I find myself in Milan again. It’s about 8pm and the sun is starting to set. The warmth betrays the start of summer. It’s just warm enough that I notice it, and the soft breeze offsets any discomfort.
It was about 30F cooler Edinburgh where woke up this morning. Upon arrival at my Italian hotel, I put on a German feed of the French Open, that’s my life right there. After a 2 hour nap (I slept through the 45 minute alarm) I went out to buy a few things to nibble on in the room. Rather than rush back and put my head in a computer, I decided to sit a bit in this little square and write.
When I landed in Linate Airport this afternoon, I flashed back on 17 years ago, when my wife, baby daughter and I arrived at that same airport. It was my first time in Italy. We were the last ones off the bus to customs and the line was out the door. I set my wife and child up in seats and took my place at the back of the line with all our bags. Within moments, a security official approached Laura and lead her to the front of the passport line. I grabbed the bags and scurried to catch up. Seems that the idea of a mother and child waiting around in a cold crowded passport control station just wasn’t acceptable to the officials. I liked Milan from then on.
I have been here a half-dozen times since. I am always rushing when I am here. Today, however, is a national holiday, celebrating Italy becoming a republic. For that reason, today was a day of celebration and not working. That’s why I decided to sit for a bit and watch the world go by as represented by this little square. Life is short.
The plan says to run 20 miles and the temperature is climbing and the best time to go is immediately!!!
But the painters have vacated the premises and it’s time to put the house back together. I can’t just run out on the girls (again #guilt).
Then there is packing for the trip and when can I print out the boarding passes?
And I need to go into work for a while to do a thing.
I still have to pack and prepare and program the thing.
And there is Easter. When will we get to church?
Only 29 days until the big race, 70 days until the BIG trip, and 63 days until vacation.
Feeling a little manic right now.
Just need to slow down and prioritize and get done those things which are important and figure out what will be left undone. Begin with the end in mind, figure out what the best world looks like on Monday night and work backwards.
There is a precarious social line of perception between pride and bragging. Texans, I’ve noticed, do pride really well. Sometimes, people look at them and go “enough already with the flag and the lone star and the boots and the hats”, but mostly all that is just the expression of their pride and that is who Texans, generally are.
Runner pride is also mistaken for bragging (although, I will say, if you tell me how many seconds you knocked off your PR, my delighted look will be feigned). That being said, during the month of February, I managed to run 100 miles and between February 21 and 27, I completed 50 miles. I haven’t had a hundred mile month in a few years, due mostly to the fact that I just don’t like running that much (by much, I mean both “that many miles” and “that frequently“). I’ve never run a 50 mile week before, and I never want to again. For me, these achievements are relatively big deals, mostly because I am coming back from injury. There are runners who routinely run these distances with ease, for example, this guy:
I would like to tell you that in January, I had written out these specific, measurable, time-bound goals and developed a plan to achieve them. The truth is that I ran the Mission Gorge trail 15K run on Sunday February 1 and I had a really good long run the following Saturday and was 26 miles in before this 100 mile thing became an idea.
I ran only about 25 miles in January, so a hundred miles was going to be a huge step up, one that I would never advise to anyone to make. I knew injury was a risk. I set out a plan to capture the 75 miles in the remaining 21 days, or 3.6 miles per day. I set a ground rule of no running back-to-back days unless absolutely necessary, which meant I had to cover, on average 7.2 miles per two days. That was bit more daunting. Being a busy human, I just made peace with the fact I would be waking up on some Saturdays with as much as 10 miles in arrears.
Despite some chest congestion, the second week went off according to plan and I reaching mile 50 with no problems. Week 3 involved travel both personal and for work as well as a calf spasm on the morning when a long run was planned. The 100 mile goal came into jeopardy as I didn’t run any of the first 6 days of that week. On that seventh day, I was in Vegas for my daughter’s cheer competition. It was a beautiful morning and I brought my marathon shoes with the full intention of running 15 miles. I felt good and ended up running 21.
With that run out-of-the-way, I had completed 71 miles at the end of the third week which still left me a good 29 miles to run in the final 7 days of the month.
The thought of running the last 29 in a week seemed too much on legs tired from the 21 miler. I eventually had to shift my mental metrics to running in hours rather than miles as the smaller number seemed more manageable. I liken running day after day to pushing a leaky wheelbarrow with water. The longer the run the more water that is put in. The more days between runs, the more time the water has to leak out. My preferred M.O. is to run lots of miles on the weekend and then let the water mostly drain out during the week. This fourth week, 50 miles worth of water was going in and there wasn’t going to be much time for it to drain out and this wheelbarrow, like my legs was going to get heavy.
