12 Step Endurance Practice

Yesterday I went in an ultra marathon. I know my limitations. I try to prevent the big toe blisters which chronically occur. I tape my knee so the ACL does not get tweaked. I know that if the blisters get too bad, I\’ll quit.

But it is the mental game which is not only the point of a timed endurance event, but the most difficult part. I don\’t mind quitting when my big toes are destroyed. I do need to keep going if my only problem is fatigue. Leg fatigue always happens, but it is not the end of the game.

So, I wanted to avoid premature quitting. I needed a way to keep my mind healthy.

I tried something totally new. I made myself a little book. I wrote down sayings from a 12 Step book, one page for each step. I would study and ponder one step for 4 laps (approximately an hour). This way, my goal is to ponder the steps and not pay too much attention too how I feel. Remember, these steps are taken in the context of an ultra marathon, and my life\’s day to day struggles; not an alcoholic obsession.

Somehow, the endurance run became my spiritual adviser. It spoke to me of character defects I didn\’t really see. So the result is a new understanding of myself and an end to some of the habitual hatefulness.

6:15, I arrive at the park. It is dark still. I unload my chair, little table, cooler, bag of food, bag of extra gear. I pick up my number and chip.

6:45, we have a little meeting where the race director explains every thing. This race has about 50 people. I see a woman who I met at another race. I talk to her. At the Habanero run in August, I had suffered from severe dehydration and had to sit by the side of the trail for a long time until I could stand without getting dizzy. She had stopped her race to watch me. That was very nice. I asked her if she finished. Yes she did; but it took 11 hours to finish that 50k. Oh my. I don\’t think I could have done that regardless of dehydration.

7 am, off we go onto a one mile out and back course. It is a nice park and it turns out that I like seeing all the racers, so I don\’t mind out and back. But clearly, this type of race offers no challenge but the inner challenge.

I step up to the plate with Step 1: \”who cares to admit complete defeat?\”  Wow, how do I start a race with that? But really, such a thought smacks my ego right at the start. I get rid of any expectations of what \”I\” think \”I\” will do. Right from the start, I accept that my ego will be defeated. No grandiosity. No glory. No bragging rights.

\”…unless he has accepted his devastating weakness and all its consequences…\” The toes are my devastating weakness. The eventual pain of toes and legs which will force me to quit are my devastating weakness. I am powerless. It is only a matter of when. My ego hates quitting.

\”… no amount of human will power…\” Well, this caused me to think about the normal approach to ultra marathons which is successful for most people. They decide that they will finish the race no matter what. And they do, come injury or whatever, they finish. I\’ve never done this. And now, my Step 1 has told me that no amount of human will power will do it. Other people can do it, but it doesn\’t work for me. In other words, I can\’t. I agree.

4 laps done in just under an hour. On to Step 2: \”Having reduced us to a state of absolute helplessness, you now declare that none but a higher power ….\” Really? Only a higher power will get me through this race. New thinking for me in the context of a ultra marathon.

\” …all you need is a truly open mind…\”  I looked at my mind. How closed is it? I could see some places where it was closed.

\”…I had only to cease fighting…\” I fight alot in many areas of my life, but regarding this race here and now, what am I fighting? Shoes, food, heat, race management, other people, the rough patches of pavement, porta-potties… This concept turned out useful a bit later when it was very hot and I decided to walk instead of fighting the heat. At the end of step 2, two hours into the race, I thought I might like to eat one of my sandwiches and some fruit, only to realize that those things had been forgotten at home. I\’d have to eat course food. Rats! I\’m not in control.

\”…road blocks of indifference, fancied self-sufficiency, prejudice and defiance…\” All  of these ideas have application in life and in a race. But my theme for the day seemed to be realizing that self reliance would not work for me.

\”…provided we place humility first…we received the gift of faith…\” Now I had to think about my pride and gain humility. My pride causes me to go too fast in the early part of a race because I want to be done at a certain time. Or I look at the other lady who is my age and I want to beat her. Or the fat person. Or the guy talking too much. Or…  God, my head is full of crap.

\”…we had substituted negative for positive thinking…this trait had been an ego feeding proposition…\” Now this really hit me. I suddenly saw my whole pattern of thinking, for the past 11 years since leaving the monastery, as negative and how that fed my ego. Amazing. I\’ve never seen this before. The race is my spiritual adviser.

