Bipedal epiphany

I’ll often say or write things like “I mainly run for my mental health” or “I’ll think about everything and nothing when I’m running.”

I do run for my mental health. It’s my “me” time. I don’t think I can quantify the mental health benefits other than I haven’t killed anyone or myself (not that I’ve been to that point), I’m generally happy, and I can take life’s lumps.

I’ve decided that the whole “I think about everything and nothing” is a misnomer. Maybe even a bit of lie that I’ve been telling myself and others to convince us all that I’ll enter some kind of flow state of meditative introspection where I deeply ponder and find solutions to all of my problems and experience the ascension that comes from learning my singular purpose.

However, in coming to this conclusion, I realized that I do, in fact, think about everything and nothing, and experience that ascension. I’ve thought about that misnomer and how, more often than not, I’m thinking more about the “nothing.” Not once have I come back from a run and have had life all figured out. Running hasn’t directly taught or inspired me to be “successful,” or a better husband, father, friend, or human. I can’t remember a time while out on a run that I solved a specific problem, be it with a relationship or something at work. Sometimes I’ll set out on a run with a very specific problem in mind, with the hope and thought that the solution will come to me after I get some oxygen and a jolt of endorphins sent to my brain. If I’m being honest, it just doesn’t happen.

What running teaches me is to survive. To live in the moment. Right now. Every foot strike. Ten feet ahead. One minute ahead. One mile ahead. Three hours ahead. 20 miles ahead, and everything in between, in fleeting but extremely conscious and aware moments. What I’ve realized is that I do enter into a flow state. But I’m not focused on or solving family or financial or social or work problems. I’m focused on right here, right now. Every stride could be met with a misstep.

I thought about going on and on and writing about using all five senses. About how I’ll often hear rustling in the woods if I’m out on the trails, and I experience a heightened sense of awareness because that noise could be a rattlesnake, or a mentally unstable homeless person strung out on meth who’s wielding a machete, or how it’s usually just a squirrel.

I guess my whole point is that I do think about everything and nothing. Everything is right now, in this very moment. And it has nothing to do what happened a mile back or five ahead. Running imitates life.

2024 Cap10k

This past Sunday I raced the 47th annual Austin American-Statesman Capitol 10k. The Cap10k is the largest 10k in Texas, and one of the largest in the nation. The Cap10k holds a place in my heart for a couple reasons. 1) it’s the hometown race and 2) in 2014, the year after I’d started running, it was going to be my first race.

I’d only run Cap10k once before in 2016. Since then, I’d gotten into marathons and half marathons, and often times, the Boston Marathon was the same weekend as the Cap10k and we’d be up in Boston. In 2019 the Cap10k was canceled because of an amazing thunderstorm that rolled in that morning. I was ready to race that morning, so I ran my own Cap30k around the neighborhood in the thunderstorm. The 2020 and 2021 races were canceled because of COVID.

I qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon my a large margin, but we’re not going to Boston this week because prom is on Saturday, and Maly’s 18th birthday is on Marathon Monday. So I decided I’d sign up for our hometown 10k this year. I didn’t write out a training plan for myself for the race, but I trained for it. I did some hill workouts, and a lot of interval workouts; some on my own, and some with the Run Texas Track Club. I threw in a hard tempo late in the block to see if I could sustain a pace that might bring a sub-37-minute time.

I changed my race plan to sub-38 the week of the race, thinking that goal should be achievable, and if I could get somewhere around 37:30, that could probably get me a spot on the podium in my age division.

I was wrong. I was basing my 37:30 on the two years’ prior results. My age division showed up this year and dropped the hammer. I knew who two of my competitors were, and we were all lined up at the very front, and I tried to stay tucked in behind them when the gun went off, but they charged strong up the hills and I lost sight of them both before the 5k split. I held out hope though, thinking they might be first and second, and I could secure a 3rd place spot, but there were two other guys in the field that were up ahead and put me in 5th place.

It was fun race. Everyone charged out hot in the first mile. I knew I couldn’t keep that pace, so I dialed it back but stayed strong and settled into my race pace when the hills hit us after the first mile. I was damn near gassed at mile 4, but knew I had a flat remainder of the course, and there was no one near me, and I didn’t want anyone to pass me that late in the race, so I just gutted it out and told myself to hang on for 12 more minutes.

I PR’d the 10k in 37:17 (previous PR of 37:22).

Easter Bunny’s golden years

I had a bit of a moment on Sunday afternoon. But first, a confession. I think the girls are old enough now to know that I am the Easter Bunny.

For the past 15 years the girls have gotten up and gone to church on Easter morning. This year they went to Easter vigil on Saturday night. It was my understanding that I was to plant my butt on the couch, watch Netflix, and pack little plastic eggs with candy. And I did a damn good job of doing just that.

I woke up early on Easter morning. The girls were all sleeping. I don’t recall what all I did, but 10:30 crept up and the girls were all finally dragging out of bed. I thought maybe they were going to go to church at 11. That’s when I learned that they weren’t going to church on Easter. They’d already done the church stuff at the Saturday night vigil.

And no eggs had been hidden. It was a break in the 15 year tradition for Maly, and the 9 year tradition for Mara.

Maly had to go to work at 1 p.m. So I snuck out and hid eggs for Mara during broad daylight, while she’s camped out on her phone in the living room. When I was done hiding them, she was able to hunt for Easter eggs.

And then I went out and hid a bunch more eggs for Maly for her to hunt when she got home from work that evening.

And that’s when I had my bit of a moment. I was by myself in the backyard. It was quiet. It was peaceful. And then it just hit me. This was going to be our last Easter with Maly living at the house.

I wouldn’t say Easter’s a huge deal or cause for much celebration in our house. It’s a tradition though. And it’s a sign of spring here. Things are blooming and everything is new and green. And Maly was born the day before Easter in 2006.

She made me a dad. She made me the Easter Bunny.

So I had my moment. I stifled it a bit, but I didn’t hide it. I lost a little spring in my step as I hid the last of the eggs. It’s just sad coming to terms with there being a lot more “lasts” in life nowadays.

“Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway.”

– Holden Caulfield