November 27, 2014

Back to Dunceville

Dabbling in delusion. Want to join?
Sometimes I think I'm taller than I really am. And younger. And stronger. And better. It's a bit of a delusion, this so called existence. But hey, who doesn't dabble in delusion once in a while?

My legs are now filled with this nasty stuff called cortisol. It's the stress hormone. I mimicked the fight or flight response the other night in a workout. Problem was I thought I was flying. But I was actually sinking. Right into a shallow grave that I dug there for myself whilst thinking I'm taller than I really am. And faster. And younger.

It's happened many times to me before. Usually when I line up on the track with faster runners, and let it all hang out. My heart was right there, doing the difficult work, namely lugging my ego along as my leg (hamstring) began to disintegrate into a hunk of fused membrane. A siren was sounding. Danger! Danger Will Robinson. Pull the rip cord! Pull the rip cord!

The good news is I pulled it, and the parachute came out, but I was only 300 feet from hitting the ground. I slowed the momentous plummet into Dunceville, but the fact is I still landed down there, just not as hard as I could have, or should have.

Sometimes I think I'm better than I really am. Oh well....    

November 16, 2014

Does Running Keep You Young?

Yesterday was a good day. I completed my first “longish” run since the Grand Slam.   

My heart beat 34,020 times. Not a big deal given the average human heart beats around 2.5 billion times in a lifetime, plus or minus. I did the math...I used about .00136% of my total lifetime beats doing this run. (4 hours and 12 minutes with a recorded average heart hate of 135 beats per minute, or 252 minutes x 135 bpm = 34,020/2.5 billion=.00136%).

Which begs the question. Was the run worth it? Was it worth using .00135% of my lifetime beats? Or, more specifically to the doubters out there, is running in general really worth it? The answers, my friends, are rather elementary. 

First there is the empirically based answer, supported by facts and figures, which is best used for non-runners, AKA the doubters. This is the type of answer given when the question is cloaked in the belief that running damages the knees and causes arthritis, among other things. But to get to an empirically based answer, you have to start with an empirically based question, like does running keep you young and/or prolong life? 
What’s noteworthy here is the science. A few studies that touch on the topic include the Stanford Study on Runners and Aging and this article on The Science of Running, to name just two. But the fact is there are dozens on the topic. All pretty much saying the same thing – that running keeps you young, by slowing down the aging process.

We all know the obvious benefits of running – that it builds a stronger heart, improves our cardio vascular system and helps with weight management. But how does running slow the aging process? Turns out that the benefits of running extend all the way down to the cellular level. Down to the telomeres, which are the protective caps on our DNA. Telomeres tend to shrink with age, which causes a downward spiral in ability to reproduce cells that keep our bodies going.

Running slows this process. Studies show that there was no significant difference in the length of telomeres between people age 55 to 72 who have exercised their entire lives and younger people. Conversely, sedentary people in the same age group showed significantly shorter telomeres compared to younger people. What does this mean? Running equals DNA health and longevity.

If running keeps you young, does it prolong life? The Stanford Study states that “the effect of running on delaying death has also been more dramatic than the scientists expected. Not surprisingly, running has slowed cardiovascular deaths. However, it has also been associated with fewer early deaths from cancer, neurological disease, infections and other causes.”

Then there is the reality based answer supported by your own experience as a runner. Which, when asked if running is really worth it, goes something like “if you understand, no words are needed. If you don’t, there are not enough words to explain. Thanks for asking though." 

Keep it real runners!

November 7, 2014

Seeing Equanimity

It was just a short jog around Central Park in New York City. I was minding my own business, kind of enjoying the orange and yellow hue against the green grass. I turned my head and noticed two people in a meditative repose, emanating stillness in the middle of one of the most chaotic cities I know. Awesome.

I seek it. I see it. Now I just need to, well, find it. This isn't going to be easy. Might be a lifetime goal in the making... 

November 4, 2014

Seeking Equanimity

The room is dark. I’m on my knees. I feel my legs. They seem stiff. Connected, yet detached….


My thoughts wonder. Away from the small light. Then back to it.


I feel a stillness. Inside my body. I hear a sound. I try to let it go. It stays.


It is a baby crying. I hear the sound inside my mind, but I’m outside. Connected, yet disconnected, at the same time.  Somewhere in between.


I feel the stillness. Encompassing my body. It is much deeper now.


Why am I writing about this here? I’m not totally sure, but it might be because I think I might have found a small form of equanimity in my running, and I would like to figure out how to do the same in my everyday life. I emphasize might and small form because I’m really not sure what I have found. It could be connected to the experience of riding the 100 mile roller coaster. Being on my feet day and night while facing the highs and the lows that come with running for 20+ hours. To recognize the inevitable peaks and valleys for what they are - temporary. And not let them control me.

A couple of years ago I attended a Zen Meditation workshop. It was a brief stint, and I only attended a couple of sessions. But I have not forgotten the experience. In fact the above scene is taken directly from my experience there. Is it odd that I can I can remember these few minutes like they happened an hour ago? I’m beginning to wonder how much more I would be able to appreciate things if I was really present, like right there, not judging or thinking. Just being, right there.

Beginning today, I’m embarking on a quest to find equanimity. This would be the place where mental calmness, composure, evenness of temper, prevail. It’s also a place where anger, judgment, and angst can be overcome. I’m just tired of being jerked around by my emotions and biases. I’m not out to extinguish feelings, for that would be unplugging from life itself. On the contrary, I will seek new intimacy in them, but try to learn to recognize and acknowledge them without letting them control me.