Seabrook Lucky Trails

Boy, did I get lucky today. In the zone.

First of all, through some quirk of weather, it did not rain in Seabrook Friday night. But a cold front did pass through so that this morning was actually cool and dry.

Second, this race is a 3 minute drive from my house. No I didn\’t run to the start as there is a highway in between my house and the park. But I went there about an hour early in order to get a parking spot where I wanted. Then, I sat in the car doing some spiritual study. At an appropriate time, I headed to a certain bush to take care of business. Then I walked to the start area and chatted with a friend.

Shivering! Unheard of on Galveston Bay in March. Lovely.

Back up a moment. I didn\’t plan for this marathon to be any kind of fast time for me. In fact, I jog walked 12 miles yesterday as part of a 50 mile race training plan. And my Garmin was set on 6×1; so obviously no plan to be a speed demon today.

But well…..

It was cool. I started running comfortably; which turned out to be 10.5 minute miles. I decided not to take any walk breaks the first lap (4 lap race). I took a pit stop after the first lap just cuz it was there. I kept on going at that pace. Don\’t ask me why. It just felt good. I finished the second lap, half marathon, with another pit stop in 2:15. Whoa!

Third lap, I did start the walk breaks. But I gave myself permission to run as fast as I felt like it during the 6 minute run intervals. During the third lap, I caught up with my friend Robert and walked with him a little. Then buzzed on.

It was incredible. I felt so good. During the last lap, I kept the pressure in. I knew I could finish fast without hurting anything. I did it! A new post surgery, post menopause Personal Best: 4h41 by chip. 4h38 by garmin (doesn\’t have the pit stops). By the chip time, I broke 11 min miles for a marathon. Wow! I never run that fast in training so I don\’t know how I did it today.

Memorable moments: the sunrise over the bay was beautiful, I said hi to several people I knew.

During this race, I decided my fate in December. I signed up again for the Texas marathon. My reward for today was to get a new pair of shoes out of the closet to prepare for my next race.

In Texas, we have alot of marathons and many people who go in as many races as they can. I like to see the regulars: old, slow, fast, determined. I am among them. This year so far, I have finished 6 marathons. Two of these were in the zone and very enjoyable. The other 4 required determination.

Marathon #44 – Seabrook Lucky Trails

This story is as much about my life at the moment as about my 44th marathon. Topics include: parking, bread, oh and running marathons. This is what is on my mind at the moment.

The most memorable part of this marathon for me was a mental problem. The course is in my back yard. I run on Seabrook trails every weekend so know them intimately. The course is 4 laps for a marathon. It takes me more than 5 hours to do a marathon so I know I\’d be into the heat of a Gulf Coast day. I ran a half marathon race on Saturday so I was starting Sunday\’s marathon already a little tired.

The mental problem: for laps 2 and 3, my brain kept trying to find some acceptable way to cheat and get done sooner. Where could I short cut without being caught? I knew all the places. I know I could never live with myself if I cheated but that didn\’t stop part of my brain from whining about it. But I just kept jogging past each opportunity. Finally as I headed in to lap 4, I knew I\’d make it. Marathons can be long ass ordeals sometimes. I finished in 5:31 which was good for 1st place in my age group. It felt good to know I got thru my mental struggle. Marathons are a mental struggle. I have run 44 of them, 4 so far this year. After the race, I was at my car in a mostly empty parking lot. A man I don\’t know walked over and asked how many marathons I had run. I told him that was my 44th. He said it was his 150th. Hoopla! He had to tell someone. I was the only one there.

Parking. Well, I won the parking spot by the gate for this month. This parking spot is symbolic of a loving universe which I access through cooperation and connection with the spirit of the universe. If you were a Course in Miracles student, you might say it is a good dream. Every time I think of the Prius parked in that spot, I feel love. Things have been going well at work. One person asked me to be their mentor. I am relied on for work product and helping others.  Success pulls at me. Is it pulling me into the world? Here is the view from the driver\’s seat.

Bread. Somehow, 2 weeks ago, the idea that I wanted to separate myself from commercial bread purchases came into my mind. It somehow became time. This is one more way I am separating myself from society. I am a person who buys flour and yeast, not bread. I took out a middle man between me and real food. My world is one more step different than society. So I did some research and asked around and bought a machine. It arrived on Friday so Saturday afternoon, I got my courage together and made my first loaf. It came out fine!

I hope I am not slowly losing my spirituality in the mix of successful career and world. When emotions decrease in inner peace, including the highs of spiritual inspiration, you wonder if you are still spiritual. It requires more silence and inward focus to know what is going on. There is nothing for the ego to grasp.

