It’s been a while since I wrote something on here, and that’s mainly because I’ve just been feeling kind of blah about it all. After enjoying a month off in December I was antsy to get back into the swing of running and training in January, and the pieces haven’t really come together for me yet. I had a couple of good runs right off the bat and then caught Round 1 of a minor chest cold being passed around the petri dish of a high school where I spend my working days. I tried to be good, thought I was over it, and then Wham-O – on the night of January 25th I got hit with Round 2 of the chest cold from hell.
I was feeling terrible on the eve of January 27th, my annual “Semester Break” – the time when they give us one day off between semesters at school to rejoice and celebrate. I usually have my grades complete and posted, so I head out for a big loop in the Marin Headlands that is the traditional start to my Spring build and when I start piling on some more mileage. Instead of running the 4th annual Headlands loop this year I laid on the couch and watched Netflix with my older son, who also had his version of the terrible cold. Yuck. As a runner I get very attached to annual occurrences and tradition, and my mind began to spiral out of control on the fact that I wasn’t running in the Headlands this year. What would it mean for my training? Would I recover in time for Canyons at the end of April?
On top of all that it was also the week of the East Bay Quadbanger’s Annual Groundhog’s Day Lupine Loop-fest – a silly and ridiculously fun event in Tilden Park where we run hourly laps on a 3.2 mile, +/- 900 feet route that summits Vollmer Peak and heads back down to a start/finish at Gillespie Youth Camp. In previous years I admit that I probably would have tried to run it – however I really am trying to live up to my goals this year and listen to my body, and so I sat this one out. My wife crushed 4 loops, I hiked one with my boys and then hiked one more on my own and called it quits. It was still positive and uplifting to be up there with the community, especially as we had a record 12 starters at Midnight, and two runners that made the whole 24 hour circuit!! (~77 miles +/- 22,000 feet)
On top of being sick, and not being able to ramp up my mileage or training yet, I am still reeling and struggling from a potential “pre-clinical rheumatoid arthritis” diagnosis. I am struggling most with the fear of what is ahead as well as the complete unknown and lack of predictability with what will happen to my body. As the doctor initially laid out, it could completely go away (it hasn’t), it could stay like it has been, and it could get a lot worse. In general it hasn’t gotten worse and I haven’t had another flare-up or difficult period like I did in France yet, and for that I am very thankful. However it is still subtly persisting, mainly in my feet and toes. Stiffness and soreness that feels like the same from running, but I’m not running much these days. I oscillate between staying hopeful that I can somehow beat this thing with healthy lifestyle choices or that it will never progress into something that bad, and going down the dark and slippery path of losing my life to an auto-immune disorder.
Enough of the bad – what’s been the good in my life in the past few months? I continue to remain driven, blessed, and give thanks for my life and this existence. My family is doing great, my kids are thriving, I enjoy my job, I am surrounded by friends and communities and folks that I love. And, since returning from France in August, I have developed a daily meditation practice that has changed my life.
It was actually in the airport hotel on the eve of our departure from France in August 2019 that I did my first recent guided meditation. I have always known about meditation, of course, and experienced it in short doses during yoga classes and random spurts, but I have never adopted a formal and regular practice. For whatever reason while we were all laying in our bunk-beds in our miniature closet of a hotel room in Paris my wife decided to put on a 20 minuted guided stress reduction meditation podcast on her phone and it deeply resonated in my body and mind. I was hooked.
When we returned I started by listening to the same podcast every morning while lying in bed before I woke for the day. While it was working, and felt effective, I couldn’t help but feel a little lazy that I was staying under the covers as my wife would rise and move to a meditation cushion in the living room. Eventually I motivated and moved to a cushion of my own on the floor. RPM or “Rise, Pee, Meditate” became my morning mantra and I decided to expand my podcast selection a bit and tried the “Waking Up” app by Sam Harris. In this app he provides a series of 50 ten minute lessons and guided meditation, and at the same time that I started the series I began doing a weekly meditation with my classes at school.
Eventually I extended my morning session to also encompass a “sit” after the guided meditation, where I practiced a Vipassana style mindful sit with no audio-track or guidance. On some mornings the audio track would add to my distraction and the silent sit would go much easier, and on other mornings the difficulties would be flipped. Some mornings everything would go smoothly and I would be blissed out for the entire time. And on the rare occasion, nothing felt like it was working and it was a struggle to make it to the end of the thirty minutes. Sound familiar to any runners out there?
And so now in February I can say that I have established a daily meditation practice that I have been following for many months now, and the positive effects have been overwhelming. While I still occasionally have a bit of the emotional roller coaster going on in my head, over all I believe that I am a more centered and less stressed individual. I am aiming to roll along with the waves of life instead of getting knocked over in the surf on the shore. I have somehow survived two months of not really running every day and while it is bothering me, I haven’t fully lost it yet. The concept and practice is helping me deal with my medical issues as well, as when I am in a good spot I can remind myself that all I really need to deal with is the present feelings and sensations. So much of my anxiety comes from the fear of what lies ahead, of which I have zero control over and can really do nothing about.
I don’t get paid by and am not affiliated with the Waking Up app, but I really am recommending it to all of my friends and peers. You can get a month free by following this link to see if you like it or not. And you should know that he operates on a sliding scale – if you can’t afford the asking price, send an email and they will see what they can do. It truly has changed my life for the better and I imagine that it will change yours as well.
Love and Light y’all, and thanks for reading. Here’s hoping that I see you out on the trails soon enough!