Urban Hiker

Usually, I write race reports. I have been in races lately and finished them. But running races is not the most exciting thing in my life today. The most exciting thing is walking. Or urban hiking. Urban hiking is for non-elite city dwellers, who don’t live near fantastic mountainous trails, and who never plan to hike from Mexico to Canada or Georgia to Maine. Yes, I could hike even though I don’t live near anything amazing.

Last week, I walked 20 miles by myself. I was so impressed that I did it. It was not painful and the time went by easily. I began to envision really long distance hikes around the city where I live.

And so I bought a backpack. A typical hydration pack that I use for running doesn’t have a big enough back pocket for a jacket. In the winter, it could be that layers of clothing need to be taken off or put on as the day progresses. And I want to be able to hike for hours without going home. I wanted a pack that could carry a large hydration bladder. And hip pockets for my phone and gloves. A pack to untether me:

I do still run. Races are signed up for. But I also like the low stress of walking. Without purpose. Not training. Walking in winter, I don’t sweat like I do running, so the layers stay dry for hours. Whereas, when running, I sweat, and pretty quick, my layers get wet.

Today I walked along a busy road. The sidewalk was mostly there, missing in a couple of spots. Continuous cars. Quicktrip and Starbucks. It takes 3 miles of road walking to get between trail A and trail B. Next time, I’ll park closer to trail B, because, on trail B, you can walk for many miles on bike paths away from cars.

Do you ever drive in your car along a busy street and see a person walking with a pack? Do you wonder if they are too poor to have a car, or homeless, or something? I mean, why would anyone walk along that street if they didn’t have to? The crazy old lady who likes to walk, that’s who. It could be the secret millionaire from next door who puts on scruffy clothes and a pack and goes for a long walk.

Try it sometime.


Christmas on Shoal Creek

Today\’s walk was really nice and the little tree that someone decorated sparkled. I felt really good being outside. The air is so fresh and crisp here.

I am in a period of life where I feel good most of the time. I think it is because Abraham Hicks\’ (google that) teaching how to deliberately feel good. Like, yesterday at Starbucks, we got absolutely slammed. We were missing two partners and the store was filled with people the entire 6 hours I was there. So the 4 of us who were on duty were running the whole time. Driving home in my car however, I felt energized. While I was working, of course it was a struggle. You wouldn\’t believe how many bags of garbage I took out (making coffee drinks generates lots of garbage from grounds to milk bottles). I toted ice from the machine to the bar. I washed dishes. I made all sorts of sauces. But still, somehow, it feels good at the end of the day.

I know this because yesterday also, someone from my old career contacted me to inform me that my old boss was moving on and his job was posted. I did go look at the posting. But I felt no happiness at the idea of going back.

I\’d rather focus on the real purpose for which I came to this time in my life. I want to be a writer. I have two writing projects. I know that I can engineer words and produce kick ass products. That\’s my path. Truly, everything is on that path. I just need to keep putting ink on paper, typing up the first drafts, connecting with helpful people, learning how writers publish and become successful. Not easy or quick but doable.

And in the mean time, enjoy the beautiful paths and my vibrant health.

Waiting for the Snow

My intention for the day is to go for a walk in a snow storm. I will get what I want. In another hour or two, it will be snowing and I will get all bundled up and go outside. There is something about a long walk in the snow which is necessary for my life.

In addition, I\’ve spent the morning reading about God. Also, this is Thanksgiving weekend. I went for dinner to the monastery and had a nice meal. Since moving to KC, I\’ve spent a good deal of time reading my diaries from when I lived in the monastery. I am trying to understand what happened. How did my emotional condition get so distraught?

This morning, reading about God, meditating, waiting for a snow storm, I wonder if there is no answer to the question. It just was. I just am. Which brings me to what I really wanted to say at this moment.

My life just now is only an existence. I am just being. People who are just being do need to buy food at the grocery store, and go to work to earn a little money; but there isn\’t so much of a long term agenda. In my career, I had an agenda. It drove me crazy with its desire to get from others. So now I have stepped away.

My entire life it seems has really been about wanting to know God. Clearly I know when that search began and all the things I\’ve tried to know God. Today I will know God in a snow storm. It seems that I need to decide each day to just be, which also means to allow. I allow God to love me and I receive the love, however that looks. Today, it is a snow storm. I\’m excited about that.