Jazzed

Count down to marathon #44.

Next Saturday and Sunday is the big event for this area. No not Spring Break. No not the Houston Rodeo. But Seabrook Race Weekend. Races both days on the Seabrook trails; and the best swag evah.

I\’m going in a half marathon on Saturday and  full marathon on Sunday. A full marathon is 4 laps. I\’ll pass by this place 4 times before my hands go up in the air:

I didn\’t exactly taper this weekend. Yesterday I ran 14.1 miles plus 30 min of strength work. Today I ran 9.1 miles in the rain and then did 70 minutes of elliptical/ bike/ nordic track/ versa climber and rowing.

I feel great.

I also did some shopping. Somewhere during this week, I decided I wanted to make my own bread. So I consulted with a friend and today ordered a machine. It is not so much that I want to knead dough, but that I want to know what ingredients are in the bread and be separated from the bread industry.

I also bought a new hydro-pak. I love hydro-paks; but lately I\’ve also realized I don\’t like leaving wallets and phones in the car during races. And I like drinking protein laced sports drink; which I don\’t put in a bladder but a bottle in a front pocket. So a different type of pockets from my Nathan seemed in order. My old Nathan will still see plenty of usage on training weekends,

I am totally jazzed. Marathons: fuck yeah!

A Fork in the Road Passed

This is where I was on Sunday, finishing a half marathon. The plan had been to go to a 50 mile race in Kansas this coming Saturday. But I\’ve been watching the weather for that area. It looks wet (snow, sleet, rain) and cold (30F to 40F) and windy (13-18 mph from the north) for that day. A 50 mile run takes me over 12 hours. I realized I have no desire to be miserable for 12+ hours. So I cancelled my trip.

I still have 3 days off work, so I might run a private marathon or two at home. Its part of my downward mobility project (see below).

Downward mobility is not necessarily a Christian value for me (since I am not really Christian), but de-constructing my ego and not-going-along-with-society certainly are my values. Do you know how hard it is to be of service at work and make sure not to brown nose about it?

This morning, riding my elliptical, I was thinking about how my colleague R was standing in for boss while boss is on medical leave. I realized clearly that R is the one being groomed to move up (and not me). But it also occurred to me that I had been honest with boss about how I didn\’t want to climb a career ladder but be a technical expert. I also know in my heart that I am more interested in my life activities more than my career. When I think about it consciously, I\’m perfectly willing to support R in his career.

That is the fork in the road. I passed it, maybe long ago.

My ego loves to compete at work. So dealing with the emotional urge is hard; partly because the ego goes under ground. You don\’t know how many resentful failure messages it sends out. Well, in the quietness of my morning meditation, these failure thoughts are easier to spot. And then I can re-center on the choice I made and decide if I still want that choice.

I am part of the massive American eating machine. I\’m only skinny because I work out alot. Like many Americans, I have no idea how to eat only as much as I need. It is true, I might be slightly better a food discrimination than most people but only by a fraction.

Pretty soon after waking up this morning, I thought 2 words: joy and happiness. That is a new thing for me to come up with those words before I even got out of bed. They are energy words for me. That is, just thinking the word gives me the feeling of the word. I feel energized without any change in my physical world.

Awesome! Energy!

On this side of the fork, who am I? I know I\’m on the road less travelled. I know I hear a different drummer. (re M. Scott Peck books). But what really does it mean in abstract non-material terms?

For most Americans, the downward mobility choice is a choice to stagnate and die. Is that the road I\’m on?

Life is momentary for me. I felt it on my elliptical this morning. I felt it in the word \”joy.\” When I run endless miles, it is seeking the eternal value of life. The road after the fork has nothing on it. It has no experiences because it is egoless but eternal.

Sounds boring right? That is how I\’m gett\’en out of here.

Tuesday, Richard Beck posted this:
http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2013/03/downward-mobility.html

It is about Henri Nouwen\’s The Selfless Way of Christ.

For some reason, it touched some deep part of me that was the reason I became a spiritual seeker or tried Christianity. The life of the monk is a hidden life; hidden in Christ. It is quiet. It is deep communion with spirit.

Here are some excerpts:

We are taught to conceive of development in terms of an ongoing increase in human potential. Growing up means becoming healthier, stronger, more intelligent, more mature, and more productive. …. In our society, we consider the upward move the obvious one while treating the poor cases who cannot keep up as sad misfits, people who have deviated from the normal line of progress.

