Wednesday, December 31, 2008
But, while I have numerous spiritual and personal goals for the year, I'm not willing to publish most of those here (but you can ask me when privately if you lay awake nights wondering!).
Running-wise (and I always run wisely), my big goal for the year is to run three 100M races this summer. It takes me a long time to recover from a 100M race and I generally do one a year, so this is, for me, a big goal.
I like to have a big goal each year for motivation. It's easy to run when the weather is nice, but at other times just knowing that if I don't train I'm going to end up in deep doo-doo down the road, is a highly motivating reminder.
I'm also hoping to set a PR (personal record) at the Cool 50K in March. Cool was my first ultra (2001) and I finished in 5:18. The two times I've run Cool since I finished in around 5:30 and 6:00. My fastest 50K is 5:12 at McKenzie River though I did a 4:30 at "50K" that was actually a few K short of full deck.
All of which means, after two months of light running (100M per month) I've got to get cranking starting tomorrow. I did get 2100+ miles in for the year, a lot for me; and I'm rapidly closing in on 20,000 miles lifetime (19,553 since 1997).
We've got a pretty good New Year run planned, I may even have pics for you... next year. May your 2009 be a year of prayers answered beyond your expectations!
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
OTOH, I've heard lots of men put down their wives to their faces, but almost never hear a man say anything bad about his wife when she isn't present.
Before anyone calls me a sexist: it's OK if there are some ways in which men behave better than women. When I was a kid I thought cats were girls and dogs were boys. Lots of people today seem to believe that women and girls are angels and men and boys are devils.
"I think women are likely to notice so much more easily the things that aren't getting done," Mrs. Weiner-Davis said. "If they happen to notice what does get done, since women are often perfectionists, the only thing husbands hear is what they aren't doing right. Who wants that?"
Quite frankly, I am not surprised. I honestly don't think women spend much time thinking about how they treat their husbands.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The "seven deadly sins" include one called "sloth". But "sloth" as defined by the church never meant sheer laziness. Rather it meant a lack of passion, or focus, for the things of God. You can be very busy, very disciplined, very focused (on lesser things) and still be slothful in the eyes of God. Many activities are simply ways of avoiding authentic commitment to our Lord.
David Brooks touched on this today, in his NYT column:
As we approach a new year, it's the perfect time for each of us to do some self-evaluation and ask ourselves: what am I focused on? What am I TOO focused on? What am I not focused enough on? What do I need to change to get my priorities where I want them to be?
Control of attention is the ultimate individual power. People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them. They can choose from the patterns in the world and lengthen their time horizons. This individual power leads to others. It leads to self-control, the ability to formulate strategies in order to resist impulses. If forced to choose, we would all rather our children be poor with self-control than rich without it.
It leads to resilience, the ability to persevere with an idea even when all the influences in the world say it can’t be done. A common story among entrepreneurs is that people told them they were too stupid to do something, and they set out to prove the jerks wrong.
It leads to creativity. Individuals who can focus attention have the ability to hold a subject or problem in their mind long enough to see it anew.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The top pic is for real (San Diego - I only hope that they are going up the down escalator). The bottom pic? Must be another megachurch built around the Pastor's (Chris's) charisma. I never have to worry about that!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
My goal, when I signed up for the California International Marathon, was to break 3:46 and qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2010. But later, after running a half-marathon last month in 1:39 I realized I should be able to break 3:36 and qualify for 2009 (the standard gets easier as I get older). I also thought, that with an ideal race, I could break 3:30. CIM is a fast course, might as well go for it!
My goals came into question when I spent about 21 of the 35 days prior to the race suffering from various colds. The last, and worst cold is the one that left me with laryngitis up to the race and a very nasty deep dry cough. The night before the race I was kept awake most of the night by my coughing.
So I went into the race undertrained and badly needing sleep.
I started out at a 3:35 pace, running at around 7:45 minutes-per-mile with one-minute walking breaks each mile for an 8:12 mpm average. This worked out fine for 17 miles. The weather was cool, dry, windless, ideal.
At mile 17 I started to feel dizzy and walked a minute until it went away. From there to the finish I kept getting dizzy when I ran, but it would clear up if I walked a minute. This slowed me up a lot. And my legs started tightening up (lack of training). I'm not sure what caused the dizziness, but it may have been an after-effect of the cold or the sleeplessness.
I still managed to hang on for a 3:39 finish. And I felt much better after a nap.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
"By entering here, you agree to give 100% of what you have. There are no second chances. Every day, every moment is an opportunity to excel, to be more, to be your best. Do not squander your time by going through the motions. Train hard and get results. At the end of the day, look in the mirror and ask yourself if you gave it your all. If you do not have this type of commitment, do not waste your time or ours"I responded:
One of the greatest challenges of life is figuring out how to give 100%, 100% of the time. If you literally give 100% to your workout, you may not have much left for the remaining 16 hours of the day. If you give 100% to the first 100 yards of an ultra, you'll fall short of 100% for the race.
One of the most transferable lessons I learn from ultras is pacing. What's a pace I can sustain and give my most and my best to all my responsibilities? Giving 100% to marriage or parenting or spiritual growth or friends or even to a career is a lot more challenging than giving 100% to a race or a workout and involves incorporating rhythms of rest and restoration, etc.
