Thursday, October 13, 2011

It’s A Shame About Ray

I’ve decided I’m crazy enough to run another marathon.[1] Because of the fact that I scared my last running partner off, I decided to join up with a training group. Having someone to run with on the long runs, especially when you start hitting 10+ miles, makes them that much more enjoyable. This past Saturday was my second run with the group.

Before we started, the group leader informed us that one of the members of our group had passed that week. She apparently had a stroke a few hours after her run on Saturday and passed a few days later.

Since then, that song by the Lemonheads has been stuck in my head. I’m not exactly sure what the song is about, but my interpretation has always been about someone in your peripheral life who passes on. It’s an odd feeling because you don’t feel great remorse, but you’re still stunned that someone you came into contact with passed on. This runner was someone who I ran with that Saturday and unfortunately can’t remember. It’s bracing to think that it can all go that quick.

That is, yet again, the ultimate lesson that life teaches us – it’s fleeting. It can go at any moment, and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for any of us.

I managed to find her obituary. She was in her 50’s, had run several marathons, was married for 26 years, and spent 9 years with her husband sailing around the world.

50 is way too young for anyone to pass on. But if you had to figure out how to make the best out of that short period of time, I’d say she did it.

And that should be the goal for all of us – make the most of the short time we have on this planet. Because it really can that quick.

[1] I promise this isn’t another running post.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What Are You Running From?

FinishingI saw a blog post a long while ago with a question that was asked of runners on Twitter: “What are you running from?” And it got me to thinking what I’m running from.

Of course, I spent a lot of time thinking about this while running. And that’s one of my favorite things about running – it gives me time to just collect my thoughts. And I find that being out by myself with nothing else to do but think with the endorphins flowing is a great time to figure out life’s problems. There has been many a time when something has come up where I’ve said, “I need a run.” This is of course very different than in the past where I’d frequently say, “I need a drink.”

Since I became a runner, many things in my life have changed. I find that I’m drinking less. I’m paying more attention to what I’m eating. And unlike attempts in the past, it’s not that I’m just trying to eat less to be healthy, it’s that I’m focused on what the food I’m putting into my body is going to do to my ability to run.

I’m less stressed. As I mentioned before, there’s something special about being able to work out issues while running. And the feeling high after a good run, especially a long one, is second to none. I often joke to Karin that if she wants me to agree to something she should ask me once I get home from a run; I’m so happy I’ll say yes to just about anything.

Over the last 20 months, I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought possible. I never thought I’d be able to actually commit to running four times a week. I never thought I’d enjoy it. I never thought I’d miss it when I can’t get in my runs. I never thought I’d finish a half marathon. I never thought I’d finish a half marathon in under 2 hours. I never thought I’d finish a marathon. I never thought I’d start training for a second marathon. I’ve done things I never thought I’d be able to do.

I like how I look now. I’d reached the point of not wanting to take off my shirt and dreading having to buy an even bigger pair of jeans. I loved having to take my sport coats and suits in for tailoring. I love being able to buy “Medium” shirts. I love buying clothes that show off my body. Although updating the wardrobe has been expensive, I’m perfectly OK with it.

So what am I running from?

Well, put frankly – I’m running from feeling like shit.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pictures of You

(With all apologies to The Cure)

ChrisWebSmallI’ve said many times that everyone has an inner narcissist. Some of us just don’t hide it as well as others. And we start blogs and think that people really, really want to read about what we’ve been up to in life. We also start up Facebook and Twitter accounts. And then when we start running we create RunKeeper and Fitocracy accounts to brag about our accomplishments. And as much as we don’t necessarily like to admit it, we love having our picture taken.

Or, more specifically, we like cool pictures taken of us. If I have any apprehension when it comes to people taking my picture it’s that I’m afraid it might not come out very well. That, and if I was to be completely honest, I don’t like my teeth.

But when a good photo of me is taken I have a tendency to just fall in love with it. Especially if there’s a good story behind it.

