I'm not into goal-setting.  I was raised in the goal-setting industry, working at seminars where people Sharpied their fears on 1-inch plywood boards and then at the end of the seminar they broke through the boards, symbolically breaking through their fears, except for one older woman who actually broke her hand trying to break through her fears.  I imagine her next board will say "BOARDS" in big black letters.  I fire walked with Tony Robbins and sat through hours of trainings on motivation and setting goals and the 80/20 principle, and I can't be too negative about these experiences because they have their place and appeal to some people and hopefully change lives for the better.  The process isn't for me, though.  Too loud.  The goals written carefully and thoughtfully on the yellow legal pad would fade when the music and flashing lights and back slapping support faded.  The process became a chore, and the goal would usually fade away.

Last year, instead of writing a list of goals on January 1st, I just decided to be open to more, to say "yes" more, and looking back on last year, I believe that this was a good decision, and a process I plan on repeating this year.  Some of my favorite and most memorable adventures from this past year weren't planned, and weren't goals.  I didn't plan on going to Everest, running a 50 miler, running across the Grand Canyon, or climbing Mt. Whitney.  These were things that just came up, the opportunity presented itself, and I was lucky enough and fit enough to be able to add them to my schedule.

In order to be able to do those things, it was important to maintain a base level of fitness.  This wasn't a goal.  Running far, hard, or fast isn't a goal of mine, it is something that I do, something that is inside and when I get the question: do you think you are addicted to running, which I get a lot, like it is a bad thing, I am not sure how to answer, but no, I don't think I am addicted to running any more than I am addicted to spending time with my family, eating good food and drinking good wine, playing fantasy baseball, listening to music, or shooting up heroin (that last one's not really an addiction, more of a pastime).  Running is my passion and it is what makes me happy.  Most can't understand the pleasure and reward I take from it, but I don't understand the pleasures some people take in scrap-booking, gardening, or making crocheted beards, but I do understand the passion.  Recently someone commented on one of my older posts

"Some are running away, others running to. You run because you are there,"

which was probably one of the best compliments I have ever received.  I don't think I am "there" yet, but I am definitely enjoying the process.

Goals seem to focus on the end result and the process is secondary.  The cliché of the packed gym in January that is empty by March is a good example of this.  The gym is empty because the goal of dropping x pounds by going to the gym everyday only works for people that enjoy going to the gym every day (these people exist, I have heard them grunting at each other).  They don't need to set the goal of going to the gym every day because they will be there anyway.  My son likes to hang from the pull-up bar in my office, but I get tired of lifting him up there every time, so I told him he would have to find his own way up.  He worked on a few different techniques, tried over and over, and finally...

My daughter, who is similarly driven, loves the Guinness Book of World Records, and right now, nothing would make her happier than to be in that book.  She scoured it and found a couple of things that seemed possible in her mind, and I found this note in her room a couple of months ago...

It refers to the pogo stick world record of 178,457 jumps, and to the side she writes "my goal: 178,458."  She set out to break the goal and reached 782 before realizing that 178,458 might be out of reach.  She then set a more realistic way of entering the Book by eating 8 Ferrero Rocher chocolates in 1 minute.  Now, if she only had the kind of parents that would buy her Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

So, no, I don't have any quantifiable goals set for the year.  I want to stay fit and healthy.  I want to run across Zion National Park, I want to run the Kalalau Trail on Kauai's Na Pali Coast, I want to finish the Canadian Death Race, and I want to do a couple of 50K races and place well. but if I'm not able to fit them in, or if they sell out before I have a chance to register for them, then I'll find something else to do.

I'm sure something will pop up.

Christmas Eve on the Trails

I took my two older kids and my dog for a hike on Christmas Eve.  The recent rains have made the hills green; the trails were a little muddy, and it was fun to see them through the eyes of my kids.

I love this shot of my girl.  Someone built up some bike jumps and a berm; my kids love going up there to run around the obstacle course.

Inspired by Facebook

I wasn't planning on running yesterday. I even planned to flake a day in advance, emailing Cindy, my Wednesday morning running partner, as the rain got heavier and the forecast called for lightning and thunderstorms, writing that I was going to bail.

I sat in my office all day, watching it come down, not really wanting to work, already checking out for Christmas vacation, pulling out an umbrella every couple of hours to take my dog out to pee, catching up on blogs and Facebook, scouting out some local races that I might want to do next year, and basically being a lazy sack. After a whole day of this I felt heavy, my head was cloudy and I had the kind of headache you get when you watch all three football games on Sunday, leaving the couch for more chips and beer and the occasional trip to the bathroom. I needed to get outside, and I decided to wait for a break, a window of blue sky, a pause in the incessant rain, the rain that had been falling nonstop for three days, flooding San Diego, closing roads, washing out whole hillsides, and forcing the train to shut down. There was no pause, and I sat at my computer as the light started to fade on one of the shortest days of the year, wasting the last part of my working day browsing Facebook, when this popped up from one of my friends...

I really should get out, I thought, get bundled up and go for a short walk, just to clear the clouds in my head. Then this...

It's like she added the parentheses just for me. Screw it, I was going out in the storm and I was going to run. I grabbed a hat, a long sleeve and some still wet and muddy trail shoes, and headed for Double Peak.

