Ashes of Specialness

I\’ve been contemplating this picture:

I got it off Face Book, so it is a public thing. I know the person. I know she is about to receive ashes. I see she now wears a veil. This seems like it should be an intimate moment, not a thing for FB or to be photographed at all. But since it is, I\’ve been pondering it for several days.

I lived in various states of membership with this religious order for more than three and a half years. Because of FB, I can look in the window every day and see a new glimpse of people I am attached to.

So the picture is an intimate moment. I can\’t really figure the holiness of the Catholic practice of ashes. Actually, I think, \”How dare the male priest hierarchy put ashes on anyone\’s forehead let alone the pure of heart as I know this sister to be.\”

Over the past 3 or so years, I\’ve been watching veils appear in these photos. This sister was not one of the first. And she does have lovely hair. You can google the meaning of the veil. For me at this moment, I don\’t think it adds to anyone\’s holiness. But I know that young women who might want to be nuns are attracted to orders that wear habits. It is a false notion that a habit adds to spirituality. In fact, I think it detracts from the difficult job of renunciation. Renunciation not of the world but of ego things. The habit and veil are clearly of the ego because the show specialness.

The veils in this religious order show a growing conservatism and obedience to the male hierarchy. And the whole reason I\’m no longer Catholic is because that hierarchy is criminal. Yes, even the new lovable saying all the right things pope is a criminal because he continues to harbor criminal priests.

I need to continue to find the holiness and love that this picture was meant to convey. I can easily find the holiness and love in my own quiet meditation, or fellowship meetings, or reading Q\’s Gospel. But my God is not punitive and I am not a sinner. Humility needed? Yes. But existentially or ontologically bad? No.

Running Meditation

Peace in my mind
Be love my heart

I\’ve been taking seriously the need to train my thoughts. I realize that 90% of my thoughts are little resentments. Like: people shouldn\’t let their dogs poop in the middle of the trail. People shouldn\’t littler. People shouldn\’t eat that….drink that…smoke that. Driving too slow. Driving too fast. Parking in the wrong area. You get the point. Never mind that I get paid big bucks to do this all day long at work.

But I want conscious contact with some other awareness. I don\’t know if it is the intuitive part of my brain or an actual Higher Self, Spirit or God. I want contact. I\’ve wanted it for decades.

If let go of enlightenment. I\’m worried that my 56 year old brain is getting a little crusty. People\’s behavior at work has been especially annoying. So I keep up the spiritual practice and even intensify.

I do really well with mantras. But they need to be somewhat short. When I am doing the Course in Miracles work book, the daily lesson is the mantra. For now, I am more focused on recovery writings so I need to make my own short prayer.

Today, I had time off work. I ran 17.x miles in 4 hours. It was beautiful. The whole time, I felt the phrases in my mind.

Peace in my mind
Be love my heart

Real Racing

For the most part, as an ultra runner, it was not possible for me to do any fast running. I was always focused on massive miles. To do massive miles, I had to do them slowly. But recently, in the process of accepting Texas racing season, my body has achieved a certain rest I\’m not used to having.

Last weekend, I did not go to any race. I was resting and running a few quick miles in preparation for this weekend. I was entered in a half marathon. That is a sprint comparatively speaking. On well rested legs, I had decided to try to see how fast I could do it.

The weather was fantastic. The race is only 15 miles from my house, so a little extra sleep. I parked in a fantastic spot. For some reason, the horn to go came 5 minutes early (never had that happen before).

So I take off at whatever speed the pack seemed to be going. Turns out, the first mile was 10.5 minutes per mile. It felt ok so I just kept going. I took a quick pit stop at 2 miles since the porta was empty and I knew I wasn\’t going to last the entire race. This worked out good. It gave me the freedom to drink when I needed and my bladder lasted through the rest of the race. Going up the Hartman bridge at mile 6 went well, and I came down pretty fast. By mile 9, my legs were feeling fatigue. I hadn\’t run this fast with no walk breaks for years. I kept the speed up until after mile 12 when my knee started to twinge a bit. Then I had to give it a break and walk a little.

I still finished in 2h18min. I did average 10.5 min/mile. On jog walk training and short runs at 12 min/mile. There must be some innate speed in me. But due to the knee, I always take it easy.

I went out jogging today. There were no issues from yesterday.

I spent the afternoon in silent conversation with my God. You know how your tongue worries over any roughness in your mouth? That is how my mind is over conscious contact with God. It wasn\’t just an easy and well funded life I wanted. I know my short comings. But somewhere in the process of running, working, monastic life, spiritual studies, there is the answer. Sitting quietly in contemplation, I know it but cannot speak of it.

Swag from this weeks race:

Peaceful 10

Last evening, I drove to Baytown to pick up my packet for next weekends half marathon. In the evening sky was the massive brown layer of Houston smog. Pretty bad.

Coming home, I found myself thinking I could go to the race on Saturday. I had printed maps and piled up my stuff; so I could if I happened to get out of bed. I woke up at 4:14 am, plenty of time to go to the race; but I went back to sleep for 3 more hours.