\”…at no time had we asked what God\’s will was for us.\” Here, I had to realize my race goals and plans were mine, not God\’s. And then throw up the silent prayer of wonderment, \”What are Your goals for me?\” Remember I forgot my food? Well, now, the Race Director and his plans for the aid station became the higher power and God\’s will for me.

Completing 8 laps, I moved on to Step 3: \”…cut away the self will that has blocked the entry of God\” My self will…. hummmm. I had an inner niggle related to self will blocking God, or Higher Self if you please. That enlightenment which many others get always comes at a moment of defeating self will.

\” … instinct and logic always seek to bolster egotism, and so frustrate spiritual development\” Oh yes, another sudden revelation of how \”I\”, logic and instinct, was bolstering egotism. And it is egotism which is causing all my unhappiness and hatefulness in life.

\”…dependence on a higher power is really a way of gaining true independence of spirit.\” I really would like independence of spirit.

\”…some problems refuse to be solved by all the sheer personal determination and courage he can muster\” Well, here I am, My own courage is not going to finish this race.

\”It is when we try to conform our will with God\’s that we begin to use it rightly\” True, but do I do this? Not really.

Now, about 3 hours into the race. A guy from work shows up. I am truly surprised. He had called me one day last week and in the course of the conversation, I had mentioned I was going in this race. I only vaguely mentioned where it was. And I was joking about him coming. But he did come! And he was there for quite awhile. He walked some with me and he went off to practice his Frisbee.

I went on to Step 4, now with this guy from work as part of the mix: \”…total inability to form a true partnership with another human being…we have no once sought to be a worker among workers…of true brotherhood we had small comprehension…\” Here is this guy from work who has driven 40 miles to this race. I would never have done that. But he did. Why has he done it? I really don\’t know. I do know that being \”just one of the engineers\” is very hard for me. He takes my picture.

\”…discover a chink in the walls my ego has built…\”  I imagine myself as behind an ego wall and I can\’t really see any chinks. But as I mentally decide to inspect the wall closely, maybe a small chink can be found. The main thing is that I realize it is a wall. All the metaphysical teaching of A Course in Miracles and Paul Brunton and Eckhart Tolle and Plotinus speak of the separation caused by the ego. Step 5 of the 12 Steps is meant to take down the wall and put you on The Broad Highway.

\”…pride, leading to self-justification, always spurred by conscious or unconscious fears…\” Now, I suddenly realize how much of my thinking is self justification. I am continually silently telling stories to various people about why I have failed them. Now I see it is self-justification. Now I see it was pride and that behind pride is fear. If I can only become conscious of the fear.

\”…all the faulty foundation of my life will have to be torn out and built anew on bedrock…\” The race is doing this, step by step, mile by mile.

\”…why do I lack the ability to accept conditions I cannot change?\” I need to let go of my plans and go along with the conditions of this race. I wish I could accept conditions at work.

Now it is 4 hours into the race and I\’m at Step 5: \”humility…a clear recognition of who and what we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be.\” Back to humility as a concept for an ultra marathoner.

\”we began to suspect how much trouble self delusion had been causing us.\” Self delusion is another metaphysical proposition: that the world we see is an ego world and not the Real World. I accept self delusion and feel a slight inner nudge; but can\’t attache any conscious realization.

\”…that mysterious barrier we could neither surmount nor understand…\” Yes, I again inspect the ego wall. I see that it is there. I see I have no plans to change it.

\”…the steps all deflate our egos…\”  I knew this. I also know for it now. I am beginning to suffer as the miles pile up. It is getting warmer.

\”…things which really bother and burn us…\”  Again I look inside. I haven\’t lately really tried to define the categories of situations which really bother and burn me. Certain things are my hot buttons. But I haven\’t tried to define the ego aspects and say consciously that this ego button bothers and burns me. And, now in the race, the idea is too slippery.

Now it is five hours and 20 miles into the race. My toes hurt and I am upset because they shouldn\’t. Something is very wrong. I run marathons without toe tape and don\’t have so much problems. Now, I have taped the toes and am in serious difficulty after only 20 miles. The tape is taking up space in the toe box. The tape job is not good. And, it is hot.

