training is the best accountability

We’ve established I’m not a runner (see ‘lost in cornfield’ story).

But I do like to run. I like the the time it gives me to think and I like how all the jostling helps my loose marbles make some sense.

I set off for a run the other day and, as is usually the case, decided how long I would run based on my plans for the night. As I considered my route, I thought about why a runner trains. I remembered the first question people asked me after I finished Dam to Dam, “When’s your next race?” Everyone assumed I had become “one of those runners” who was always looking for the next race. I thought, “Sure, I’ll do it again.”

But as I mentally mapped out my route (that I’d determined should take me 45 minutes max), I realized why runners sign up for races.

signing up for a race is the best accountability for training for a race

I know it’s not rocket science, but it seemed pretty profound to me as the loose marbles starting making sense on Duff Avenue. The motivation for training comes from the goals for race day. Then race day happens. And then you sign up for another race. People have told me that you lose weeks of training in days and now I know it’s true. A whole lot of training and accomplishment and hard work amounts to little after a few days off.

And so, of course, I think about this Christian race we’re running. We stretch and train and beat our bodies into submission because we are training for something. And, I wonder if Paul felt the weight of “not having attained it” after every race he finished – every missionary journey and shipwreck and public sermon – he immediately signed up for another. His training built on training and there was never a time where he wasn’t preparing because there was never a time he wasn’t signed up for a race.

I wonder this because I can see the temptation after a race to wait, consider, and “rest” in a way that smacks excuses. When we finish something like a race, we feel accomplished and proud and (in some ways) as if we’ve arrived. When we believe it’s all about us, we will fall hard and fast clinging to the comfortable title of “accomplished” that seals our fate and renders us useless.

What a beautiful thing to always have the prize in front of us, to always strain towards what is ahead, to always have something worth training for even as we cross the finish line.

Training is the best accountability for runners and you only train when you are signed up for a race.
Today, I’m taking inventory.
Today, I’m making sure I’m signed up.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

don’t tell the farmer or the owner of the mansion

A real runner would have a running buddy and wear a watch and map a route and follow a strict training schedule and beat a personal best. But, I’m not a real runner.

Somewhere around 6:30 pm tonight (to top off a beautiful day of wonderful things), I laced up the Brooks my generous Pops gave me when I got back from Honduras last June. Somehow, it seemed fitting that these same shoes would accompany me today when I set my sights on 10.5 miles.

I had a plan, kind of. Not being completely familiar with Ames (and knowing my tendency to detour), I wrote out reminders on my hand of where to turn and street signs to remember.

I won’t say I was excited, but I will say I was determined.

Right around mile 4.5 (give or take), I was wishing I had more written on my hand. I knew I meant to follow a river, but didn’t remember on which side. I spotted a bridge over the river and a forest beyond. Based completely on the aesthetic (and not at all on the yellow signs surrounding the bridge that seemed a bit superfluous), I decided to cross over.

The trails were magic and I was mesmerized. I kept giggling to myself that I’d found such a gem – curving around, climbing up, and carrying me around loop-de-loops under the thick, green forest cover. I was in the movie Bambi and Lion King and Robin Hood all at once and running with the perfect amount of breeze at my back.

And, then the trail looped and curved and … ended in a field. No bridge, no road – just field and field and field as far as I could see. This just sent me into a more delirious state of giggles because not an ounce in me wanted to turn around. I reasoned that all fields must border a road at some point – I farmed with my uncle, you see, so I know these things.

I carefully directed my path between the wee rows of soybeans and curved along the edge of the field, noting the distance between the rows. All I could think about was my Uncle Craig, so I took mental pictures to share what I project to be the above average yields in central Iowa.

Suddenly, I realized that (the way farmers use technology these days) there might be some sort of satellite camera monitoring the fields. I wondered if I looked like a crop scout or maybe a spy. I wanted to let the satellites know my good intentions, so I started removing the dead limbs from the soybean rows. Just so you know, Mr. Farmer, you have some dead limb problems and I did what I could but you might need to bring your burly son out to get the big ones. Also, Mr. Farmer, there were some large rocks that might cause you problems – just in case your satellite didn’t pick that up. Also, Mr. Farmer, there is a family of deer that seem very comfortable on your property. I’m just saying.