It's the greatest challenge (and for me, one more area where I find Jesus to be the perfect role model- "Run with endurance the race set before you, fixing your eyes on Jesus..." [Heb 12:1-2]). There is something within me that so wants not to give anywhere near 100%, and something else, deeper, that won't settle for less.
Life lived well isn't easy.
Life lived easy isn't really life.
My energy finally started to come back Thursday and I've done a couple of tune-up runs and my lungs are clear so I'll give the marathon a go. Should be OK. I still have a nasty deep dry painful nighttime cough, but today's the first day my throat hasn't hurt.
Here are some of the books I've been reading in the past few weeks:
- Jesus and the Victory of God, by NT Wright (scholarship on the historical Jesus)
- Full Dark House, Christopher Fowler (mystery, good but not great)
- Refiner's Fire, Mark Helperin (long, outstanding novel!)
- Blue Latitudes, Tony Horwitz (re: Captain Cook)
- The History of Christian Thought, Jonathan Hill (basic but I need the review)
- Sources of the Self, Charles Taylor (great book by a great philosopher, very deep)
- Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered, James Wilhoit (excellent and comprehensive guide to spiritual growth)
- The Unnecessary Pastor, Eugene Peterson & Martha Dawn (various essays on spiritual leadership)
Friday, December 5, 2008
Granted, this is a very small study (link); it is supported by many other studies (granted, the word "prevent" in paragraph 3 should be "slows"); and is intuitively supported by the long-known fact that aerobic exercise causes the body to grow new capillaries (one major reason why running becomes a lot easier about six weeks after you start a consistent program).
CHICAGO – Older adults who exercise regularly show increased cerebral blood flow and a greater number of small blood vessels in the brain, according to findings presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
The study, conducted at the University of North Carolina (UNC) – Chapel Hill, is the first to compare brain scans of older adults who exercise to brain scans of those who do not.
"Our results show that exercise may reduce age-related changes in brain vasculature and blood flow," said presenter Feraz Rahman, M.S., currently a medical student at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. "Other studies have shown that exercise prevents cognitive decline in the elderly. The blood vessel and flow differences may be one reason."
The researchers recruited 12 healthy adults, age 60 to 76. Six of the adults had participated in aerobic exercise for three or more hours per week over the last 10 years, and six exercised less than one hour per week. All of the volunteers underwent MRI to determine cerebral blood flow and MR angiography to depict blood vessels in the brain.
Using a novel method of three-dimensional (3-D) computer reconstruction developed in their lab, the researchers were able to make 3-D models of the blood vessels and examine them for shape and size. They then compared the blood vessel characteristics and how they related to blood flow in both the active and inactive groups.
The results showed that the inactive group exhibited fewer small blood vessels in the brain, along with more unpredictable blood flow through the brain.
"The active adults had more small blood vessels and improved cerebral blood flow," said the study's senior author, J. Keith Smith, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of radiology at UNC School of Medicine. "These findings further point out the importance of regular exercise to healthy aging."
Added to all the other proven psychological and physical benefits of aerobic exercise (check out this, that, and the other), try this little thought experiment: How much would you pay for a daily pill that could provide for you all the benefits that running provides? $5, $10 a day? More?
Monday, December 1, 2008
The flaw in my brilliant plan was the realization that as soon as I barged in and attempted to commence shouting my demands, nothing would happen. Or everyone would laugh at me. Because today, my lips move, but no sound comes out.
Fortunately, the OTC cough syrup that did nothing yesterday worked miraculously well today and Dr Tim's office presumably got through the day blissfully unaware of what-might-have-been.
I've had mild laryngitis before, but never like this. I had to go out and buy more cough syrup and I stopped at Manhattan Bagel and Barnes & Noble. Everywhere I went people asked me questions like, "How can I help you?" and then looked at me while I tried to figure out, "Now what do I do?"
I can whisper, sort of, but then I have to get close to people, which, for their sakes I've been trying not to do. If I try to talk, the first syllable of the first word comes out kind of croaky and after that it's just lips moving and (inaudible).
Now you understand why I'm blogging so much today. It's my only outlet.
One part of spirituality is like an on-off switch: you are either genuinely yielding your life to Christ or you are not. The other part is maturity: With time we are to become more and more like Christ in our characters. This part is progressive.
My mnemonic for character is HILT. The key components are:
Integrity means developing congruence between your visible life and your invisible life. Your visible life is what you do in public and what you say. Your invisible life is what you do in private and what thoughts you allow to run through your mind. Integrity is when visible and invisible are an undivided whole. None of us have arrived; the question is: is this something you constantly strive for, or not? If not, the opposite of integrity is hypocrisy. According to my Bible, Jesus is not terribly fond of hypocrites.
Love is the fulfillment of the law and the goal of the gospel. All of the bad things we are not supposed to do: the reason is because they keep us from love. Christian growth isn't just sin management. Sin (the flesh, selfishness, lethargy, apathy) needs to be reined in and controlled because it gets in the way of loving and growing in love. If you are growing in love for God and people you are growing. Anything that helps you grow in love is good; anything that gets in the way is an impediment.
Trust = Faith. We are humble (we stop trusting in ourselves) so that we can exercise faith in God. If your goal in life is to please God, then go and learn what this means: "Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God."
