Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Some Damn Fool Idealistic Crusade

Cindy and I plan to cheer on the runners in this Saturday's St. Jude Marathon and Half Marathon. Cindy supported me the last two years, and since I'm not racing this year, we decided to pool our collective rooting resources.

Cindy has had fun making signs to hold during the race. Last year, she surprised me with this sign, a less-than-subtle reference to our favorite music video:

Given my older nephew's burgeoning love for all things Star Wars (we're planning to buy him a blue lightsaber for Christmas this year), I thought it'd be fun to riff on that theme for this year's signage. Here are a couple of my ideas so far:

Cindy did say, moreover, that she might be willing to wear her hair in the traditional Organa honeybun style, so we may very well go with something like these ideas. We'll see.

Monday, November 29, 2010

In Memoriam: Marcus Takach

While running the Tulsa (Williams Route 66) Marathon last Sunday, I passed a young man lying supine just to the right of the road, receiving chest compressions from the EMT who had just arrived. After I finished the race, I learned that the young man, 27-year-old Marcus Takach, had died shortly after collapsing. Several of us who passed Marcus mentioned to each other that we were praying for him; I trust that those prayers can be credited by our merciful God to the rest of Marcus's soul. May the Lord have mercy upon him and us.

The Tulsa Running Club is organizing a silent run in honor of Marcus Takach starting at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 12 at 15th and Riverside--the place of his repose. All of those participating will run the final 3.1 miles of the Williams Route 66 Half Marathon (which ran concurrent with the marathon), finishing the race in honor of Marcus. Although I will be in Memphis rather than in Tulsa, I plan to run 3.1 miles that day at 2:00 sharp, rain or shine (or snow). I'll most likely be driving in from Liturgy at the skete in Grand Junction, Tenn., early that afternoon, but my hope is to make it to the North Trail by then--my favorite lonely place to run.

Marcus and I both woke up early on race day, planned our races, made the trek downtown. We even both took photos of our bib and number; only one of us lived to tell of the day's events. I really would like to write about my own experience in Tulsa sometime, but right now just doesn't seem to be that time. 

Here's a link to the article in the Tulsa newspaper reporting on Marcus's death. I think I can safely say that he was healthier than I was entering the race.

May his memory be eternal. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

The Greenline, early morning Saturday, September 18, my first day back running after recovering from my achilles tendon injuries. As noted at the time, my celebration of recovering from one set of injuries led to my acquiring a new one.

The Greenline, late afternoon Wednesday, November 17, the final taper run before Sunday's Williams Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, OK. After originally planning to run three miles at the park after work yesterday, I thought I'd better enjoy returning to the scene of my first hesitant run after two months off. I was not disappointed...a cloudy sky and threat of rain made for a sparsely crowded path, yet those of us who did venture out were treated to the still-lovely, surprisingly brilliant fall foliage along the tree-lined trail.

Though it's hard to discern from this snapshot taken with my low-res camera phone, the billboard--an ad for the Memphis Grizzlies--reads, "We Believe in the Greenline." I know it's a cheesy attempt by a pro sports franchise to try to connect with a certain secgment of the populace (and thus sell tickets to us), but seeing the sign always makes me smile.

Just when I think work on the Greenline has been completed, up sprouts yet another improvement. The path now boasts markers denoting every half mile--a really nice bonus for folks looking to run, walk, or ride specific distances. I was thrilled to see these yesterday.

The Wolf River bridge remains my favorite stretch of the Greenline. I ran either over or under this bridge during all of my long runs (15+ miles). I was somehow comforted yesterday to see the river level rising from its low point earlier this fall.

The spur connecting the paved Greenline (at the east end of the Wolf River bridge) to the unpaved North trail, which winds alongside the Wolf River. I love being able to add variety to a run by leaving the pavement for a few miles. Like the Yellow trail that runs along the Wolf south of Walnut Grove Rd., the North trail suffered a good bit of erosion during this past spring's flooding; even so, it's a beautiful trail. It's also a bit lonelier than the other Wolf River trails, and I sometimes seek it out on days when my mind races more swiftly than my feet.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Nice Surprise

After searching (unsuccessfully) for a 6-pack of Schlafly Dry Hopped APA, I was still in the mood for a pale ale of the citrusy variety to accompany last night's band practice. Since the price of Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA runs in the double digits at my neighborhood Schnucks, I took a chance on what I hoped would be a similar beer--Bridgeport India Pale Ale. I was not disappointed...pleasantly (but not overly) bitter, relatively light ABV (5.5%, not too stiff for an IPA), and with a citrus flavor reminiscent of several of the Americal Pale Ales (including but not necessarily limited to IPAs) I've favored lately.

Oh, and while not exactly cheap, the Bridgeport IPA sixer was still several dollars cheaper than Dogfish Head's.

