^zhurnaly 0.9916

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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in volume 0.9916 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 = 0.9915 ... 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 ... RSS

2015-06-06 - Ran It with Janet 50k-ish

~29 miles @ ~15 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Ran_It_with_Janet_50k_2015_thistle.jpg"33 hours!" Janet Choi recounts, in awesome clinical detail, her first ultra: medication-free childbirth. (Aside to her now-teenage son: don't ask!)

JC and I met at the 2013-11-16 - MCRRC Stone Mill 50 Mile Race, where I named her "Tape Girl" based on knee and calf bandages she wore then. Today we're just enjoying the morning, miles behind everybody else, jogging and walking along trails of northern Virginia, telling each other stories, and trying not to fall on rocky patches. Thistles bloom. It's a beautiful day.

The inaugural "Ran It with Janet" fatass/fun-run is a happy Saturday ramble around Manassas National Battlefield Park. A dozen runners begin at the historic Civil War "Stone House", and a bit over 7 hours later half finish the distance, with some venturing off-course or deliberately adding extra mileage to make the course longer. Others stop early.

Janet describes the event as a learning-experiment, possibly a prelude to future races she plans to manage. Meanwhile, it's all good.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Ran_It_with_Janet_50k_2015_glass_unicorn_Janet_Choi_z.jpgLucas Moten joins me for the final half-dozen miles, which we mostly walk. Janet gives everybody a commemorative wine glass. A blue-haired unicorn stands guard over the main aid station: a folding table next to Janet's car covered with goodies donated by runners. A subsidiary aid station is a styrofoam cooler hidden in the woods.

The Ran-It-with-Janet inaugural course consists of alternating circuits, three toward the west side of length ~6.5 miles each, two toward the east that are ~5 miles per lap. Grass is high in the open meadows. Runners step aside to let horses pass. A police escort precedes hundreds of motorcyclists out for a memorial ride on country roads. Dragonflies with white bodies and square black wing patches flit across the paths. (Band-winged Dragonlet, aka Erythrodiplax umbrata?)


- Sunday, July 05, 2015 at 06:27:58 (EDT)


Sitting and listening
Noticing and being
Attending to spaces

        Between the birds' chirps

        Between memories and plans

        Between keystrokes and clock-ticks

        Between heartbeats and out-breaths

        Between thoughts and worries

        Between future and past

        Between sips of coffee

        . . .

As the gaps define
Everything between them

And being the between

(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Between (2009-12-10), Zen Soup (2012-02-09), Notice and Return (2013-03-11), Space Between (2013-10-15), Swiss Cheese (2014-07-04), ...)

- Saturday, July 04, 2015 at 07:35:17 (EDT)

Toys and Joys

William Deresiewicz in a 2012 essay "Toys and Joys" critiques hedonism, tourism, and other bucket-list-isms, and offers instead his thoughts on what's worth doing with one's life:

... When I think about what really makes me happy, what I really crave, I come up with a very different list: concentrated, purposeful work, especially creative work; being with people I love; feeling like I'm part of something larger. Meaning, connectedness, doing strenuously what you do well: not sights, not thrills, and not even pleasures, as welcome as they are. Not passivity, not letting the world come in and tickle you, but creativity, curiosity, altruism, engagement, craft. Raising children, or teaching students, or hanging out with friends. Playing music, not listening to it. Making things, or making them happen. Thinking hard and feeling deeply.

None of which involve spending money, except in an ancillary way. None of which, in other words, are consumer experiences. ...

(cf. FunVersusEntertainment (2006-08-31), ...)

- Friday, July 03, 2015 at 04:32:55 (EDT)

2015-06-05 - Bamboo Pandas

~13.2 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

A soggy family of panda dolls perch within the bamboo by Great Falls St. Rain pauses, resumes, then stops. Water droplets cling to the tips of pine needles like jewels. "Now I know why you wear a cap!" I tell Kerry as we run under low-hanging branches and my head gets wet. Kristin points out a chipmunk; I spy a rabbit. Nobody can decide what route to venture along, so we random-walk meander over segments of prior treks, revisit old landmarks, enjoy the cool morning, and pause at a previously unseen Taco Bell to test the doors (not yet unlocked). After 10+ miles we escort Kerry back to her car and add one more circuit to decorate the trackfile.


- Thursday, July 02, 2015 at 05:48:56 (EDT)

Echinacea Season


(echinacea, aka coneflowers, in a garden on Forest Glen Rd, June 2015)

- Wednesday, July 01, 2015 at 04:23:04 (EDT)

2015-06-03 - Franklin Park

~9.2 miles @ ~12.3 min/mi

Two rabbits eye us and hop away within the first mile. A big deer ambles across the street and through a gate into a mansion garden. Kristin and Kerry spot a pair of "Little Free Libraries" along Massachusetts Av. We pass a home Kerry recognizes, where she confesses to leaping from a ledge and over a wall into the backyard pool, many years ago. Neighborhood architecture is diverse and lovely. Drizzle changes into a light rain that rattles on the leaves and keeps us cool. We weave between cars lined up to enter McLean High School. Kristin and I get Kerry back in time for her early meeting, then add a local loop past the new McLean Metro station.


- Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 04:04:55 (EDT)

Taiji at Work

The T'ai Chi approach — adding a little unexpected push to what one's "opponent" is doing, instead of opposing force with force — may be a useful metaphor for Doing Good in a big long-term way in large organizations. Don't try to fight the bureaucracy. Don't get angry and rebel, blame The Boss or one's lethargic co-workers, foment revolution, or strive for top-down restructuring.

Instead, look at the direction in which the giant machine is already moving. Can The Organization be directed, with a tiny nudge, onto a better path? Is it moving in a dynamic field of forces where small perturbations get amplified? Can a model of how it evolves help forecast which way it may be heading? Can a gentle tweak predictably grow over time to make a big change for the better?

And can the same approach help in other areas, such as long-term relationships, or one's own life?

(cf. Taiji and Self Awareness (2014-04-15), Control Theory of Taiji (2014-07-23), ...)

- Monday, June 29, 2015 at 05:34:45 (EDT)

2015-06-01 - Austin Spy Shop

~10.4 miles @ ~9.9 min/mi

Hot crushed red peppers on the pizza last night? Note to Self #1737: perhaps suboptimal before a dawn run. Agent Jester: your superpowers are far beyond mine.

And all's well. Fuel up with lemon meringue pie and "San Antonio" flavored gourmet HEB coffee (thanks, Agent Rita!). Trot past alma mater middle school and local library where I shelved books half a century ago in the first real job. Divert through Bartholomew Park to scare a crow off the fountain and splash water on the forehead. Cruise past Paco's Tacos and zig across 51st St to avoid construction. Enjoy the cool dry (for June in central Texas) morning as the sun thunders up.

Pause to take selfies in front of the Austin Spy Shop and to admire dramatic wall art captioned "Ya esta!". Listen on the mental 8-track loop to the grunge hit "Everything Zen" by Bush. Witness a light rail commuter train inbound on the tracks by Airport Blvd. Greet two homeless guys who shake hands with each other under the I-35/US-183 interchange, with rush hour traffic stalled above us. Sprint the final miles to pull the average pace down into a semi-respectable zone. Add an OCD digression to ensure the GPS distance is safely into double digits.

Note to Self #1738: is splashing water on wet-singlet-friction-chafed nipples more painful than piercing or tattoos there?


- Friday, June 26, 2015 at 04:42:34 (EDT)

Essence of Mindfulness Practice

In Radical Acceptance Tara Brach tells of her personal experience with overwhelming, passionate longing. She describes a week-long meditative retreat after her divorce, when she fell into a "Vipassana Romance" full of fantasies about a potential relationship with a person whom she had only recently met. After struggling with intense wanting for days she told her teacher, who simply asked, "How are you relating to the presence of desire?" Brach then realized the essence of mindfulness practice:

"It doesn't matter what is happening. What matters is how we are relating to our experience."

(from the chapter "Radical Acceptance of Desire: Awakening to the Source of Longing"; also quoted in Tara Brach's 2012 online essay "Radical Acceptance of Desire" ...)

- Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 04:23:26 (EDT)

2015-05-29 - Kerry's and Kristin's Long Run

~19.7 miles @ ~13.6 min/mi

"PFA!" I compliment Kristin when we pass 20 miles by her GPS. (Mine is ~6% stingier today; distance markers along the W&OD trail are in between.) Today is 5+ miles farther than her prior longest trek, and doubles Kerry's lifetime total count of 20+ milers (cf. 2014-12-13 - Magnus Gluteus Maximus). During our cooldown walk and recovery brunch we marvel at how good we all feel, in spite of heat and humidity. Kristin admits she had doubts that she could do it. "Two thirds of us knew you could!", say Kerry and I. Walk breaks every 5 minutes help.

"Be safe — don't chafe!" Kristin rhymes when I ask my friends to avert their eyes while I grease up. We begin before 6am and within the first mile my ultra-mentor Paul Ammann, heading the other way, greets us with "Z-Man!" Our trot proceeds westward to the Dulles Toll Rd. We turn back after checking the water fountain there; it's broken. Midcourse we enjoy the Vienna Community Center facilities. Our break lasts longer than planned when Kerry and I await Kristin inside while she stands outside and wonders where we are. No worries!

At various points four chipmunks and a fearless little deer eye us from trailside and then scamper away. A young lady runs past us carrying a big book, and returns holding two. (Is there a library nearby?) Cyclists and cars are uniformly polite today. With the finish line in sight we sprint the final few hundred yards to make moving-time pace sub-12 on Kristin's display. "PFA!"


- Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 04:15:03 (EDT)

Headline Question Answer

The answer to any question that appears in a headline is "No"!

(adapted from an essay by David Leonhardt in the online New York Times, 2015-02-27)

- Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 04:35:11 (EDT)

2015-05-27 - McLean Turkey Run Loop

~6.8 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

"SOL? Pardon my French," I say. "Doesn't that stand for "$#*% Out of Luck?" Kerry uses the acronym as we pass Langley High School. In this case it means "Standards of Learning", the statewide test — though some students might lean toward the classical definition. We loop down Ridge Dr and through the woods to Turkey Run Rd. The forest path seems steeper and longer than in the past. A friendly neighborhood dog-walker helps us find the best way across the stream and up the muddy slope. After an hour of warm and humid trekking I start to offer Dr K a drink, then realize that I've forgotten my water in the car. Oops!


- Monday, June 22, 2015 at 06:37:20 (EDT)

Mantra - Different, and Good

Different, and Good

... a Möbius-twist on Mantra - Good but Different — emphasizing the change ...

(cf. FragileBeauty (2001-09-15), WeltschmertzRx (2005-07-13), Buddhism Without Beliefs (2008-09-19), Transient, Unreliable, Contingent (2013-06-14), Good, But Different (2013-06-20), 0-1 (2014-08-29), 2015-05-17 - Fonda 50k Plus (2015-06-10), ...)

- Sunday, June 21, 2015 at 11:11:54 (EDT)

2015-05-25 - CM Warm-Up

~3 miles @ ~15 min/mi

"Deer!" Cara Marie spots a doe in the front yard of the neighborhood house. It flees, followed by two more. We walk the hills and chat as the sun rises. Good memories abound: "You never puked at the track during speedwork!" ... "How about on the way home after that half-marathon?" ... "Remember the Lincoln Memorial steps!"


- Saturday, June 20, 2015 at 20:11:20 (EDT)

Body Learning

The Alexander Technique is an approach to enhanced postural and body awareness. In many ways it all boils down to the Zen of "Attention", combined with a skeptical attitude toward the immediate evidence of one's senses. It was developed by Tasmanian actor Frederick Matthias Alexander in the late 1800s.