Step 6: \”…who doesn\’t like to feel superior…\”  I can again identify a habitual trait within me. I can feel superior to certain other people on the course; or worse, the fat people having bar-b-q and not exercising at all. But then I also know those people I scorn will also stay out there longer than me and go farther because they are willing to slow down and shuffle forward regardless. Or the bar-b-q people are being kind to one another and enjoying family.  I\’ll decide that the pain is enough and quit.

\”Self righteous anger can be enjoyable…\”  I again identify a habitual trait within me. I think about this more in terms of my work relationships. Its bad.

\”we take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority.\” My thoughts go to conversations I typically have with others, especially related to those slow drivers.

\”abandon our limited objectives and move towards God\’s will for us…\” Now, I arrive at the race itself. I have limited objectives. Is it possible that God has a further limit? This part comes true when I get to 26 miles. I can pick up a medal for 26 miles. The next medal is 50 miles. If I go past 26 miles but not to 50, then I have nothing to show for it.

I had planned to walk and jog for 30 miles, then switch shoes and walk only. But my toes are bad. It is hot. ok, I need to change myself and accept where I am at. The steps are making this possible. At 24 miles, I change the shoes and decide to walk. I say to myself, \”I am used to going for 10 miles walks in these shoes. I will forget the previous 24 miles and now start a new 10 mile walk.\”

And on to Step 7: \”the attainment of greater humility is the foundation principle of each of AAs 12 Steps\” No kidding. This was the 7th hour of the race. If, I made it through 4 laps, I\’d be at 28 miles, an ultra marathon. My legs were in pain but not the injury kind of pain. My toes were bad. It was hot. I\’m out long past a normal training run. I\’m approaching a marathon, when normally the race would be over. Yes, the race is kicking my butt; and my ego is insisting that this should not be. But it is. Accept it. I am under performing according to my ego.

\”without humility, they cannot live to much useful purpose or in adversity summon the faith that can meet any emergency\” Well, I see that self will cannot help me in THIS emergency; or any other I realize. Never has.

\”character building and spiritual values had to come first\” The race is causing me to build character; mainly as I face the weakness of my pride and ego. Mainly as I face my personal physical shortcomings. Short  fat toes get blisters no matter what. Shoes just don\’t fit them.

\”we never thought of making honesty, tolerance and true love of man and God the daily basis of living\” Yes, but how do you do that? I don\’t have the ability to not be egotistical. I mainly live by instincts: selfishly protect my self. But yet, there are many instances where I help someone else even though my ego has just told me not to. How do I become the person which is always helpful and not have to fight with self all the time?

\”For just so long as we were convinced that we could live exclusively by our own strength and intelligence, for just that long was a working faith in a higher power impossible\” I am beginning to realize my ability to focus on spirituality is failing. I\’m hot and tired and in pain and higher thinking isn\’t happening.

\”the process of gaining a new perspective was unbelievable painful\” This only told me that I am in pain at that moment. If I was gaining a new perspective, it was certainly through the pain.

During the 7th step, 26 miles came and went. I passed the point of getting another medal since I didn\’t think I\’d make it to 50 miles. Now, for the first time ever, I am doing miles for no gain. that is new. There won\’t be a material reward for what I am doing. I don\’t know the answer to why I do ultra marathons. The answer is somewhere out there in the miles and in the time.

I just passed my 50th lifetime marathon. One of the guys decides he will walk this lap with me. He says that the course is long. That his garmin just went past 27 miles even though we just past 26 miles. This is when I remember this is my 50th. I tell him and lift my hands in the air. We talk for this lap and it goes pretty fast. Then he quits.

7th Step Prayer: \”My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength as I go out from here to do your bidding\”

Step 8, 8th hour: \”…. develop the best possible relations with every human being we know…\” I don\’t try to do this. Now, at this moment of the race, I can\’t even figure this out. I\’m ok with these people here. I\’m not really able to want to fix my work life right at the moment. I am hot. My toes hurt.

\”… Very deep, sometimes quite forgotten, damaging emotional conflicts persist below the level of consciousness…\”  Slippery again. I know I came from a bad family. I know the emotional problems are there. I can\’t do more right at the moment.