The Tuesdays after the 21, I ran the easiest and fasted 13.1 miles I run in years. Thursday, I put what felt like 9+ slow miles in between two later afternoon conference calls and then on Friday (violating the no consecutive days rule), I ground out 7 slow brutal miles completed only by repeatedly running to the start of the next song. By this last run, I had used up all my gels and had to break into some well expired gel-blocks that tasted like rubber bands.
At the end of it all, there was 50.96 miles for the last 7 running days and 100.96 miles for the month. I do not feel the need to go out and run an additional 0.04 miles to round off the miles, I’m not THAT kind of OCD. Until the last few days, I felt generally good the entire month. I didn’t have the rungries (extreme hunger resulting from running long distances) that I used to. I think that has to do with the eating plan I put myself on in January. Also, I usually had a nutrition plan both pre and post run.
March is going to involve more work travel. With 64 days until my next big race, I am going to have to resume things like speed training, bike riding, tennis, weight lifting and 5 mile walks with the dog. All of those things were set down during this month. Jill Will Run, just did a blog post on running as a parent. It speaks to running as our life responsibilities become more heavier. Kristen Lamb also just posted on the Doctrine of Doers, describing the attributes of those who get things done. Both posts resonate with me. When making a committing to a difficult course of actions, be it athletic or artistic in nature, it’s easy to have life be thrown out of balance. It is however, good to remember who and what are truly important.
A quick note of thanks to those who have been there and been supportive of this endeavor this month. This includes all those who blog about running in snow and those who post their selfies running in the snow. They make it really hard for me to complain about how cold it is in Southern California.
The original plan for today was to get up about 5ish, go out for a run, shower, dress, have breakfast with my manager and then head out for an all day meeting. Then after much denial, it hit me that today was Ash Wednesday, a day of meditation, fasting and abstaining from eating meat. Things were going to have to shift subtly as they always do during Lent. I think that’s the whole idea behind Lent, to invoke a shift in the way we perceive our relationship with ourselves, the world around us and with God.
I had to pass on the run as I knew this was going to be a vigorous enough day without fasting. I sat and thought a while about the day, the meaning of Lent to me and my family and possible significance of traveling on two consecutive Ash Wednesdays.
On the topic of fasting, I believe that a Lenten fast should be kept to ones self, as described in Matthew: “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden“. As such, I joke that the first rule of fast club is that one does not talk about fast club. One can blog though as long as it’s not about self-aggrandizement. I have written blog posts ever year about Lent and the meaning it has for me. Most of the time, I never publish those posts because they always feel a bit showy.
This breakfast meeting was a serving of eggs and two pieces of pineapple. Later at our lunch meeting, around the table, not wanting to draw attention to the fact that I wasn’t eating, I had a serving of vegetables and skipped the pasta, the chicken and the beautiful desserts. That was my two meals for the day.
After our meetings my colleges and I headed for the airport. We sat in the bar and they drank beer and ate chicken wings and potato wedges with bacon. I had water. Although I much prefer Guinness made in Ireland, no pint never looks quite as good as when it’s not was not on my one’s personal choice of nourishment for the day. That’ a common lesson of every Lent, for me anyway.
The flight home was a short but beautiful one. The 2014 flight home started in the predawn hours and I watched the sunrise over Northern England. This flight had the sun setting over the Pacific.
I got home after dark and the girls were at cheer practice. They would not be home for a while. I broke my fast with some cereal and a bagel. I was hungry and lonely. I wasn’t happy with the fact that I didn’t maintain the fast. I felt like one of those who couldn’t stay awake with Jesus in his final hours. Do I wish I had done better that evening? Yes. But that is also one of the lessons of Lent, that we are flesh and will return to dust. We aren’t perfect, but we should every once in a while, try to raise the bar for ourselves to better understand that we cannot fly on our own.
If you are beginning a Lenten journey today, may this season be meaningful.
I am standing in front of the Emirates Towers in Dubai finishing a cup of Starbucks before getting on the Metro. My work in this city is done and it’s about 11 hours until my flight takes off. Why my flight leaves at 2am, I do not know.
