On The Tone Of One’s Voice

Late last week, armed only with a headlamp while on an early morning run, I approached the col de Merc (antile Store) in pitch blackness. I vaguely saw something coming right at me in the middle of the lux bike lane, but couldn’t make it out until it got closer. It was a speeding bro dressed in very dark clothes on a very dark bike. He had just descended the col de Merc and was flying when I yelled “GET A LIGHT!” at him. He didn’t u-turn to (try to) kick my ass because he had headphones in.

Maybe he took the Mariners-Astros series too hard and wanted to end it.

Fast forward to yesterday’s early morning pitch black run. I could feel a car behind me as I turned into our hood so I made sure to hug the left shoulder so they had ample room for their left-hand turn. A middle aged man driving a beater Nissan Sentra pulled up right next to me and rolled down his window. “Okay,” I said to myself, “it’s on like Donkey Kong.” Ask Dan, Dan, the Transpo Man, when my heart rate is elevated, I sometimes morph from chillaxed pacifist to too easily triggered numbskull.

He had a kind look on his face and his soft voice was that of a Zen Buddhist. “Hey, I just wanted to let you know, you’re really hard to see from behind.” It wasn’t so much what he said, but HOW he said it. His tone conveyed genuine concern for my well-being.

When I yelled at my dark, speeding, headphoned “friend”, my tone was way, way more self-regarding. “Don’t be an arse,” my shout conveyed, “you easily coulda ran me over.”

Think about how you say things, and be the Zen Buddhist driver, not me.

You’re Vacationing All Wrong

Opines Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

“The truth is, when it comes to vacation, rest and relaxation aren’t just overrated. They might even work against the very things a trip is meant to cultivate: a mental reset, a sense of relaxation, happiness. A better vacation is one in which vigorous exercise features prominently. That way, you can take a break not just from work and routine life but also from the tyranny of self-absorption.”

Okay doc, what do you suggest then?

“Recently, a close friend and his wife invited my husband and me to join them on a cycling vacation. I was a bit nervous; I’m a serious swimmer but not an experienced cyclist. Riding 30 to 40 miles a day through Vancouver’s impressive hills for five days sounded like hard work, not pleasure. But by the end of our first day of riding, I was overtaken by euphoric calm.

The work of managing hills by bike has a special way of commanding your attention. I was so busy thinking about whether I could hold my pace for the next rise and how fast I could go downhill without wiping out that I had no time to think about myself. I started looking forward to getting up early and hitting the road. I took in the mountains and forests, dense with cedar and fir, but my focus was really on the bike and the road.”

But this entire Humble Blog is based on the need for more introspection. If everyone is just hammering up hills on two wheels, are we really better off?

“In fairness to the rest-and-relaxation lobby, some introspection is indeed good for you, and being able to tolerate idleness and boredom is a sign of psychological strength. I’m a clinical psychiatrist, and I know well that self-understanding is a cherished goal of therapy. But too much self-examination doesn’t make you happier or more enlightened. Besides, vacation is not the time to work on that skill. You can incorporate moments of idleness into your daily life if you want to get better at sitting with yourself, but vacation is a time for feeling good and escaping responsibilities, including the ones to yourself. Accordingly, you should do what makes you feel good, and that’s activity, not idleness.”

Got it.

As an endurance athlete, I’m keenly aware of how my brain waves fluctuate markedly during most workouts. If I’m going uphill and/or into the wind, my focus narrows a lot on the task at hand. If I’m descending and/or with the wind, my mind drifts to numerous other non-athletic things. I might even begin writing the next blog post.

All movement is good, but add some intensity in on occasion. Even on vacay.

The Hardest Thing

Fitness-wise.

If you’re a long-time reader of the humble blog; or happen to see my slender self; or follow me on Strava where I upload my swimming, cycling, and running workouts; you might assume I’ve got the fitness thing figured out. And maybe I do compared to the average 60 year old person residing in the not very fit (dis)United States.

But I don’t have it figured out. During the parts of the year when I’m not working, like now, I have too much time to think about working out. And sometimes thinking about working out ends with me bagging workouts.

