Sunday, September 23, 2012

A(nother) Perfect Saturday

Yesterday will go down as one of the best days I've ever had...a little slice of life the way it ought to be. It actually reminds me one of the very first posts I ever wrote for this blog.

For the last 13 weeks, I have been training a group of people to run a Fall 1/2 marathon. We have met every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning for the last three months. This program, however, was actually not a 1/2 marathon training program - Running was simply the vessel for a much more important program...facilitating community.

Some of the "Just For The Run Of It" Team after the
Denver Rock N' Roll 1/2 Marathon.
Yesterday, most of my group ran the Denver Rock n' Roll 1/2 marathon (a few of us were training for other races), and I don't think it could have gone better. Quite a few of us ran our first 1/2 marathons while the rest of us soared on to new highs by either beating old personal bests or surpassing our goals. I waited nervously at our post-race rendezvous point to hear who would have the horror story of the day, but it NEVER HAPPENED. I was shocked and overjoyed. I'm so proud of those guys for following the training and adhering to the race day strategy so well...they worked so hard and earned every ounce of that glory.

But as I was saying before, this wasn't a 1/2 marathon training was fertile ground to begin to grow organic community. During our first meeting, I told my team that I didn't care if they finished or even ran the race, but if they just trusted the training they would be ready come game time. "The purpose of this group is to build community and be a safe place for you to explore running."

Time spent in a program like this is probably 98% training and about 2% racing, so one of the things I'd hoped to facilitate in this group was finding the joy in the journey. Most of the magic happens during training (or recovering at the restaurant afterward), and not so much when you're pushing too hard to speak to the person running next to you. If you're "present" for these moments, the rewards are unfathomable.

Growing organic community is something that you can't do on purpose. All you can do is supply the ingredients, show up, buckle in for the ride, and free up all five senses to take in as much of it as you can.

It was amazing to watch the bonds between our teammates become stronger throughout the season. The team continued to show up for tough workouts every week, not out of guilt, but because "teammate" progressed to "friend," and who doesn't like spending time around their friends? We weren't half-way through the program before the "hey, what's going to happen after this is over?" question popped up.

Maybe it's just a Pavlovian association, or maybe we really are "Born to Run." I think we're just starved for true organic community in a society that is characterized by individual independence, self-sufficiency and a lost understanding of how to "need one another." Running just happened to be the conduit in this situation.

In a couple of weeks, when we're all recovered from our races, we're going to open this group up to anybody interested. This group gets the community vision, and it would be a cruel/selfish thing to try and keep it to ourselves.  If you live in the Boulder area, please feel free to join us. Even if you've never run before in your life, join us for food afterward...remember, it's a community group, not a running group.  8)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Saying Goodbye to a Friend.

Yesterday, many people in the Boulder community were forced to say our final goodbyes to our good friend Terence (TJ) Doherty, who we lost to a bicycle accident.

I'm selfishly writing this blog because my memory isn't what it once was, and want to be able to remember TJ years from now. I'm sharing it because it's events like these that help us to reflect on our own lives and the people involved in them.

I met TJ during my first week here in CO at a Monday night Fun Run at Fleet Feet, where I later took a job, and where also, TJ had once worked part-time. We ran the Wonderland Lake Loop that night, and I specifically remember TJ effortlessly pulling away from a pack of guys that I need a steady dose of caffeine and adrenaline to keep up with even now that I'm acclimated to the altitude. After the run, I remember inquiring about the Pumas he was wearing. He was the only person I really spoke with that night who I didn't already know.

We developed a unique friendship in that TJ, for some reason, felt the need to pick on me incessantly. 8)  Most of you know that I've got a pretty long fuse, but man, could he ever burn that thing down quickly. I specifically remember getting into an argument with him one day about something completely stupid and unresolvable. (He was also one of the few who could coax me into such arguments). As the issue was close to my heart and I'm a pretty passionate guy, I was noticeably upset when I failed to defend my point in this battle of wits. I'll never forget the look on his face as he immediately pulled his foot off the verbal gas pedal and we all got quiet. After a few moments, I quietly got up to catch my bus, and before I left, he made sure to look me in the eye and shake my hand.