I counted the Rolls Royces passing down Sheikh Zayed Road, a street as ostentatious as the words, “I am standing in front of the Emirates Towers in Dubai finishing a cup of Starbucks“. I found myself visualizing my tiny spot on the Earth at this moment. I am in a time zone +4 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, or crudely half-way between favorite hangouts, Shanghai and London. I am 9 times zones away from New York another favorite hangout. Finally, I am 12 time zones or half-way around the world, from my wife and daughter, who I am looking forward to seeing in 40+ hours.
At the age of 10, I started traveling unaccompanied to London to visit family. I remember following the crowd through Heathrow Airport to passport control and then on to see my grandmother on the other side of security. Over my life, I’ve lost track of the visits to Europe. Heck, in the past 5 years I’ve lost track of my trips to Europe. I have become blasé about travel, both domestic and international.
But in this moment, I am humbled to be standing so far from away from home.The words Vive La Différence come to mind. I think I had to be so much further away than normal and so far out of my comfort zone to have the appreciation of the opportunities that I have been given me (or earned as the case could be). I see places and things that this little boy from Long Beach, New York never would have dreamed he would. I also get to share them, to a certain extent with friends back home, through pictures and stories.
Maybe it’s because this morning I showered in water that probably came from the Persian Gulf? Maybe it’s idea of being in the middle of the desert, so close to Iraq? Who knows, but for today, I am feeling appreciative, blessed…. and jet lagged.
Most beloved among the songs of the holiday season is Silent Night. We know for sure that the original words to “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht”, were penned by Father Joseph Mohr in 1816 and arranged for guitar by Franz Gruber on Christmas Eve in 1818. The song was performed later that evening by the two men at midnight mass at St. Nicolas Church in Obendorf Austria.
Joseph Mohr spent the next 30 years of his life in the clergy and died penniless with all his earnings donated to the care and education of children in the town where he lived. Gruber was the schoolteacher, organist and church caretaker in Arnsdorf. He also had the responsibilities of organist and choirmaster at St Nicholas Church in the neighboring village of Oberndorf bei Salzburg which is how he came to work with Joseph Mohr. In 1835, Gruber moved his family when he accepted a position as choir director, singer and organist for the parish church of Hallein. Among his responsibilities there was to manage the man church trust funds. Gruber passed at the age of 76 on June 6, 1863 leaving four children, one of whom, Felix Gruber, took over his responsibilities as choirmaster.
Most of the facts leading up to night where the song was arranged are lost to history. There are tall tales that the song was arranged in a rush that night because mice damaged the organ. There are also absurd claims involving railroad barons and priestly politics culminating in the first performance. What is more interesting, I hope is the tall tale I want to present to you here tonight describing what happened over the next 170 years.
Following the first performance, the song went as viral as a Christmas song could in the 1819. It is believed that organ repair man, Carl Mauracher, obtained a copy of the song and shared it during his travel. The song found its way throughout Europe in the 1920s. The version of the song most recognized today was published in 1859 by an Episcopal priest, John Young of the Trinity Church in New York.
What most people don’t know (mostly because I am about to make it up as I go along) was that Gruber was determined not to die penniless as Mohr did. Gruber learned quite a bit about finance in dealing with the Church trusts. All the internet money earned by the Gruber family from CD sales were funneled into German bearer bonds. The problem with bearer bonds is that one has to have possession of the actual bonds to claim the dividends. Unfortunately the Germans confiscated those bonds from Gruber’s great-grandson and they were used to support the Axis Powers during World War II (these bonds had a really long term, just go with it). Most of those specific bonds were used to pay then Japanese ship-builder, the Nakatomi company.
Ultimately, the great-great-grandsons of Franz Gruber, brothers Simon and Hans Gruber were able to trace the bonds to the headquarters of the Nakatomi building in Los Angeles in 1988. Hans lead a team of well-trained monks to take back possession of the family bonds. Unfortunately, Hans’ team was defeated by meddling New York Police Detective John McClane (who coincidentally worshiped at the Trinity Church in New York where the modern version of the song was coincidentally penned ). McClaine brutally murdered Hans by dropping him to his death.
In 1995, McClaine hunted and directly orchestrated the helicopter crash of Hans’ brother Simon Gruber. This execution took place Canada, where McClaine had no jurisdiction.
So next Christmas when you and the family get together to watch that classic family Christmas movie, Dïe Hard, remember to question the interpretation of events as they may have been skewed to making you believe a history that may or may not be true. You know what they say, you can’t believe everything you see in the newspaper, the news, or your friendly neighborhood blog post.