My brother recently wrote a really good post about conquering fears.  Even though he was relating it to running, it really could apply to so much in life. Please read it here on the blog: Coaching, Training and Motivation.

One of the things I love about my brother is his willingness to help others, and even though he has an amazing running ability, (one that most of us would pretty much die for), he always seems very low-key about it. When I told him that one of my very fast runner friends thought my brother was ridiculously fast in comparison to him, I could tell I made him blush over the phone.  He said, “you know I spend so much time talking to people about speed, I just seem to take myself out of the equation.”

I love people like that – people who could be all “big about themselves” for a variety of reasons, but they choose not to. People who dig down deep and face their fears. People who follow their heart.  (FYI, clicking on this picture of the elevation chart will blow it up for you.)

Elevation Chart for Leadville 100 course, which is an out-and-back, so what goes up must come down, and vice versa.

My brother has come a long way in a few years. He made a career change that took him from one of constant stress and anxiety attacks (literally) to one that he’s so devoted to that when he comes to visit, he always has his laptop out so he can communicate with his running clients. When he was on a bus enroute to come see me last fall, he asked if I could give a client of his a call, to let them know he’d be sending an email as soon as he got to me, telling them final strategy tips for their marathon race the following morning.  When I contacted his client, he said that my brother was an awesome coach, and so dedicated.  It was no surprise to me, but I think it might have been to my brother.  That’s just how he is.

A few years ago, he barely seemed to have the energy to train for marathons. Now he’s training for the Leadville 100, and signs his emails about it, by using the phrase “Crazy Train.” [At least he knows he’s nuts. :-)]   I like the fact that he’s pushing himself to another level (figuratively and literally, as the Leadville Race has some mileage that will be run above the tree line.)

In case you are wondering, yes, a longtime friend of his and I have already volunteered to pilot the Medivac Helicopter for him when the race is over.  We’ve watched him run the marathon at Philadelphia a few times, and always wonder “Why do we drive all this way [from D.C. and Boston] to see him fly by us for just a few seconds during the course of 2-3 hours??” LOL

Brooks ST Racers, image from Amazon.com

I’ll never have my brother’s speed (6 repeat 800s at 2:45, anyone?) but I’ve been thinking of ways to challenge myself too, running and otherwise.  On my brother’s advice, I’ve just bought a pair of racing flats to try out this year: the Brooks ST Racers. (This link takes you to the new model, 5, but I think mine will be the 4, pictured at right.)

I never thought that they were for people like me, before.  By that, I mean  people who tend to run in the middle of the pack. However, Ive seen my times improve over the past few years.  So, now I want to see if having less physical weight on my feet, and the added mental boost of knowing my feet are lighter, will help speed up my times. (Even though they will clash with all of my running clothes, color-wise…)

I’ve been meeting new people and reaching out to others more than I used to. I’ve tended to move away from people or situations that are not right with me, and doing so lifts a heavy load off of me, mentally.  Sticking with them just tends to make you look backward, and I don’t want to do that anymore. (I’m not saying it’s bad to remember everything, I think you need to learn and grow from past experiences, and not always dwell on the past.  It won’t change it.)

I’m also toying with the idea of learning how to rock climb. People who have known me my entire life know how terrified I am of heights.  So, I’m thinking more of learning what they call bouldering, because with that type of climbing, it’s more about the challenge of forging a route to the top of a, say, 30-foot high piece of rock that others might not see.  Or, it’s the challenge of finding handholds or footholds that work, while others might find them impossible. (At least, this is what I have read about it.)  You don’t have to be 100 feet off of the ground, or trying to scale the flat faces of Yosemite or Zion out west.  I’ve always liked reading about people who challenge themselves physically and mentally, such as the mountaineers who climb Everest, or any of the other 8Kers (mountains taller than 8,000 meters).  I’m thinking that maybe I should experience some of it rather than just reading about it! (Although, don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to actually climb an 8,000 meter peak!)