From there, our friendship took on a slightly different shade. The needling never stopped - I think he knew that I needed it. He still made me want to smack him every once in a while, but inevitably, he would throw one of those "heeeyyy, c'mon!" grins at me, and I'd let it slide.

That said, TJ also went well out of his way to help me quite a few times, and as he was careful not to let anybody else know, I'll keep them to myself. But, it happened. He was good to check up on me as I went through the difficulties of trying to get plugged into a new city.

I remember a few weeks ago, I punched him in the arm. Not one to back down, even to a guy who was about 50 lbs. his senior, he hit me back. We smiled at each other, then jumped directly into a knock-down-drag-out, WWF-style wrestling match as our fellow runners looked on and rolled their eyes. Eventually, we called a stalemate, as he pushed me and my tractionless shoes across the floor, and I squeezed him till he turned red. We stood up, and I smiled a smile that said, "you know I was about to whoop your ass, right?" He read my smile accurately and replied aloud, "but that was pretty good though, right?"

My only fellow motorcyclist here in Boulder, TJ and I took a great ride one night after a Monday night run. We went out over Old Stage Rd. and out Left Hand Canyon, then back to Gunbarrel. There are few more beautiful places to ride motorcycles at night, and we both knew that as we nodded heads to each other before going our separate ways that night.

I was walking with one of my athletes at the Boulder Res a week ago as we finished up her run, and I heard a voice call "hey." I'd barely turned around before TJ went flying by me at a pace which I'll probably only ever dream about.

Yesterday, I arrived at work and was made aware that TJ had been in an awful accident and was currently in the ICU across the street. Time stopped. This just didn't seem possible. I, along with many others, went over to see him, and though I'm glad I did, I rather wish I hadn't. His body was being kept alive by machines at that point so that, in one last act of generosity, he could donate his organs to those in need. It's one of the most dreadful contrasts my eyes have ever made - seeing him so very vibrant, and then not so.

So sadly, I will never have the honor of calling TJ an old friend. I am so thankful, however, to be able to have called him a good one. My heart breaks at the thoughts of what I looked forward to seeing him become and achieve, and it goes out to those who knew him far better than I...especially his fiancée Adrienne, and his surviving immediate family.

TJ, I hope you were able to see all the people who came out in your honor last night. You have left an important, impactful legacy. You are inspiration to us all to live, and you will never be forgotten, brother. Our lives will be different without you, but more importantly, our lives are/will be different because of you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

So...I live in Colorado now.

Hey everybody!

For some reason, I just haven't been able to muster up the "I've moved to Colorado" blog until now. Actually, even now, it's proving trickier to write than I'd thanks to the fact that I've taken yet another multi-month hiatus from the blogging world. If you enjoy my blog, I do apologize. I just want to make sure this remains a privilege, not an obligation.

On September 6, it rained all day in Nashville. I spent most of that morning pacing, waiting for a guy to come buy my old motorcycle so I could hit the road. I thought he'd be there around nine or ten in the morning, but he didn't end up getting there till one. Most of my things were either packed or sold at that point, so I had nothing to do but get impatient.

What do you do in the final moments of living in a place where you've lived for the last 12 years? Honestly, I think you just get overwhelmed. I was leaving something far too vast for me to process, on the way to something that was also far to vast for me to about a mind-job.

As soon as that guy showed up, I helped him load the motorcycle, and I jumped in my Jeep to tow a u-haul (that I was pretty sure was WELL over weight capacity) about 1200 miles to my new home. I was rather nervous that my Jeep wasn't actually going to make it here, so I'd already planned contingencies for what I'd do if/when it broke down in the middle of Kansas. By the way, one gains about 3,000' of elevation travelling from the east side of Kansas to the west side. Not as flat as you might have imagined.