Body Learning: An Introduction to the Alexander Technique by Michael Gelb is mystical and muddled, frustrating in its lack of structure; it originated as a masters thesis. Since writing Body Learning (1981), Gelb has evolved into an inspirational speaker and author focusing on themes of creativity and leadership. His writing drips with "I", "me", and "my". It also lapses into unfortunate promotional hype and arbitrary jargon, with disclaimers that what he describes cannot be described, only shown.

But amidst the meandering come moments of poetry. In the chapter "Direction", for example, there's the striking suggestion:

Attention — something to give rather than something to pay

In greater context and somewhat more diffusely:

Attention is very different from what is usually called concentration. Concentration is often associated with a state of over-tension manifested by a furrowed brow and interference with breathing, almost as though one were trying to hold everything in place so as to be able to focus totally on a certain aspect of one's surroundings. Attention in the Alexandrian sense involves a balanced awareness of oneself and one's surroundings with an easy emphasis on whatever is particularly relevant at the moment.

Frank Jones has compared the process with spotlights on a lighted stage: the general surroundings are visible, while different parts receive greater emphasis according to their particular relevance. Alexander found that most people were unable to direct their attention and as a result suffered from 'mind wandering' or over-fixated concentration. Learning to apply the Alexander directions provides an invaluable experience in controlling one's powers of attention. Attention can become something we give rather than something we have to pay.

Other noteworthy tidbits:

Gelb quotes himself in third-person at one point (often a danger sign!) as saying, "The essence of the Alexander Technique is to make ourselves more susceptible to grace." That's a sweet thought. Perhaps ...

- Friday, June 19, 2015 at 06:30:09 (EDT)

2015-05-24 - Needwood and Bernard Frank Lake Circuits

~10.3 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

"We have baby wipes!" says our text message to Stephanie Fonda and Marshall Porterfield. They're 9+ miles into a Sunday ultramarathon training run when Amy Couch and I meet them to provide aid and company on some bonus natural-surface trail mileage. After circling Lake Needwood together we head down Rock Creek and divert to circumnavigate Lake Bernard Frank. The hills and rocks and roots seem gnarlier than a few years ago. Stephanie stumbles and pulls a muscle in an unmentionable zone. Later she takes a complete fall, thankfully not too damaging. Marshall spots a deer. Amy spies another, then a magnificent heron gliding low over the stream. Trail talk is fun and wide-ranging. We part ways after ~8.5 miles together, Stephanie and Marshall heading back downstream for a few dozen more miles, Amy and I returning to Lake Needwood.


- Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 08:05:31 (EDT)

Mantra - No Drama

No Drama!

... just the perfect depth and beauty of every moment as it is, without goals or stories or ...

(cf. No Drama (2015-01-15), ...)

- Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 04:08:27 (EDT)

2015-05-23 - Run for Roses Course

~3.2 miles @ ~20.7 min/mi and ~3.1 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

DD Gray & dear friend Dr Mary walk the "Run for Roses 5k" course — which has changed since I helped at an aid station there some years ago (cf. 2006-06-17 - Run for Roses Water Table) — as a preview for Gray and a warmup for Mary, who then jogs and walks it with me as a second separate circuit. We make a few wrong turns the first time around. Mary gives Gray big-sisterly advice. The event is in a month, it's women-only, both Mary and I will likely be out of town, so Gray will have to solo on her first race!

(trackfile and trackfile)

- Monday, June 15, 2015 at 04:33:15 (EDT)

2015-05-22 - Beltway Crossing

~9.7 miles @ ~12.1 min/mi

"The only Constant is Change!" New route today: across the Beltway on Route 7 to Gallows Rd. Drs Kerry & Kristin are feeling good after Wednesday's 5k race, though a couple of us have slight coughs, hamstring and hip twinges, etc. Two rabbits scamper into the bushes at our approach. The morning is cool and crisp. We talk of families, weekend plans, office gossip, and life. A fast runner passes us on the W&OD Trail running east. His silhouette glows in the mist, surrounded by a halo in the rising sun, breath forming clouds that fade and vanish.


- Monday, June 15, 2015 at 04:16:34 (EDT)

Mindfulness of the Body

In the final issue of Inquiring Mind, Trudy Goodman comments (in "The Dharma is Here to Stay: A Conversation between Jack Kornfeld & Trudy Goodman"):

... For me the body is the rudder that can steer us beyond words into silence. I find that mindfulness of the body is a great Dharma doorway for people who are extremely busy and have very little time to be still and do retreat. Our body and breath are always with us and, as we go through the ups and downs of our lives, we can become more and more conscious of the aliveness of the body or the state of our hearts as reflected in our bodily tension. ...

(cf. Breath as Vehicle (2009-06-17), Cat Bellies and Dog Noses (2010-10-12), Reinhabit Your Body (2010-10-27), Wait for the Breath (2013-07-09), Vastness, Equanimity, Selflessness (2015-06-14), ...)

- Sunday, June 14, 2015 at 04:54:42 (EDT)

2015-05-20 - MITRE McLean 5k-ish Run

~3.5 miles @ ~7.8 min/mi

The MITRE Corporation "5k" fun-run this year has a new course, hilly and ~15% long — but the day is cool and traffic at road crossings politely waits for runners to pass. Dr Kerry & Dr Kristin stick together, finish happy, and maintain a solid ~10 min/mi average pace. In spite of sidewalk cracks and ripples, nobody falls — yay! Perhaps I even win my age group — or, age-adjusted, the entire race? ... but results don't include ages so that hypothesis is hard to verify.


- Saturday, June 13, 2015 at 07:45:57 (EDT)

2015-05-18 - Not the Wind, Not the Flag

~4.6 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"I just watched the flag flutter in the breeze!" Kristin tells of handling a potentially-stressful snafu last week with mindful patience, politeness, and good humor. It's a lesson in equanimity, and in life. Dawn today is über-humid and warm, so we cut the trek short, walk the hills, and enjoy quiet conversation, with counterpoint from the sounds of birds and traffic. Small world: yesterday morning Dr K and her daughter were on the National Mall, caught up in the same tourist traffic jams and graduation ceremony crowds as Dr S and I were during our 2015-05-17 - Fonda 50k Plus!


- Friday, June 12, 2015 at 04:12:52 (EDT)

The Mindful Athlete

The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance by George Mumford, is a lot like 10% Happier by Dan Harris — and not just because both authors invested years of their lives in self-destructive drug use, not just because both have produced quasi-autobiographies laden with celebrity name-dropping, and not just because both are frustratingly-disorganized in explaining meditation. Mumford and Harris are also alike in their genuinely sincere, hopeful, enthusiastic evangelism for excellent ideas about self-actualization. Both write reasonably well, or perhaps both have strong collaborators and editors. That's ok.

In the foreword to Mindful Athlete somebody named Phil Jackson (ok, he's a celebrity basketball coach whom some of us had never heard of) concludes his comments with:

A lot of athletes think that the trick to getting better is just to work harder. But there is a great power in non-action and non-thinking. The hardest thing, after all the work and all the time spent on training and technique, is just being fully present in the moment. Time after time, team after team, I have seen athletes transform and have seen championships saved by players who believed in Mumford's one-mind, one-breath efforts.

That's an excellent synopsis. Yes, it includes the result-oriented Utilitarian motive for Attention, as does Mumford throughout his book. But maybe that's ok, if one doesn't cling to it. Similarly, Mumford's list of "Five SuperPowers" — mindfulness, concentration, insight, diligence, trust — is a bit messy but good-spirited. That's ok. His book's layout — large print, lots of whitespace, lengthy quotations — tries to conceal its brevity. That's ok.

And if The Mindful Athlete introduces more people to some concepts from Zen Buddhism? Well, that's ok too!

- Thursday, June 11, 2015 at 05:08:32 (EDT)

2015-05-17 - Fonda 50k Plus

~32.1 miles @ ~12.3 min/mi

"Different, and Good!" is the mantra for Stephanie's training trek, the first-ever "Fonda 50k". At 0630 as we begin it's sultry, with temps already in the lower 70s and relative humidity above 85%. Fog fills the Dalecarlia Tunnel. A rabbit scampers away in the first block; a chipmunk dashes across our path several miles later. Cormorants perch in a dead tree above the Potomac. A deer munches a mouthful of grass near Rock Creek. Marathon training groups greet us along the Capital Crescent Trail. Cyclists swoop past.

We pause for photos and to refill water bottles, but except for Gatorade I buy at a 7-11 are entirely self-supported. Graduation ceremonies at the Washington Monument force us to backtrack and detour. Stephanie shows me her very favoritest park, a beautiful block near Union Station full of flowers and foliage. Light rain comes and goes throughout the morning. Tourists stop us to ask directions.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Fonda_50k_stephanie_z_1.jpgStephanie sets a secret course record, which she refuses to reveal (estimate: ~6.3 hours). Dehydration makes the wheels fall off in the later half of my journey. The scale reads 149 lbs. before and 145 after, even though I drink more than a pint per hour. After cajoling, pleading, and threatening, finally at mile ~26 I manage to persuade Dr Fonda to run ahead and await me at the finish. I walk a couple of miles, pour water over my skull, swallow electrolyte capsules, suck energy gels, and cool down enough to alternate minutes of walking and running for the final few miles. My time, ~15 minutes behind Stephanie, is a 50k PB. Yay!


- Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at 04:12:04 (EDT)

Mantra - Follow the Breath

Follow the Breath

... a simple always-present tool to help stay in the now ...

(cf. Try It for a Few Years (2009-05-19), Sitting by Fire (2010-01-11), Being with Your Breath (2010-02-20), Breath and Awareness (2011-03-12), Just Sitting (2011-05-21), Coming Back to Your Breath (2011-09-25), Notice and Return (2013-03011 Countdown Breathing (2013-12-18), ...)

- Tuesday, June 09, 2015 at 04:25:20 (EDT)

2015-05-15 - McLean Blitz

~4.4 miles @ ~10.6 min/mi

Kerry stumbles on a gravel patch and takes the best possible fall — hip bruise, hand scrape, but no major knee injuries — at mile ~3 of our Friday morning ramble. She has early meetings today so we're on a short brisk loop around her 'hood. Five deer flee from the front yard of a Benjamin St mansion when I try to approach them for a photo op. Just as we finish our run the other Dr K (aka Kristin), away for business travel on her birthday, texts to check our progress and to share a sunrise scene from her location. We send back a smiling selfie.


- Monday, June 08, 2015 at 04:34:36 (EDT)

Now and Here

In the Washington Post yesterday an article by Michelle Boorstein ("Religious devotees worry about the yoga-ization of meditation in the U.S.", 2015-06-06) muses about faith-based versus secular meditation. Likewise in the final issue of Inquiring Mind earlier this year, Bhikkhu Bodhi ("Facing the Great Divide", Spring 2015) analyzes the clash of traditional Asian Buddhism, itself a multidimensional tapestry, with pragmatic non-religious mindfulness-insight. It's a complex and difficult topic. For many people, a historical foundation — Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, whatever — makes the challenges of modern life easier to bear. Bhikkhu Bodhi's summary of classical Buddhism includes:

To many, however, such beliefs seem singularly unsatisfactory, even childish, when examined in the light of objective reason and modern knowledge. The alternative? Perhaps nothing: no separate selves, no goals or expectations, no magic, no exotic enlightenment experiences, no faith, no leaders, no followers.

Or as Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck suggests, be the present momentsimply here and nowno drama.

Just attention ...

(cf. Buddhism - A Way of Life and Thought (2008-09-30), Not Always So (2009-07-04), O (2012-10-24), No Beginning, No End (2013-03-24), 01 (2013-11-05), 0-1 (2014-08-29), Nothing But Faith in Nothing (2014-09-07), ...)

- Sunday, June 07, 2015 at 19:28:01 (EDT)

2015-05-13 - East on the WOD

~10.0 miles @ ~12.3 min/mi

"Hair?" I ask, spotting what looks like a 'Fro of Legendary Diameter on one of the kids walking to school along the opposite side of Westmoreland St. Kerry and Kristin confirm the sighting. Students trudge with eyes downcast, as if on their way to prison. The morning is cool and breezy, a crisp contrast to the humidity earlier this week.

