Week that Was—11/23-11/29

Tapered for Sunday’s half marathon.

One swim, 3,000m.

First zero for cycling since I can remember in a long, long time.

Ran M, W, Th, 6.7, 6.4, 4.8. A few faster than normal miles thrown in.

Seattle Half Marathon. Perfect conditions, overcast (duh), high 40’s, breezy. New personal record by nine whole seconds. 1:31:14. Very honest effort. Unfortunately, forgot the Garmin. I remember the following splits. 1, 6:52; 2, 6:54; 4, 27:29; 8, 55:34; 10, 1:09:34 (new p.r. too). Went out faster than normal and hung on decently. Despite the hills, I think I ran every mile between 6:52 and probably about 7:05. Not bad considering I probably can’t break 6:15-6:20 for one mile. Lost the 1:30 pace setter on the down hills. I’ve asked Lance to teach me how to run downhill but he just yammers something about “proprietary knowledge” and “competitive advantage”.

GalPal said she can’t get over some of the people who finish in front of me. “What 300 pound women?!” “No, not quite, but not people who I would guess are faster than you.”

Positive morning completely overshadowed by incredibly tragic shooting of the Lakewood Police Officers. I drive by that coffee shop several times a week.

Start and Finish

Recovery nectar

Recovery Nectar

Cultivating Passion

From The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner.

“Michael Jung. . . believes that ‘there are only three reasons why people work or learn. There’s push, which is a need, threat or risk, but this is now a less plausible or credible motivating force [in the industrialized countries] than it has been, even for the disadvantaged. There’s transfer of habits—habits shaped by social norms and traditional routines. But this, too, is becoming weaker now, because of the erosion of traditional authority and social values. That leaves only pull—interest, desire, passion.’ I understand Jung to be talking about three kinds of human motivation. Physiological need is one—the need for food and shelter and so on. But he suggests that with high rates of employment and government safety nets, this is less of a motivational force in many young people’s lives than it once was. The desire to adhere to social norms is another human motivation that is weaker than it used to be, because traditional sources of authority, religion and family, have less influence on young people today. Jung believes that it is the third motivational force—interest, desire, and passion—that increasing numbers of young people are seeking and responding to in school and at the workplace.”

We tend to be products of our environments so I wouldn’t describe the transfer of habits/adherence to social norms argument quite like Jung and Wagner. The influence of significant others, for better or worse, is still there. My clearest childhood memories of my dad are of him pacing the house as he memorized his sales presentations.  Five or six at the time, the impact was indelible. Every family has momentum, whether positive or negative. Because of my parents, ours was positive which is not synonymous with perfect. If a critical mass of adults in a young person’s life aren’t working and planning for a better future, we can’t expect that young person to care much about school work, continuing their education, or making a positive difference in the world.

If we agree that young people are mostly motivated by interest, desire, and passion, as I’m inclinded to do, we need to rethink teaching, coaching, and parenting. In his book, Wagner tells Kate’s story, a senior in high school. “Kate suffered from too much of the wrong kind of adult authority,” Wagner writes. “She was overmanaged for success—success being narrowly defined as getting into a college her parents and teachers considered to be top-notch and having a high paying job.”

What good are high standardized test scores and good grades if a student lacks specific interests, desires, and passion? What if they learn to “do school” but fail to become passionate about anything?

The seventeen and eighteen year-olds that I know are striving to get into the best colleges possible. But what makes one college better than another? US News and Report offers pseudo-empirical answers based upon numbers colleges get good at manipulating, but there’s more art to educational excellence than science. Maybe the best college is the one where faculty and staff help students discover their interests and desires. They advise and teach passionately; consequently, students become more passionate about writing, or a language, a culture, an environmental challenge, a historical period, a social movement, global politics, law, or medicine. I’d like to see USN&R measure staff and faculty passion for advising and teaching.

If I did a focus group with my daughter and her twelfth grade friends, I suspect all of them could identify things they like, but only a few could explain in any detail what they are most passionate about and why. And surely those few that are ahead of the curve need guidance on how to turn their passions into purposeful vocations. My wish for my daughter and her friends is that over the next four or five years they become more passionate and begin translating their passions into meaningful, rewarding work.

Image of the Week—11/25/09


Name something that’s utterly unchanged over the last four decades. Answer: swim meet ribbons. More design genius. If it’s not broken. So simple, yet so motivating.

Yes, rest assured, these babies still have the little white tab on the back with all the pertinent race info for sports historians.

Fourteen brought them home from a recent meet. I used to store mine in a cigar box with my baseball cards. Not all of mine were blue and red though! The beauty of swimming for the Y is they’re never very strong teams, so here’s the formula: 1) pretend there are no uber-fast club swimmers; 2) load up on blue and red nylon goodness; and 3) bask in heightened self-esteem.