I slept in the back seat of my car at a rest stop in Topeka, KS that night for a few hours, woke up with the sun and pressed on. The Jeep, the U-haul and I did a 20-hour drive in a span of about 25-hours total. Hellboy (my Jeep) never balked for a second. Real trooper. I started my new job at Fleet Feet Sports in Boulder two days later, and have been working there since then.

I'll give more details about CO later. For now, I'll say this. I'm lucky to have always had family to lean on when moving to a new place. I'm living with my uncle, aunt and cousins until I get my feet on the ground, and they continue to take good care of me. I'm very thankful to have a job, and one I enjoy as much as Fleet Feet. Good people are everywhere, they're just not always easy to find...fortunately, that wasn't my lot here. I've already found people to spend time around who make me smile, and that's valuable.

Nashville friends, know this: Good friends can NEVER be replaced. I've had a few very sad and melancholy days here thinking about how I miss you guys. I am REALLY thankful to already have been visited by a few of you. I don't know when I'll be able to make it back for a visit, but I sure hope it's soon. In the meantime, my bed is all yours if you'd like to come for a visit. I've been looking for an excuse to sleep on the porch anyway. 8)

Friday, February 11, 2011

remember that day I got hit by a truck and a train?

So, I almost died yesterday. Yeah - just like that. Almost never got to see my family or friends again. Almost never got to see my house again, play my guitar again, drink a beer again, flirt with a girl again, rescue a dog again. I almost became one of those tragedies where not only the parents, but the grandparents outlive the children/grandchildren.

The physics of the situation is actually a little complex (there's a video at the bottom that may better explain), but here's the nutshell version:

My buddies, Kevin Kazlauskas, Jeff Snider and I were on our way over to East Nashville for a run with a few other guys. On the way, we got stopped at a railroad crossing on a busy road that doesn't have drop bars...only flashing lights. It was bright enough outside that we almost missed the flashing lights indicating that there was a train coming. We stopped, but a semi-truck coming from an awkward angle into the crossing missed the lights. The back end of the truck was still on the tracks when the train went through. It smashed the trailer of the truck the whole way across the intersection into the drivers' side of the car that we were sitting in.

I watched the whole thing happen. In fact, the last thing I said before the train hit the truck was, "Wow, that's going to happen." Now, I'm not exactly a stranger to subtle, and not-so-subtle near-death experiences:

One time, a buddy of mine accidentally hit a glass Snapple bottle with a soccer ball. I got hit in the neck with the cap after it shattered. Upon closer examination, part of the bottleneck was still in the cap, and it was nothing but sharp shards. It was one revolution away from severing my jugular.

Then there was the time Ricker and I were driving "a little over the speed limit" on a windy road back home. We lost control of the car and eventually landed in a creek.

Those both happened so quickly I didn't know what happened till it was over. This, however, happened quickly, but it went slowly enough that I actually had time to know what was going be afraid. I'm glad to say that my adrenaline-infused mind over-estimated the weight of a semi-truck. I knew it was going to hit my seat RIGHT on the money and thought for sure Kevin and Jeff were either going to look back to see half the SUV ripped right off with me nowhere in sight...if they were even conscious. At the very least I expected to be mangled, broken, or wake up in a hospital bed...if at all.

The whole thing felt like a clever game of mousetrap, and I was the mouse. I felt like I was caught in the trap and there was a sledgehammer coming down to seal the deal.

Truth be told, I think my biggest fear is helplessness. I'm a big believer in "it ain't over till the fat lady sings," and if I'm in control, I can at least go down fighting. That wasn't the case yesterday though. I was trapped and was subject to whatever physics felt like dealing.

Jeff, Kevin and I walked away unscathed. After dealing with all the politics, we actually drove Jeff's mangled SUV over to the park and went on our run anyway. That's when we began to speculate on the "what if's."