\”…what happens when we wallow in depression, self-pity oozing from every pore…\” I do this. My only hope is that when I return to work next week, I will become conscious of when this is happening. Right now in the race, I can\’t realize that I feel sorry for myself. Everyone else here hurts too. I know I am going to quit but they will keep going, no matter how slow, someone will be doing it. If I was unconscious of self-pity, I might quit and hate myself but not know why. Today, I will quit eventually, but not out of unconscious self-pity.

9th hour, 32 miles complete, Step 9: \”…we should try to be absolutely sure that we are not delaying because we are afraid. For the readiness to take the full consequences of our past acts, and to take responsibility for the well-being of others at the same time, is the very spirit of step nine.\” This isn\’t helping me at all. I can\’t focus on it.

I changed my shoes after 32 miles. Now I am wearing shoes that have the toe box cut out. I decide to see how bad my toes hurt. I consider that if I quit, I won\’t finish the 12 Steps. My toes hurt even without anything touching them.

But here\’s what happened. Near the end of lap 33, I pull into the shade. Suddenly I think, \”If there is a traffic jam on I45, you might as well stay here at the race.\” Suddenly, my race is to be decided by Houston traffic. I can\’t help myself. The iphone comes out and Houston Transtar app is opened. No traffic. 100 feet later, I am asking for the 26 mile medal and handing in my chip. Game over.

Last night, I could barely hobble around the house. I stayed in bed about 10 hours. This morning I feel quite good. Definitely, 33 miles is not as bad as 50 miles. I\’m glad.

The major difference between this race and other similar events? While I did go a few more miles before quitting, and I didn\’t quit in hatefulness. I think that at other times, I have quit in seething hatefulness and self-justification. This time I quit with a peaceful mind and good attitude. So I quit at the proper time, but my ego was not involved. this is called serenity and I am grateful for it. Thank you 12 Steps.

Another part of the 12 Step program is the Serenity Prayer. This prayer did not occur to me yesterday but it does now as I reflect on the race. I got serenity yesterday. Serenity was the outcome.

\”God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.\”

Onward to life\’s next lesson.

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A New Attitude and Outlook on Life

I have been watching an unusual string of interesting events in my life. Don\’t know what to say about this. I\’d like to fill this blog with spiritual hot air and assure everyone how special I must be to God. All I\’ll say is I do feel somehow in sync with my spiritual self at the moment. And surprisingly, this all seems to add up in my head as: Houston loves me and I should stay here.

A month ago, I applied for a transfer and promotion which would be in Pittsburgh. After a week, I discussed the opportunity with the VP over my current area and got support for helping me. Another week and I was able to discuss the opportunity with my current boss; and he was supportive. I talked to another colleague who is in that area now and got some support. I\’ve sent 3 e-mails to the hiring manager but not been able to get a hold of her. And I\’ve heard nothing. (Except I did get the HR guy to say that the hiring manager had not called anyone for interviews yet).

Meanwhile, I had a wonderful trip to my old convent last weekend along with doing a marathon. Tuesday, I had an extra day off thanks to tropical storm Bill, who left Houston alone.

Wednesday and Thursday I had 2 new positive thinking episodes. I mean, true corrections in the way I think occurred. Sudden reversals from negative hateful thoughts to positive helpful thoughts. This has to be spiritual. On Friday, I had a new way of thinking about AA\’s 12 Promises which just blew me away. Another true thought correction.

Yesterday, I drove over a concrete chunk but nothing bad happened to the car. Today, I sped past a cop sitting in a trap but he didn\’t come after me.

There is a new 24 hour race in Houston in October. An e-mail from the RD was discussing discounts for his various races. I wrote to him and explained my DNS at his race in May and asked for a big discount for the 24 hour race. He wrote back and gave me 30% off.

Yesterday, I was reading one of the many many newsletters my company sends out. They were talking about a new culture team for our new company. Asking for volunteers. The opportunity would require at least 2 trips to Germany. I asked my boss; he approved but had to pass the approval up to the VP because of the travel costs. She approved it within a few minutes; even though she was on vacation. These people didn\’t tell me I couldn\’t go because of my Pittsburgh application. They just approved $20,000 in travel costs without blinking an eye. That is unheard of.

My corrected thinking is producing a new way of looking at the world which seems more than fleeting. I am able to perceive The Universe working with me instead of against me. This new outlook seems truly new to me.