Grow in these and you are growing indeed! And yes, this will all be on the test!
Hopefully I'll be fully healthy by the big marathon next weekend (I feel a little better today), but I only got about 100 miles in in November, compared to my "normal" average of close to 200. You are supposed to train harder for a marathon, not less, but it is what it is and if I'm healthy I should still be able to make the Boston qualifying standard for 55 year olds (3:45:59 or less) and qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2010. If I have a REALLY good day I may break 3:35:59 and qualify for a BM in 2009 (no comments on that last phrase, please!).
Right now a REALLY good day would be one with as much energy as the average septuagenarian. Have you ever coughed until your stomach ached? You don't miss it, do you?
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
After two 10K races at a 7:30 pace I was surprised how easily I ran the half marathon ten days ago at a 7:30 pace. And expected I would run today's "Run to Feed the Hungry" 10K at 7:15 or so. My goal was sub-45, reality was 46:21. And it warn't easy! Here I am, stuck on 7:30 again.
46:21 isn't bad; it was good for 393rd place out of 5782 total 10K runners (around 30,000 participants, including walkers, in the 5K and 10K); but it was disappointing to have to work so hard to maintain 7:30 (actually 7:15 for the first half and 7:45 second half pace) per mile.
But that's not the bad timing. The b.t. was waking up at 3AM with a sore throat (the Bex and Mrs Runalong have been sick for about a week, their colds began with sore throats). I didn't sleep much after that between the sore throat and night sweats and almost backed out altogether. Once I decided to go I decided to go all out and see what happened.
After all, if fever is the body's way of fighting sickness, elevating my body temperature must be a good thing, right?
Well, I did OK, my sore throat hasn't come back, I can still look forward to a 10K PR someday, and my amateur gourmet chef daughter almost has Thanksgiving dinner ready. So there's plenty to be thankful for! I hope you're feeling genuinely thankful as well. Yes, there's always "SOMETHING" in this fallen world, isn't there? But there's lots more to give thanks for.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Anyway, despite my massive quantities of testosterone, I'm pretty much a soft, gentle guy.
My wife, however, seeking a more manly shower experience for her hub, bought me something called "Edge". It's a "man's" soap. She liked the smell, but hadn't seen the commercials which document Edge's powerful "chick magnet" abilities.
I used it for awhile, but am happy to be returning to baby shampoo. As a credentialed "man of the cloth" I found it unbecoming to always have to be beating off the babes everywhere I went.
Now that that's that, I need to find a cure for my dog's related problem. Teddi has become quite the "tick magnet" as of late. They tell me she needs a product called "Frontline" but I'll try baby shampoo first.
As for the remaining insomnia, an article in the current issue of TIME may have pinpointed my "problem". Researchers recently reported that "men who reported the most difficulty sleeping also had the highest levels of testosterone".
Go ahead, make up your own joke. None of the one-liners that I'm thinking of are appropriate for this family-safe blog.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I tried melatonin, but it didn't seem to help much, if at all.
I seem to have two types of insomnia: a mild type where I sort of drift in and out of a light sleep for hours. Sometimes five minutes seems like an hour and sometimes an hour seems like five minutes. I seem to wake up OK in the morning and it isn't that big of a deal, more of a nuisance.
The other type is where I feel like I'm on intra-venous caffeine (I avoid caffeine after 3:00 pm). I get jittery, can't lay still, can't relax. Very nasty.
After 20 years, I may have found the problem re: the nasty type. I hadn't had it for about a month then got it three nights in a row last week. The third night I suddenly noted a correlation that had long escaped me. Nutrasweet (aspartame).
This started around 20 years ago when I switched from regular to diet soda. Recently I had cut back on soda altogether and last week I bought some caffeine-free diet Dr Pepper and drank some the three evenings I subsequently couldn't sleep. I've been sleeping fine since.
Correlation doesn't prove causation, but I can live without diet soda. Time will tell if the nighttime jitters come back or have been banished forever.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I didn't actually feel fully recovered even Thursday, but my runs went well and I was pretty confident I could maintain an 8:00 minute mile pace for my goal of 1:45. I knew sub-1:40 was out of the question, even fully healthy, since that would require running a 7:30 pace; which is about what I did at the two 10K runs I ran in the last month. And those were real struggles!
But I also remembered that often Olympic racers in various events do surprisingly well when coming off a layoff. And we have a saying that too much tapering is better than too little. So I felt pretty confident, but hardly doubt-free.
The race also gave me a chance to see Ronny & Lori's new house and spend some time with them. And they ran in the race also.
I came in 14th overall (out of 208), first in my 50-54 age group, finishing in 1:38. My pace was almost exactly 7:30 (the flat, fast course was about a quarter mile short of a true half-marathon). After running the first two miles at my planned 8 mile pace I found my speed picking up to around 7:20. I tried slowing down, but 7:20 felt good so I decided to give it a go. I still took my five planned brief walking breaks.
At 7:20 I was blowing past folks from mile 3-13. The last two miles were really hard, but that's what you expect. In my 10K four weeks ago, at the same pace, the last four miles were really hard. So, if I stay healthy, I should be able to qualify for Boston (I need a time under 3:45) at the marathon in three weeks.