When it comes to personal fitness, the one thing I find most difficult is designing a realistic “basic week” that’s challenging, but not so much so that I only check two-thirds of the boxes because then I feel badly about the one-third that remain unchecked. That one-third has a disproportionate negative influence on how I feel at week’s end.

This decidedly first world dilemma is complicated by my preference for cross-training. I like to swim, cycle, and run every week. I’ve added in a core workout and I’ve started to enjoy lifting weights. So that’s five things, meaning often, something has to give. Right now, because of the nice weather and friends who are cycling a lot, I’m taking time from swimming and running for the sake of cycling.

Another problem is that at my advanced age, it takes longer to recover from hard efforts. I haven’t been running as much lately probably because I’m beating myself up on the bike. I can do two workouts in a day, but only if both are shorter and/or easier than normal.

Tonight (Sunday), I planned the week. The odds are very good that my plan is too ambitious, and that despite closing all the rings on my Apple Watch (woopty doo), I won’t end up feeling much of a sense of accomplishment since I missed that run, didn’t swim at all, only lifted once, or didn’t ride as many miles as hoped for. Of course it’s silly, since I feel great and I’m healthy; and ultimately, that’s all that matters. But we’re all irrational in different ways.

Put most simply, by not planning realistically, I sabotage my feeling contented with my weekly efforts. Most frustratingIy, I don’t get why I understand the problem so clearly and still can’t seem to correct for it.

Tomorrow, I’m “supposed” to do a short run, swim, and lift weights. One or two out of three won’t be bad will it?

Imagine If

The doctor says it’s terminal and you only get one more walk or run. Where and when? I’d be torn between these beauts.

The Arb, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. Miles of incredible, meandering trails. Some by a river, some surrounded by head high grasses, often accompanied by deer. I always get lost and never sweat it. More miles, more better. Great anytime, but especially primo in the fall.

Bodega Head Trail, Bodega Bay, California. What it lacks in distance, it more than makes up in natural beauty. 1.9 miles of exquisite Bodega Bay and greater Pacific Ocean views. Stop anywhere, lay down, and soak up the Vitamin D. The ice plant makes great cushioning for a mid-day nap. An all-time great spring run.

Oak Bay Loop, Victoria, British Columbia. From the Hotel Grand Pacific to Dallas Road around Ross Cemetery and back. ANY sunny morning, but especially nice in the summer. If those coastal views don’t lift your spirit, you really are terminal.

Sunriver, Oregon, Benham Falls Deschutes River Trail. Another summer gem. Beautiful green grasses, a calm river mixed in other places with beautiful water falls, all framed by high desert pines. Full disclosure, since it’s my last run, I’ll be shirtless on this one.

Lastly, if the diagnosis comes in winter, really anyplace with two inches of fresh snow will suffice, but it’s tough to beat Hamar, Norway and Olympia, Washington.

What am I missing?

Thursday Required Reading

Harvard first year becomes youngest person ever to serve in Icelandic Parliament. Extra credit if you can spell her name.

Kohler can now run a bath with just a voice command. Need.

Forget giant asteroids, the Doomsday Glacier is coming for us all.

Next up in Ethiopia. Deepest bench in the world.

Sign of the apocalypse.

Clean Machine

I have no idea why I sporadically have to clean everything. Instead of picking away at things like a normal person, I tend to go whole hog. Just don’t get in my way when the tidying up spirit overtakes me.

Case in point, this morning I vacuumed the whole house at 6:30a.m. Sure, that coulda been on account of me delaying the morning run, but when I returned from my appointed rounds, I washed the car and then the road bike. Thoroughly.

In hindsight, yesterday’s bathroom top-to-bottoms foreshadowed today’s manic cleaning.

Everything can now get dirty.  The cleaning spirit departeth as mysteriously as it arriveth.

If You’re Not Looking Forward To It, You’re Doing it Wrong

I enjoy watching Lionel Sanders triathlon training videos on YouTube. I dig his honesty and no-nonsense competitiveness. He said something in a recent one that was particularly insightful. Tying his shoes before a track workout, he said, “If you’re not looking forward to it (meaning workouts generally), you’re doing it wrong.”