 …

Three temptations by which we are confronted again and again are the temptation to be relevant, the temptation to be spectacular, and the temptation to be powerful.

Who am I when nobody pays attention, says thanks, or recognizes my work?

I think that question sits at the root of our spiritual malaise and weakness. We want people to pay attention to us, to recognize us, to give us our due. This is how our identities, worth and significance are grounded. We want to be relevant, spectacular or powerful. So we go through life fishing for such things, a grasping that keeps knocking us off center, spiritually speaking.

I\’m mindful here of something St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 4.11):

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.

 Nouwan observes, \”There is almost nothing more difficult to overcome than our desire for power.\”

3 of 4 Nuns…

…morbidly obese.

I used to hate this when I was a nun. I hated it double bad when the monks next door called and offered to let us pick apples from their damn trees. So not only did I have to pick the horrid apples but also peel and cut them up. All for what? Pie?

And I gave up an afternoon 5k for this?

I didn\’t fit there. True.

Today I jogged for 4 hours around Meador Park and Pine Gully:

I somewhat intentionally run past this place. I come out of the tall swamp grass and get hit with breeze off Galveston Bay. I really like it and I like the view from here.

I have 2 more days of running before hopping on a plane for Germany. I\’ll have some walking in Germany and I am going in a half marathon next Sunday. But mainly it will be an enforced rest from so much training. I\’ll come back just 2 weeks before Ultracentric 48 hour race; hopefully well rested.

I am not morbidly obese:

This is me at last year\’s Seabrook Race Weekend. I\’m entered again for 2013.

My work is not picking apples or mopping floors as it was in the convent. I am actually at the peak of my career. I\’ve been at the Baytown plant almost a year and find myself highly respected. My services as a Process Safety Engineer are highly valued; and managers from parts of the plant I\’m not assigned to are asking if I can help them. In Germany, I\’ll be giving a presentation. Little ol\’ ex-nun me? Yup.

The Catholic Church has declared a \”Year of Faith.\” Like, why does such a thing NEED to be proclaimed except the flock doesn\’t have any faith? But because of that, there is a web page that offers a daily e-mail with part of the Catechism, such that the whole thing is read in a year. I signed up for it. I am so far astounded at the matter of fact verbiage: God said this and did this and nothing else will ever be true.

Now we know this lengthy tomb, The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, was written by the Church hierarchy (a group of celibate priests who probably never cried out \”Oh God\” during an orgasm). It is unbelievable to me, several years after leaving the Church, that such matter of fact statements can be made.

My God is much bigger than that.

After I found out I was kicked out of the monastery, I had 3 days to find a place to live, pack up and get out. I went to the monastery to know God. My most intimate encounter came as I was being kicked out. The experience of God-Consciousness has never left me; although I was afraid that being deprived of being an official spouse of Christ would leave me out. Jesus Himself is more real to me now. I made vows to God privately in my last days before I was supposed to make monastic profession. I knew they were real. I just didn\’t know what I was asking for when I said \”Yes, whatever….\”

Lesson 195

I ordered this photo from Sporting Image:

I don\’t have the non-watermarked photo yet, but I couldn\’t wait to post this picture. I am tanned and ripped and look\’en good. I\’m 53 years old and I look like that!

This morning, I opted for the elliptical for most of my workout. So I had my day\’s psalm taped to the console and I memorized the thoughts. Then I could close my eyes and just recite them in my mind. After the last one, I put silence into my mind, mentally standing with Love.

Lesson 195 Psalm:
Love is the way I walk in gratitude.
My gratitude _ has room for all.
Stop comparing and my hatred is forgotten.
The Thought God holds of me is beyond idols.
I am willing once again to hear Love\’s Voice.

The thing about gratitude that most of us don\’t really get is that we should only be grateful for the universal Love of God; which applies equally to all. God Himself doesn\’t send special blessings to anyone.

Line 3 about \”stop comparing\” has let me off the hook. Since I got kicked out of a religious order (essentially because I was too good for them), I\’ve still wondered and tried to compare holiness. Am I holy if I am not a professed religious? Does Jesus love me as much since I have no credentials and I don\’t live in a convent or wear holy garb and have to drive a car to a job every day?

It is soooo difficult for my ego to not have the trappings of specialness provided by religious life. But spiritual progress requires finding God as \”one of\” not special.