Somewhere, in the middle of that field, I thought, “Maybe this was a bad idea.”

But, I kept running. I decided the treeline would be a good place because there was either a river or a creek or (hopefully) a road somewhere beyond it. What there wasn’t was a path.

I high-kneed it through what might have been poison ivy and happened upon what was once a creekbed. I ran along the creekbed over the deserted houses of beavers and the former hideouts of foxes. I realized two things at this point: I could get attacked by a wolf and/or shot by a suspicious farmer. Somehow, laughing still seemed the best response.

Running, running, running.

I finally spotted something very un-foresty just above the treeline and thought, “This will be awkward, but it might save my life.” I planned to run up to the old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere (which is where I was SURE I was), knock on the front door of Farmer Joe and Wife Edith and say, “I know this sounds crazy, but I got lost running through the back of your property and I just wanted to let you know I’m not trespassing. And also, could you point me in the direction of Ames?”

I had practiced interrupting their nightly tea and the prime-time cable feature, but I was completely unprepared for what appeared when I finally topped the ravine: a mansion. That’s right. I was smack dab in the backyard of Ken and Barbie’s dream home. I ran, stuttered, and then decided knocking on a mansion’s door to let them know I wasn’t trespassing was not a good idea. I tried to put my best “young-girl-lost-in-the-wilderness-don’t-hold-it-against-me” look on my face and made a beeline for what sounded like traffic.

Once I hit that highway, I knew I would live. No farmer would shoot me and no millionaire would sue me now. I meandered my way back to the little city I call home and every other racing step was accompanied with laughter.

This would never happen to a real runner. But, I am not a real runner.

As it turns out, I am someone who can run 13.36 miles unintentionally – trespassing through multiple properties and finding it the most amusing end to a most wonderful day.

it’s official

If you weren’t convinced before, this oughta do it. Remember my boot sliding escapade last week? Well, apparently I didn’t.

Here’s how I do the math:

snowstorm overnight + slightly warmer daytime temp + 5:00 pm = ice covered sidewalks

This is the equation that lands me smack dab in the middle of crazy (don’t forget that I’m notoriously unstable in good sidewalk conditions). I had been office-d all day, plugging away in Excel (wishing my brother would have given me the tutorial he promised over Christmas break) and pushing some papers… so I was ready to run.

The snow made my whole body nervous this morning (when I realized I have no idea how to drive in it), so running was going to be my way of snatching back my winter joy. The first five minutes involved a simple, out loud conversation with myself, “This is stupid. You are stupid.” But, I kept going… down the icy stairs, through the icy park, past a cautious walker, and looping around to follow the path toward the university.

I kept thinking, “Why am I doing this?” and then answering, “because this is how to live winter” … and then catching myself from a near fall. I really had very little mental space to process while I ran because I needed to focus singularly on staying upright.

I let a giggle jump out and chase the sky.

Let the winter come! And, oh, let me run in it!

I loved every bit of my run – no matter how official it made my craziness (I’m not sure that was even in question to begin with).

I loved the way the man stared at me when I said, “Should have brought my ice skates”
and the way I ran by the university campanile at exactly 5:30, approaching an ice patch (and the way I jolted when the bells chimed)
and the way people stared at me like I was some luny freshman, trying to resolve off 15 pounds
and the way the Cadillac slid to a halt to let me pass in front of it
and the way I only slipped once and another time saved a fall with bowling-like form
and the way the footsteps in the snow revealed other crazy people
and the way the wind whipped at my back on Lincoln Way, encouraging me on in my ridiculous endeavor
and the way the wind slapped my face on University, reminding me of my ridiculous endeavor
and the way that my stride grew every time I hit iceless pavement
and the way that winter is a muscle doctor – it’s like running inside an ice pack
and the way my lungs burned and my sweat froze

Let the winter come! And let me run in it.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy