Beamer’s Hopes and Dreams

I’ve read in so many different new parent books, blog posts, pamphlets, etc., that one thing you should definitely do before you have a child is to write something about your hopes and dreams for your child. So when our son is born, whether it is later today or a week from now (and for the record, he is due tomorrow, September 13), I should be ready to impart a whole lotta wisdom on the newest member of Planet Earth.

So, Beamer, whose real name shall be revealed at some point soon (hopefully, for his mother’s sake, very soon), here are my Hopes and Dreams for You, baby Mussack Waller. (And since this is a running blog, they are healthy living-related Hopes and Dreams.)

1) Learn to love the gift of your body. Sorry that sounds so kinda schmaltzy on paper, but it’s incredibly true. Rediscovering running in 2010 was one of the best things I could ever do, because it retaught me the value of experiencing life through the one thing you can actually experience life through–your body. Last night when Brigitte woke up from a couple scary dreams about you being born (one where you came out looking like a weird teardrop and the other looking like a baby version of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), you pushed back at her and at us harder than you ever have. Maybe to reassure us that Everything Is Going To Be Okay, and maybe just because you felt like dancing. Whatever it was, you used that body of yours that you will soon find is even better outside the womb than it is inside. Dude, you get to eat ice cream out here. It’s way better than eating ice cream in there. Trust me.

2) Learn to quiet your mind when you need to quiet your mind. If you’re like me (and you probably will be, with all that shared DNA and what not), you’re probably gonna have a brain that will want to race from one thing to another to another. (Kind of like me writing this blog post with tons of parentheticals.) So, what I hope to teach you are some tools to quiet what yogis and Buddhists call your Monkey Mind. The last few weeks, I’ve been increasing my dosage of yoga, which has been eye-opening (or…wait for it… third eye opening!) in many ways, most of all that actually, quieting your mind is a skill that you need to practice the same as any other thing. It’s not inherent to all people who practice yoga or some other form of similar meditation to just be able to do it on a whim. The Dalai Lama said that if everyone learned to meditate by age eight, we could eliminate war, and while that’s probably not completely true, it will definitely make you a happier person.

3) Be nice to people. And not just in a platitude kind of way. Learn from your amazing mother (slash my amazing wife) about what feminism means, because she is smart and wants the best for all people. Do stuff with your life that indicates that you care about humanity as a whole. Don’t contribute to the patriarchy. (But if you want to like Minnesota sports teams with your papa, that would be welcomed.)

4) Be proactive. That’s also Stephen Covey’s #1 habit in the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. I learned that one way too late in my life. Brigitte didn’t, though. (Maybe you should learn most of your stuff from your mom, is what I’m thinking right now.)

5) Have fun. You are being born into a family that already is sorta obsessed with you, and you have like 17 gajillion other baby and toddler friends ready to play with you. I’m excited to share you with everyone else.

I’m sure I’ll think of more things as they happen. So, Beamer, please come out some time soon so we can stop calling you Beamer.

Running Buddies

You know what makes running before the sun comes up in Minnesota in late November much better?

Running buddies!

I got in a great couple of laps around Lake Harriet this morning thanks to my buddy (and fellow #MNRunnerd) Brady putting out a feeler on Twitter last night about needing an early morning running buddy. I’m glad she did, because it’s much, much easier to get out of bed, wake one’s self up, and get some solid miles in before the sun comes up with a partner. The laps seem a lot shorter, and the bitter cold is hardly noticeable. As I continue to gear up for the Securian Frozen Run in late January, these runs are going to be vital to my training. 

What do you do to get yourself out of bed for early morning runs??

Week One Progress, or, Hey, This Is Hard!

Here’s the thing I sorta forgot about starting a training program: it’s hard.

Sure, from my prior marathon trainings, the general memory I have of all of them is kinda like a magical place where one is constantly improving, feeling great, and just having a good ol’ time.

Then, this morning happened, where I totally felt blah throughout my first Tempo run(*). Maybe it was just extra windy this morning, or maybe it was a lack of sleep the last couple of nights, or maybe my legs are actually starting to tell me, “Yo dawg I heard you like to be tired so I put a tire in your tired so you can tired while you tired.(**)”

(*)I should mention that I’m generally using Hal Higdon’s Advanced Training for Half Marathonstweaked for what works better for my weekly schedule and adding things that I like to do, like BodyPump and Yoga, which is what I use for my definiton of tempo runs. Go Big or Go Home, I say.)

(**)Sorry.

Either way, this morning was a good wake-up call to the fact that a) it IS super important to be vigilant to sticking to one’s training schedule if one wants to improve, and b) it’s not all #puppybreathandcinnamon.