We explore new territory on the W&OD Trail, past the East Falls Church Metro and Benjamin Banneker Park. At the "Brandymore Castle" rock outcropping I reminisce about visiting the woods at mile ~40 of the 2010-10-09 - Andiamo 2010 ultramarathon after eating too many pineapple rings earlier. Today is trash day, but I find no treasures in the cans I check along the sidewalk.


- Saturday, June 06, 2015 at 05:24:03 (EDT)

2015-05-11 - Idlywood Shuffle

~10.2 miles @ ~12.0 min/mi

Kerry, Kristin, and I take turns leading and taking cobwebs in the face for The Team along the woodsy path beside Magarity Rd. We extend our survey of Idlywood Rd to outside the Beltway and discover a stretch of no sidewalk and narrow shoulders, a burnt-out house, and one rabbit. Soon we're on the W&OD Trail, dodging cyclists and greeting joggers. High humidity and warm temperatures make for a sweaty trek. The water fountain at Route 7 is thankfully working, but the hot yoga studio's windows are dark. Kerry spies a lawn sprinkler; Kristin & I divert to get a quick cooldown.


- Saturday, June 06, 2015 at 05:19:08 (EDT)

Longhorn near Schulenberg

... during a visit to family in central Texas, a field of longhorn cattle near Schulenberg:


- Friday, June 05, 2015 at 04:30:48 (EDT)

Vastness, Equanimity, Selflessness

In the final issue of Inquiring Mind, the article "The Dharma is Here to Stay: A Conversation between Jack Kornfeld & Trudy Goodman" includes some extraordinarily insightful observations. Kornfeld begins by describing what really seems to help people who come to his mindfulness-meditation center:

First we try to help them quiet their minds and tend to their hearts. People need to do this in order to have the capacity to be present with the difficult stuff. Our cultural habit is to keep distracted—open the refrigerator or go online. In contrast, as teachers we want to give people a practice and a place to do that practice where they are respected for their hearts' capacity to be present.

It is also helpful for people to experience the impersonal nature of suffering—just as I suffer, everyone suffers—to realize that difficulty and loss are part of the human condition and that they're not alone in their situation.


Also important are the practices of vastness, equanimity and selflessness, not as a denial but as perspective. In developing equanimity practice toward others, though we care, we include the phrase, "Your happiness and suffering depend on your thoughts and actions and not my wishes for you." As we repeat those phrases, we are in touch with the play of each individual life taking place in the vastness of space and time—maha kalpas of time. Attending Dharma teaching or a retreat is an invitation to step out of ordinary time into the present, and into eternity. We can realize that we're part of something unimaginably great and mysterious, a cosmos that includes birth and death, joy and sorrow, gain and loss, praise and blame. We gain the capacity to feel the currents of life in a more gracious way.

More to folow ...

- Thursday, June 04, 2015 at 05:01:14 (EDT)

2015-05-10 - MCRRC Run Aware 5k XC

~3.1 miles @ ~8.7 min/mi

At pre-race registration Christina Caravoulias offers me bib #1000, but I opt for 999 which offers more humor potential. Distractions: two text message chimes and one email chirp, during the MCRRC's "Run Aware" 5k cross-country event. Oops! I refrain from replying but joke with fellow runners about pausing for selfies.

Friendly arch-rival Tom Young is racing on a sheared meniscus, due to be surgically repaired in a few weeks. We banter and dance over roots and rocks together for the first couple of miles, after which I give chase to three young ladies who help pull me up the final hills. DNF today stands for "Did Not Fall"! Official result: 65th place overall of 229 finishers, 50/107 males, 5/10 in age-gender group, time 26:43 = 8:36 min/mi estimated pace.


- Wednesday, June 03, 2015 at 04:29:25 (EDT)


They are the Earth;
   Water is you.
And I? Air!
   Fire: the love
That we all share

- Tuesday, June 02, 2015 at 07:41:16 (EDT)

2015-05-09 - DC Boundary Survey

~15.7 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

Another DC historical artifact for Dr Sam (Sandra) Yerkes! I lead her to the northernmost point in Washington, a boundary stone set in place in 1792. We pause there for photos. Earlier on this humid morning Sam and Gayatri Datta and I ramble down Rock Creek, head west on Military Rd, then join the Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda. Jackhammers ear-piercingly punch holes in River Rd, where the top of the radio tower by the CCT vanishes into the fog. A sadly flat rabbit lies in the middle of hilly Leland St. Flowers bloom and cyclists race past.


- Tuesday, June 02, 2015 at 07:29:18 (EDT)

2015-05-08 - Langley Cross-Country

~11.0 miles @ ~12.3 min/mi

"Tall over, short under!" Kristin summarizes the pattern as she and I stoop to go beneath the fallen tree at the stream crossing, while Kerry scrambles across the top of it. We ramble down Turkey Run Rd and into the woods, but miss a turn and emerge on Bright Mountain Rd heading the wrong way. A backyard path takes us below an impressive hanging wood-and-rope bridge between two magnificent tree houses. But then the trail dead-ends and we have to backtrack.

BMWs and other sporty cars are lined up along Georgetown Pike as students try to get to class at Langley High. Kerry has morning meetings, so to save time today we rendezvous in her neighborhood and return her to her home early. A pretty pink and lavender sunrise starts the day. Kristin points out a big deer near McLean Library, standing fearlessly in the meadow in broad daylight.


- Tuesday, June 02, 2015 at 07:26:39 (EDT)

Nothing There in the First Place

At the end of "A Messy Path: Conversation with Joseph Goldstein and Pascal Auclair" in the final (Spring 2015) issue of Inquiring Mind the two Buddhist mindfulness-meditation teachers respond to a question about how they are preparing for death:

JG: Aging certainly brings death to the fore. Death has actually been on my mind a lot lately, just the realization that there is not much time left. I've been using one of the classic Buddhist reflections, which states: "That which is subject to illness grows ill. That which is subject to aging ages and then dies." Then there is a tagline that I find very impactful: "And I am not exempt."

When something hurts a little bit or I don't feel so well, that line will come to me: "And I am not exempt." What's surprising is how it touches that place in the mind where somehow we thing we are exempt. Even when it is so obvious that we're not, it's revealing to see how deeply we feel that we are. As long as we're feeling well, it seems to natural to think it will always be like that. And then, of course, for all of us, we come up against the very natural process of the body getting old and getting ill and dying. For me, a great practice has been to take even short periods of time to be with each breath, each step, as if it were the last, and to remind myself of how I would like to be in those dying moments. It has been striking to see how in this very simple remembrance, the mind effortlessly becomes vivid and awake. That would be a good way to die.

PA: For me it's a little different, partly because I'm only forty-five. There was a time in my life when I was much more in touch with death, because of a life-threatening illness. But now my condition is stable and chances are I will die of something other than that illness.

One way that I work with death is just in the practice of sitting, paying attention to how things last for just one moment, and seeing that these present moments are escaping all the time. All of the things that we expect to do and become don't really belong to us. With sitting, it becomes really clear that the sensations are not us. They can't be owned. I get intimate with death on a daily basis in sitting. It's a very expansive practice. Everything disappears. I don't know if it's naïve or what, but I think the best way I can prepare for death is to clarify that there was nothing there that was mine in the first place.

(cf. Messy Path (2015-05-23), ...)

- Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 06:10:27 (EDT)

2015-05-06 - Recognize the Opportunity

~9.3 miles @ ~12.4 min/mi

"Two days old!" Kerry and Kristin and I are comparing notes on the age at which we first took our kids out to the grocery store with us. We explore new territory, south of the W&OD Trail in Falls Church. Kerry spots small glowing pink lights in the blooming azaleas near the corner of Great Falls St and US-29.

"Sunflowers and Oms" says the sign for a yoga studio. A legendary toy store features big stuffed animals in the front window, next door to a fine restaurant. Kristin points out curvy architectural decorations on buildings beside Route 7, and a setting moon opposite the rising sun.

"Recognize the Opportunity!" is a candidate mantra suggestion by Kerry. We divert to check the track at Marshall High School, but the fence is still chained shut. A possum lurks near the bushes in front of the building and sticks its tongue out at us.


- Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 05:57:16 (EDT)

2015-05-04 - Carpet of Pink

~7.3 miles @ ~11.8 min/mi

"Carpet of Pink!" Kristin calls the sidewalk under the cherry trees as they drop blossoms to cushion our steps. We run up the hill on Westmoreland St, loop into a neighborhood of dead-end coves and courts and culs-de-sac, circle out half a mile later, and find ourselves at the bottom of the same hill. "Carpet of Pink!"

We extend our walk breaks. Kristin is sneezing and sniffling, perhaps a cold caught from her kids plus allergies plus exhaustion from a busy weekend. Her daughter had a superb fifth birthday celebration on Saturday, and a long day of meetings looms ahead. So we cut short the trek and enjoy the sunrise, the birds, and the chance to chat. It's a three-rabbit morning!


- Friday, May 29, 2015 at 04:24:54 (EDT)

Mantra - The End of Now

This isn't the end of everything
     Just the end of now and
   The start of just after now

... a thought on the boundary between past and future, on letting go of expectations and and being open to new possibilities, on change and nonattachment, ...

(suggested by Rayna Matsuno; cf. Not Always So (2009-07-04), No Beginning, No End (2013-03-24), The End of Now (2013-07-16), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), Meditations from the Mat (2013-07-20), ...)

- Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 04:17:11 (EDT)

2015-05-03 - Early to Rise

~10.2 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

"Wake up! You need to get ready to run with Mark!" Kerry reports her husband Clay telling her, early this morning. She scrambles to prepare, and has her shoes all laced up before glancing at a clock and discovering that Clay is two hours early. Oops!

Our Sunday morning McLean meander includes an unsuccessful trek down Saigon Rd & Spencer Rd, in search of a cut-through to the next neighborhood. "No Trespassing - Private Property" signs turn us back. Scott's Run Nature Preserve is busy with family groups and friendly dogs. I pose for photos inside the ruins of an ancient chimney.

At Langley High School we survey the construction work and I experiment with running up and down the aluminum bleacher stairs, but can't figure out the appeal. We do a fast lap at ~7 min/mi pace around the track. Kerry greets neighbors and tells stories about the paving of her street on Friday. We sprint the final quarter mile to pull our average pace down to a prettier number. Any excuse for speed is s good excuse!


- Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 04:38:55 (EDT)

Wings of Acceptance

In Radical Acceptance, Chapter 2 ("Awakening from the Trance: The Path of Radical Acceptance"), Tara Brach discusses the complementary nature of Heartfulness and Mindfulness in poetic and concrete language:

... The two parts of genuine acceptance—seeing clearly and holding our experience with compassion—are as interdependent as the two wings of a great bird. Together, they enable us to fly and be free.

The wing of clear seeing is often described in Buddhist practice as mindfulness. This is the quality of awareness that recognizes exactly what is happening in our moment-to-moment experience. When we are mindful of fear, for instance, we are aware that our thoughts are racing, that our body feels tight and shaky, that we feel compelled to flee—and we recognize all this without trying to manage our experience in any way, without pulling away. Our attentive presence is unconditional and open—we are willing to be with whatever arises, even if we wish the pain would end or that we could be doing something else. That wish and that thought become part of what we are accepting. Because we are not tampering with our experience, mindfulness allows us to see life "as it is." This recognition of the truth of our experience is intrinsic to Radical Acceptance: We can't honestly accept an experience unless we see clearly what we are accepting.