Great advice for any walker, hiker, tennis player, yoga aficionado, swimmer, cyclist, runner. Whether you’re looking forward to your activity is a great litmus test of whether you’re overtrained or just going through the motions out of habit. What would it be like to be fully present and genuinely appreciative each time you lace em’ up?

Last night, before expiring, my final thought was, “I’m fortunate I get to swim tomorrow morning.”

This Tuesday afternoon I found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with Brett near the very end of the “Mostly Retired Lunch Hour” ride. Brett is the Presiding Judge at our County’s Courthouse and one of two regulars on the ride still working full-time (I’m half-time). In his mid-60’s, I asked him if he has an “end-date” in mind. He said he’s up for re-election in a year and a half and he’ll have another four-year term. Groovy confidence, but what I most digged was how much he enjoys his work. I told him it was really refreshing to hear since it seems to me that 8 to 9 out of every 10 of my peers are counting down the days until they can stop working.

Brett talked about the Court’s ‘rona inspired virtual proceedings and how engaging the associated intellectual challenges were. And about how much he enjoys working with young attorneys and other people. And about how no one will give a damn about what he thinks as soon as he unplugs. Irrespective of his age and all his peers exiting the stage, he looks forward to what the next several years of work will bring.

He also acknowledged that “we live in a beautiful spot” and that he can enjoy playing outdoors when not working. Because of that, he said he doesn’t feel compelled to move anywhere.

As we approached his Courthouse’s start and end point, he said to me, “It was great riding with you again Professor. It was nice to have a little infusion of intellect.” I think he emphasized little, but still, I’m concerned his judgement may be lacking.

Be Adventurous, Tell Stories

Apologies for going silent during the annual dose of cycling and running in Bend, Oregon last week. Pretty damn selfish, but at least I didn’t kill the Humble Blog like The Former Guy did. Grow a spine Former Guy, if I closed shop every time a “friend” made fun of the Humble Blog, the world would be bereft of all my insights. Cue “friends” making fun again.

Yesterday, I was driving north on Hwy 26 from Bend to Gresham at the same time as a badass woman in a convertible MiniCooper. Like me, she was OLD, but that didn’t stop her from embracing the elements. The air temp was 45F/7C, but we were doing 60mph, so adjust accordingly. She paired a hooded winter jacket with ski gloves.

I would never do that (how could I hear my podcasts; plus, my hair), but I loved that she was. Each time we leap frogged one another, I became more intrigued with her story. What kind of person drives with the top down when it’s hella cold? The answer of course is an adventurous one.

I wanted to meet her because anyone that adventurous has to have a lot of great stories from a life well lived. That’s one of the best things about adventures, besides the actual experience, you end up with a treasure trove of stories that enable others to experience your adventure vicariously, and therefore, for the experience to live on.

But then I ruminated on the fact that she was alone, which of course means she doesn’t get along with other people. I mean, if she did, even just a little, wouldn’t she have someone in the car with her? Someone she’s shared some adventures with?

So, maybe having a beer with her wouldn’t be so great an experience after all.

But then I thought about the fact that apart from Blanca and Rosa, I was alone in my car too. So who am I to judge, maybe I’m not God’s gift to interpersonal relations. So maybe I shouldn’t keep her solo-ness from proposing we stop for a beer in Sandy for some story telling.

But alas, I wasn’t adventurous enough to propose that, so I don’t have any stories to tell about the woman in the convertible MiniCooper.

Don’t be me. Get jabbed, be even more adventurous, meet people, and make stories.

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I Got Into A Fight

A week ago and lost bigly. The saddest part, it was the fourth time I went into our green space to trim bushes and weed underneath them ignorant of the poison oak lying in wait. For 48 hours I was fine, and then, not so much. I will spare you the pictures which I should sell to a medical textbook publisher.

The poison oak plague is just one of repeated health challenges I’ve been struggling with this spring. Challenges that have left me with less energy to read, think, and write.

I’ve been reminded that control is elusive and life is fragile. Eating well, running, swimming, and cycling doesn’t guarantee anything.

If I come out the other side more appreciative of my health and whatever time I have left, my travails will have been worth it.