing remains the same for two consecutive moments. Everything is seen to be in constant transformation. All things are born, all things grow old and die. There are no exceptions. You awaken to the unceasing changes of your own life. You look around and see everything in flux, everything, everything, everything. It is all rising and falling, intensifying and diminishing, coming into existence and passing away. All of life, every bit of it from the infinitesimal to the Pacific Ocean, is in motion constantly. You perceive the universe as a great flowing river of experience. Your most cherished possessions are slipping away, and so is your very life. Yet this impermanence is no reason for grief. You stand there transfixed, staring at this incessant activity, and your response is wondrous joy. It's all moving, dancing and full of life.
(cf. Unselfing (2009-01-04), Bind the Monkey (2001-11-21), The Watcher (2010-11-15), Like a TV Screen (2010-12-13), Let the Mind Pass By (2010-12-28), Turning Attention Inward (2011-04-17), Watching Things (2012-02-11), ...)
- Friday, October 07, 2016 at 04:27:29 (EDT)
"Potlicking?!" Kristin and Kerry laugh at the misreading, during a recent meeting, of the word "politicking". A little dog is singularly well-behaved as we approach but then dashes across the sidewalk and almost trips Kerry. The sun peeks over a cloud bank and glitters off the glass of a Tysons Corner skyscraper where three big flags wave. Bunny count = 1, eyes glittering in headlamp beam.
High humidity makes for guilt-free walk breaks on the hills. Cait hasn't been over the Beltway via the W&OD Trail, so Kerry suggests a route similar to one we followed almost a year ago (cf. 2015-09-21 - Lucky Loop). "We saw a double rainbow last time, and unicorns! Who knows what we'll see this morning?"
- Thursday, October 06, 2016 at 05:14:05 (EDT)
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., author of Just One Thing and other thoughtful books on mindfulness, recently re-shared his beautiful essay, "Stay Right When You're Wronged". In his words, three keys to remember and strive for, when one is mistreated:
Hanson's other suggestions, briefly:
And as Hanson notes, this is:
... one of the hardest but most important things to do in relationships: stay on the high road even when you've been mistreated — which may well include being strong and even fiery, sticking up for yourself, and speaking truth to power.
Besides being the compassionate, benevolent path to take, acting in this way is usually your best odds strategy for a good outcome: not adding fuel to the fire or getting distracted by side issues, while also claiming the moral high ground.
Of course, easier said than done. ...
(see  or  for the original essay; and cf. Move On (2007-01-06), Core Buddhism (2011-10-17), Mantra - Let It Go (2014-12-27), Mantra - Safety, Health, Insight, Peace (2015-10-30), Mantra - Be Your Own Best Friend (2016-02-16), Mantra - Forgiven (2016-08-02), ...)
- Wednesday, October 05, 2016 at 04:42:08 (EDT)
"So I'll tape a flashlight to the front and lend you some gloves!" Cait summarizes what she told her friend Bill when he wanted to spend $400 extra for a fancy model snowblower with headlights and handwarmer-handles. In the gloom we meander by McLean High School's track and down Old Chesterbrook, where a trio of bicycles swoop by in close formation. Dawn's early glow catches a giant bronze eagle perched atop the globe on a Birch Road mini-mansion.
Navigator Kristin spies three bunnies in front yards on Tucker Avenue. It's muggy but not as hot as in weeks past, and since first meetings aren't until 9am we extend the route past the Metro station where bleary-eyed commuters are shambling in to catch a train. Trail talk includes tales of roving eyes, classical pianist Yuja Wang, and holiday party humor.
- Tuesday, October 04, 2016 at 05:19:54 (EDT)
"Where's that echo coming from?" Dr Mary asks, as Runkeeper's GPS voice reverberates. Our walkabout is passing near Lake Fairfax Park's soccer fields, and what we hear are offset time-and-distance announcements from my phone and then hers. Half an hour ago we hit the "Start" buttons slightly out of sync. Oops!
A cool morning makes for pleasant hiking along shaded horse trails. Polite mountain bikers swoop past and splash through Colvin Run and its tributary creeks. Mary reminisces about long-ago Fairfax County Trail adventures here; I recollect a painful introduction to snowshoeing under her supervision (on 12 Feb 2010; see Snowshoe Shin Bruise). Conversation is splendid and wide-ranging.
Missed turns on the return trip add a bonus mile and offer opportunities to bushwhack, clamber over deadfalls, tiptoe across shallow streams, scout for trails past an apartment complex, and descend steep rooty-rocky slopes. And It's All Good!
- Tuesday, October 04, 2016 at 05:16:18 (EDT)
| Be Earth ...|
... an anagram-coincidence of English letter-rearrangement — and thoughtful advice, like the images of Jon Kabat-Zinn's "Mountain Meditation" in his book Wherever You Go, There You Are.
Be the earth — and just breathe ...
(cf. Be Earth (2010-12-07), Being with Your Breath (2010-02-20), ...)
- Monday, October 03, 2016 at 04:45:34 (EDT)
"... and this is nothing compared to what my friends Stephanie, Gaynor, Mike, and Addie did last night at The Ring!" say I to myself on the Mormon Temple hill along Stoneybrook Drive. The mantra works for the first 9 repeats (~6 minutes up, ~5 minutes down for the half-mile ~5% grade) but then the wheels suddenly fall off — or maybe it's dehydration and low blood sugar? Can't have anything to do with starting at noon, skipping breakfast, jogging ~19 miles yesterday, or being a few years older than last time trying this insanity, eh?! (cf. 2013-12-21 - Ten Mormon Temple Hill Climbs)
Today is partial atonement for yesterday's onion rings, french fries, and veggie burger. Temperature and humidity are moderate, for a DC summer, and an intermittent breeze helps. Cheerful families greet me as they go to LDS church services; one fellow who witnessed my first ascent does a double-take when I run by again on his way out more than an hour later. After the 10th climb's struggle, circle back through Rock Creek Hills to refill water bottle at the Old Spring Rd fountain. An 11th uphill shamble isn't pretty, but the trek home offers a chance to explore new trails through the woods of Forest Glen.
- Sunday, October 02, 2016 at 06:25:32 (EDT)
"Some things cannot be unseen!" says Ken. We're trying to intrigue Cait into running ultramarathons, via lurid tales of chafing, injuries, bad behavior in the woods, etc. But given her experience working with the Navy and Coast Guard, not to mention her four younger brothers, Cait laughs at all attempts to gross her out. Maybe the Goddess of Bawdy Banter, aka Sara, could do better!?
Hours earlier, shortly after setting out from home, discover that mojo is missing — or rather, that a Clif Mojo Bar has fallen unseen out of the pack. Oops! Backtrack a few blocks and pick it up from the street. Four miles later, in downtown Bethesda, meet Caitlin and wait ten minutes with her as the rest of the gang materialize. Don, Emaad, and Rebecca set a brisk pace; we average 10-11 min/mi, with a turnaround pause at Fletchers Boathouse.
On the way back Ken puts on a burst of speed and is soon out of sight. "Let's try to catch him!" Cait and I accelerate and run him down with a mile to go. Age adjusted, though, he's still far ahead ...
- Saturday, October 01, 2016 at 04:13:43 (EDT)
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