The second wing of Radical Acceptance, compassion, is our capacity to relate in a tender and sympathetic way to what we perceive. Instead of resisting our feelings of fear or grief, we embrace our pain with the kindness of a mother holding her child. Rather than judging or indulging our desire for attention or chocolate or sex, we regard our grasping with gentleness and care. Compassion honors our experience; it allows us to be intimate with the life of this moment as it is. Compassion makes our acceptance wholehearted and complete.

The two wings of clear seeing and compassion are inseparable; both are essential in liberating us from the trance. They work together, mutually reinforcing each other. If we are rejected by someone we love, the trance of unworthiness may ensnare us in obsessive thinking, blaming the one who hurt us, and at the same time believing that we were jilted because we are defective. We may feel caught in a relentless swing between explosive anger and wrenching grief and shame. The two wings of Radical Acceptance free us from this swirling vortex of reaction. They help us find the balance and clarity that can guide us in choosing what we say or do.

If we were to bring only the wing of mindfulness to our process of Radical Acceptance, we might be clearly aware of the aching in our heart, the flush of rage in our face; we might clearly see the stories we are telling ourselves—that we are a victim, that we will always be alone and without love. But we might also compound our suffering by feeling angry with ourselves for getting into the situation in the first place. This is where the wing of compassion joins with mindfulness to create a genuinely healing presence. Instead of pushing away or judging our anger or despondency, compassion enables us to be softly and kindly present with our open wounds.

In the same way, mindfulness balances compassion. If our heartfelt caring begins to bleed over into self-pity, giving rise to another storyline—we tried so hard but didn't get what we so dearly wanted—mindfulness enables us to see the trap we're falling into.

Both wings together help us remain in the experience of the moment, just as it is. When we do this, something begins to happen—we feel freer, options open before us, we see with more clarity how we want to proceed. Radical Acceptance helps us to heal and move on, free from unconscious habits of self-hatred and blame. ...

(an edited version "Unfolding the Wings of Acceptance" appears in the Huffington Post (2012-10-29); cf. Heartfulness and Mindfulness (2014-12-15), Without Anxiety about Imperfection (2015-05-21), ...)

- Tuesday, May 26, 2015 at 07:31:23 (EDT)

2015-05-02 - Hilly Circuit

~15.2 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"Who suggested Leland St?" I ask, after the seventh steep hill. Sam Yerkes and Gayatri Datta just look at me, silently. "Oh."

It's a cool Saturday morning ramble. We divert to visit a DC Boundary Stone, a historical artifact that Sam hasn't previously seen. I lecture on the original survey by Benjamin Bannaker & colleagues, then reach through the iron fence to touch the marker, placed here in 1792 — don't tell the DAR!

Pink tents are set up at Candy Cane City in preparation for an Avon anti-breast-cancer fundraiser walk. Green chalk from a Holi-color run covers the path at the nearby tennis courts. We find the correct cut-through trail between Chevy Chase Lake and the Capital Crescent Trail. Sam and I discuss injuries and overtraining. Gayatri tells of her recent visit to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks in Utah. We loop about downtown Bethesda in the endgame to get Sam's GPS distance safely past her 15 mile goal for today.


- Monday, May 25, 2015 at 05:20:12 (EDT)

Messy Path

The final (Spring 2015) issue of Inquiring Mind features thoughtful interviews including the engagingly titled,"A Messy Path: Conversation with Joseph Goldstein and Pascal Auclair". Among their memorable comments are Goldstein's remarks, beginning with his recollections of how his meditation has developed since 1967:

... I was really practicing for enlightenment and awakening. I see the whole point of my practice over all these years as going in that direction. I think we can understand enlightenment in very pragmatic terms. It doesn't have to be some kind of mystical metaphysical something or other. I see it as just weakening and uprooting greed, hatred and delusion in the mind. I think for people who have committed to practice over many years it actually does happen. The Dalai Lama has said that when you look back over five years of your practice, if in the beginning you got angry ten times a day and now you get angry seven or eight times, you have made good progress. I find that reassuring.

When I look back to my early years, I remember my mind having judgments about everybody and everything. That has really diminished; at least it has become manageable. Perhaps the most profound depending has been in regard to selflessness, integrating that insight into my life. It's been very freeing to experience thoughts and feelings less personally, to be less caught up in the movies of the mind, and to realize that the body grows old all by itself—it's just its nature. All of these are works in progress, but it's amazing to see the trajectory over these fifty years.

Pascal Auclair agrees ("When I started, I didn't have the capacity to even imagine what was possible for the mind and the heart. I didn't even consider that the mind could question itself and gain perspective and clarity around its own functioning. And it feels like I am only starting to understand how to practice.") and adds commentary on the responsibility he feels for what he says, thinks, and does, especially as a leader and a teacher, especially in relating to people of other genders, races, sexualities, backgrounds, and life-experiences. He notes:

Also, to me, as a teacher, it feels very important that I say to people that this is a messy path. You are going to fall on your face several times. That's how I traveled the path, you know. The whole path can become very idealized, with the beautiful meditation posture and the Buddhist statues and all this talk about kindness and not having any anger and being full of wisdom. People ca easily think that there is something wrong with them because they get worked up with their children and other issues of daily life. I think it's one of my responsibilities to talk about the Dharma the way I learned and experienced it. It was a very messy way, a rickety way. It's not easy. But we can talk about it and own it and look at it together.

Joseph Goldstein responds enthusiastically:

I love what Pascal said. I am going to move to Montreal and become his disciple. Yes, messy. Pascal raised this whole question of a greater understanding of diversity and how much we have to learn about our unconscious assumptions and the language we use. That's a huge new arena for the teachers in the West and I think it's really important. We keep learning about these issues because otherwise, the mess stays a mess instead of the mess becoming part of our learning.

What is also messy is going through the endless ups and downs of our own practice it's clearly not just a linear path upwards to greater and greater clarity and calm. We get caught up again and again. We can be sitting and wondering after thirty years of practice if we have a capacity for it. So all of this is just part of the path. As Trungpa Rinpoche says, "Meditation is just one insult after another."

For me, the times that Pascal calls "messy" are the times of difficulty in our lives, in our practice, in our teaching. Those are the situations when the Four Noble Truths are most alive, because at that time suffering is not theoretical. If we have enough perspective or space in our minds to recognize it, then there is tremendous possibility there. We can actually investigate the causes and say, okay, what's the release from this? So I see all the messiness as a tremendous time of learning.

And just to echo something Pascal said a little earlier, which I also share, is that no matter how long I practice, it always feels like I am just at the beginning. Because the Dharma is so vast and we're always just at the forward edge of whatever our understanding may be. That's what keeps it so vital.

More to follow ...

(cf. Mental Noting (2009-05-03), Inquiring Mind (2012-03-05), Opening to Love (2013-09-27), ... )

- Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 07:09:55 (EDT)

2015-04-29 - McLean Tour

~10.0 miles @ ~11.3 min/mi

Kerry takes a cobweb in the face for The Team. "After you!", I faux-politely offer her the lead as we proceed. Kristin spots a rabbit scampering across Chain Bridge Rd in the twilight, and later points out three deer. Dog-walkers in orange are dragged along behind their pets. We loop through woods and along Benjamin St, eying patterns of cobblestones and bricks in the mansions' driveways. Kerry's street is soon to be resurfaced, and many suggestions are brainstormed: glass pebbles with lights underneath, eco-turf, heated speed bumps, LED displays, etc. Our pace is brisk, and at the end Kristin adds a loop around the office to get her GPS into double digits.


- Friday, May 22, 2015 at 22:43:57 (EDT)

Without Anxiety about Imperfection

Tara Brach in the first chapter ("The Trance of Unworthiness") of her book Radical Acceptance concludes with a call to awakening:

The renowned seventh-century Zen master Seng-tsan taught that true freedom is being "without anxiety about imperfection." This means accepting our human existence and all of life as it is. Imperfection is not our personal problem—it is a natural part of existing. We all get caught in wants and fears, we all act unconsciously, we all get diseased and deteriorate. When we relax about imperfection, we no longer lose our life moments in the pursuit of being different and in the fear of what is wrong.

D. H. Lawrence described our Western culture as being like a great uprooted tree with its roots in the air. "We are perishing for lack of fulfillment of our greater needs," he wrote, "we are cut off from the great sources of our inward nourishment and renewal." We come alive as we rediscover the truth of our goodness and our natural connectedness to all of life. Our "greater needs" are met in relating lovingly with each other, relating with full presence to each moment, relating to the beauty and pain that is within and around us. As Lawrence said, "We must plant ourselves again in the universe."

Although the trance of feeling separate and unworthy is an inherent part of our conditioning as humans, so too is our capacity to awaken. We free ourselves from the prison of trance as we stop the war against ourselves and, instead, learn to relate to our lives with a wise and compassionate heart. This book is about the process of embracing our lives. When we learn to cultivate Radical Acceptance, we begin to rediscover the garden—a forgotten but cherished sense of wholeness, wakefulness, and love.

(cf. Core Buddhism (2011-10-17), 0-1 (2014-08-29), Heartfulness and Mindfulness (2014-12-15), ...)

- Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 04:37:51 (EDT)

2015-04-27 - Marshall HS Fence

~7.2 miles @ ~11.2 min/mi

George C Marshall High School's track looks lovely, but the fence is high, the gates are locked, and the openings look too small to squeeze through. So after a quick reconnoiter Kristin and I continue our meander through the neighborhood, seeking without success for a cut-through path on the south side of Route 7. We backtrack, loop around, and eventually return via busy Idlywood Rd. Our pace is brisk, as is the weather. It's great to be back to early sunrise — no need for flashlights even at 0545 — and the music of birds in the bushes!


- Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 04:22:13 (EDT)


when toenails turn to purple
and fall off
some runners paint the places
where they were

- Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at 04:20:21 (EDT)

2015-04-24 - Austin Thunderstorm near Decker Lake

~13.6 miles @ ~11.4 min/mi

"Like a rolling thunder chasing the wind ...". Lines of storms drift slowly through the Austin area at sunrise, making Texas-sized puddles that soak the old worn-out shoes on their last run. Lightning is at least a mile away, judging by flash-boom time lags. A giant sinkhole still threatens the extension of Harris Branch Pkwy to Decker Lane, as it did last year. (cf. 2014-12-18 - Decker Lane Sinkhole)

Cast about and find the northern terminus of the Walnut Creek Trail at Liddell Lane. Trot through showers that turn into full-fledged rain. Hold an internal debate over which is less-aesthetic for passing commuters to see: bloody streaks on shirt front, or old hairy-bare chest? Tough call ...


- Monday, May 18, 2015 at 04:22:35 (EDT)

First Noble Kvetch

The final issue of Inquiring Mind (Spring 2015) includes selected excerpts from founding editor Wes Nisker's columns. In Fall 2009 he wrote, tongue-in-cheek seriously:

Generally speaking, I know of two kinds of Buddhists: those who feel the deepest resonance with the First Noble Truth and those who are drawn to the promise of the Third Noble Truth. The "firsters" are focused on the bottom-line dukkha of this incarnation, while the "thirdsters" believe in the possibility of complete liberation and the end of suffering. Crossover happens, of course, but many, myself included, feel that when it comes to truths, the first is number one.

I may be attached to the First Noble Truth partly because it feels so familiar. It states a worldview that smoothly converges with my Jewish heritage, allowing me to continue kvetching, but with Pali words instead of Yiddish ones. Now, rather than complaining about the weather, or work, or the health, wealth, and behavior of my relatives, I can combine all my tsuris together and simply moan about being incarnated.

(cf. Inquiring Mind online, and Sinecure Kvelling (2008-12-01), ...)

- Sunday, May 17, 2015 at 04:36:42 (EDT)

2015-04-22 - Austin Southern Walnut Creek Trail Trek

~15.5 miles @ ~11.2 min/mi

Clouds of gnats tickle the cheeks at dawn near Boggy Creek. Buttercups and Indian Paintbrush fringe the path, and dwarf acorns make a sidewalk ramp ball-bearing-slippery. Nineteen vultures perch hungrily on the high-tension power line tower. Half a dozen cyclists share Southern Walnut Creek Trail, but no other runners. Unlike Monday morning's crisp weather, temps on Wednesday are in the 60s with 90% humidity. Singlet and shorts are soon sweat-soaked.