Ronny finished in 2:13 and Lorelei in 2:32, which are pretty good efforts considering they just started training seriously about two months ago.
This was only my second half-marathon. The first was in San Diego, 1999, and was the first time I had ever run such a long scary distance. My time there was 1:42 or so, but it did have a big hill at the end.
Friday, November 7, 2008
But before I do, here's one more I found last night. Time lapse northern lights, filmed in Canada. Almost enough to make you believe in God!
Oh, did I mention that I beat Ted (though not by much) in our six-mile race last Saturday? I wasn't going to say anything, but, judging by his comment to my Dominoes post, it's obvious he's still bitter about it. Get over it, Ted!!! ;-)
Thursday, November 6, 2008
In the last election I only prayed for two specific outcomes, although there were many races and issues I cared deeply about. I need an "OK" from God before I'll pray for something like this.
In a day full of bad news, both prayers were answered. Prop 8 passed (thanks largely to a record turnout of black voters wanting to get out and vote for Obama, 70% of whom also voted for Prop 8).
The other? Our local grade school wants to relocate to my backyard. Almost literally. About 50 feet from the second story window where we eat meals and where I work on my sermons (and write this blog, etc). They needed to pass a bond first. I found out just a few weeks ago (the location hasn't been publicized) and thought about campaigning against it, taking flyers to the neighbors, but decided to just pray.
Five local school districts had bond issues on the ballot. Four passed (one of them by 13 votes). Only ours lost. I don't always get what I pray for but I see a lot more coincidences when I pray than when I don't.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Just to hammer the point home, the New York City health department earlier this month put signs inside subway cars pointing out that most people need only about 2,000 calories a day.
The number of calories in food shocked most New Yorkers, according to a September survey by the health department. A Starbucks blueberry scone delivers 480 calories. A Quiznos regular tuna melt is 1,270 calories. Wraps, the refuge for low-carb sandwich lovers, can top 800 calories. Bagels pack more calories than doughnuts. A large bucket of buttered movie popcorn has more than half the calories anyone should eat in a day.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I ran a 10K today and finished in the top ten! OK, so there were only about 20 starters. Still.
I was curious to see how I'd do since I haven't been running a lot or doing much speed work, and I did do 12 miles the afternoon before the race. I didn't want to do too well because I have two more 10K's coming up in the next five weeks and I didn't want the first one to be the fastest!
I'd only run one 10K before, about 8 years ago, in 46:09. Today I finished in 46:57 (7:28 pace) at about 95% effort. I was told afterwards that the course GPS'd at 6.3 miles (10K = 6.2) so subtract 45 seconds and my equivalent true 10K speed would have been 46:12. Not too shabby for an old man! (Seriously, God is good- by His grace I've been injury free for the last two years).
My big goal is to run the California International Marathon in Sacramento this December and qualify for the Boston Marathon. I need to run the marathon faster than 3:45 (a pace of 8:45/mile). So far, so good.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Except for vacation or genuine sickness, they just do it.
Committed Christians used to treat Sunday morning worship that way.
Committed Christians used to treat church prayer meetings that way.
Committed Christians used to treat their daily appointment with God that way.
Impulsive Christians claim that all of that is legalistic and that they are much more pleasing to God now that they have thrown off those confining straitjackets. Or at least I guess that must be what they'd say. Most of them really don't want to talk about it.
Can you be a good worker if you don't have a nearly inviolable habit of going to work every day when you are scheduled to?
Can you be a good Christian if the basic cornerstones of Christian growth and obedience are not nearly inviolable habits (insofar as it is within your control)?
That's not a rhetorical question. The answer, he testifies dogmatically, is "no".
Thursday, October 16, 2008
He looks a lot different, but he's still wearing (almost) the same shirt!
Monday, October 13, 2008
Over the last 15 years I've done a lot of studying and contemplating on the question of what it means to be conformed to the world, that is, to the spirit of the age, in early 21st century USA.
In addition to post-graduate studies at Gordon-Conwell Seminary and teaching a class at Simpson College on "Faith and Culture" I have read scores of books and taken hundreds of pages of notes.
After awhile your mind gets filled with ideas about "consumerism" and "materialism" and "post-modernism" and "hedonism" and "subjectivism" and a dozen or more equally insidious "-isms" that form a sort of shorthand for the philosophies and cultural habits that condition our thinking in non-biblical ways.
What I still wasn't getting, after all this time, was a summarizing concept; a way to succinctly shorten all these so-called "shorthand" labels into a defining concept that would pinpoint the underlying satanic strategy to infiltrate the minds and lifestyles of Christians and render us spiritually impotent.
Teaching people about a bunch of "-isms" and their dangers wasn't cutting it. Helpful- yes; truly liberating- no.
Over the last year, however, my thinking has finally begun to crystallize and I believe I can summarize the basic gist of satan's core strategy in one word. Granted, anytime you do that you risk oversimplifying. I'm not saying that this is all there is to be said, but I am ready to say that I think that this is where the crux of the battle is being fought, and, to be honest, lost.
I'll be saying more about this in the months ahead, and, in our congregation, we will be exploring (throughout 2009) practical (i.e., radical, but realistic) ways to not only face up to this battle (as few are doing) but even, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, turn the tide. But for now, I'll just give you the one-sentence summary and let you mull and pray over that yourself for awhile.