I had to come to the place where I am in order to just be. Or explore just being in more detail. I wanted to just be in the monastery; but really, I wasn\’t doing that. It is easier for me to just be here outside the walls. I have realized that I don\’t need to fix myself any more. It is better to focus on allowing universal love, a feeling of satisfaction, ease and flow. Focus on letting my cork bob.

I am trying to learn the difference between appreciation and gratitude. Think about it. Why should this matter?

The Path

It had been an emotional morning. Not that anything in particular had happened to create emotions. These were the type of emotions that rise up when one has space and time. The sort of anxiety for no reason, but which picks on some minor issue of human life. The type of emotion which plagues the quiet emptiness of the solitary soul.

As usual, attempts to focus thoughts or quiet thoughts were initiated. 5 minutes. 5 minutes. 5 minutes. No phone call. 5 minutes. 5 minutes. 5 minutes. Still no e-mail.

Emotion is thought. Reach for a better feeling thought they said. I did. I just could hang on. Better thoughts disappeared as my feelings were too slow to grasp them. The crowd of anxiety moved back in.

And so the forest called. The forest had a nice path, beautiful trees and clean air for lungs that need to breathe deeply.

The path is cemented. Someone has brushed off the first batch of fallen leaves. The intense crackling of a foot landing on dry leaves is gone. Walking proceeds in silence.

Many leaves have fallen. Those still hanging are mostly brown with some green or yellow. Here and there, a gem, an orange maple. The orange takes my mind and stills all thought except for a wordless awe. Orange against a bright blue sky.

The path is neither flat nor straight. One cannot see beyond the next curve or over the next hill. The trees line the path in untamed existence. The old fallen ones left to rot amongst the living.

And rocks. A creative person has been here. Along the path, little piles of shale pieces. That mound looks like a man. That mound looks like a bench. That mound should fall over but doesn\’t.

Cold weather has silenced the cicadas. Beatles crawl cross the path. Daddy long legs. Don\’t step on the bugs. Rustling in the leaves is squirrels. Water falling over rocks soothes. Stop to listen to the water fall. It is a real sound, the real thing. Not an app. Pause and listen.

Then head back to the car. A purposeful brisk walk has helped the lungs to cleanse the body The forest has absorbed the emotional energy. The idea of serenity is the mood received.

Hole in my Head Walk

Today I absolutely skulked in my bed. I did not want to get up even though I wasn\’t tired. But finally, I did. Then I absolutely enjoyed a long spiritual study period. I started reading A Course in Miracles text for the 10th time.

Then, I did an indoor septathalon. That is 10 minutes at each of 7 stations: bike, elliptic, step platform with 5 lb ankle weights, walk up and down 18 stairs with the ankle weights and two 10 lb plates, nordic track, versa climber and rowing. Over 600 calories in that.

Then comes the hole is my head part. For whatever reason, I decided today was the day I would make a long distance walk in one big loop. So I put on my desert pants, heat gear shirt, Solumbra hat, full Nathan and start walking at noon. This walk was a completely nasty route being all busy highways. And, I didn\’t really have any idea how long it would take me, but there were no short cuts. I didn\’t know if my foot would start hurting 5 miles from home. I didn\’t know how sunny and hot the day would be!

Dummy walking along NASA Pkwy. I see Clear Lake park (37 minutes) and stop at an extremely nice restroom. Keep walking to Space Center Blvd and turn. Not a very great sidewalk but at least there is one. Turn again at Middlebrook. No sidewalk now for part of that.

I keep realizing that something which takes a minute in the car takes a long time when you are walking. I keep thinking about people sitting: in car, in boats, on motorcycles, in front of TVs, at picnic tables. Americans sit alot. I also feel in my legs what it is like to power walk for several miles. I haven\’t done out and out walking like that for a long time. I mean, it is different than jogging.

Turn again at Bay Area Blvd. Spy another park with another fabulous rest room (almost at 2 hrs). Keep walking to Red Bluff where I stop at the Valero and buy a Red Bull, Gatorade and 2 granola bars. The Red Bull gets chugged immediately and the Gatorade goes into the Nathan. Walking along Red Bluff, the sidewalk goes away and there is not shoulder at all for about half a mile. I survive that, but so eager to get off that road, I turn into the wrong subdivision and suddenly find myself lost. After 3 hours in the sun, desperate to get home, I\’m lost in a subdivision. I see two guys strolling. I ask them if they know if the road I\’m on goes through. They give me directions.