"Come on. Big village, be quick, bring packs." George Armstrong Custer's last message comes to mind, hauling ~4 lbs of water in three bottles, caching one at the Loyola Lane crossing. Fountains at trail's end, Govalle Park, are still turned off. Circle ballfields and head back upstream. Carry driver's license in case a Texas Beer Breakfast requires proof of legal drinking age (P < 0.000001). Take a salt capsule hourly. Detour past LBJ High School, duck through a hole in the fence, dance across a field of dandelions, and decorate the GPS map with four laps in lane #2 of the track at ~9 min/mi pace. Dash home to dreams of a high-protein breakfast.


- Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 05:39:22 (EDT)

Befriending the Self

From Pema Chödrön's The Wisdom of No Escape, Chapter 1 ("Loving-Kindness"):

... loving-kindness—maitri— toward ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. Maitri means that we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

(cf. Bodhichitta, Maitri, Shunyata (2014-07-16), ...)

- Friday, May 15, 2015 at 04:18:15 (EDT)

2015-04-20 - Austin Lake Odyssey

~20.2 miles @ ~11.3 min/mi

Scorpio sprawls full-length above the horizon at 5am, the whole constellation down to the stinger in its tail visible from Austin's southerly latitude. Snail trails and glass shards glitter on the sidewalk under the streetlights. On Springdale Road, Torchy's Tacos world headquarters with its pitchfork-wielding demon stands next door to the future home of the David Chapel (not Dave Chappelle).

Stoop to pick up a scuffed but shiny cent from the middle of Rogge Lane. Turn onto Cesar Chavez Blvd, guided by the cheery glow of the Planet K head shop's neon. Refill bottle from the water fountain at Pleasant Valley Rd. Pause at the little beach to take photos of Longhorn Dam at dawn. Dip a hand into Lady Bird Lake. Follow the trail around the Holly St power plant to I-35, and take the sidewalk along the frontage road north.

Do a slo-mo face plant after tripping on a curb at mile 12 while swerving around a pedestrian. Fortunately suffer only a busted upper lip, thanks to cushioning by the bushy mustache. Detour to visit alma mater John H Reagan High School and run four 2:13 laps on the cushy track, spiraling out in lanes 2-3-4-5 to test the GPS resolution. Follow the perimeter fence past LBJ HS track, where purple-clad students wait for hurdles to be set in place. Dash home, passing a yellow rose bush — whereupon the current electronic dance music hit song "Redefined", which has been on heavy mental rotation for the past 3+ hours, gets replaced by "She's the Yellow Rose of Texas".


- Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 05:12:42 (EDT)

Radical Acceptance

Deeply, intensely personal: Tara Brach's book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha is full of angst and anecdote, mistake and discovery. It's difficult reading at times, confession following upon confusion. The philosophy is muddy. But Brach is so completely loving and open, and her message is so important, that maybe it's all good. The final paragraph of the book, after the guided meditation on "Who Am I?" (dzogchen, "great perfection"):

It is important that we practice dzochen in an easy and effortless way, not contracting the mind by striving to do it right. To avoid creating stress, it is best to limit practice to five- to ten-minute intervals. You might do short periods of formal practice a number of times a day. As an informal practice, take a few moments, whenever you remember, to look into awareness and see what is true. Then let go and let be.

That nicely summarizes Radical Acceptance:

Let Go and Let Be

More quotes and commentary to follow ...

(cf. Heartfulness and Mindfulness (2014-12-15), ...)

- Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 04:29:18 (EDT)

2015-04-18 - Chevy Chase Non-Lake

~11.7 miles @ ~12.4 min/mi

"There's a marathon this morning — you can't leave your cars here!" the county park service guy tells Sam Yerkes, Gayatri Datta. and me when we arrive at Candy Cane City at 0630 on a crisp Saturday morning. We refrain from explaining the distinction between a marathon and a 5k, and simply move our vehicles up the road beyond the race perimeter.

Then we attack the hills, beginning with the infamous Leland St climb to Bethesda. Sam and I dash up the slopes, then loop back to join Gayatri, who is recovering from a week of swimming, yoga, Stairmaster, and weights. She flies out to visit her niece in Salt Lake City this afternoon. I'm leaving a few hours later to see Mom and the rest of the family in Austin.

We meander back via Chevy Chase Lake (which turns out not to have had a lake for decades — I never knew!) and detour to visit the spring at Clean Drinking Manor, which dates back to the 17th Century. "George Washington was here!" I tell Sam and Gayatri, who pose for photos by the historic marker. Another side trip explores the boardwalk-path to the Audubon Naturalist Society. We climb the Mormon Temple hill, cruise down Rock Creek, and sprint to our starting point. No "marathon" is in evidence yet, though police cars now have closed the road beyond where we parked. A great day for a neighborhood ramble!


- Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 04:43:58 (EDT)

Linguistic Origins of Mindfulness

In her 2015-04-14 New York Times Magazine column on language — "The Muddied Meaning of 'Mindfulness'" — Virginia Heffernan throws dozens of snark-grenades. Interestingly, they all miss. (Is it that hard to make fun of awakening?) But between the pokes and jokes there's fascinating historical background:

... In the late 19th century, the heyday of both the British Empire and Victorian Orientalism, a British magistrate in Galle, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), with the formidable name of Thomas William Rhys Davids, found himself charged with adjudicating Buddhist ecclesiastical disputes. He set out to learn Pali, a Middle Indo-Aryan tongue and the liturgical language of Theravada, an early branch of Buddhism. In 1881, he thus pulled out "mindfulness" — a synonym for "attention" from 1530 — as an approximate translation of the Buddhist concept of sati.

The translation was indeed rough. Sati, which Buddhists consider the first of seven factors of enlightenment, means, more nearly, "memory of the present," which didn't track in tense-preoccupied English. ...

Heffernan quotes Jon Kabat-Zinn's working definition of modern, secular mindfulness:

"The awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."

(That leaves out the ultimate Kabat-Zinn-Zen footnote: "Ultimately, it stops being on purpose.")

Heffernan goes on to list a host of other uses of the word "mindfulness":

Not bad! And Heffernan does strike a blow against commercialization and faddishness. But overall, well, perhaps her target was too high and far away to hit ...

(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Finding the Quiet (2009-12-05), Just Sitting (2011-05-21), Core Buddhism (2011-10-17), Notice and Return (2013-03-11), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-13), Beginning Mindfulness (2013-09-22), Intentional Attention (2014-07-29), 0-1 (2014-08-29), ...)

- Monday, May 11, 2015 at 04:42:40 (EDT)

2015-04-13 - McLean Sunrise

~7 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

"Just trying to show off!" I confess near the start of today's Dawn Patrol trot around McLean with Dr K & Dr K. The old feet feel good after Saturday's ultra (the Bull Run Run). Perhaps the protein powder (recommended by Kristin & Mary) that I've been consuming for the past week has more than a placebo effect on recovery? (Don't tell them: it reminds me of Soylent Green!)

We manage to maintain a comfortably brisk pace on a semi- brisk morning, with temps in the low 50s and gusty southerly winds. Birds sing from the start, and a pastel lavender-fuchsia horizon glows ahead of us on the W&OD Trail. Clouds veil a waning moon.

K&K are running on caffeine after busy weekends, and wear matching azure shirts (alas, I didn't get the memo). Kristin tells of a trip to the Botanical Gardens with her kids; Kerry shares tales of MC Hammer at the Wizards basketball game last night. I offer trail-talk tidbits from BRR that are a bit too delicate for the official report. This is likely our last run together for a fortnight, with preemptively-busy schedules ahead for everybody. Maybe May will be less manic!


- Sunday, May 10, 2015 at 05:53:05 (EDT)

Escher's Questions

One hand holds a pen
That draws a second hand,
Which grasps a pen, in turn,
And seems to sketch the first —
A tiny, tidy loop
Of closed causality.

And yet: who bought the ink?
And from where streams the light
By which the hands are seen?
And whence the eye and mind
That do the seeing task?
Don't ask!

(cf. StrangeLoops (2007-10-06), ...)

- Friday, May 08, 2015 at 04:26:44 (EDT)

2015-04-11 - Bull Run Run 50 Miler

~45 miles @ ~15.5 min/mi

Bull Run Run! Still the best 50 miler — even if the GPS says it's ~45 miles, and this year the Runkeeper trackfile glitches and misses several segments. Still a challenge but not a torment. Still beautiful, diverse terrain. Still wonderful volunteers and fellow travelers. Still superb VHTRC attitude.

What's not to like?

^z crossing Little Rocky Run early in the 2015 BRR (photo by Mike Bur)
BRR 2015 ^z by the lakeThe weather is warm but not overwhelming today, my eighth BRR. I trek along, chatting with friends Stephanie Fonda, Marshall Porterfield, and Ken Swab. When a train crosses the stream I pause to take photos.

I slip and fall only once, in the mud at the northern end of the course.

This year's BRR comes two weeks after the 2015-03-28 - Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run (75 mile DNF). My blisters are largely healed, and my attitude is back to normal — "11" on the optimism meter.

Goal? Still only to have no goals. Again, I fail. But perhaps I'm getting closer!

BRR 2015 ^z at Fountainhead Aid Station (mile ~28) -- photo by Hai Nguyen
BRR 2015 ^z at the finish line a few minutes after crossing itThe official results this year have me crossing the line in 12:07:05, which pulls down my median time by ~9 minutes. I'm 241st place overall out of 323 starters and 280 finishers within the 13-hour cutoff. Among males 60-64 years old I'm 7th of 12, and sadly pull the team stuck with me ("MCRRC Stand-outs") down a few places by being more than three hours slower than my buddies.

BRR finish times:

     12:25:06 - 2007
     12:50:18 - 2008
     11:39:50 - 2009
     11:22:06 - 2010
     11:55:25 - 2011
     12:28:38 - 2013
     12:24:45 - 2014
     12:07:05 - 2015

Next year? Who knows!

(cf. Bull Run Run 2007, Bull Run Run 2008, 2009-04-18 - Bull Run Run, 2010-04-10 - Bull Run Run, 2011-04-09 - Bull Run Run, 2013-04-13 - Bull Run Run 2013, 2014-04-12 - Bull Run Run 50 Miler, ...)

- Wednesday, May 06, 2015 at 04:15:13 (EDT)

Mantra - Mind Like Water

Mind Like Water

From David Allen, executive coach and productivity maven:

In karate there is an image that's used to define the position of perfect readiness: "mind like water." Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn't overreact or underreact.

(cf. Quiet in There (2011-05-31), Mind Like Water (2011-12-24), ...)

- Monday, May 04, 2015 at 04:26:39 (EDT)

2015-04-06 - Dawn Trot with Kristin

~9.0 miles @ ~10.9 min/mi

"Exhilarating!" Kristin rates today's faster-than-usual trek — a notch harder than Friday's "Effortless!", which exhausted me but left her feeling strong. She picks the route to optimize sunrise during the W&OD segment. We talk about families and racing strategy, literature and injuries. (The bump on the side of my right food has moved to the top of the left foot.) Birds sing from shrubbery by sidewalks lined with daffodils. The water fountain at Route 7 on the trail is still turned off. Somehow I resist the Hot Yoga picture window and follow Dr K eastward. Spring Break means the McLean High School parking lot is spooky-empty. During post-run cooldown stretches we share thankfulness and quiet joy.