Make no mistake, this will be a battle. This is so insidious, and has become such a deep part of us, that many, if not most will shrink back from this battle, opt out, much like the "great" warriors of Israel did when confronted by Goliath.
This is OUR Goliath, and I'm sure that my practical suggestions will seem like not much more than a sling and five smooth stones. But I am confident that, as with David, there are invisible Realities, that will make our weapons much more powerful than they appear!
As in the parable of the sower, there will be yet others who will enter the battle with initial enthusiasm but will quickly drop out. When I say "radical, but realistic", I'm serious about both halves of that equation.
Here's my thesis: Satan's major strategy to undermine the Church in our generation, can be summed up as: Impulsiveness. I'll develop what I mean later. For now I'll just say that the opposite of impulsiveness, in real world terms, is Habit.
I'd rather let you mull this over yourself than spell out my case. I'll just add one clarification: I'm not saying that good habits are all we need to be godly. I am saying that they are necessary, and that they are the opposite of impulsiveness, and that the habits necessary for godliness are largely absent from our generation.
Feel free to comment. More... much more to come!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Here's news for you potheads- the marijuana you're smoking (unless you grew your own) is probably the opposite of organic:
"I've seen the pesticide residue on the plants," Foy said. "You ain't just smoking pot, bud. You're smoking some heavy-duty pesticides from Mexico." (full story here)Meanwhile the growers, in addition to spraying and dumping pesticides by the gallon, are spreading rat poison, illegally killing bears and other wildlife, and setting dangerous booby-traps to keep people out.
Smoke a joint, pollute the earth.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
When showing my Grandfather some blisters and missing toenails after an ultra (maybe looking for a little sympathy) he looked me in the eye and said, "well, you didn't think it was going to be a picnic did you?" He then went further to say the only thing he ever heard crazier than wanting to run 100 miles is thinking that it wouldn't hurt. After this he just sort of shook his head and informed me that it wasn't going to get me out of working in the fields.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Worse, the worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law and the laws of nature, of the sort imagined by philosophers from Anaximander and Plato to Emerson. We even learn that the emotions that we most treasure, our love for our wives and husbands and children, are made possible by chemical processes in our brains that are what they are as a result of natural selection acting on chance mutations over millions of years. And yet we must not sink into nihilism or stifle our emotions. At our best we live on a knife-edge, between wishful thinking on one hand and, on the other, despair.
I would really like to hear the author, on rational grounds, try to defend his choice of the word "must" in the penultimate sentence of this paragraph. In a consistently naturalistic world, all human "musts" and "shoulds" are as meaningless as belief in God.
And, I would add, it isn't just emotions that are the mere effect of chemical processes and chance mutations. The same MUST be said for so-called "rational" thought (such as scientific theorizing) itself.
Monday, September 22, 2008
"So why do we have all these tendons in our legs?" Lieberman asks. "You don't evolve big tendons unless you're a runner."I would argue that we were created to run, rather than evolved to run, but either way, baby, we were born to run! Here's my favorite line- you'll have to read the article for context:
The butt, it turns out, is crucial—
Friday, September 19, 2008
... don't believe in nothing, but they will believe in anything. Here's evidence:
The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?
The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship (sic- she means, "never attend church") expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.
The veteran Government adviser said pensioners in mental decline are "wasting people's lives" because of the care they require and should be allowed to opt for euthanasia even if they are not in pain.
She insisted there was "nothing wrong" with people being helped to die for the sake of their loved ones or society. (link)
The battle over human dignity is still in its infancy. Do humans have inherent ontological value or only utilitarian value? Health care is expensive and many people lead lives that don't add value to the economy or culture- should we just off them so there's more money for the rest of us to spend on upgrading our iPods or so we can afford organic rather than proletarian foods?
There's a long history of governments helping people to die "for the sake of society"- in recent times Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Hitler come to mind as major proponents of this line of thinking. Should we get rid of everyone who can't hold down a decent job? Round up all the panhandlers and toss 'em in the sea? Send hit squads to the Special Olympics? Gas all the nursing homes?
With all the partisan rancor today, how many angry right or left wingers would agree that doing away with their political opponents would be the best thing for the sake of society and the planet and the future of the human race?
Who decides whose life is worth living? Who determines the standards and decides how to apply them?
Human beings are made by and for God. Life is sacred. But if we stop believing in God, that becomes a nonsensical statement. Christians believe that ALL human life is sacred, including, yes, the lives of unbelievers. But atheists and agnostics have no logical reason to agree. In the end, for them, it comes down to economics, or perhaps sentimentality.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Eighty percent of British children have televisions in their bedrooms, more than have their biological fathers at home. Fifty-eight percent of British children eat their evening meal in front of the television (a British child spends more than five hours per day watching a screen); 36 percent never eat any meals together with other family members; and 34 percent of households do not even own dining tables. In the prison where I once worked, I discovered that many inmates had never eaten at a table together with someone else.Click here to read the whole thing.
Let me speculate briefly on the implications of these startling facts. They mean that children never learn, from a sense of social obligation, to eat when not hungry, or not to eat when they are. Appetite is all they need consult in deciding whether to eat—a purely egotistical outlook. Hence anything that interferes with the satisfaction of appetite will seem oppressive. They do not learn such elementary social practices as sharing or letting others go first. Since mealtimes are usually when families get to converse, the children do not learn the art of conversation, either; listening to what others say becomes a challenge. There is a time and place for everything: if I feel like it, the time is now, and the place is here.If children are not taught self-control, they do not learn it.