Finally, 3h51 min later, 12.8 miles, I get home. Whew! Not so bad! Not a peep from my foot.

Poverty and Laps

I just walked around Brummerhop park 30 times. I would have walked further, but I have an appointment this afternoon. I dread going out. I\’d much rather re-fill my hydro-pak and head out into Houston\’s heat and humidity.

In walking, I\’ve discovered my essence. I can walk and walk, if not fast. I cannot run and run. In walking around for hours, I lose myself and all my possessions.

The people who walk their dogs or pick berries know me. They see me walking around. Sometimes they comment. A man asked me today if I was doing it for exercise or cardio. Well…..  How do you answer that question without stopping? But the man wouldn\’t understand any way.

A walker may look fit, but they are not seen as an athlete. So I am robbed of that possession.
If I walk a race, I finish but not very fast. So I am robbed of that possession.
I can\’t explain in a sound bite why I walk. So I am robbed of that possession.
I can\’t explain to the multitudes why I walk. So I am robbed of that possession.

Well, really, all these possessions are ego possessions. In fact, walking belong to essence; and this cannot be explained. Bragging rights are the ego\’s. Soul simply walks.

I am going in a road marathon next weekend. I am looking forward to seeing friends. I am dreading the environment of a road race. I\’ll have to hustle in order to make the time cut-off. I don\’t want to hustle.

At the age of 40, I renounced the world and went to live in a monastery. At the age of 44, I got kicked out of the monastery. When I came back to secular society, I found I didn\’t want many of its things and activities. I\’ve continued to live without much of society. As time goes by, I continue to decrease my participation in the general thought patterns. I thank God that I am free of so much social activity.

Yes I pay bills and go to work. No I don\’t \’many other things.\’ I work each day in my mind, pruning thought from society, encouraging thoughts of essence. My thoughts of essence are not my original thoughts. I might be studying some great thinker who is unknown to most of society, not mainstream. But the fact remains, I am not participating in society.

Walking laps in a small track, I can direct my thinking inward. I find essence. I have more time later today and 3 more days this weekend to enjoy solitude with essence.

Mother\’s Day

For some I guess. I am not a mother and don\’t have a mother; and am not amused by whatever trauma I\’ve observed by those who do have mother\’s but are enmeshed in dysfunctionality.

If I was still in the monastery, I\’d be having a bad weekend. First, the sisters set up a special table and everyone puts a picture of their mother on it; and the liturgy honors mothers. But wait, I really hated my alcoholic mother and wish I hadn\’t been born. So, I\’d be annoyed at the monastic community activity. Then, the sisters are having an auction this weekend. I was there during one of these auctions. I stood in the rain all day and directed traffic and parking. It was very tiring. I\’m more the type of person who takes the unwanted stuff to Good Will, rather than have a sale.

Instead, I\’ve been doing miles. And noticing what my body, mind and spirit can or can\’t do. I\’ve noticed that I\’ve had pain in my left heel so long, that I have difficulty getting out of bed. I can\’t look forward to going running because I don\’t know how bad that heel will feel.

However, it is getting better. This weekend, almost the only pain I experienced was related to the scar (which is right down the back of the heel), but not related to the heel spur on the bottom of the foot. It is very good news that Saturday and Sunday, I tried the \”Miracle\” (brand) insoles and my foot liked them. I haven\’t used them since surgery because they have been too high in the arch. But this weekend, they were perfect.

On Friday, I did 23 laps of a 0.46 mile loop in Pine Gully park. This was jog/walk and I got 10+ miles in the middle of a sunny day. My heel was not feeling great as I think the shoes were tied too tight and pressing on the heel too hard. On Saturday, I did 55 laps of a 0.37 mile loop in Brummerhop park. This was jog/walk day and I got 20+ miles in 5 hours. On Sunday, I power walked for 4 hours and 14+ miles; in Meador park on a 0.7 mile loop. Sunday was heat test day. I didn\’t start until pretty late. I wore my \”Solumbra\” (brand) SPF jacket and hat. I think that it does help to keep the sun directly off the skin, even in humid Houston. I also drank \”Clip-2\” (brand) drink. I think that helped also.

Think about it: 4 hours speed walking in the sun. What does it take to do that? Body, mind, spirit.

Walking for hours is not that easy. One time in a 3 day ultra, a 65 year old woman walked my young ass into the ground. She never ran at all; but man could she speed walk.

Laps. Yes, laps. Laps are boring. But I\’m not running for entertainment. I\’m running for introversion. I\’m doing laps to train my mind. When I get to a real 55 hour race, I want my mind to be able to handle laps. You can forget yourself doing laps. You have to get past a certain point, which take a few hours; but then You suddenly lift your head and realize 40 laps went by and you didn\’t even see them.

Some people pick their 100 mile races based on technical difficulty of the trail. Some people pick them based on popularity. I pick mine based on inward potentiality. After hours and laps, it is not about the running but the dregs of who you are.

Today, I watched a boy completely scream at his big brother. I completely understand the rage. I haven\’t screamed at anyone in years, but in my silence, I know there is rage. I think we all have it but most of us don\’t let it out. A Course in Miracles can address the rage.

Choose the Spark of Beauty


This morning, I was studying chapter 17.IV in A Course in Miracles text. Here is the part that inspired me: \”Let Him [Holy Spirit] uncover the spark of beauty in your relationships, and show it to you…It is still up to you to choose to join with truth or with illusion. But remember that to choose one is to let the other go. Which one you choose you will endow you with beauty and reality, because the choice depends on which you value more…the spark of beauty or the veil of ugliness…\”

I thought about how I didn\’t hate my boss this week and how many people texted me on my anniversary. I decided to allow the love that had been present; which is to choose the spark of beauty I had been shown.

After this, did I become insane? Here\’s my story.

Earlier this week, I got an e-mail about a new 24 hour event in Houston in December. (I went in a 50k there last year). So, I would really like to walk 24 hours. And my new shoe design might allow for a \”Kinhin\” Zen walk for 24 hours. I\’m after the meditation side, not the distance side mind you. I mentioned it to a guy at work. He said he\’d be happy to hand me cups of water and drive my butt home. (Transportation could be an issue after being up all night.)

This morning was my usual Saturday struggle to get out of bed. The only reason to get up early is to run before temps rise above 90F. As a walker however, it doesn\’t really matter. So I slept until 7. Then, I did my spiritual study, prayed about the December 24 hour run. I heard rumbles outside, but I decided to go for a short walk in El Lago and test the shoe.

The first 50 feet out the door, I\’m thinking I\’ll drop down to the half marathon for the Nebraska race in 3 weeks. See, the modified shoe won\’t work in Nebraska on a hilly dirt course. Depressing.

50 feet later, another thought shot across my mind. Well, you could go to St Louis since you are already entered in that 12 hour run.

I shook my fist at the sky. \”G-d dammit, that is the exact opposite thought from what I wanted!\”

During the first mile of my walk in El Lago, I saw the faint trace of a rainbow. An omen? Was God speaking? It poured on me twice during the first 2 hours; but since this is Houston in August, it is always at least 80F. If you get wet, no big deal.

I thought about the 12 hour race in St Louis. It makes a ton of sense. Before dreaming of a 24 hour race, why not see how 12 hours go? And the course in Fenton (St Louis) is perfect for my shoe. The driving is about the same as if I went to Nebraska. I already know some people who will be walking in Fenton. No time pressure for a 12 hour time period. It fits the scope of meditative walking (not racing).

So, crap. I think I\’ll go to Fenton.

Today, I walked 4 hours in my shoe. I came home once to modify it and finally stopped at 4 hours cuz I needed to modify again and I realized that the thicker sock was tearing up one of my little toes. Fang (one of the heel spurs) was quiet today. The only problem was the back of the shoe heel wasn\’t short enough and kept banging into the bottom of my heel and hurting it (4 hours of that really was enough). So, I have 3 weeks to get the shoe right. I don\’t even have to decide for sure until that week so I can shift my hotels around. But, I think Fenton will be much better for me.

I\’ll try again with the shoe tomorrow.