DSC_0148For example, there’s this shot of me holding a baby. Specifically, the youngest daughter of my friend Sarah. Just in case you’re new here, I don’t deal with babies really well. Actually, that’s not completely true. If they’re being cute, and playful, and being held by someone else, I’m just fine with babies. But if either of the first two aren’t true then I’m not all interested, and if the last part isn’t true, well, I’m completely lost. In any event, Sarah’s youngest, Zoey, took a liking to me and specifically my hat. And as long as Sarah was holding her, everything was just fine.

And then that suddenly changed. Sarah decided it was time for me to hold Zoey. And I held her in about the same fashion as John Cusack in Grosse Point Blank, only without the banter – I trended more towards the “what do I do with this” side. And early on, Zoey smiled at me much in the same fashion as the movie clip. And then Zoey decided she was over it, and bawled her poor little head off. My good friend Skye decided this was clearly a photo-op, and took pictures. Unfortunately we discovered after I handed Zoey back to Sarah that none of them came out.

What to do? Well – reconfigure the camera and then recreate the scene. Of course recreating the scene required Sarah to offer up her youngest daughter to be traumatized one more time. Sarah agreed to this a bit too quickly for CPS I’m certain, but anything for a good photo-op, right?

293516_1993910966883_1216703898_31759395_276897710_nOr this one taken recently at a good friend’s wedding. My brother Abram’s date wanted to take a picture of him, Karin and me all dressed up, but her camera was set to only take black & white pictures and she didn’t know how to change it. No worries, let’s just take the shot and see what happens. Well – what happened is I looked like the don, Karin the dame and Abram my consigliore. Awesome shot. And yes, I did order a hit later that day.

268619_10150269868152421_525527420_7530113_2011206_nOr the replacement for my old cheerleader picture. I loved the original because I really wasn’t going to have it taken but was encouraged by everyone I was with. I loved that shot, but now that I’m down 40 pounds I didn’t like seeing how big I was any longer. I knew I needed a new cheerleader picture, as did my friend Susan. When the opportunity struck after we did an 8K in Seattle, she insisted I do it. I’m very happy I did.

Great shots all of them. Great stories behind them all. And, of course, it gives me the ability to feed my inner narcissist, lest it starve.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Up In The Air

Tonight, most people will be welcomed home by jumping dogs and squealing kids. Their spouses will ask about their day and tonight they'll sleep. The stars will wheel forth from their daytime hiding places. And one of those lights, slightly brighter than the rest, will be my wingtip, passing over, blessing them.

  - Up in the Air

One of the main reasons I have a blog (even if I don’t post all that frequently at the moment) is it does give me the ability to collect my thoughts. While it’s been a while since I’ve actually posted, I assure you I’ve written dozens of blog posts in my head. Trying to formulate one’s thoughts in such a way to convey a message is a great way to determine how you truly feel about something. This one I need to actually write out.

The last few months have been rather interesting for me. For the last year, maybe a bit under, I’ve been working on trying to revamp both myself and my image. The running wasn’t the first step in that process, but it certainly has encouraged that process. “Hey – if I can run a half marathon, why can’t I improve my professional life as well?”

So I started up a professional blog, and have been posting about twice a month there. I tweet. I got headshots done. I became more careful about what I posted to Facebook. I was very conscious of what I was doing, where I was doing it, and with whom I was doing it.

And I’d started to see a few results from it.

I landed a couple of really big consulting gigs. And at the prompting of the person in charge of the hiring, I applied for a very cool job at a very large organization.

The process for both of those stretched on for quite a few months. And for those few months, my life was extremely busy, hectic, and it looked by the end of it my life was going to be very different in some way shape or form. I was going to be home more often. We were possibly going to relocate. Things were going to change.

And as it turns out, I really am Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air. If you haven’t seen the movie, Ryan’s character sees a lot of his life change in a short period of time, becomes convinced that he’s finally going to be settling down and getting off the road, only to find himself back at square one all over again.

Ya see….

The contracting gig is over, and the client and I mutually agreed that we’d be best going our separate directions – they needed someone who could dedicate more time on a moment’s notice, I needed someone who could allow me to plan things in advance.

The job possibility never came close to materializing. After working with a good number of people, including the person doing the hiring, I didn’t get an interview.

Of the two, the second one stings. The first one was very enlightening, and I have to say having seen the grass on the consulting side of things it’s not nearly as green as I had hoped. But the second one... After all that, I didn’t even get an interview to validate my efforts. That hurts.