Monday, September 15, 2008
I knew Plain was basically tied with HURT as the second hardest 100 mile trail race in the country. I know that, even though I did well at HURT last January, during the last 50 miles of that race I was so miserable I swore I'd never run any 100M race again, ever.
I knew Plain was, in reality, between 106-110 miles long (I think 109 is about right), and that without aid stations, it was critical to carry enough, but not too much food and stuff.
I knew that Plain had one of the lowest finishing rates of any 100 and as far as I knew only one person (Mike Burke) over 50 had ever finished before the 36 hour cut-off. I knew that Plain had wasted me after only one loop in my previous attempt (2004).
I knew that speed-walking the loop portion of the second loop last Monday night (34 miles in 10:30) had left me feeling wasted.
I knew that heat was often a real factor at Plain, especially during the 4800' climb (in 5 miles) up Signal Hill, starting from the hottest point on the course at the hottest time of the day... and that it was unseasonably warm all week up to the race with hotter temps predicted for the weekend.
I spent the days prior to the race feeling scared and questioning why I wanted to put myself through this kind of suffering. Never have I entered a race with so much dread. But I had come all this way, spent the money, and I was determined (or trying to be determined) to finish before the cut-off. I thought that on a good day I might be able to do around 33 hours, but all I wanted was a finish.
Had I known that I would finish in 5th place with a time of 31:01, my mood might have been a bit brighter. Not only was I the oldest finisher (and tied with Burke for oldest finisher ever), my finishing time was a course record for over-50 runners and the 14th fastest time ever turned in at Plain (including the four ahead of me this year). As a runner of modest abilities, that's more bragging rights than I'm used to so if you have a low tolerance for that sort of thing, you might want to avoid me for awhile!
My success was due to:
1. The expected heat didn't materialize and the temperatures were quite pleasant, though it did get down to freezing Sunday morning up on the ridge.
2. I followed the advice of starting out extra slow for the first loop. I kept holding back, walking a lot of runnable flat sections. Going up Signal Hill, I didn't even try to speed walk the way I always do on climbs, instead I just relaxed, gave myself a mental and physical break, and climbed slow but steady. Heading up Klone Peak at mile 20, I was in a pack of 7 guys. Only one woman (the only starter older than me) was behind us. I was actually in 23rd place (of 26 starters). The rest of the runners were somewhere way ahead. None of the others with me or behind me finished the race.
3. I prayed. My fear of suffering (not normal for me) reminded me that I had my reasons for doing Plain, but I hadn't really submitted myself fully to whatever the Lord might want. Anything could happen. I could suffer for 100 miles and still not finish. I could win the race if it was hot enough that everyone else folded (there have been years when no one finished Plain). I told the Lord that I would receive whatever He had for me- success or failure, suffering or joy.
With my slow start I was able to enjoy the first loop thoroughly. Because I was usually in a group (after leaving the first group at Klone, I caught up with another group of seven or so by the top of Signal Hill), I was able to enjoy talking to a lot of folks during the day. With only 26 entrants you'd expect us to be all spread out (and I only saw two people- briefly- on the second loop), but it actually turned out to be a very social run.
As night approached I was beginning to feel a little tired (50+ miles with 16,000' of climbing will do that to you) and I was remembering how I fell apart on my approach to Deep Creek in '04. Deep Creek is the one place where you can resupply or get help from crew and it is only 1.5M from the start finish, so it's an easy place to drop out. In '04 I'd had a good first loop until I just lost it emotionally on the final approach to Deep Creek and just flat out quit. That's been eating at me for four years, and I was steeling myself against it now.
Here's what happened (and I'm sure it was an answer to prayer). On the final three miles to Deep Creek I felt absolutely GREAT! My various pains and sorenesses and tirednesses miraculously disappeared and I was filled with energy. I felt like I could run forever- and would rather be here running than doing anything else. The only problem with Deep Creek is that I would have to stop (change shoes, eat, repack) and I didn't want to.
I got to Deep Creek with about five other runners and was offered a grilled cheese sandwich (delicious) which I ate with my can of fruit cocktail while two women appeared out of the darkness catering to my every need (helping me sort out my stuff as I repacked). We were told that seven others had already entered the second loop. I was at Deep Creek from 9:45 to 10:11 and headed out feeling great. My energy kept up until 3AM and got me most of the way up the big climb (the second loop is mostly uphill for the first half and downhill for the second half). Still, I had 9 hours to go, and there are no words to explain how hard it was!
I passed Wendell, Jeff and Larry in the first few miles of the loop, putting me in 8th place. By the time (4AM) I got to mile 78 (30 to go), where Race Directors Tom and Chris were greeting us, I was in 7th due to a drop and two runners were just ahead with the others quite aways ahead. I passed those two quickly, despite not feeling so well myself (I really wanted to lay down for a nap), but at the top (where it was VERY cold) I couldn't run the flat section (about two miles) and had to settle for a "speed" walk.