Seabrook Race Weekend

I signed up for Seabrook Race Weekend Pelican Challenge waaaay back in September, before I even moved to Texas. And then, I had the fiasco with my knee (ACL strain). In January, I had no idea whether I\’d be able to run this race or not. In addition, I\’ve had a growing annoyance with pain in my left heel. It sometimes acts like plantar fascitis and sometimes in the totally wrong location for PF. So, I\’ve been cutting back on weekday mileage as it was on concrete, as hard a surface as man has invented.

In mid-February, after visiting doctors and having an MRI, the verdict on the knee was ACL strain which was pretty much over with. I began to increase my weekend mileage. Then one day this banner went up along NASA Blvd. I saw it as I was driving to the park for a weekend long run.

I felt tears well up as I knew that I could do this race.

Packet pickup happens. I got swag:

Here is a picture of some birds which is in Meador Park.

Saturday\’s Thoughts:
The peace of God is shining in me now.
Seek not outside yourself as idols fail.

And off I went to my days half marathon. Well, the persistent ultra runner in me wanted to do more than 13.1 miles; so the day included walking both before and after. Saturday\’s half marathon was a huge morale booster for me. As annoying as my leg issues are, I bet half the people in the race have worse ones. I love these Texas races where there are so many walkers and others shuffling along with some sort of half limp. And mixed in with very fast people.

I just kept to a steady pace and finished in 2h35.

Saturday evening, I always listen to A Prairie Home Companion and work out while I listen. This Saturday was no exception. I rode the ex-bike, lifted weights, did core and rode the elliptical. That persistent ultra mentality thinks I need to keep going so when 12 hour race day comes along, I\’m able to keep going for the required period of time.


Sunday\’s thoughts:
I feel the love of God within me now.
The world of love has been revealed to me.
Come unto God with wholly empty hands.

These are powerful thoughts. Plenty of food for hours of walking and jogging.

Day 2, Sunday:

I wake up before the alarm and get up too. I\’m not feeling any worse for the wear of Saturday.

On Sunday, marathon walkers start at 5:30, marathon runners at 7:15 and half marathon at 7:30. This is pretty cool. Once again, all shapes and sizes are on course and I see many people from yesterday. We know each other as brothers and sisters. Knowing looks are exchanged and some nodded acknowledgments.

the imaginary inner ultra runner is once again affecting my behavior as I walk 2.5 miles before the race starts. During my walk, I visited one porta, one real bathroom and one bush.

And then the race starts. I begin my steady jog. Nothing too memorable to say. It is a bit hotter than yesterday. I take some extra water beyond what I am carrying in my fuel belt. I make one pit stop. I wonder why the previous occupant would leave a piece of crap on the seat. Oh well.

My name is on my bib. People shout out, \”Go Laura,\” and \”Good job Laura.\” I begin to wonder, who is Laura. I mean, I realize that I don\’t think about being Laura very often. Who is Laura? What do I stand for? Who am I? I am this idea. My life is carrying out the idea. If I had stayed in the convent, I\’d not be in Texas. I\’d not be carrying out the idea of long distance running.

And I do love running.

During the last couple of miles, I do start to feel tired. By that time, I\’ve already been 14 miles. I think about how this weekend has truly been about drinking the dregs of my humanity. I know I\’ve sucked the life out of me; and I have an abundance of life to empty.

I finish a bit slower than yesterday; but my left heel doesn\’t hurt as bad. I collect my medals for a second half and the two day Pelican challenge. And then I am walking to the car.

It is still before noon. Who knows if another workout will occur today.

To Smell The Roses

As I struggle with problems, it is so awesome to me that I have non-painful ways to work out. Gratitude is a wonderful thing.

The gratitude started yesterday evening. Now this morning, I am up early to go to a race: half marathon. It is day one of Seabrook race weekend. Tomorrow is another half marathon. Today\’s number is pinned on and I have on a new green race hat.

The gratitude allows me to balance problems with running and the bigger spiritual picture of what my life is for. I have to go deeper into all my reasons.

Last night, walking uphill on the treadmill with ankle weights, I pondered specialness. Specialness is a topic from a Course in Miracles. Maybe a member of AA would say \”ego deflation at depth.\” In ACIM, it points out that the dream of this world is an attempt to be special to God (religious life is largely based on this); but no one can be special to God. So, the ego hated God and made the dream of this world.

My life is on a journey into less specialness. As I go in races just for fun, my ego is disgusted. My ego is ashamed. My ego is the specialness. But \”I\” am ok with anything. A day of smiling at people is fine with me.

I want to give up specialness. I want the peace of God. God dwells within. I need only look there and give up all else.