I went for a 3 hour jog walk in the Seabrook trails this morning. The whole time I was thinking about the new 24 hour race, wondering if I would get the discount, wondering if I should stay in Houston. The only problem is: I don\’t know how to \”be\” happy, to \”be\” at perfect peace and ease. I am competitive to the core, ego driven to the max. I don\’t know how to sit back and enjoy. But Houston seems to be saying, \”Stay here. I love you.\”

I guess I have another ultra to train for.

Chapter 17.V – Fantastic

I get it: Some monks are explicit. They live in a monastery. My life is implicitly monastic; hidden behind a veil of worldly life.

This morning, I rode my elliptical with my eyes closed, chanting my ACIM phrases to a monastic melody I learned in the convent. Then I went outside for a sweaty jog, and continued to chant.

Inspired by A Course in Miracles 17.V:
Do not breathe life into your failing ego.
You have chosen but the goal of God.
Accept with gladness what\’s not understood.

I thought about my failing ego in several areas of my life. I though about how my upcoming 12 hour race could be so ego deflating if I stick to walking. I thought about how I see a 24 hour race as walking through the dark night in order to achieve a dawn, a sunrise. I want to walk through the dark night. But I realized how it is a human failing to think we can\’t achieve a dawn without a dark  night.

In A Course in Miracles, we have \”this holy instant.\” We immediately shorten the path in this holy instant. The holy instant in Christ; no crucifixion required. Salvation is already here.

Secret Running Thoughts

I ran/walked 16 miles this morning knowing full well my left heel is trash. Was I so slow because of this? Or just the heat in general? When I walked the last miles, I was gasping for air even while walking. Is it hard to breath 65% humid air when it is 85F?

Dr Alice did not say stop running. She has a plan. The pain brings a mental challenge. What\’s it all about Alfie? Why do these miles? Do they matter for anything?

For some reason, they matter to me.

Somehow, they go together with ACIM teachings (I\’m in ch 7 at the moment).
\”That is all the world of the ego is. Nothing. It has no meaning. It does not exist. Do not try to understand it because, if you do, you are believing that it can be understood and is therefore capable of being appreciated and loved. That would justify its existence, which cannot be justified. You cannot make the meaningless meaningful. This can only be an insane attempt….The ego’s picture of you is deprived, unloving and vulnerable. You cannot love this. Yet you can very easily escape from this image by leaving it behind. You are not there and that is not you. ….Perceive any part of the ego’s thought system as wholly insane, wholly delusional and wholly undesirable, and you have correctly evaluated all of it. This correction enables you to perceive any part of creation as wholly real, wholly perfect and wholly desirable. Wanting this only you will have this only, and giving this only you will be only this. \”.

I can not explain the 669 pages of the ACIM text (let alone the workbook). It has taken me almost 5 years of continuous reading to get even a grasp of the principles. But, I\’m accepting that this world is the ego\’s and means nothing. So why do I run? To burn calories?

The glitz and glamour of age group awards and personal bests and the praise of others have worn off. Or, has it? Does the thought of a shiny medal still hypnotize me? Why do I still want to run 24 hours when it will only tear up my feet? Am I powerless over brain synapses?

I (my ego) has been attacking me with the running question for decades. It became worst in the monastery. You\’d think praying and Benedictine community would have over ruled running. But, the fear of being unhealthy and fat drove me.

The running question is no different than the God question. Really they are the same ego thought: fear of God and the ego\’s quest to rule over Him.

My 2011 3,100 miles race took more than 11 months. In 2012, I\’ll only get about 2,400 miles.

Stop staring at the ego\’s picture of hate. Answer it.

I want to go here (Merrill\’s Mile):

Just sitting and listening. That is all life is anyway.

Chapter 5 – Intense Holy Spirit Learning

A Course in Miracles Text chapter 5 is really deep into the Holy Spirit. I deeply feel Him inside. I remember. Or I stop and listen; experiencing the reality.

All this as I ride the elliptical or walk on the tread mill.

\”Healing is the vocation of the mind.
In the mind, God put the Call to joy.\”

I\’m still in the hunt for completing a 24 hour run. Maybe this one near Atlanta on September 1:
http://www.dumassevents.com/Merrill_s_Mile.html

Surreal eh?