I’ve mentioned many times in the past that I don’t believe in regrets; if you regret something then you don’t like where you are at the present. So the question really is, do you like where you presently are.

And that’s what I’m still not sure about. In many ways, I feel like I’m being left behind. I’m damn good at what I do, and I do enjoy my job. My enjoyment with the travel ebbs and flows, but for the most part I do enjoy it.

But I’ve seen my friends and peers around me succeed. Many of them have moved on to bigger and better things. And it’s as if I’m the last one in the room with the instructions to turn off the lights when I’m done.

I feel like there’s so much more I could be doing, should be doing. I can’t figure out if this is my calling in life and that this is where I should be. I can’t figure out what it is I want to be when I grow up, or if I’ve already grown up and should just stay here.

And as of right now, if there is something greater, I can’t figure out how to get there.

In the meantime, one of those lights in the night sky, slightly brighter than the rest, will be my wingtip.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Five

I’m taking a completely different tack this week for my Friday Five. I’ve been kicking around this post for about as long as I’ve had this blog, and a couple of things have happened this week that inspired me to finally get it done. This blog will be just about the Five:

The Five Best Pieces Of Life Advice I Ever Received

1. Two better, one worse

That was the shorthand a former roommate of mine had for one of his major life philosophies: No matter where you are in life, and no matter what skill you’re talking about, there are always two people that are better off and one that’s worse.

It wasn’t the numbers specifically that he was going for, simply the sentiment. There’s always room for improvement. There are always going to be people that are better off than you. There are always going to be people better than you. And there will always be people who will be striving to be where you are in life.

I’ve found that once I accepted that, the little inequities I perceived in my life became easier to deal with. There’s still room for improvement, and things for me to strive towards. But there will always be others that are trying to get to where I am.

2. Ask for what you want

This is part of a dear friend of mine’s 5 rules for powerful living, and it’s the one I’ve seen the most real-life impact from. It’s applicable basically everywhere. Rather than immediately diving for a compromise, or settling for less, or asking for a level of support you really didn’t want – ask for what you want. You’ll be amazed at what happens.

3. Trust is given. Distrust is earned.

Whenever I meet someone, I’m willing to believe anything that they tell me. After all, the vast majority of people are well-intentioned and honest. Why should I think otherwise?

That is, until you give me a reason to distrust you. Earning my distrust actually takes quite a while. But once it happens it’s near impossible to earn my trust back.

And I’ve found that living life that way works just fine. 99% of the time someone I trust will do just fine by me. And 99% of the time if I trust someone who’s earned my distrust I wind up getting burned.

4. Don’t get promoted out of what you love doing

This is a take on the “grass is greener” concept. This was originally passed on to me by a mentor I had when I first became a trainer. He was also a trainer who’d recently taken on a management position. Within about a week he realized he’d made the worst mistake of his life. He was miserable. He hated life. He wasn’t doing what he loved doing – training.

If you’re happy where you are, why change? Although, if you’re not happy, it’s time to move on.

5. When you’ve made your point, stop talking

This is both advice I try to follow and a peeve of mine. Once the point is made, the argument won, the discussion complete, there is no reason to keep rehashing things and reiterating your point from other angles. Especially when it’s an argument that’s involved. Carrying on only leads to more hurt feelings and deeper wounds.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Five

The Excuse

Will you look at that – I have a blog. Ugh. I had a couple of weeks at home, which breaks my blogging routine, and then I just neglected to get back to it. Well – here I am.

The Weeks

The past few weeks saw quite a bit of activity. As you maybe read[1], I managed to finish the marathon. I wasn’t able to complete it in the time I was hoping for, but I need to stay focused on the fact that I completed my first marathon, and there will be opportunities to improve in the future. The experience was amazing, although I’m not enjoying this recovery period very much. I want my strength back and I want my long runs back. 6 miles on a Saturday just doesn’t cut it.

Because of just scheduling, I had the week before and the week after the marathon at home. Well – I was scheduled to be at home. When I found I was going to be home I did what any road warrior would do – I planned a trip to Seattle with Karin. I understand that I’m not sane for wanting to go away the moment I get home, but Karin and I do love to go to Seattle, and that was a great chance to have a trip just the two of us. It was mostly to visit our favorite places – Elemental, Tini Bigs and Zig Zag. About the only touristy thing we did was a walk through Pike Place Market, which Karin loves. The rest was just relaxation and a whole lot of nothing. Just what the doctor ordered.