As day broke I began having sleep-deprivation hallucinations, more than I've ever had in a race: people and vehicles and animals and signs and buildings kept popping up in the most unexpected places. I'd see something and think, "that can't be," then get closer and think, "But there it is!", and get still closer and it would disappear or turn into a tree stump or something. It got to be very distracting!
Then I came to the big 9 mile downhill run and actually felt pretty decent. I knew I was in fifth place and couldn't move up, but I didn't want to be passed- the runners I'd passed on this loop were all good runners, better than me on most days. Besides the hallucinations I saw two elk (real!) on the way down.
At the bottom of the hill I had gone 100 miles and still had nine to go. It was 10AM and the remaining section had taken me 2:05 when I was fresh so I was hoping to manage a sub-32 hour finish (i.e., by 1:00). The next 7.5 miles were on a trail built for dirt bikers (as were most of our trails) and would go up a couple hundred feet, then down, then up and down, up and down. Meanwhile there were big ruts and humps and I kept having to move to the side to let the motorbikes past (and then eat their dust). On the way out this section had seemed easy (during my superman phase). Now it was exceedingly tedious. I forced myself to run everything that wasn't uphill. Still, as hard as the last 9 hours was, I kept myself together emotionally. I suffered physically, but never got down.
To my surprise I hit Deep Creek at 11:45 and had about 1.5M (maybe a bit more) on paved road to the finish. I actually ran "fast", trying to get in before 12. I didn't quite make it, but was actually quite pleased by how fast I could run after all I'd been through. And I could only blame myself for not finishing sooner as a couple of navigation errors on the first loop had cost me an extra 30 minutes or so before I got back on course.
Besides no aid stations or course markings, Plain has no t-shirts or other special prizes either. All participants get a rock with the word "Plain" stenciled on it in blue paint. Finishers get a bigger rock that says "Plain 100". It is now one of my most-prized possessions.
Other reports: Davy Crockett, Rob Hester
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
So this is the post I didn't post.
I'm in Washington (the state, not the dead president) this week for the Plain 100 mile race which starts Saturday at 5AM. The last time I was up at 5AM was, um, yesterday, but that's only because I hadn't gone to bed yet.
Anyway, this my third (and last!) attempt at Plain. The first was '03- I got as far as Portland before finding out the race was cancelled due to fire.
The second was '04. I got as far as the halfway point before falling apart and quitting. It's still my most disappointing race ever.
Plain has no aid stations and no course markings. It is run largely on dirt bike trails that have large deep ruts filled with six inches of powdery dust. It's supposed to be hot Saturday. My friend Hans, who has run almost every 100 mile race around (he does a dozen or so a year, I think), tried Plain once. At Hardrock (considered the toughest 100M race) I asked if he would come back. He said, "No, too hard". Hans has finished Hardrock numerous times.
It's kind of spooky heading out onto unmarked, unknown trails in the middle of the night (last time I finished loop one around 11PM and was too tired and freaked out by fear of getting lost and winding up in Canada, exhausted and delirious). So this time I came down early. Monday evening I went out on the loop part of loop two (35 miles); starting at 7:40PM, just as it was getting dark. I sped-walked the whole loop, finishing at about 6:10AM without getting lost or eaten. I did get a couple blisters from the dust and no, it wasn't easy. Now I'm resting up in nearby Leavenworth, WA (sort of a Disneyfied version of a European town).
I'm determined to finish this time. I'm expecting the last 15 hours or so to be extremely unpleasant. The first loop, when I'm still feeling good, should be "fun". Except for the part about getting up at 4AM.
Thus concludes the post I forgot to post but which now has been posted. My next post will be a post-race post posted post-race.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Here's the backstory: One of the things I want to know about a candidate is: How effective of a salesperson/communicator is he/she likely to be? Will they win young people to my side of the aisle? Reagan was the master, but Bill Clinton wasn't bad either. I like Bush, but he's been bad for the "brand". I don't just want someone who agrees with me, I want someone who can convince others to agree with me!
So, in researching VP prospects, I searched YouTube to see what they were like in terms of charisma, communication skills, authenticity, likeability, composure, etc. And what I found was that Palin stood out head and shoulders above the rest. The other VP finalists have all had their moment at the podium this week so, if you've been watching, you now know what I mean.
Nevertheless I was so surprised and thrilled when she was picked. But for me last night's speech was no surprise.
She still might flop. The one advantage that other recent "unexperienced" candidates (Obama, Edwards, Dean...) have over her in is that they got to hone their act during the primaries. She's going to make some flubs. Hopefully they won't be big ones.
Still undecided? Here are some important Sarah Palin facts for you to consider:
As head of Alaska’s Nat’l Guard, Sarah Palin taught troops in a training exercise to scare a grenade into not exploding.
Sarah Palin is the reason compasses point North.
Queen Elizabeth II curtsied when she was introduced to Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin was not flown to Ohio in charter jet- she ran as part of her morning workout.
Death once had a near-Sarah Palin experience
Sarah Palin always beats the point spread.
When Sarah Palin booked a flight to Europe, the French immediately surrendered.
Sarah Palin isn’t allowed to wield the gavel at the convention because they’re afraid she’ll use it to kill liberals.
Sarah Palin doesn’t need a gun to hunt. She has been known to throw a bullet through an adult bull elk.
Sarah Palin can divide by zero.