Happy ACIM Anniversary

Today, 7/29, is my Course in Miracles anniversary. When I started 5 years ago, I thought it might take 5 years just to get a grasp on it. I think I do have a grasp. I study the text everyday, practicing \”lectio divina\” which is one of my monastic practices. I\’ve read the Text 8 times. I\’m currently on chapter 13 and I made my prayer out of 13.III today.

Dear Holy Spirit,
I bring my thoughts to You.
I seek the reference point.
I am a loving mind.
Grandeur is the right of God\’s Son.

Chapter 13.III
\”For His answer is the reference point beyond illusions, from which you can look back on them and see them as insane. But seek this place and you will find it, for Love is in you and will lead you there.\”

Love, peace.

This time of year is very reflective for me. August 8 is the anniversary of my sobriety in 1985 and getting kicked out of the monastery in 2003.

Despite getting up at 8 am, and starting my walk at 9:45, a cloud cover came at 10:45 so I could continue walking for another 4 hours. I suppose that walking 5h19 minutes or 18.5 miles is pointless. I find I am proud to have a life where I have nothing better to do than walk for 5 hours on a Sunday afternoon. I didn\’t really plan on walking that long. I just loaded up my hydro-pak and said I\’d walk for a short while.

I spent the time repeating my prayer (above). I realized just before I started that today was the beginning of my last 8 day retreat before being abruptly kicked out of the monastery (9 years ago). I briefly looked at my journal for this day. Oh my, I was a tortured soul.

Upon leaving the monastery, Sister Mary Margaret Funk advised me to just be a monk in the world. I\’ve continued my monastic practices to live up to the monk part. And at work, I am part of at least 3 projects which span the globe and bring me into contact with people all over the world.

Now I am a Course in Miracles student. My mind is far more peaceful that it was when I started 5 years ago.

When I first started walking today, I had the park to myself. I could imagine not knowing what my body meant; just imagined myself as a primordial consciousness in a primordial forest. Then, as various families showed up for their kids to play on the slides, I practiced \”Grandeur is the right of God\’s Son.\”

While walking, I thought of the 3,100 Mile Race and how a couple of the guys will finish tomorrow and Tuesday.

I thought about my own plans to walk a 12 hour race in September. I realized that in that race, after 5 hours, my feet and mind will feel about the same as today, only I\’ll be trying to walk another 7 hours. No doubt, St Louis will be hot and humid too. I wonder if my mind will give up at 26.2 miles; or if my heel will just feel horrid and I\’ll stop.

Saturday Walking

Today, when my alarm went off at 5:30, I easily got out of bed. An hour later, I began a 10 mile walk at 4 mph pace around Seabrook. I am walking because I am resting some aches and pains.

My thought was: The Holy Spirit\’s Love is my strength.

Now, a few hours later, my foot feels good enough to proceed with an afternoon workout: free weights and elliptical and bike.

I am not upset about not running. In fact, I don\’t really care if I never run again. The swelling on my heel may be with me for this lifetime, so I don\’t sweat it. But the achilles and plantar will heal and then I can walk longer and further. In a 24 or 72 hour race, most of the people are walking so I will fit right in. But until the plantar feels better, I can\’t even walk much more than I did today.

I can do sit-ups forever.

Badwater 2012 is over and the race reports are coming out. I read a particularly gruesome one today. the person did not conclude that this was the greatest thing he ever endured. It brought back my own \”Why?\” questions.

I can\’t explain endurance. Perhaps it is the same as an alcoholic getting drunk. Endurance is just something that must be done. That is why the thought of walking 24 hours doesn\’t phase me: it is endurance and it must be done.

The sisters in the monastery hardly walk at all, but the liturgy of the hours and daily hora et labora is a horrendous feat of endurance; lasting 60 or more years.

People who get up and go to work everyday might be enduring in a magnificent way.

I prefer my endurance with endorphins. So I walk and cross train. I am also fussy about my chiseled arm muscles, so I use the TRX for arm running.

Laying on my bed and reading this afternoon, I realized how wonderful the labor of endurance is. It enacts the most magic thing about any human mind: getting off the bed. How do we ever get off the bed?

While I walked, I dreamed. What should I do over Labor Day weekend? Should I go to St Louis and walk 12 hours? Or go to Utah and walk a marathon?

How many 50 somethings do you know who face such treacherous decisions?