My brother is visiting this weekend which led me to pause and try to remember when I last saw him in person. The tally came to almost a year; we were in the Outer Banks together for a weekend last August. The arrival of my niece on Christmas meant the family could not all be together for the holidays, a trip to meet my niece was interrupted in January when one of my parents’ dogs tragically ran away, and two trips have had to be put on hold due to COVID. Too many of these moments have been taken from people and as well as I think I’ve adjusted to the need to be constantly adjusting god do I miss normalcy sometimes.
The oppressive heat and humidity of this northeast Ohio summer have receded in recent weeks and left behind a beach at low tide strewn with bits and pieces of an urge to lace up and go run. I’m not sure the will to sustain any sort of training exists yet but here and there is a jagged four-miler or a smooth and colorful eight-miler through the woods. For a little longer I’m resisting the urge to run. Having decided my running house needs a rebuild I want to further solidify the foundation, plastering up cracks, squaring up walls, and replacing ill-fitting stones. But I am interpreting the desire to return to the road as a good tiding.
A mixed gender cross country relay could possibly be coming to the Paris 2024 Olympics? Hell. Yes.
Kilian Jornet’s idea of fun is ultrarunning up the faces of mountains, and I am talking about the big ones: Denali and Everest to name a few. In this interview with GQ (when did GQ become a running outlet by the way?) Jornet offers refreshingly practical advice on recovery and dieting. If you read this piece and come away thinking, “There’s no way it can be that easy,” just know that at Precision Nutrition, one of the world’s foremost nutrition coaching services (and whose coaching course I have certifying in during the pandemic) the bulk of the programming focuses on exactly what Jornet lays out, mainly knowing your hunger cues, eating less processed food, and having a consistent recovery routine. A consistent focus on the basics can literally help you scale mountains.
In the early days of the pandemic I made my case for mindfulness amidst troubling times. Here Molly Hanson provides a handy tutorial on mindfulness for runners, defining mindfulness and meditation, explaining how a mindfulness practice can improve performance and resilience, and providing examples from professional runners to show how it can benefit your training and racing. If you read this and are inspired to give mindfulness a try, let me recommend the MyLife app and specifically the Relax, Ground, and Clear and Lion Mind meditations.
If you have been reading this newsletter the last few months you know that I have been working on building better habits to develop a more focused life following the rapid detox of sorts that was Ohio’s stay-at-home order in the early days of the pandemic. Despite my familiarity with several excellent books on habits and habit formation, specifically Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit and James Clear’s Atomic Habits, I have found, as writer Oliver Burkeman has, that knowing the theory and applying it to real life are two different things. Burkeman’s advice on overriding old, bad habits is simple and forgiving: move forward with doing what is right one day at a time. The results will eventually build from there.
I wrote in last week’s newsletter that I try to approach COVID skeptics with compassion given that we have not lived through something like this in our lifetimes and that scientific information in the pandemic is ever evolving as more is understood about the novel virus. This article from David Epstein is an excellent tutorial of how scientific hypotheses are published, gain traction, and then are revised as more information comes to light. The focus of Epstein’s article is on an early link between people with type A blood appearing to suffer more severe cases of COVID, however his advice could be applied to any number of areas related to the virus, including the much-hyped benefits of hydroxychloroquine and the belief that contaminated surfaces are a major vector of COVID transmission. Epstein ends with important advice on how to handle the shifting understanding further research provides us, something that will be critical as we get closer to what will hopefully be a safe and effective vaccine.
Apologies to Brad Stulberg for always linking to his stuff. I swear I am not trying to build a small following off your work, Brad. This article, though, spoke to me because in the absence of racing the care and attention I would have devoted to training has been applied instead to growing zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers. Stulberg explains why this is true across the country as people turn to various activities such as gardening and baking to fill both their time and psychological need for self-determination. He also suggests, in a theme keeping with my own quest to make some of my pandemic habits stick, that we look at what a new hobby like gardening does for our psyches and then find ways to keep those hobbies in our lives as the world slowly builds back toward normalcy.
This Week’s Quote
“Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.
“You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time.”
– the late Representative John Lewis
Andrew and I took a week away from discussing how we are rebuilding our running to interview Katie Biro about her experience donating a kidney to her father. The experience leaves Katie, at least as a runner, back at square one and she details her goals moving forward as she starts to consider what her running will look like in the coming months. Visit Rust Belt Running to find out where you can listen to all episodes of our show.
A Small Request
This newsletter is a labor of love and I would write it even if no one read it (as it is few people right now do). I do not write because I have all the answers but rather because the topics interest me and because writing about them allows me to further explore them, internally debate them, and work through them. I share these links because reading them and thinking about them helps me to be better in my running, in my coaching, in my relationships, and in life. If you read this newsletter and think it would benefit someone you know, I ask that you take the time to share it with them. If you have a question for me or a comment on how I can be better in this space, please take the time to reach out. Thanks.