The time at home was needed more than I can express. While I was still working, it was nice to be able to catch up with friends, visit local haunts that we love, explore new ones, and just not have to get on a plane for a couple weeks.

But, of course, we all knew that had to come to an end. And last week saw me in Dallas, and this week in Cary, NC. Cary was a new destination for me, but as always I didn’t get out and explore much. I did find a nice little path to run along, but that proved to be a challenge, between the heat and humidity on the days that I did run, and the forest fire on Tuesday that kept me from running[2].

The Restaurant Cocktail Bar

I can’t believe I didn’t review this place already. Zig Zag is one of the best cocktail bars in the nation, and probably one of the most challenging to find. It’s halfway down[3] as set of stairs that leads down towards the water in Seattle. It’s a little non-descript cafe/bar. But they make some of the best cocktails around.

They do the little things right – greeting customers, placing a glass of water in front of everyone when they sit down and keeping it full, and of course – great cocktails.

Zig Zag used to be home to the greatest bartender in the world according to many, Murray Stenson. Murray has decided to move on, but the bar is still in great hands.

Don’t expect to get a spot at the bar on a weekend night. But on a weekday you’ll invariably find a very friendly mixologist, a great group of people, and a fun, lively atmosphere.

The Travel Note

This trip home will put me over the Platinum status level (75,000 miles) for Continental on the year. Wow that’s a lot of miles.

The Five

I know you’re probably all tired of me blogging about running. But right now it’s just what’s on my mind. So here are my five favorite running routes:

  1. The Westside Greenway Path in Manhattan. A running path all along the west side of Manhattan? Yes please.
  2. The harbor area in Sydney. Something amazingly special about running up the Sydney Opera House steps as part of your run.
  3. The waterfront in Seattle. Great scenery.
  4. Memorial Park in Houston. Mostly because of the number of runners. Every runner feels an instant kinship with another runner.
  5. San Diego Harbor area. Although I have to say the loop around Mission Bay is up there as well.

[1] Or didn’t I suppose
[2] Although it did give me a nice smell reminiscent of home
[3] Or up, I suppose

Monday, June 6, 2011

Christopher “Jersey” Harrison is a marathoner


This is a post I wanted to do on Tuesday. Originally I wanted a post after the last training run for my marathon. Not for anyone else, really, but just somewhere that I could gather my thoughts and reflect on later. But unfortunately, my body didn’t cooperate. Or specifically, my Achilles' tendon didn’t cooperate. At mile 6 of the last long run of my training it became sore. And it remained sore for the next 5 days. To the point where I was seriously concerned I wasn’t going to be able to run the marathon.

259456_2081239960019_1515661702_2353647_3094538_oThat made last week an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve heard some people say that the training is the hardest part of a marathon. While I don’t think that does the event itself justice, there certainly is a lot of truth to that sentence. Since the beginning of this year, when my brain really turned to training for the marathon, I’ve logged 505 miles. You don’t log 505 miles, or about 80 hours, unless it’s something you love doing and you’re building towards something you really want to do. I can’t put into words how much I wanted to run that marathon[1], and the thought of not being able to do it depressed me to no end. I wasn’t able to run until the Saturday before the event, and it was a tentative two miles at that – just to test the tendon.

Fortunately, the tendon felt just fine. It won’t make any sense, but I was thrilled to have the opportunity to run 26.2 miles the next day.

And on that Saturday I wanted to sit down and write up this blog post. Again, I wanted to be able to reflect on where I’d been and where I am now before the race. Unfortunately, Saturday was much busier than I had hoped or planned. There was last minute shopping to be done, packet pickup, and just general life to be lived. So unfortunately it didn’t happen on Saturday.

As a result, today is going to be the day that it will happen. The day after the event. The second day where I can say, “I’m a marathoner.”