Cheers, Oregon!

Monday, November 08, 2010


Who: My lovely wife, Cindy

What: Race for Grace 5K

Where: The neighborhood around Shady Grove Presbyterian Church

When: Saturday, November 6, from 9:00:00 a.m. to 9:34:27 a.m.

Why: Just because she could

How: With a steady pace for the first 3 miles and a crazy mad sprint for the last 0.1, Cindy finished 12th out of 30 in her age group and generally kicked ass in her first 5K. Go Cindy!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

In Heaven There Is No Beer

"Is this heaven?"
"No, it's Iowa."
     --Field of Dreams

In heaven there is no beer
That's why we drink it here
And when we're gone from here
Our friends will be drinking all the beer
     --from the "Iowa Victory Polka," played after victories by the U of Iowa football team

In Iowa, there is plenty of beer. In addition to the annual RAGBRI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa), a weeklong group ride across the state in which beer drinking plays a prominent role, Iowa also boasts several microbreweries. One of the newest--if not the newest--of these is the Peace Tree Brewing Company, which opened last year in Knoxville, IA. Knoxville happens to be the home of my Uncle Mike, Aunt Connie, and cousin Stephen as well as the hometown of Stephen's two older siblings, Courtney and Andrew, both of whom now attend college elsewhere in the state, Courtney at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and Andrew at Wartburg College in Waverly.

I spent last weekend in Knoxville along with my mom, her sister, and her middle brother (Mike is the baby of the family). Actually, we started and finished each day in Knoxville, but spent the bulk of each day on the road across the state. On Saturday, we attended Andrew's football game in Waverly; Andrew is a senior safety and led the Knights in tackles last year (good for his stats, but having a safety lead in tackles usually means the defensive line and linebackers are not making those tackles); this year, the Knights are 9-0 and have qualified for the playoffs for their division in the NCAA. I was surprised at how different rooting for a family member changes the way I watched a college football game...rooting for an individual first and the team because of him changes the emotional tie to the outcome: sure, I was still hoping the team would win, and I was "into" the game as much as I've been into one for my own alma mater, but I found myself wanting the win for him first and for me (as a fan) second. I'll come to no general conclusions here about the nature of fandom; I did find the contrast interesting, though.

"If one could run without getting tired I don't think one would often want to do anything else." 
     --C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle 

I 'm still training for the Route 66 Marathon, which will take place two weeks from today. To maintain the abbreviated training schedule that will hopefully allow me to complete that race, I did a couple of moderately long runs in Knoxville, getting up before breakfast so as not to interfere with my family's overall plans. I ran on Saturday and on Sunday, enjoying both the physical challenge (Knoxville, and much of that part of Iowa, is pretty hilly) and the quiet beauty of my surroundings. I took a fairly similar route both days--I ran past my youngest cousin's high school, the football stadium, the town square, and the Peace Tree Brewing Company, as well as through my family's neighborhood. I was mainly alone, passing only a couple of other runners. In those moments, it's easy to think things like, "I'm the only one out here doing this...the locals may be kind of impressed!"--easy until I remember the story my uncle told me of the local man who ran 100 miles in 24 hours, ending his trek at the football stadium at the start of one of the high school team's games. If running is a competition, it's with oneself, mainly. At least for me it is.

Running on a Sunday morning is not something I'd done since, well, before I became an Orthodox Christian. I find it impossible to run without breaking the fast (with both food and water) preceding receiving the Precious Gifts at the Divine Liturgy; even if I were to somehow wait till after Liturgy to eat or drink, though, I think that running beforehand might dilute my focus and add extra "busy-ness" to the morning. Not that I'm trying to pontificate: I'll miss church altogether the morning of the marathon. But running before church seems to be trying to have things both ways, to avoid making a decision, a commitment. 

I really do love to run. If I had to choose only one or the other, I'd give up beer forever and re-title this blog, "Run/Run." Well, maybe, anyway. 

When I was not yet a catechumen but had started attending Inquirer's Class fairly regularly, my (to-be) pastor, who was leading that session, asked each of us, "What is your favorite activity on earth?" Having just finished my first marathon 3 days prior, I blurted out, "Running." Father then stated, warmly but firmly, "Well, you know eternity is not going to consist simply of running over and over and over." Of course I knew he was right. His words reminded me of C.S. Lewis's regarding chocolate, sex, and heaven:

"…I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No’, he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it."
      --C.S. Lewis, Miracles (p. 160)

In heaven there is no beer, as far as I can discern; there may be no running, either. That may or may not be why I give so much attention to them here. 

Or maybe I have not really learned to desire Heaven for its own sake. Or the one who makes Heaven heavenly, for His Own sake. 

Lord, have mercy.

God Bless you, whoever you are who may be reading this.