Racing every weekend is not all its cracked up to be. So now I was able to enjoy a very leisurely spiritual study. I haven\’t relaxed like that in a while. I am happy for it.

Then, in my own sweet time, I went for a true long run. No run walk, only run for 10 miles in Seabrook. I discovered that the city finally finished the new trail and it is accessible without climbing down any embankments. It has one 0.45 mile loop which is mostly shade (perfect for a Gulf coast summer), and another loop which has alot of sun but is exactly one mile. And accesses another park which has a sunny 0.35 mile loop and another bathroom.

I saw a flock of ducks which was unusual for that location. Not the usual kind of ducks I see.

At some point on this run, I remember thinking my life had no more need to be fixed. I was also thinking about a weekend work commitment. My life is truly not my own. The Short Path is Grace filled. I need only let it in. I share my soul with God.

Marathon Addict

With some dismay, after my mouse clicking session last evening, added two more hotel reservations and used up some points. I am now holding 4 hotel reservations and one set of airplane tickets. I am signed up for, or plan to sign up for 6 marathons and 2 half marathons. And in the back of my mind are plans for multi-day marathons in July and November.

It has finally sunk in what it means to be a Texas runner. Racing season is February, March and sometimes April. There are again some marathons in the fall. But, winter here is when most of the races are so you do them while you can. Race every weekend if you want because there won\’t be any races in the summer. Don\’t decide you are not going to drive to Dallas area or you will miss some racing.

I did go to marathons the past 2 weekends. This weekend, I\’m DNSing a 20 mile trail run and  sleeping in. Next weekend, I\’ll do the Baytown half marathon. Then, I think I have marathons almost every other weekend for 2 months.

I am a member of a certain type of runner/jogger/walker who likes to go in marathons; not race them. I have decided I like being a marathoner more than being an ultra-marathoner (not that I was ever very successful at ultras). I discovered that I especially like racing season because I can relax more during the time between races doing recovery.  Day of the race logistics for a marathon are much easier too. In essence, my brain is much less stressed and the racing is much more fun.

It is much easier being a marathoner than an ultra marathoner. Not just because of finishing percentages. But because I don\’t need to do as much \”time on your feet\” training; I can do more high intensity cross training and weight lifting/ conditioning.

All in all, I am feeling better physically and limping less. What\’s not to like about that?

Marathon #42 – Galveston

Early in January, after my 45 mile jog at Snowdrop Ultra, I got bit by the marathon bug. Seriously! Somewhere in my mind I decided that 26 miles was nothing compared to 45, so go to it. Also, winter is racing season in Texas; so get racing out of your system while you can.

I was already signed up for the Seabrook trail challenge in March. In January, I signed up for the Baytown half marathon. But, well, that is only a half. So after perusing all the marathon calendars, I decided on the Galveston Marathon. There were two marathons in town this weekend, but Galveston had packet pickup at a nearby location and also, it is a very easy drive from my house.

On a whim, I signed up for the Miracle Match Marathon which was last weekend in Waco. So today\’s Galveston marathon was my second in a week. I haven\’t done that for nearly 2 years.

I took it easy this week with only about 1 hour of work out per day and only two 3 mile runs. I felt good going into Galveston. I slept good and got up easily when the alarm went off. The main question was the rain forecast. I wasn\’t sure how I would handle that. But decided to wear my heat gear shirt because it is tight and wouldn\’t be all saggy if it got wet. Turns out we had a mostly sunny and very warm day, so the heat gear shirt was perfect: spf 30. Dang shirt feels cool when you wear it.

Drive was very easy and I easily parked in a nearby garage. The garage was across the street from the cruise terminal. They were backing a Carnival boat in while I waited.

The race started at 7:30. It first goes down 25th street. I vaguely remember this street from 20 years ago when I did an environmental assessment in Galveston. Many of the houses are old Victorian style and decorated for Mardi Gras. When we got to Galveston Bay, we headed right along the Seawall and eventually came back up the seawall. Lots of restaurants and amusement type activities. For some reason, this caused me to spend most of the run thinking about my choices in life. Choices to not participate in what I think are energy dissipating activities of America: over eating, meat eating, idle amusements, etc.

I thought alot abut my boss who just went on a cruise. How different we are. While he was eating drinking and generally ruining his health, I was running marathons.

I finished the first half in 2:40 and proceeded to do another lap. Now it was hot and my legs were tired. I was near the back of the pack, so it was a very solitary struggle. I started thinking about real estate signs advertising a \”simple island lifestyle.\” Like this was margaritaville or something. No one has a simple lifestyle whose house costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. I recognized however how we all wish for that escape.

I observed the huge mass of UTMB medical complex. Hospitals are our new places of worship.

Slowly but surely, I made it. 5h36min by my Garmin. I got a very very nice medal:

When I got back to my car, I noticed that they were loading up the cruise ship. People were lined up. I thought they looked like cows headed for slaughter.

I\’d rather be a marathoner.