Sarah Palin became governor because five children left her with too much spare energy.
NFL teams may draft Sarah Palin, if they forfeit all their other players forever, to maintain league parity.
We don’t know who would win in a Chuck Norris - Sarah Palin cage match because they’ve never invented a cage that can hold Sarah Palin.
Sarah Palin knows the location of DB Cooper’s body because she threw him from the plane.
The Northern Lights are really just the reflection from Sarah Palin’s eyes.
The raw energy of Sarah Palin melts the Alaskan ice roads every spring.
Sarah Palin once bagged a caribou by staring it down until it died.
Sarah Palin fishes salmon by convincing them it’s in their interest to jump into the boat.
Sarah Palin once guided Santa’s sleigh through an Alaskan blizzard with the light from her smile.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Gov. Sarah Palin has always been a runner. Her parents were marathoners and high school track and cross-country coaches. "Running was a family affair," she says. "I didn't have much choice. Thankfully, I've never tired of it."
Gov. Palin, a mother of five kids, says exercise is still very much a "family thing." She and her husband, Todd, also an athlete, named their first son Track because he was born in that sport's season.
"Conventional running is my sanity," Gov. Palin says. Having recently given birth to her fifth child, the governor is trying to get back to her old workout routine. She was running 7 to 10 miles almost every day but switched to aerobics classes at her gym when she became pregnant. She has worked her way back up to running three miles every other day.
In the summer, when it's always light, she'll sometimes run as late as midnight. In the dead of winter, when it's dark, she sneaks in an afternoon run, or else grudgingly runs on the treadmill at home or at the gym in the evening.
"My family and I eat a healthy diet heavy in wild Alaskan seafood, moose, caribou and fresh fruit," she says. "I guess my biggest pitfall is breakfast. I know it's the most important meal of the day but I still haven't bought into it. I hate to admit it, but a skinny white-chocolate mocha is my staple in the morning."
"My ideal fantasy is to be running on a hot dusty road just wearing running shorts and some kind of top that wicks away sweat. But in reality I'm running in 20-below temperatures, so I wear layers of fleece and always a good outdoor waterproof trail shoe. Right now I've been running in Nike Air Structure Triax. And I always wear sunglasses. My kids tell me to put them on so I don't freak people out when they see me with a goofy hairdo and no makeup."
While I'm working out
"I'm thinking about my next speech. I usually write my best speeches and letters [in my head] while out running. That is my inspired time."
Friday, August 29, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
This NBC news report explains how running can postpone the various physical degenerations associated with aging by up to 16 years or more. And the older you are, the greater the difference in quality of life between you and your non-running peers.
Yesterday evening I ran a fun run (10K on the Bailey Cove trail at Shasta Lake) in 46:30 (2 laps, 23:10 per lap) and felt great! I especially enjoyed passing a few of the young cross-country runners who came out for the event. So far, 54 is a fine age to be.
Watch the video! And get moving!!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I watched from the top of Market Street as fire bombers dropped retardant on the slopes below Hilltop, a helicopter dropped buckets of water on the area just below me and dozens of firetrucks and crews showed up to prevent a Redding version of the dreaded "Mrs O'Leary's Cow" syndrome.
At last report no buildings burned but it must have been scary for the children and parents of Turtle Bay School, right in the middle of it all.
Illegal campfire? Carelessly tossed cigarette? Arsonist trying to drive the "bums" out of the area?
P.S. The Redding Record-Searchlight article allows on-line comments. I usually don't read them because they make me lose faith in humanity, but this time some of them had useful information we couldn't find anywhere else.
But, in order to read the useful comments you had to wade through all the "Bickering Idiots". Still, it was almost worth it when I found this absolutely classic comment from one BI to another: "And I agree your a MORAN!"
Saturday, August 23, 2008
A bunch of folks (all age groups) from church spent the week camping on the coast at Patrick's Point SP. I only stayed half of the week but got in some nice runs in the park and on Agate Beach (it's about 2.5 miles to the end of the spit). I pretty much had the beach to myself, those are my footprints in the second pic, taken on my return trip. Found lots of agates too.
We all had fun together around the campfire eating s'mores and such. Tuesday I went into Trinidad and stopped at a little hippie-new age-coffeeshop near the beach to work on my sermon. After awhile I got talking to an attractive young woman who celebrated her birthday this Thursday, just like me. Unlike me, she's turning 30. So she sat down with me and chatted awhile and then invited me to join her and some friends for a bonfire on the beach at sunset Thursday.
This is the sort of thing that only happens to me about once every half century or so.
The funny thing is, I didn't have to resist temptation (did I mention how attractive she was?) because there never was any. I was surprised that she sat down by me to talk (generally I'm invisible to women her age) and when she invited me to join her and her friends for an evening on the beach my one dominant thought was, "This will make a great story!"
But there was never any desire to "play it out and see where it leads". I'm hardly immune to lust, but I have no desire to er, complicate my life with such entanglements. I like my life and relationships just the way they are, thanks.
Granted, she probably meant her offer totally innocently and it probably wouldn't have lead to anything, but the sin is in getting involved with the hopes that it might. This time, at least, lust was superseded by bemusement.
The fact that the sermon I was working on was all about confession, repentance and the consequences of sinning- well, that might have helped too.