The run was difficult, but I felt better than I thought I would. As I pushed up the climb to Double Peak, a carload of boys drove by, staring at me and making faces like I had escaped from somewhere. When I got to the top, I put my hands on my knees, caught my breath, then took in the view, it was starting to clear and between the low-lying pregnant grey clouds and through the mist, I could see the ocean and the rain-soaked green hills. The wind was blowing hard and the rain was starting again, plus being at the highest point in North County during a thunderstorm probably wasn't the ideal situation, so I headed down. Taking one of my favorite trails down, half running, half sliding, coming home with my legs covered in mud and a bleeding ankle that I didn't notice until I was home, warm, eating a slice of homemade chocolate marble bread with chocolate ganache.

Slow is Smooth, and Smooth is Fast

Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

This has become my new mantra, from the mouth of one of the best TV dads ever, Phil Dunphy, thought of on the run, when I think of funny things to pass the time, thoughts drifting from Sofia Vergara, the usual means of time-pass, to Phil, reacting to emergencies, calm, zen-like, slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.  It doesn't sound rational; how can slow and fast exist at the same time, linked by smooth, fluid movement, the steady metronome of soft-landing feet on dirt?

There is a moment, all athletes talk about it, the runner's high, the zone, where time slows and there is no thought, only pure motion, where it would be outside the realm of possible to miss the shot, the pass, the putt.  A moment when the mind is operating on a different level, beyond conscious decisions about angles, speed, power...it just flows.

Go slow.

Watching the world's fastest runners, everyone seems to comment on how easy they make it look, how they don't look like they are struggling; they are relaxed, smooth, just over 4 minute miles for mile after mile, running in slow time.

Don't slow down.

But don't try to go fast, don't clench your teeth, don't raise your shoulders to your ears, don't extend your leg as far as they can go sending heels crashing, don't squint your eyes, don't worry about that big rock or the downed tree lying in your path, don't hold your fists so tight you make fingernail marks in your palms, don't run loud, don't think.


Find your inner 5-year old, smile softly, kick your heels up, jump through puddles (your shoes will dry), say good morning to people you pass, and good job to people who pass you, hurdle rocks, branches, tree stumps, go off the trail, get scratches on your ankles and shins, sprint to that next tree, then take a break, listen to your breath.  Listen to the animals, warning each other that there is something wild coming down the trail.

Relax, go smooth, let time slow down, because slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

1 Mile with Uli Steidl and Geoff Roes

Sunday's Run -- Cuyamaca Peak

Yesterday, I joined Mick Gieskes for his monthly mountain run.  The plan was 6.5 miles to Cuyamaca Peak and then back down the same way for a 13 miler with nearly 2900 feet of climbing.

It was a beautiful morning, sunny and dry with some wind.  The scenery was stunning, running through the trails to the top of the peak, burnt groves of skeleton trees, a windy ocean view at the summit, and some fun downhill running on the return.  Three of us were running together and we missed the turn to get back on the trail, so we ended up on Hwy 79, sharing the shoulder-less road with recreational vehicles and motorcycles, jumping into thorny bushes around blind turns.  I finally found some familiar trail along the 79 (at about mile 48 on the Lost Boys course), and we soon found ourselves making our own trail, crossing a river and trying to stay parallel to the road.

This hill was so steep that we needed a rope to climb it

Looking Back

I loved this video and wanted to share it. The thing that struck me most was Kami Semick discussing the amount of miles she runs in a year (between 3,000 and 4,000), and the minuscule percentage of those miles (10 or 20 miles) where it all comes together in a race and are pure bliss, and all that effort and training is worth it.

As I look back at the past year, I have been lucky to experience some truly blissful miles.

Hiking into Tengboche, Nepal and seeing Mt. Everest for the first time, after hiking all day following a night of 105 fever, and delirious dreams, pulling it together and sitting with my mom and two brothers on the rough, hand built stone wall underneath the Buddhist monastery, in the shadow of the peaks where people risk life to climb, some still up there, goals frozen in time and desire.

Pacing my friend Kara at the San Diego 100, watching courage in action, a will that would not be denied, forcing a run after 99 miles to finish under 24 hours. That sunrise, after running under stars, and wandering along the Pacific Crest Trail, was one of the most welcome and beautiful that I have ever seen.

Climbing Mt. Whitney under the Persied meteor shower, headlamp glowing a soft halo on the trail.

The last 7 miles of the Lost Boys 50 mile trail race, where I knew I had accomplished my goal of top 10, knowing I could walk some if I wanted, but not wanting to, feeling the energy of the finish line pulling me and seeing my family at the end.

Being halfway through the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim, and knowing that we were going to finish. Taking a break at Phantom Ranch, sipping lemonade mixed with iced tea, sitting and relaxing for a few precious minutes, knowing that there was one more hard climb and the day, the beautifully torturous day would be done.

These are the moments that stand out, but when I think back over the past year, some of the best times I had while running were running with friends, talking about families, upcoming races, training tips and racing strategy, chilling over a post-run coffee, sweat-drenched and stinky, or stretching after a hard track workout with friends, wonderful people that I never would have known if not for this gift of the run.

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