- Sunday, May 03, 2015 at 06:16:43 (EDT)

Techniques of Financial Fraud

Howard Schilit's Financial Shenanigans: How to Detect Accounting Gimmicks & Fraud in Financial Reports is a fascinating book that describes a diverse range of for-profit trickery. Abstracting from Schilit's case studies and anecdotes, some dimensions of cheating include:

- Saturday, May 02, 2015 at 18:30:54 (EDT)

2015-04-05 - Easter Roses

~6.8 miles @ ~11.8 min/mi

"Office Space!" is Rebecca Rosenberg's recommendation today for a fun film. It's directed by Mike Judge, who also did "Idiocracy", currently high on my to-view queue. We're trekking along Beach Dr in Rock Creek Park. enjoying the cool Passover/Easter morning. Barry Smith and RR commiserate about my Umstead blisters (already healed) and brainstorm taping and foot-toughening strategies to experiment with before future ultras. Barry has a marathon in Wisconsin (Eau Claire) coming up soon. Rebecca plans on the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in a week and the Madrid marathon a fortnight later.

We meet up with "Santa" Steve, Joyce, and K.C. near Wise Rd. I make them promise to add me to their mailing list, since I need to practice walking long distances more often. At home I photograph a few of DW's Lenten Roses (Hellebores) and hyacinths now blooming. Some creature has dug up and eaten all her alliums as they began to come up (I planted dozens of bulbs just a few months ago).

(trackfile) - ^z

- Friday, May 01, 2015 at 04:42:45 (EDT)

2015-04-04 - Matthew Henson Dash

~13.1 miles @ ~11.0 min/mi

Emaad Burki's wife Saira and sister Sairah are meeting him post-run, so he and I race ahead of the gang and push the pace to get him back in time. He has the Cherry Blossom 10 miler next weekend, and I have the Bull Run Run. North winds are brisk and a sudden squall brings eye-stinging rain for a few minutes.

Boardwalks are beautiful but hills along the Matthew Henson Trail feel relentless. I tell of my trek along here (2012-10-13 - Matthew Henson Trail with Stephanie) with Dr Fonda, and how we kept expecting to reach a summit only to laugh and be disappointed around every corner. Gayatri Datta, Rebecca Rosenberg, Barry Smith, and Sam Yerkes greet Emaad and me after our turnaround.

On the way home post-run Donut King lures me in and I emerge with a dozen. Maybe if I put protein powder on top they won't be quite so evil?


- Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 05:16:07 (EDT)

Everything Changes

From the Introduction to Crooked Cucumber, a biography of Zen Buddhist teacher Shunryu Suzuki by David Chadwick:

One night in February of 1968, I sat among fifty black-robed fellow students, mostly young Americans, at Zen Mountain Center, Tassajara Springs, ten miles inland from Big Sur, California, deep in the mountain wilderness. The kerosene lamplight illuminated our breath in the winter air of the unheated room.

Before us the founder of the first Zen Buddhist monastery in the Western Hemisphere, Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, had concluded a lecture from his seat on the altar platform. "Thank you very much," he said softly, with a genuine feeling of gratitude. He took a sip of water, cleared his throat, and looked around at his students. "Is there some question?" he asked, just loud enough to be heard above the sound of the creek gushing by in the darkness outside.

I bowed, hands together, and caught his eye.

"Hai?" he said, meaning yes.

"Suzuki-roshi, I've been listening to your lectures for years," I said, "and I really love them, and they're very inspiring, and I know that what you're talking about is actually very clear and simple. But I must admit I just don't understand. I love it, but I feel like I could listen to you for a thousand years and still not get it. Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?"

Everyone laughed. He laughed. What a ludicrous question. I don't think any of us expected him to answer it. He was not a man you could pin down, and he didn't like to give his students something definite to cling to. He had often said not to have "some idea" of what Buddhism was.

But Suzuki did answer. He looked at me and said, "Everything changes." Then he asked for another question.

(cf. http://www.cuke.com, and Crooked Cucumber (2010-04-09), Inner Iguana (2013-07-05), 0-1 (2014-08-29), Suffering Is Optional (2014-11-07), ...)

- Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 04:26:56 (EDT)

2015-04-03 - Benjamin Meander

~10.2 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

"Peach!" Kristin finds the perfect word for the perfect hues of this morning's sunrise. Temps are warm, in the lower 60's, and birds greet the dawn with vigor. We trot faster than usual and critique the mansions along Benjamin St : "chimneys too tall", "boring windows", "nice daffodils", "interesting texture", etc. A couple of little dogs ramble along Cedar Ave, and we pause to pet them.

Rain begins in our final mile, a welcome cooldown. Kristin is tickled to see that she has tired me out. In the locker room afterwards I show my Umstead blisters, mostly healed, to triathlete Art Manning who commiserates and counsels pre-race foot prep with Kinesio tape. He's recovering from a calf injury and may skip his 100 miler later this month, with an eye on a September Ironman in Ohio and an October triple-Iron at local Lake Anna. Awesome!!


- Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 05:09:44 (EDT)

Mantra - This Is How It Is Right Now

This Is How It Is Right Now

(cf. This Is It (2008-11-14), This Is Water (2009-05-21), Softening into Experience (2012-11-12), This (2013-03-09), Dance and Sit (2013-11-23), ...)

- Monday, April 27, 2015 at 04:27:36 (EDT)

2015-04-01 - Recovery Run

~6.3 miles @ ~12.0 min/mi

"Birds!" Kristin and I notice the twittering as dawn glows pink in the east. Frost makes the McLean High School track slightly slick. We meander down Old Chesterbrook Rd, admiring the architecture, then miss a turn on Linway Terrace and backtrack to escape neighborhood cul-de-sacs. Pause to pet dogs being walked, their eyes retroreflecting green by headlamp light.

The left foot is fine, and the pair of major right-foot blisters from the weekend (2015-03-28 - Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run (75 mile DNF)) are ~90% healed after a few days of limping and groaning. But a deep bruise/hotspot in the center of the ball of that foot suggests gently that it might be wise to stop at ~10 km. Kristin continues for bonus solo mileage, while I branch aside to unlock the office door for colleagues. But first, at my request we sprint a final loop around the MITRE complex, just to push the average pace on the GPS down a hair below 12.0 min/mi. OCD? Who, me?


- Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 07:26:39 (EDT)

Rilke on Being Human

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) is fascinating poetry itself, with powerful fragments oft quoted out-of-context. In Stephen Mitchell's brilliant 1984 translation one of the most unexpected features leaps forward: Rilke's far-ahead-of-his-time musings about love and sex and the sexes and their mutual humanity. Near the end of Letter #3, for instance, in analyzing German poet Richard Dehmel, Rilke observes that when Dehmel's writing:

... arrives at the sexual, it finds someone who is not quite so pure as it needs him to be. Instead of a completely ripe and pure world of sexuality, it finds a world that is not human enough, that is only male, is heat, thunder, and restlessness, and burdened with the old prejudice and arrogance with which the male has always disfigured and burdened love. Because he loves only as a male, and not as a human being, there is something narrow in his sexual feeling, something that seems wild, malicious, time-bound, uneternal, which diminishes his art and makes it ambiguous and doubtful. It is not immaculate, it is marked by time and by passion, and little of it will endure. (But most art is like that!) ...

And in Letter #4 — just after Rilke's frequently cited Zen-like advice to "Live the questions now." and "But those tasks that have been entrusted to us are difficult; almost everything serious is difficult; and everything is serious." — appears a thoughtful paragraph that seems to echo the Sufi mystic poet Rumi:

Bodily delight is a sensory experience, not any different from pure looking or the pure feeling with which a beautiful fruit fills the tongue; it is a great, an infinite learning that is given to us, a knowledge of the world, the fullness and the splendor of all knowledge. And it is not our acceptance of it that is bad; what is bad is that most people misuse this learning and squander it and apply it as a stimulant on the tired places of their lives and as a distraction rather than as a way of gathering themselves for their highest moments. People have even made eating into something else: necessity on the one hand, excess on the other; have muddied the clarity of this need, and all the deep, simple needs in which life renews itself have become just as muddy. But the individual can make them clear for himself and live them clearly (not the individual who is dependent, but the solitary man). He can remember that all beauty in animals and plants is a silent, enduring form of love and yearning, and he can see the animal, as he sees plants, patiently and willingly uniting and multiplying and growing, not out of physical pleasure, not out of physical pain, but bowing to necessities that are greater than pleasure and pain, and more powerful than will and withstanding. If only human beings could more humbly receive this mystery—which the world is filled with, even in its smallest Things—, could bear it, endure it, more solemnly, feel how terribly heavy it is, instead of taking it lightly. If only they could be more reverent toward their own fruitfulness, which is essentially one, whether it is manifested as mental or physical; for mental creation too arises from the physical, is of one nature with it and only like a softer, more enraptured and more eternal repetition of bodily delight. "The thought of being a creator, of engendering, of shaping" is nothing without its continuous great confirmation and embodiment in the world, nothing without the thousand-fold assent from Things and animals—and our enjoyment of it is so indescribably beautiful and rich only because it is full of inherited memories of the engendering and birthing of millions. In one creative thought a thousand forgotten nights of love come to life again and fill it with majesty and exaltation. And those who come together in the nights and are entwined in rocking delight perform a solemn task and gather sweetness, depth, and strength for the song of some future poet, who will appear in order to say ecstasies that are unsayable. And they call forth the future; and even if they have made a mistake and embrace blindly, the future comes anyway, a new human being arises, and on the foundation of the accident that seems to be accomplished here, there awakens the law by which a strong, determined seed forces its way through to the egg cell that openly advances to meet it. Don't be confused by surfaces; in the depths everything becomes law. And those who live the mystery falsely and badly (and they are very many) lose it only for themselves and nevertheless pass it on like a sealed letter, without knowing it. And don't be puzzled by how many names there are and how complex each life seems. Perhaps above them all there is a great motherhood, in the form of a communal yearning. The beauty of the girl, a being who (as you so beautifully say) "has not yet achieved anything," is motherhood that has a presentiment of itself and begins to prepare, becomes anxious, yearns. And the mother's beauty is motherhood that serves, and in the old woman there is a great remembering. And in the man too there is motherhood, it seems to me, physical and mental; his engendering is also a kind of birthing, and it is birthing when he creates out of his innermost fullness. And perhaps the sexes are more akin than people think, and the great renewal of the world will perhaps consist in one phenomenon: that man and woman, freed from all mistaken feelings and aversions, will seek each other not as opposites but as brother and sister, as neighbors, and will unite as human beings, in order to bear in common, simply, earnestly, and patiently, the heavy sex that has been laid upon them.

And in Letter #7, a year later, there's an exploration of the social/political/intellectual emergence of women after countless millennia of suppression, in words that revisit John Stuart Mill's On the Subjection of Women and other feminist essays. Rilke observes:

The girl and the woman, in their new, individual unfolding, will only in passing be imitators of male behavior and misbehavior and repeaters of male professions. After the uncertainty of such transitions, it will become obvious that women were going through the abundance and variation of those (often ridiculous) disguises just so that they could purify their own essential nature and wash out the deforming influences of the other sex. Women, in whom life lingers and dwells more immediately, more fruitfully, and more confidently, must surely have become riper and more human in their depths than light, easygoing man, who is not pulled down beneath the surface of life by the weight of any bodily fruit and who, arrogant and hasty, undervalues what he thinks he loves. This humanity of woman, carried in her womb through all her suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she has stripped off the conventions of mere femaleness in the transformations of her outward status, and those men who do not yet feel it approaching will be astonished by it. Someday (and even now, especially in the countries of northern Europe, trustworthy signs are already speaking and shining), someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer mean the mere opposite of the male, but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit, but only of life and reality: the female human being.

This advance (at first very much against the will of the outdistanced men) will transform the love experience, which is now filled with error, will change it from the ground up, and reshape it into a relationship that is meant to be between one human being and another, no longer one that flows from man to woman. And this more human love (which will fulfill itself with infinite consideration and gentleness, and kindness and clarity in binding and releasing) will resemble what we are now preparing painfully and with great struggle: the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other.