So, who knows? I may go to a class or two and find that “yep, I really do not like heights” or I’m so clutzy as to find the endeavor totally laughable, and feel like a complete and total jackass.  I may end up in a class with a bunch of under-10-year-olds.   But I will never know until I try it.

p.s. A friend suggested I find a half marathon to run this spring, after having run 10.2 miles (walked about .2 of it) on the treadmill yesterday. I am considering it. Some days, you just feel like running long and zoning out, and I’m just trying to go with the flow these days, in so many ways. I’m trying to make a concerted effort of keeping my workouts fun, and even think I’ve found a new good friend to run with now.

Things are coming together, slowly but surely.

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I realized the other day I’ve not posted in a few weeks. We are starting to get into the busy season at work, and for once, I’m glad for this time to come. It’ll keep my mind active, and in a good way.

I’m also starting to take a Spanish language course in the evening, two nights per week. It’s not for a grade or anything, but the hope is that eventually I can use the language at work because my library collects a lot of foreign-language materials, from many countries that don’t translate their legal materials into English.

I have to admit – at first, I was not totally thrilled at the idea of taking a class again. I feared that many of the students would be much younger than me, as was the case when I last sat through French (“refresher for me”) classes at the university affiliated with my former employer.  However, yesterday I realized that part of the reason I like my job is because every day you can be asked a different question, and every day you can feel like a sponge all over again. I like learning about a lot of different things – I hate getting bored and doing the same thing over and over again (although there is something to be said that a routine can also be comforting sometimes, especially in times of stress.)  Also, age is what you make of it. It can only make you feel uncomfortable around others if you let it. If you’re confident in and happy with yourself, it will come through. People will want to be around you.

And, speaking of self-esteem, when I made some major changes to my life about a month ago, a good friend’s husband gave me some good advice – he had gone through a similar experience and said “be sure to lean on your friends.”  That is some of the best advice I’ve received.  In addition to my longstanding friends, I’ve also made some new ones.  Over the past few weeks, some individuals that were formerly just coworkers of mine have become good friends.  And guess what? They’re also runners! 🙂

Speaking of which, this is (usually) a running blog, so…

I am probably going to run a few 5K races over the next few weeks.  One of my coworkers/new friend and i are thinking of trying out different running groups in the area together. I remember how nervous I was the first time I went to a track workout with MVS, and how I felt intimidated by other runners who were clearly faster than me. We both feel like we’ll feel more comfortable meeting other runners if we go together.

Another coworker/new friend is thinking of doing his first race ever.  Needless to say, I am so excited about the prospect of running a race again with someone on their very first time out, as I did about year ago with my friend Amy.  Being a guy, and younger than me, he is gifted with speed I can only work on achieving, but I think at the 5K distance, I can keep up with him, and possibly set a PR at the 5K distance.   How awesome would that be?! (Needless to say, I’m also enjoying teaching him about all the running products/fuels, etc., that only a running nerd like me could enjoy, LOL.)  I am really hoping that it can be a positive experience for him, and that we can pass tons of people in that last half-mile (oh yeah…that’s the competitive spirit in me coming out, LOL.) 

 I guess you could say that by teaching someone new(er) to the sport (my friend has been running for a while now, he’s just never raced), this is my way of giving back to a community that has done so much for me, and for which, I am so extremely grateful. I’ve learned so much about how to properly fuel, how to work on mental toughess, racing, apparel, etc., from reading so many of your blogs, twitter feeds, etc.   While I could have done it on my own, I’ve realized how much better it’s been to learn from others. I know  could not have gotten through my marathon back in 2008 without the help of my brother who ran alongside me, at such a ridiculously slow pace for him. So, I hope I can repay at least a little of that kindness out into the ether, so to speak.

Anyway, stay tuned for some upcoming race reports, and hopefully some new PRs.  Until then, I leave you with a very cute picture of Ruthie. She’s looking out at the “city version” of Dog TV. 🙂  (She’s coming back again this weekend, I can’t wait!!)