That truck was full of raisin bread. What if that truck had been full of something heavier? What if it had been a fuel truck? What if we hadn't seen the flashing lights and were on the tracks as well when the train went through? What if it had been a car full of women? What if there had been a child involved?

I gotta tell you - I'm so glad I was with those guys. About ten minutes after the accident, we were out joking with people about the raisin bread all over our car and the intersection. We took videos, pictures, updated our facebook statuses with pictures, and gave somewhat whimsical interviews to the news crews. Then we went and processed together during an hour-long run, during which we looked much deeper into what just happened. We actually talked the first half of the run, then spread out a little and were silent for the second half. I think we celebrated life.

Hey guys - remember that time we got hit by the truck that got hit by a train? What a day...what a day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lola Louise

It's been a busy week+, which I guess is somewhat evident in my lack of online presence.

Sunday morning, I woke up to get ready for my annual Super Bowl party that happens here at Castle Stoner. While I was brushing my teeth, I heard a "banging around" on my back porch. In my neighborhood, we've got our share of stray cats, possums, birds, squirrels, and other wildlife that don't really have much sense of boundary. That said, I'm not unaccustomed to hearing these types of noises on the back porch.

I ignored it for a few minutes, but I eventually realized this was a bit more of a clatter than I'm used to hearing. I glanced out the door and saw a little dog who was almost literally knocking on my back door. She would knock at the door for a while, walk around the house to cover the exits, then head back to knock on the door again. I'd never seen this dog before, but she was acting almost like one of my friends who came by to see me, but was not content with the, "go away, I'm asleep" response.

I came to the sad and difficult conclusion a few years back that I just can't save them all. My plate is pretty full right now, and this would not have been the first dog I've taken in. Knowing what a responsibility that is, I agonized long and hard about taking her in. I think it was Gandalf [Optimus Prime, not Gandalf - Thanks "Angry Asian"] that said something to the effect of: "Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing." I decided to meet the East Nasties for our Sunday run, and if she was still there when I got back, I'd put food and water out...I'd be committed.

Well, darn it if she wasn't sitting in the back yard looking expectant when I got back - I guess I respect that kind of persistence. I sure had to work hard to get her to come to me, though. What's crazy is that this isn't the first time a dog just showed up at my house and wouldn't leave. It's like they know where I live.

I named her Lola Louise. She just looks like a Lola, and she has a bit of a bull dog-like "wheeze," so I added Louise since it seemed to flow so nicely. Anyway, with some help from my friend, Marie and a few others, Lola now has food, has been vaccinated, will be spayed next week, but has sadly tested positive for heartworms.

Even with some serious generosity on behalf of some fellow dog-lovers, I just have to admit that I'm stressed. There's a long road ahead for Lola. My friends and I are going to fight for her though. Why? Because she's about five years old, and it doesn't look like anybody's been on her side for a LONG time. Because she came to my house for whatever we consider to be the driving force behind fate. Because she is sweet as candy and deserves a chance. Because she gave me one.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The eyes of a baby girl

My friends, Josh and Meredith, got married this weekend, and I attended their wedding. I have this rotten habit of arriving at weddings mere seconds before the bride and her posse make their entrance. This wedding was no exception. Staying true to form, I got stuck in the very last seat in the back of the groom's section.

I'm not really much of a ceremonious type of dude. Ceremonies feel scripted and a bit impersonal to me. The receptions, on the other hand, are where people usually let their hair down. Receptions are much more my style. We have the option of two-way communication with each other, and we don't have to worry about composure so much. We "commune" with each other.

That being said, my mind is unlikely to stay focused through a wedding ceremony, no matter how hard I try. This was no exception. Part way through the service, a father sitting in front of me hoisted his little baby up so that she was face-to-face with me...this is where my memory of the wedding starts getting fuzzy.