In a Ray of Light – 3 Days at the Fair Report

This picture at the start gives a hint of how I feel inside. Can you see the ray of light around me?

At the start of a long day. I am beaming.

The venue is fantastic, good places to park along the course to set up your aid station, great bathrooms with nice showers, good tent space, 25 ft elevation change for each lap, mostly paved, well lit at night, full kitchen in the food court, a screen showing you distance every lap.

Great bathrooms with nice showers right on course:

The nice down hill:

Food court and timing area:

Tent area near my car, but you could put a tent anywhere:

Swag: a nice jacket.

I came to this race a little by surprise. As a timed ultra addict, I had looked several times at the web page for this race. But this year, with a 50k in Missouri at the end of April and a trip to Ottawa ON planned at the end of May, I just didn\’t have time to squeeze this in. But, about 4 weeks ago, my boss informed me that he was getting his gall bladder operated on and that I\’d have to go to Sheffield Mass. to do a week of training. It turns out, this week after this race. Well, now that I HAVE to go to that part of the country, I might as well enter this race. My boss gave me permission to fly on Friday, so no vacation days used (also no airfare or rental car). Sweet!

I am not really trained for a 24 hour race, but no harm in seeing what I can do. I always go into things with high hopes but am good at accepting whatever happens.

I spent nearly all day getting from Houston to Albany NY. then a 2.5 hour drive to Sussex County NJ. I didn\’t get lost for once, which surprises me. I get to the race site for a look see about 7 pm. I think I decide where I want to park and set up my chair and food. No rain in the forecast.

Then I drive 6 miles down the road to the town where my hotel is. I go to the world\’s worst WalMart; but they do a have styro cooler which I need for tomorrow. Then I find a good food store and stock up on other items. Owing to the fact that I was traveling all day, I was under-hydrated. Therefore, I slept a solid 6 hours without getting up.

In met the wife of one of the runners in the hotel the next morning. This already formed a relationship between me and husband. I get to the race site about 8. Set up my things. I am parked next to one guy who has already been there 2 days and another guy who just got there (he eventually went 120 miles in 24 ours!). We all start chatting. then I pick up my number and swag. Then I check my number and see that it registers on the tower display. Cool: every lap, my distance and time is distance and time flash on the screen. This is great since one lap is 0.85xxx miles.

The race has 72 hours, 48 hours, 24 hours, 12 hours and 6 hours. The people who started before me are on course and mostly walking at various speeds. Some just barely moving forward. Some older folks seem listing at the waist. The scene is pretty grim. Even the leader is walking, though in steady fashion. These people are determined to stay on course no matter what. I am somewhat inspired. I think, \”I can do that. I will do that.\” At 9 am, the 24 hour people start.

I follow everyone around. I notice that there is a horse show in the arenas on one side of the course. Lap number 2, I get to the back side and don\’t see any one in front of me. Sudden confusion as I need to turn but can\’t remember which place. Then, those behind me point the way. Haha, got lost on a 0.85xx mile course which I\’ve already done once.

I meet some other people from Texas. I meet with Fred, a guy I\’ve met at other ultras. I\’m working on nutrition. The afternoon gets up of high of 80F, no shade.

At 39 miles (maybe 10 hours into race), my little left toe suddenly blew up. I went from doing pretty good to can\’t hardly walk in an instant. Luckily, my car was only about a quarter of a mile away. I went there and sat down. I didn\’t know what I would do about the toe, but something must be done. A blister under the toe nail and broke the toe nail loose. I am in trouble.

I try to pop it without much luck. Other people ask if I need help. I ask if anyone knows more about blister than me. Turns out blinter man has gone home, but a physical therapist who works on her husbands feet is willing to help me. This is good because PTs are willing to inflict pain. We discuss and try various things. Eventually we get it drained \”some\” and she puts 3 or 4 more blister pads around it. I put on one thin sock and ask someone to cut a hole in my shoe by that toe. During this time, my body is freezing up. My quads start quivering. I got thru a bit of nausea. I doubt I\’ll be continuing on.