Ruthie watching trains and cars go by, on Dog TV (so exciting!)

So good, then so BAD and then so good again.

The Good (early):  By 6:40 a.m., I had run 5 miles in 46 minutes. A PR for me, but it is one of my flatter routes.  I was a bit sad to see the 6 on the watch – I really wanted to see 45 on the clock, and then I got mad at myself for having taken two very quick walk breaks in Mile 4, bringing that mile’s pace to 9:36, but still it’s a PR. 

How many others out there can say that they’ve already run 5 miles by 6:40? (Other than all of you readers, of course.)

The Bad (midday): Long story short – email is a great thing.  Because it can vindicate you.  I had to deal with someone on the phone who was talking to me as if I was mentally challenged and he needed to speak slowly to me or otherwise I wouldn’t understand his condescending tone.  Please know that this person did not even work at my school (a large chip resides on his shoulder as a result, I believe), so I have no duty to help him.  He does, however, work with one of my favorite faculty members on a book she is writing, so I tried to work with him. Thing is, this person said that something had NEVER worked for him in the past.  Funny thing is, I had an email to prove I was RIGHT and he was WRONG.  So as his tone got more and more condescending, I started to take a different tone with him. Not condescending, I really tried, but enough so he knew I thought he was being an A-Hole.  (Sorry, not PG-13.) 

Needless to say, I didn’t mention in my follow-up emails that I thought he was a jerk (I am being PG-13 right now, that is definitely not the word I used to describe this person as I lightly slammed the phone down on my end).  I just let his own email, which I referred to in my own, prove me right.  Oh, and I copied my faculty member on my emails.   Hopefully she’ll remain blissfully ignorant of this whole episode because that poor woman has enough to deal with.

And, well, hearing someone “eat crow” on your voicemail – well that was nice.  Not an apology but a much kinder tone was used.  Hopefully we’ll either never have to deal with each other again, or he can prove  himself to be a human next time around.

Let me say it again – I love email some days.

The Good (lunchtime):  Right after the phone call, I had lunch with an undergraduate from my university, whose name is Elisha.  We met last year because I’ve been helping her and some other students work on a very long-term (read: multi-years long) research project where they look up a lot of laws in a particular area of the law and then “code” what they find, to create a dataset. 

Elisha is one of those rare breeds that is incredibly down to earth, is beautiful, is smart, and is just a genuinely good person.  I saw her, and said ‘I need 5 minutes to vent, can I vent?”  She then heard me use more obscenities than she’s probably ever thought a librarian could use.  And that’s the thing. She doesn’t look at me as a librarian, but as a person and a friend first.

Then, she told me that she has decided she doesn’t want to go to law school after all, even though she’s signed up to take the LSAT next week. At this point, I hugged her.  I would not suggest to ANYONE that they go into law school these days. 

The job market generally sucks, but with this field, it’s only going to get worse.  The mid-level associates are getting laid off every day, and incoming classes to law firms are getting deferred for at least a year. (And, usually they are getting paid to do that, to the tune of $60-75K, sometimes to do non-profit work, and sometimes they are getting paid that to do nothing.)  Yes, you read that number correctly.  That means each succeeding class of graduates will have more and more competition in a field that is already glutted.  Kristin, I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this. (For those of you who’ve not yet met Kristin, of Running with the Runner Girl fame, is a practicing lawyer, who I had the good fortune to meet, last year, at a half marathon.)

But, Elisha did say she wanted to know more about my field and does she need a law degree to do what I do.  And she told me that basically the reason she’s become interested in it is because of me.   Quite a compliment coming from this girl, who with her undergraduate degree could probably go just about anywhere. Oh, and I’m invited to her wedding next year as well.  I told her I had not expected that, and I know how expensive weddings can get, and she responded “you’re special to me.  You’re a given on the list.”

Wow.

Good to know there are some really good human beings out there some days.  

Thanks for listening. (Sorry to steal your line, Willie.)