And finally, in Letter #8, Rilke returns again to his touchstone word — difficult — with a profound vision of love and its ultimate triumph:

... We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares have been set around us, and there is nothing that should frighten or upset us. We have been put into life as into the element we most accord with, and we have, moreover, through thousands of years of adaptation, come to resemble this life so greatly that when we hold still, through a fortunate mimicry we can hardly be differentiated from everything around us. We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

(cf. OnTheSubjectionOf (1999-08-21), NotEasy (2001-03-31), OurStonehenge (2001-05-03), WomenAndMen (2001-11-20), Everyday Blessings (2014-06-06), Live the Questions Now (2015-04-02), ...)

- Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 17:06:25 (EDT)

2015-03-28 - Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run (75 mile DNF)

~76 miles @ ~15.9 min/mi

^z at Umstead 2015, apparently floating down a hillAnother ^z 100 miler start, another Did Not Finish result! At Umstead State Park in North Carolina on 28-29 March 2015 I withdraw at the end of lap 6, official mile 75, after 20 hours and 21 minutes of fun.

And it truly is fun! I feel fine mentally, and am not actually too tired. But alas, as at the 2013-04-27 - C-and-O Canal 100 DNF, big bad blisters end the game.

Ultra-kudos to kind Mary Ewell, who snookers me into entering Umstead, drives me six hours to the race, reintroduces me to her lovely sister Anna (who lives in nearby Chapel Hill, and at whose beautiful home we stay), cheerfully crews for me, helps tape my über-ugly feet, and gently lures me out with her at 10pm on Saturday night to trek a final dozen miles.

Thank you so much, dear Dr Mary. What a wonderful friend!

Approaching mile 25 I miss a turn on a spur trail, go off course, and find myself approaching the start/finish area from the wrong direction. Oops! Dash back along the dirt path. Locate the branch point where I wasn't paying attention. Award myself a bonus ~0.8 miles when I get to the official checkpoint and run past the chip sensor. And yes, It's All Good!

Splits for the 12.5 mile Umstead orbits turn out awesomely level-paced and in near-perfect accord with the game plan proposed by experienced 100 miler friends Stephanie Fonda and Marshall Porterfield. They advise me to finish each circuit in ~3 hours during daylight and to aim for ~4.5 hours/lap through the night. As it happens, times for the first four loops are respectively 2:52 + 2:58 + 2:58 + 3:11. It adds up to a mile-50 total of 11:58. Spot on, eh?

At that point, however, the ball of my right foot has developed emergent "hot spots" — troublesome, but not yet crippling. I invest ~10 minutes at the race headquarters cabin in cleaning the foot, piercing incipient blisters with a safety pin from my bib, squeezing out clear liquid, and changing into clean dry socks. Then it's back out for the evening lap. Its elapsed time is 3:42, as the sun sets and walk breaks get longer.

Back again at the start/finish, mile 62.5, I confer with Mary. We return to the cabin and commence another round of safety-pin blister-pricking. Mary gives me moleskin to stick over the bad spots, and we cover that with duct tape from a kind race assistant. I'm skeptical that it will last more than a mile, but can't say "no" to Mary's cajoling. So 20 minutes later, into the night we go ...

^z at Umstead 2015, greeting photographer Hope Squires
^z at Umstead 2015, flying lowThe final round takes 4:39, as Mary walks and I limp. We practice aid station discipline, as I have throughout the day, and only spend a couple of minutes refueling at the midcourse stop.

At 2:20am we arrive back at race headquarters. I withdraw officially from the event, with the GPS reading 76.9+ miles. It's more than 7 miles farther than I've ever made before, and continues the linear progression established in recent years: 69+ miles at 2014-04-26 - CO Canal 100 Miler DNF, 62+ miles at 2013-10-12 - Tesla-Hertz Run - 100 Miler DNF, and 52+ miles at 2013-04-27 - C-and-O Canal 100 DNF.

At this rate, by 2020 perhaps I'll score 100, eh?

Before leaving home on Friday afternoon I draw a Tarot card from the "Dream Enchantress" deck: the Knave of Pentacles. The accompanying commentary says, "Whatever news comes your way right now, do not be misled. Go slowly, taking careful, steady steps. Keep your belongings secure." Excellent advice for any ultramarathon!

During Umstead I accompany ultra legends Tom Green and James Monroe for parts of the first few dozen miles. Conversation with them (and scores of other fellow travelers) is delightful. I pick up bits of trash and touch trees as I pass, imagining that they give me energy and perhaps are inhabited by comely dryads who appreciate a human contact. Occasionally I try a bit of trail Taiji as I trot along. Orange course-marking cones offer the opportunity for a new sport, "Cone Bopping": generating tones by whacking the opening at their apex. Hey, gotta do something when alone in the woods!

"You are a Hill Climbing Machine!" one racer tells me, as I pass by. "Beard Power!" encourages another.

^z at Umstead 2015, saluting the perfection in the universe
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Umstead_2015_blisters_z.jpgThe obligatory race evening photo of blisters shows them already receding. Three days later I'm able to run half a dozen miles comfortably around the office neighborhood. Perhaps if I toughen my feet by more long walks? Perhaps if I pre-tape? Perhaps ...

Other lessons-learned include the value of getting good sleep for a few nights before a long run, the utility of carrying lots of baby-wipes and grease, and the importance of having a supportive companion. During the post-race drive back Mary gently suggests that I might try to eat more protein. Even if most people don't have a major deficit in that department, as a vegetarian who trains fairly hard maybe ~100 g/day or more would be appropriate. Buddies Kristin and Stephanie concur, and Kristin refers me to the vegan "Pure Green" powder, with protein from yellow peas, alfafa, rice, and other plants. Perhaps ...

The GPS trackfile (Runkeeper app on an iPhone 6) shows a total climb of almost 7,000 feet, in close agreement with the official course estimate of ~8k. During the late afternoon I discover that I can speed-walk ~16 min/mi without any need to pick up both feet to run. With just a bit more practice? Perhaps ...

Does mindfulness-meditative practice help? Inevitably there's failure to attain the only goal, which is to have no goals. But staying open to possibility, while abandoning hope and expectation ...

Perhaps ...

(race-day photos by Hope Squires)

- Monday, April 20, 2015 at 22:26:47 (EDT)

Mantra - Be Early

Be Early

"... take a moment to breathe, feel yourself, and enjoy. ... One minute here and there can change the whole rhythm of a day by allowing you to catch up with yourself. ..." - (from Lorin Roche, Meditation Made Easy (2008-11-01))

(cf. Five Minutes Early (2009-05-14), ...)

- Sunday, April 19, 2015 at 16:11:52 (EDT)

2015-03-23 - David Returns

~6.5 miles @ ~12.0 min/mi

"GARDENERS ONLY" says the sign in Lewinsville Park. After a winter hibernation, Dr David rejoins the Dawn Patrol as we do a brisk exploratory loop through a new neighborhood near Franklin Sherman Elementary School. Mansion-lined streets dead-end at Pimmit Run, however, and force us back out after a mile. Kerry rescues an empty styrofoam cooler that has blown onto Chain Bridge Rd. Kristin points out purple and turquoise and pink tinges in the eastern sky. Robins hop aside as we approach. David tells of his new little farm near Culpepper, where he hopes to grow grapes. The Savageman half-iron triathlon is on his calendar later this year. Perhaps due to his presence, or the cold, our pace is faster than usual.


- Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 13:54:48 (EDT)

2015-03-22 - Long 5k with CM

~4.1 miles @ ~12.0 min/mi

"5k, eh?" says Cara Marie Manlandro, when the GPS announces that we've just passed mile 4. "I've gotta turn off that speech feature," I reply. "It spoils my sandbagging!" We're out on an impromptu Sunday afternoon trot around the 'hood, when CM finds herself with an hour free between appointments and decides to make the most of it. Her pace is already a minute/mile faster than last week. Watch out!


- Friday, April 17, 2015 at 05:08:23 (EDT)

Baseball Expected Runs

From my son Robin Zimmermann's derivation "Baseball", a clever rule-of-thumb for how many runs to expect will score in a given situation, depending on how many outs there are in the inning and where the runners are:

Summarizing in a chart, and rounding:


This results in a prediction that roughly concurs, according to Robin, with a Baseball Prospectus article tabulation of average runs scored depending on where the runners are and the number of outs. That data changes over time, and of course varies wildly among teams and with specific baserunning and hitting and pitching and fielding abilities of the players on any given day. But for a "ballpark estimate" (<groan!>) it's not bad. Many thanks, Robin!

(cf. SquareRootOfBaseball (2005-05-13), InTheBigInning (2006-01-31), BaseballOdds (2007-04-21), ...)

- Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 05:53:44 (EDT)

2015-03-21 - Seneca Creek Sweeping with Rebecca

~12.9 miles @ ~18.4 min/mi

"Loopy and Knotty!" We assign names to the unknown volunteers who tie blue ribbons on trees to mark the route for today's Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon & 50k. Rebecca Rosenberg and I are sweepers, trekking the middle segment of the course in search of lost or injured runners. None found, so we focus on our other duties: picking up trash and taking down marker ribbons. "Loopy" uses beautiful slip-knot loops that come off with a light tug. "Knotty", on the other hand, makes square knots that have to be picked at or torn apart. We rescue a lawn ornament flamingo left by the trail with an encouraging sign tied around its neck.

And in addition to the fun of trail clean-up, it's simply a beautiful afternoon for a walk/run in the woods. Frogs in bogs croak in chorus. Vultures circle overhead. Conversation covers dialogue-dense movies, upcoming race plans, work and family news, injury avoidance, favorite household phrases, stress management, and a host of other themes. Even occasional thorn bushes and muddy patches are ok. Neither of us slips or trips or falls. Such a great day!


- Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 05:04:23 (EDT)

Emotional Intelligence

From the New York Times, "How to Be Emotionally Intelligent" by Daniel Goleman (2015-04-07) discusses factors that help someone be a great leader. Summarized:

  1. SELF-AWARENESS: Realistic self-confidence + Emotional insight
  2. SELF-MANAGEMENT: Resilience + Emotional balance + Self-motivation
  3. EMPATHY: Cognitive and emotional empathy + Good listening
  4. RELATIONSHIP SKILLS: Compelling communication + Team playing

... and the expanded version:





(cf. FifthDisciplinarians (2000-09-10), QuietingReflex (2006-02-07), ...)

- Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 05:31:30 (EDT)

2015-03-16 - Amber Is Back

~7.3 miles @ ~12.0 min/mi

After a tough winter with much preemption by family and work duties, Amber rejoins the Dawn Patrol and — despite dreams of abandonment plus fretfulness about not being in shape — easily hangs with Kristin & Kerry & me as we do a faster-than-average trot around neighborhoods south of the office. The waning crescent moon peeks through clouds as we begin. A meandering route revisits the grizzly bear statue carved from a front yard tree stump. On the W&OD Trail hints of sunrise begin in front of us, and by the last mile the eastern sky is luminous with pinks and lavenders. Then, as if a switch flips on, the world suddenly is full of light!


- Monday, April 13, 2015 at 04:33:03 (EDT)

Stoner, by John Williams

The 1965 novel Stoner, by John Edward Williams (1922-1994), is almost perfectly gray. Not too meaningless, but not too full of ideas. Not too depressing, but not too cheerful either. Not at all badly written, but far from distractingly poetic. It's ... just gray.

The book is currently enjoying a surge of popularity. Its protagonist, William Stoner, is an English professor at a midwestern university. He escapes from a poor farm life, goes to college, discovers the joys of the mind, has a mediocre career, enters an unhappy marriage, has a love affair that ends sadly, and dies (1891-1956 in the story). A typical snippet, from Chapter 1, immediately after sophomore student Stoner suddenly sees that he could become a teacher:

It was as simple as that. He was aware that he nodded to Sloane and said something inconsequential. Then he was walking out of the office. His lips were tingling and his fingertips were numb; he walked as if he were asleep, yet he was intensely aware of his surroundings. He brushed against the polished wooden walls in the corridor, and he thought he could feel the warmth and age of the wood; he went slowly down the stairs and wondered at the veined cold marble that seemed to slip a little beneath his feet. In the halls the voices of the students became distinct and individual out of the hushed murmur, and their faces were close and strange and familiar. He went out of Jesse Hall into the morning, and the grayness no longer seemed to oppress the campus; it led his eyes outward and upward into the sky, where he looked as if toward a possibility for which he had no name.

Luminous, meticulous, aware — like some of Tolstoy's scenes in War and Peace (cf. InfiniteSky, IrresistibleAttraction, UntutoredVoice, ...). If only the rest of Stoner glowed as brightly ...

- Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 10:24:32 (EDT)

2015-03-15 - CM Remembers

~4.9 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

Sunday afternoon Cara Marie Manlandro and I take a ramble down memory lane. "Recall how you almost puked here?" and "This is that hill we barely made it up on your first 16 mile day!" and "Here's where you first did a sub-8 minute mile." Wind gusts almost blow us off the bridge, and walk breaks are interspersed with too-fast sprints. Great to run with you again, CM!


- Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 03:40:38 (EDT)

2015-03-15 - Chandler Wobble

~14 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

With Ken Swab and Rebecca Rosenberg it's 14 miles of Sunday morning improv and banter along Rock Creek, from Ken-Gar to Lake Needwood and back. Matthew Henson and the trail named for him leads to discussion of North Pole expeditions and the Chandler Wobble of Earth's axis. "How many dogs does it take to change a light bulb?" (The answer depends on breed.) Air travel on antique planes, squirrel-zapping bird feeders, Kenneth Branaugh's version of HENRY V, icy drives home during the blizzard two weeks ago, Tony Bennett's singing testimony at a Congressional hearing, a friend's thrill-packed visit to Topeka Kansas, ... and more! Not to mention mega-puddles on the path, framed by muddy bogs on each side. Plus the usual comparison of injuries. Today's trek is prep for diverse marathons and longer runs in weeks to come. Brisk winds bring shivers when the sun plays peek-a-boo behind clouds.


- Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 03:38:30 (EDT)

Living Lightly

From a talk by Stephen Batchelor, On the Far Shore, at the Upaya Zen Center — thoughts on not-clinging to doctrine, law, or revealed-teachings:

... the Buddha concludes by saying, "So, I have shown you how the Dhamma is similar to a raft, being for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of grasping." I think there's a strong message here, a strong signal against the tendency towards any kinds of sectarianism, any kind of privileging any aspect of the Dhamma over all others. It's also suggesting how we need to learn to live with the practice and the philosophy of Buddhism much more lightly. That doesn't mean in a casual, trivial way, but carrying our understandings, our experience, without great fanfare, without great display, but simply being able to drop what has helped us in a particular day in our life and encountering the challenges of the next day with a freshness, with an openness, with an un-encumbered-ness, so that we can greet that new situation from an openness of mind, hopefully, a sensitivity, a kindness, a compassion. And when we are called upon to act, we're able as intuitively, as spontaneously as we can, to respond in the appropriate way. ...

(cf. Buddhism Without Beliefs (2008-09-19), Yes, and... (2012-11-14), Transient, Unreliable, Contingent (2013-06-14), ...)

- Friday, April 10, 2015 at 05:03:37 (EDT)

2015-03-14 - WTF

~9.9 miles @ ~10.1 min/mi

"Hi, Rebecca!" I shout from the Capital Crescent Trail observation deck on the trestle high above Rock Creek. My eyes aren't good enough to actually recognize the figure 70+ feet below, but sky blue cap and style of stride match mental profile for friend Rebecca Rosenberg. When she stops and swivels her head in search of the mysterious voice, the guess is confirmed. "Look up!" She spots me, we wave wildly, then both go back to running along our perpendicular paths. Small world!

It's Saturday afternoon, the rain has stopped, I'm home after some hours of work, and it's time to stretch the legs and rest the mind. Showers start again after half an hour, just strong enough to wash salty sweat into the eyes. The loop around Kensington and Wheaton includes a pause at an ATM in front of the credit union that, a few years ago, changed its name for some reason from Washington Telephone Federal. WTF?!


- Thursday, April 09, 2015 at 04:20:06 (EDT)

Wisdom, Love, Life

A poetic sentiment from the essay "Pure Gold and Sweet Cream: Bodhidharma's True Meaning" by Amy Hollowell of the Wild Flower Zen Sangha:

When I look inside and see that I am nothing, that's wisdom.
When I look outside and see that I am everything, that's love.
Between the two is where my life turns.

Awesome echoes of Rumi, eh?! The words are attributed to "Nisargadatta Maharaj, a Vedantist guru who lived in India in the mid-20th century". In Wikiquote there's an interestingly analytic long version:

I find that somehow, by shifting the focus of attention, I become the very thing I look at, and experience the kind of consciousness it has; I become the inner witness of the thing. I call this capacity of entering other focal points of consciousness, love; you may give it any name you like. Love says 'I am everything'. Wisdom says "I am nothing'. Between the two, my life flows. Since at any point of time and space I can be both the subject and the object of experience, I express it by saying that I am both, and neither, and beyond both.

It's from the book I Am That by Nisargadatta (1897-1981), as translated by Maurice Frydman.

(cf. Zen Soup (2012-02-09), Ceaseless Society (2012-05-10), Heartfulness and Mindfulness (2014-12-15), No Expectation (2015-01-02), ...)

- Wednesday, April 08, 2015 at 04:58:29 (EDT)

2015-03-13 - Kent Gardens Ramble

~7.5 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

Frost on parked car windshields confirms the bank thermometer's 30 degree reading, as we meander down cup-de-sacs and repeatedly miss turns trying to find our way around the Kent Gardens Park neighborhood on the return trek. Both Kerry and Kristin have morning meetings, and both are kind and forgiving when my map-reading skills are tested and found wanting. Therapeutic trail talk, shared gratitude, and a beautiful pink sunrise compensate for a 20% overshoot in distance. Fire trucks blast down the road, lights blinding, sirens deafening. Kerry spots a clementine lodged in a tree. I restrain myself from plucking it; Kristin chuckles.


- Tuesday, April 07, 2015 at 04:17:10 (EDT)

Fail Interestingly

From Life Itself: A Comprehensive Inquiry Into the Nature, Origin, and Fabrication of Life by Robert Rosen, in Chapter 10:

"... Ideas do not have to be correct in order to be good; it is only necessary that, if they do fail, they do so in an interesting way. ..."

(cf. OnFailure (1999-07-03), SeizeTheCarp (2005-07-02), ...)

- Monday, April 06, 2015 at 04:25:33 (EDT)

2015-03-11 - Hot Yoga

~7.2 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

"Go ahead, do the bridge!" Kristin offers permission. She knows that the yoga studio's picture window is calling me. "Thank you, but no," I reply, "I'll use my imagination today." We're on the clock, with morning meetings and papers to write. Kerry is recovering from a horrible cold, and Kristin hasn't had a chance to run for a week, with non-stop work and home duties. So we do a brisk pre-sunrise health loop, cutting short the segment along the W&OD Trail.

A rabbit scampers safely across Great Falls St in front of us. Ice is mostly melted from the sidewalks, but patches remain. On behalf of Kerry's son we discuss college selection factors, among which undergrad gender ratio looms larger than location. Rain has stopped and a huge crowd of kids await their school bus as dawn lightens the east.


- Sunday, April 05, 2015 at 16:06:33 (EDT)

For back issues of the ^zhurnal see Volumes v.01 (April-May 1999), v.02 (May-July 1999), v.03 (July-September 1999), v.04 (September-November 1999), v.05 (November 1999 - January 2000), v.06 (January-March 2000), v.07 (March-May 2000), v.08 (May-June 2000), v.09 (June-July 2000), v.10 (August-October 2000), v.11 (October-December 2000), v.12 (December 2000 - February 2001), v.13 (February-April 2001), v.14 (April-June 2001), 0.15 (June-August 2001), 0.16 (August-September 2001), 0.17 (September-November 2001), 0.18 (November-December 2001), 0.19 (December 2001 - February 2002), 0.20 (February-April 2002), 0.21 (April-May 2002), 0.22 (May-July 2002), 0.23 (July-September 2002), 0.24 (September-October 2002), 0.25 (October-November 2002), 0.26 (November 2002 - January 2003), 0.27 (January-February 2003), 0.28 (February-April 2003), 0.29 (April-June 2003), 0.30 (June-July 2003), 0.31 (July-September 2003), 0.32 (September-October 2003), 0.33 (October-November 2003), 0.34 (November 2003 - January 2004), 0.35 (January-February 2004), 0.36 (February-March 2004), 0.37 (March-April 2004), 0.38 (April-June 2004), 0.39 (June-July 2004), 0.40 (July-August 2004), 0.41 (August-September 2004), 0.42 (September-November 2004), 0.43 (November-December 2004), 0.44 (December 2004 - February 2005), 0.45 (February-March 2005), 0.46 (March-May 2005), 0.47 (May-June 2005), 0.48 (June-August 2005), 0.49 (August-September 2005), 0.50 (September-November 2005), 0.51 (November 2005 - January 2006), 0.52 (January-February 2006), 0.53 (February-April 2006), 0.54 (April-June 2006), 0.55 (June-July 2006), 0.56 (July-September 2006), 0.57 (September-November 2006), 0.58 (November-December 2006), 0.59 (December 2006 - February 2007), 0.60 (February-May 2007), 0.61 (April-May 2007), 0.62 (May-July 2007), 0.63 (July-September 2007), 0.64 (September-November 2007), 0.65 (November 2007 - January 2008), 0.66 (January-March 2008), 0.67 (March-April 2008), 0.68 (April-June 2008), 0.69 (July-August 2008), 0.70 (August-September 2008), 0.71 (September-October 2008), 0.72 (October-November 2008), 0.73 (November 2008 - January 2009), 0.74 (January-February 2009), 0.75 (February-April 2009), 0.76 (April-June 2009), 0.77 (June-August 2009), 0.78 (August-September 2009), 0.79 (September-November 2009), 0.80 (November-December 2009), 0.81 (December 2009 - February 2010), 0.82 (February-April 2010), 0.83 (April-May 2010), 0.84 (May-July 2010), 0.85 (July-September 2010), 0.86 (September-October 2010), 0.87 (October-December 2010), 0.88 (December 2010 - February 2011), 0.89 (February-April 2011), 0.90 (April-June 2011), 0.91 (June-August 2011), 0.92 (August-October 2011), 0.93 (October-December 2011), 0.94 (December 2011-January 2012), 0.95 (January-March 2012), 0.96 (March-April 2012), 0.97 (April-June 2012), 0.98 (June-September 2012), 0.99 (September-November 2012), 0.9901 (November-December 2012), 0.9902 (December 2012-February 2013), 0.9903 (February-March 2013), 0.9904 (March-May 2013), 0.9905 (May-July 2013), 0.9906 (July-September 2013), 0.9907 (September-October 2013), 0.9908 (October-December 2013), 0.9909 (December 2013-February 2014), 0.9910 (February-May 2014), 0.9911 (May-July 2014), 0.9912 (July-August 2014), 0.9913 (August-October 2014), 0.9914 (November 2014-January 2015), 0.9915 (January-April 2015), 0.9916 (April-July 2015), 0.9917 (July-September 2015), 0.9918 (September-November 2015), 0.9919 (November 2015-January 2016), 0.9920 (January-April 2016), 0.9921 (April-June 2016), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2015 by Mark Zimmermann.)