After about an hour, I stand up. Oh look, I\’m standing. Great effort is put into one step and then another. The toe hurts like a mother, but I hobble onto the course. What? Why? After about 0.25 mile, things settle down a little. As the lap wears on, things get better. As the sun goes down, I put on jackets and pants and find I am walking pretty good. Since I am beyond the point where I would normally have packed it in, each lap I finish seems like a miracle. I usually don\’t keep going. I have a hotel room to go to. I don\’t have to be out there.

There is a wedding in one area and people show up dressed to the nines. this gives us conversation about women\’s shoes. Later, it gives us conversation about drunk young couples behaving that way. There is a catered auction in another building. The restrooms suddenly have restroom attendants who clean the place up, light candles, spray freshener, put on music and collect tips. Some items at the auction are pretty high dollar. We talk about that. People inside the auction come out to smoke. The race organizers, quickly get them away from the course. We talk about that. Some drunk or well dressed tipsy people are asking who we racers are and what we are doing. Exclamations are forthcoming.

Best joke was when I was walking with Fred. Another man comes out of the men\’s restroom and says, \”Hey Fred, when was the last time you were at an ultra with bathroom attendants?\” Fred and I bust up. It is ludicrous. Mostly, we use bushes and portas at races.

About 10:30 pm, I am walking along the back side of the course. Up on the highway, I hear the screech of brakes and a loud bang. My hands involuntarily fly to my head. Soon, I think I hear screams. Not long later, sirens. I decide to keep walking until the drunks get home. Its much safer destroying my feet and legs on a track than driving. lol!

I walk for 13 miles. But I find I have no goals. My original goal is gone. Now, I am just walking. I hurt enough that I don\’t think I need to walk all night. I wonder which lap will be my last. I walk with a woman and we discuss the \”why\” question; as in why do we do this. Neither of us know. We just know that pretty soon, we\’ll be clicking submit and doing it again.

I finish a lap and look at the screen. I have finished 2 marathons: 52.xx miles. I have been at this for 15h45min. I realize that I am done. I\’m not willing to just keep hurting and causing myself more injury. 2 marathons is a good. I tell the RD I\’m leaving so they don\’t wonder where I am. she gives me a look like, \”You should keep walking.\” I know that other guys hurting much worse than me are in fact still shuffling around. I don\’t really see why I should continue to beat myself up. At 1 am, I head for the hotel.

I can\’t sleep. First, I am too wound up. Second, my body hurts in too many places. I find that I am damn glad I stopped when I did. I\’m happy with what I did. My bladder is working great so I find myself having to get up. Walking 15 steps to the bathroom is difficult.

Two weeks ago, I finished a 50k (31 mile) race. Now, I see how much more damage is caused by 50 miles. The difference is significant, a step change.

Now, I just drove 3 hours through beautiful New York State to the little town where I\’ll be doing business this week. I realized something different about myself. I don\’t feel like a failure because I pulled the plug on my pain and didn\’t stay out walking til the bitter end. I have felt bad about that in the past. Now, I don\’t feel like this is a flaw in my makeup that needs to be fixed. I just realize I am different. I don\’t have to be like the others. I can be happy with the chance to go 52 miles and almost 16 hours. I\’d never do that by myself, which is why I go to these races.
Good food: Primal fuel mixed with Heed, Vanilla soymilk in little purple boxes, Starbuck\’s bottled lattes, Oikos strawberry yogurt, gala apples, Cuties mandarins, Raw Revolution lemon bars.

OK food: Clif double espresso gel, veggie burgers on pita, Bolton Farms vanilla chai protein drink.

Forgot: cranberries, Luna lemon bars, Almond nut thins.

Travel Day – 3 Days as the Fair

I am in Houston Hobby airport. I got here early because there are usually long lines to check bags and get thru security. So I have been walking around the Southwest terminal. It is 900 steps per lap. I know this because I have a pedometer issued by my work place. The goal is 10,000 steps per day.

I am up to 5,153 today.

But wait, I am starting a 24 hour race tomorrow. I shouldn\’t be walking at all! I\’ll get to walk alot, without the heavy computer on my back, starting tomorrow at 9 am.

Ultras hurt. I admire those who ignore the pain. I know I give up at some point. Given the current situation with my body, I don\’t know how long that will take. No matter how slow, I hope to stay on course.

I am staring at a black hole. I don\’t know what will happen. I signed up for this race almost because I have to work nearby the following week. So the trip is free. The race will be an exercise in letting go, but moving forward. I seek endlessness. I will play with my thoughts; watching and dismissing.