That accomplishment is the culmination of an 18 month journey from being an overweight, out of shape, unmotivated, wrong side of 35 man to being a marathoner. It started out as a slow jog/walk around Fiesta Island. And over the last 18 months it’s seen me complete 4 half marathons, two 10Ks, two Warrior Dashes, and now a full marathon. I’ve shed a solid 40 pounds, gained a new level of self-esteem, and now feel like I truly can do anything that I set my mind to.

Because I’m a marathoner.

The race itself is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I wish I could compare it to something, but I really can’t. It’s a solid 3-4 times harder than a half marathon, if not harder. This is not to say that a half marathon isn’t an accomplishment, because it is – the vast majority of people will never run 13.1 miles. But to put perspective on the challenge of the marathon and the number of people that attempt it, the San Diego Rock n Roll half marathon had just over 17,000 complete the race. The full marathon had over 8,000. There’s a reason – it really is that hard.

The training is hard. You have to run 4 times a week; 5 is better. You peak at a distance of 20 miles. Your intermediate run hits a solid 8 miles. And you spend a good majority of your training time on your own. It’s just you, the road, and maybe a podcast or some tunes. Many days you’re excited to get out and get in your run. It’s still a great high, and it’s still a great way to see a city, and it’s still a great way to reflect on life. But there are other days when you just don’t feel like getting out there, or you’re stressed/pressed for time, or you’re sore. And you start thinking, “Who will know if I skip this run?” You have to drive yourself through the training.

As a side note, it’s also why I always tell people that they have to love running to do an event. If you hate it, if you loathe getting out there, you simply won’t stick with the commitment that’s required. You have to want to do it; nobody else can talk you into it.

The event is hard. It will push you mentally and physically in ways you won’t realize and can’t prepare for. In particular, miles 16-19 did me in. For that stretch of the San Diego Rock n Roll marathon, you’re running uphill for the first half of that, in an area where there are no spectators, no cool scenery, no bands, no nothing. It’s just you, the road, and your mind. On top of that, there’s a switchback halfway through that you can’t see, but you can see the runners who’ve already made the turn coming back towards you. It’s demoralizing beyond words. And that sapped my emotional energy. By the time I made the turn for 20 I was mentally spent. My body broke down shortly after that, with nausea setting in at mile 23. I had to walk a good portion of that last three miles simply to avoid throwing up, and to make sure I had enough in me to run through the finish – I was not going to walk at that point.

But then you see that finish line. You see the cheering crowds. You see your friends cheering you on. And you step over that line, where you cross from being a runner to being a marathoner.

Christopher “Jersey” Harrison is a marathoner.

And of course the question becomes – “What’s next?” That question was by far the one I heard most frequently when I started talking with people about running the event, as if running the marathon wasn’t enough. But I think a big part of that is because anyone who’s watched me over the last 18 months knows I’m not going to stop here.

The answer is, I don’t know. There will be another marathon – that part I do know. One common goal is to post a time that qualifies you for entry into the Boston Marathon. Right now that would require shedding 1 hour, 11 minutes off finishing time. That’s not going to happen in the near future. Another one is triathlons. Unfortunately because of my travel schedule that’s just not practical. The last is ultramarathons, which is just not even on my radar right now, although I’d consider doing a 50K at some point.

So I don’t know. There will be another marathon. Maybe at the end of this year, maybe next year, and almost certainly the San Diego event again.

What I do know is this – I would not have been able to finish this or any other event without an amazing support team.

There’s Karin, who of course is my centering point. She keeps me sane, and she allows me to disappear for half of a Saturday, even if that’s the only day I’m home for. She completed her first half marathon – and on her birthday no less!

There’s Scott Gay, who was my training partner. He finished the full marathon, and he helped get me through many of the long training runs.

There’s Dave “Jumbo” Baxter, who first dragged me out to Fiesta Island 18 months ago. He serves as an inspiration to me, as he’s been able to accomplish more than I could hope for.

There’s Susan Ibach, who made a simple bet with me, a tradition which continues to this day. She’s my virtual running partner, sounding board and a continual source of inspiration and information.

I love all of you more than you know. It’s because of all of you that I can now say, “I’m a marathoner”.

[1] I sat on that sentence for a good minute trying to figure out some way to put it together and I really couldn’t phrase it in any way that conveyed my emotions.