One thing I CAN control each and every day: sleeping and eating. Now, I’m not even close to being a model citizen for healthy diets, but I do know that I feel a lot better throughout the day on days I eat “clean” than days I eat not so clean. Being that I (over)indulged in thai food and beer on election night (and did so knowing that Wednesday was my scheduled day off), that can always be a factor. And since I got like three hours of sleep on Tuesday night, I felt mega-ultra lethargic on Wednesday night. And, as Lester Freamon says on The Wire, “All the pieces matter.”(***)

It’s a journey, y’all. And today was a good reminder of that.

(***)Yes, I probably will link to The WireParks & Recreation, and my favorite Timberwolves bloggers throughout the lifespan of this blog. Deal with it!

So It Begins (A Runner’s Origin Story)

In twelve weeks, I hope to be in the best running shape of my life and break a 1:39:59 time at the Securian Winter Run (Half Marathon.)

All I have to do is train harder than I’ve trained before. Which I can definitely do. But I need to stick to it.

Oh hi, by the way. My name is Mark. I started running when I was in ninth grade in 1997 when I joined my high school’s cross country team on a whim, mainly because a lot of my friends were involved in it and I didn’t want to feel left out. It was a good decision, but I haven’t always been the most dedicated runner.

I was never a star runner in high school, and in fact came into Cross Country with absolutely no family background in running. I joined the golf team in seventh and eighth grades, which was the extent of my athletic participation since quitting baseball when I was ten. So, going from zero to 5ks at age 15 was a big shock to my body. I took many an ice bath that first cross country season, and I got used to being the kid who got the “pity clap” at the end of the race. But I never considered quitting–not because it didn’t feel extremely hard (it did), but because the thought never crossed my mind to quit.

Through the rest of my cross country career, I moved myself up from being at the end of the pack in every race to finishing in the middle, where I generated my 5k PR that still holds to this day, 21:07, in my very last high school cross country race. (My senior year season after the one that ended early for me when I collapsed near the end of a race and was rushed to the nearest emergency room. I was on my way to PRing in that race, dang it. But that’s for another blog post.) The following track season, I PR’d my 1 mile time — 5:49, which also holds to this day.

Then, I got to college, and got lazy.

My freshman year of college, I definitely put on the freshman fifteen. (Probably more like the freshman thirty, to be honest.) For whatever reason, I never made the connection between the good stuff I was doing in high school and how it could trickle down(*) into the rest of my life. Sure, I had spurts where I got “back on the train” for a few months, but never fully committed to building this great thing that I started on a whim.

(*)It’s the height of political season, so forgive my colloquialism.

Then my professional career started and I stayed lazy. Okay, not “fully” lazy, because I was learning a lot as a young public accountant, but I did not make staying healthy a habit. I studied for (and failed, a lot) for the CPA exam(**), for a few years, and continued to go down an unhealthy path.

(**)The CPA exam is taken in four parts, usually over the course of 18-24 months. Studying for each part takes about two months, and about 20-30 hours of studying per week. i didn’t start passing it until I actually committed to doing that. 

It took a lot of self-reflection (and, frankly, a lot of support from my awesome wife Brigitte) to get to the point to quit messing around with the CPA exam and just pass the thing. I finally did pass in February 2010 and was licensed in May 2010. At our local gym around that time, I remember seeing a map of the Twin Cities Marathon route and having the same sudden light-bulb go on in my head that went on in ninth grade: “I should do that.”

So, as soon as I was licensed, I dove in headfirst to marathon training. (Considering my longest race I’ve ever run before that were 5ks, I think this was kind of insane of me to do.) It helped that I essentially used the mental energy I needed to pass the CPA exam to push myself to the Twin Cities Marathon. All in all, throughout the experience, I regained my love for running (though not without a lot of really, really tough training days) and haven’t stopped since. Since I started running, I have lost about 35 pounds and improved my 5k times from the mid-30s that I was running in the few times I ran 5ks in college back down to a “near” PR 5k a few weeks ago, 21:40.

But, I’m back at a crossroads. I’ve gotten to a new plateau where I need to push myself to achieve the next level. And that next level is, improving in the Twin Cities Marathon, where it all started. The first signpost is getting that 1:39:59 at the Securian Half so I can qualify for Corral 1 at Twin Cities. I have a twelve week plan that I started yesterday with a great six mile run and a BodyPump class. I plan to achieve all of that with y’allz inspiration helping me get there

But it really starts with me.  (As wacky as that link is, a short film by my friend Sean, the overall message is true. No spoilers; just watch to the end.) I need to do it. And I need to commit to it.

Let’s do this.