Ultra-ACIM – 3 Days at the Fair Preperation

I am thinking about practicing hard core \”A Course in Miracles\” (ACIM) for my upcoming 24 hour endurance run.

Usually, during races, I come up with some phrase which is filled with light and love and peace. This time, I am thinking I will use lessons 9, 10 and 11 during the race. The purpose of these is not to cater to a romantic ego, but instead point out its delusional thought system.

\”I see nothing as it is now.
My thoughts do not mean anything.
My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world.\”

For non-ACIM students, here is the punch line of lesson 9. \”…It is difficult for the untrained mind to believe that what it seems to picture is not there. This idea can be quite disturbing, and may meet with active resistance in any number of forms. Yet that does not preclude applying it. No more than that is required for these or any other exercises. Each small step will clear a little of the darkness away, and understanding will finally come to lighten every corner of the mind that has been cleared of the debris that darkens it….\”

The reason I think these phrases will help me with my endurance run is because: they are true. But also, if I remember \”each small step will clear a little of the darkness\”, then I\’ll be a winner. To make meaning out of a worldly delusion is purely an ego exercise. I dare to let it go, to walk 75 miles without swag.

My last load of laundry is done. The trash is taken out. I\’ll now go upstairs and count out the undies and socks.

T Minus 3 – 3 Days at the Fair Prelude

It is Wednesday morning and I am at work in my Texas chemical park. On Friday morning at this time, I\’ll be at Houston Hobby getting ready to board my Southwest Airlines flight for New Jersey. Saturday morning, I\’ll begin my 24 hour trek.
It will be a journey of mind and emotion and pain. I can\’t leave the pain out because I know that feet do hurt after you\’ve been on them more than 50 miles. I don\’t know how far I\’ll go. I don\’t have a goal other than to stay in the game as long as possible. I\’ve been resting my legs this week; but there could still be problems that can\’t be ignored and I have to quit early.
I have a positive feeling about the race. But I also find myself strangely silent. It is as if I anticipate changes as a result of the journey. I hope for changes in the depth of my being; that is, I am able to know myself at a deeper level.

Race Preparation – 3 Days at the Fair

I am preparing for a 24 Hour Race. It is out of town, so that takes a bit of head scratching and an extra bag.

Chair, 2 pairs of shoes, socks, special undies, shorts, rain suit, long, short and tank shirts, vest, ball caps, gloves, buffy, first aid supplies, flash light, Bio-freeze and pain rub.

Food going with me: soy milk in little boxes, Blue Diamond Cheddar Nut Thins, Cranberries in little bags, Mentos sugar free spearmint gum, 5 hour energy, Raw Revolution lemon bars, Primal Fuel, Heed, spirulina, Myoplex Lite cinnamon flavor bars, Luna lemon bars, shaker bottles, some Clementines that would go bad if I left them home, Clif double espresso gels (caffeine needed).

This is just the running stuff. I\’ll also be carrying all my work stuff as I\’ll be working in Massachusetts all  the following week.

I\’ll buy some stuff there too. Most notably, a cooler, apples and veggie patties. WalMart is very close to my hotel on Friday night.

Then there is the issue of hotels for Saturday night and Sunday. On Sunday, I\’m supposed to drive about 120 miles from the race site to the town where our facility is, as I am working there during the coming week. On Saturday night, I don\’t really need a hotel room because the race goes from 9 am Saturday to 9 am Sunday. But the last time I did one of these races, I quit after 20 hours. If I wanted to quit this time, it would be good to have a hotel to go to. Or, commit to not quitting and just lay in the car if I need a nap. What it will come down to I think is: what kind of car do I rent and would the hotel grant me a checkout time of at least 1 pm. These questions will need to be settled on-site.

I have decided to \”taper.\” I\’ve got a sore heel that just needs some rest. So today, I did 2 hours of easy non-painful, non-aggressive cross training. I\’ve only done one other 24 hour run. I got to 80 miles and decided that was enough pain. So, while I need daily exercise for well being, it doesn\’t have to be running. The more healed I go into a 24 hour run, the longer I will last. So, let the running go.

I am looking forward to a good long endurance run. I always meet nice people and enjoy a good community at these things.