She stared at me the whole time, unabashedly. I could only return her gaze for so long before I felt embarrassed and kept having to look away, but eventually I found I couldn't look away from her.

I've had an issue with eye contact since I was 15. The girl I was dating mentioned that the way I made eye contact made her uncomfortable, and I didn't want her to feel that way. In that simple sentence she transfered her discomfort and insecurity to me, and to this day, as I stand on the doorstep of 30, eye contact is a huge struggle for me.

A little over a year ago, I wrote this blog, which cryptically alludes to this struggle of mine, and some other things. I had honestly forgotten about what I said that day until I got caught in that little girl's tractor beam. In her eyes, a multitude of things revealed themselves to me. I saw beautiful innocence. I saw peace. I saw truth. I saw confidence. I'm not sure I can explain this, but the oddest, most prominent thing I think I saw in those eyes was forgiveness...almost as if that's the one thing she wanted to convey to me. All in the eyes of that baby girl who can't even talk yet!

Eventually, she lost interest in me, got fussy, and was taken out into the lobby. Immediately, I felt a bit like somebody turned out the lights and the room was suddenly short on oxygen as I came out of the trance. I guess it's been a long time since I've taken the time to really see something as beautiful as a little baby girl. I never saw her again, and though that makes me sad, I know it's ok. We exchanged a few moments where she was the teacher and I was the student, and that was the end of our story.

There isn't really a point to this, because I'm not sure I understand it yet. I do know it was beautiful, and I've got a lot of other thoughts in my head now.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Extended Weekend Power-Fail

My car broke down five times between Friday night and Monday morning.

On Friday night, I was on my way back from working in Franklin when my radio died and my dash lights started dimming. I know those signs...the alternator crapped-out two blocks from my house...REALLY? (Yes, I'm thankful it wasn't further away, but still.)


Rod picked me up, and we got the battery charged just enough. I ran every stop sign till it died pulling into my driveway.


Saturday morning, I should have rested in light of my 3-mile time trial on Sunday, but I stubbornly ran anyway.

Saturday afternoon. With coffee, a few rides to O'reilly & Autozone, and an extra hand catching nuts & bolts I pulled out of my car (all of which were provided by my friend, Brittany), I replaced the alternator and Hellboy (that's my Jeep's name) ran again.

Saturday night. "Check Engine." Now, Ol' Hellboy's got almost 200k miles on 'em now. I've had that light come on for nothing, many times, in many vehicles. I decided to proceed with caution and drive.

Sunday morning - The 3-mile Time Trial. I missed my goal by 12 seconds...probably because I was an idiot and ran the day before...or maybe I'm just not in good enough shape. Either way, FAIL.

Later that morning...Car breaks down in Shelby Park by lake. I eventually get it started, then to Hunter's, then home, thanks to Rod and Brittany again.


I walked/jogged to the bar that afternoon and bummed rides from Hunter and Drew the rest of the day. I spent most of the day wondering what I could possibly have screwed up on the alternator to cause this.

Monday morning - I take Ol' Hellboy to my man, Ali, at David's Tire and Alignment. Unfortunately, his code reader's busted, so I have to run down to Autozone to get it read, but it's there that my car...breaks down.


Eventually fired it up with some starter fluid and made it to the intersection of Nolensville & Thompson where it broke down...TWO blocks from Ali's place.


On Monday, I paid for a tow truck for the first time in my life, and paid to have somebody ELSE fix my car for the first time in at least six years. Ali explained it all to me, and was kind enough to show me that I'd installed the alternator fine, and that the distributor was a completely unrelated issue.

As it's still "Dry January," I couldn't just meet somebody for a drink to cap this off properly. So, I ended the night quietly at home with a meal from Fat Mo's, a chocolate malt shake, a half box of Swiss Rolls, and the "A-Team." A reasonable substitute, I guess.

It's not for sympathy that I record this story. We all have really bad days so that we can properly appreciate the really good days when they happen.