Heightened self-esteem, hum. Maybe I should start handing these out in my college writing seminar after reading each batch of papers. Maybe the Villanova women got ribbons like this Monday at the NCAA cross country meet. Maybe I should have given a blue one to Lance for his winning finishing kick at the end of Saturday’s 10 miler. Maybe I should have given the wife a blue one this morning for sleeping more hours than me. Maybe I should send each of the Seahawks a red one for finishing second to the Vikings on Sunday. Maybe if I had sent Sarah Palin a red one last November she wouldn’t have felt the need to write a book and travel the country promoting it. Maybe I should give Marley a blue one each time he fetches the morning paper.

Clearly, these timeless treasures deserve a wider audience.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Week that Was—11/16-11/22

11/16 M T W R F SA SU Total
S 4,000


1,500 p/b 22:05






500 c.d.

C 17 1:05



17 1:05



R 7.7 1:01:30




5k 21:20



6.3 10.5





S—22:05 for 1,500 (scy) isn’t fast by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s faster than I would go without the paddles and buoy. I have no kick normally and the buoy I use could double as an ottoman. It lifts my hips almost like a wetsuit and so I don’t sink quite as much on my awful flipturns. So adjust accordingly. The 18×100 set was a lot easier than normal. Oh yeah, doh, I’ve always done them on 1:40. Five seconds makes a big diff. Not all of us can hammer out 10k weeks in the water like Lance.

C—The bad news, looks like I’m going to come up about 50 miles short of my 2009 goal. The good news, new p.r. for miles in a year.

R—Solid pre-race week. Not sure yet whether to “take what my body gives me” on Sunday in the Seattle half or force myself into a more challenging than normal pace per mile or some combination of the two. Please advise.

State of the Blog

Thanks to my small but loyal readership, I’m going to meet my 12/31/09 readership goal so I plan on continuing into 2010. To save you time on-line, I’m going to try to post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Since my unilateral decision to pull the “Week that Was” led to a mass protest during last Saturday morning’s run, I am reinstating it. It will appear on Mondays. On Wednesdays, I will post a word, phrase, sentence, paragraph or image of the week. Thanks in advance for sending nominations. Friday’s posts, alternating among the range of topics you’ve grown used to, will be a little lengthier, substantive, and life-changing.

The Constitution and Christmas

Last Sunday the wife’s Sunday school class on making Christmas less stressful and more meaningful went really well. At least for the first fifty minutes. During the last ten it devolved into a gripe session about public school and state government political correctness. Then on Monday a grad student of mine sent me an email conveying the same things. Here’s an excerpt. “At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter to eliminate Jesus, in all public matter. And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith. Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace. The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded. The reason for the season , stopped before it started.”

At the end of the Sunday school class I sat in silence because I knew there was nothing I could say in a few minutes that would change anyone’s mind. Good thing probably because the teach may not have appreciated my stirring the pot. But that pot needs to be stirred.

Here’s what my conservative evangelical Christian friends would have me believe. The “founding fathers” were Christians and we are a Christian nation, a shining city upon a hill. As a result, public schools and other public places should allow the public expression of Christian faith whatever the form: the posting of the Ten Commandments, group prayer, the singing of Christian songs at Christmas, or the display of nativities or crosses. For the majority, Christianity is our common heritage, the national default if you will. People of other faiths should go ahead and celebrate in whatever ways they want in private, but as a distinct minority, they shouldn’t expect public schools and public places to accommodate their preferences.

In contrast, I believe the following.

1) We are a religiously pluralistic nation made up of many Christians mixed together with Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, atheists, and on and on.

2) Our greatest strength is our Constitution which protects minority rights against majority rule and creates a level playing field with respect to citizens’ diverse religious beliefs. Mutual respect undergirds that neutrality and enables us to peacefully co-exist.

3) Selflessness is a central tenet of Christianity; as a result, Christians should take some time to think about what it would be like if public schools and places were primarily Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, or anti-religious. The alternative is for Christians to forgo selflessness, devalue Christianity, and continue to insist on a “majority wins” approach to governing public places.

4) The “wall of separation between church and state” principle is misunderstood by Christians who instinctively view it as problematic. Christianity can be taught in public schools as long as it’s done in a comparative, non-evangelical way. Many Christians conflate religious neutrality and anti-religiousness.

5) One Sunday schooler took a swipe at Kwanza and “other minor religious celebrations.” Christians who complain about religious neutrality in public schools and public spaces are struggling to come to grips with the fact that demographics have changed in the United States and they resent that they have to change any aspect of how they grew up experiencing Christmas. It’s difficult to exaggerate the deep symbolic meaning Christmas-oriented language and music in public schools from yesteryear has on many middle-aged and elderly Christians.

6) It’s utterly and completely ludicrous for Christians to suggest anyone is “forbidden to speak of salvation and grace”. It compromises their credibility as thinking people. How much of an adult Christian’s life is spent in public schools and spaces, five percent? Ninety-five percent of the time there’s absolute freedom to speak of one’s religious beliefs and convictions in whatever way one chooses. The “forbidden” argument couldn’t be more disingenuous and it makes a mockery of believers of different faiths who are truly persecuted by their governments.

7) The historical Jesus lived in a religiously diverse world. Instead of complaining that the first century world in which he lived wasn’t explicitly Christian enough, he focused on spreading his message through example, and in essence, competing on a level playing field. Christians today should do the same.