44 Days to Go

September 28, 2007

44 days, 8 hours, 43 minutes before the starting gun for the OBX Marathon.

Training is coming along, I suppose. I’ve been able to squeeze in some shorter runs during the work week to supplement my long runs on the weekends. I missed my long run during last weekend’s rafting adventure. I’ll pay for it this weekend, as my training calendar tells me I have 15 on tap.

Any advice/inspiration out there from anyone who was once 6 weeks away from their first marathon and came out the other side?


Gauley Postscript – Could vs. Should

September 27, 2007

We had big waves, and we had a safe return.

It was a great trip.  This was the sixth year that I’ve been organizing these rafting trips, and we had our biggest contingent yet with 13 rafters.  Several are repeats who have come to look at this trip as an annual rite of early autumn, but every year we add a few more to the list.  Everyone was gracious with their thanks to me for organizing the trip, and my response was always the same – I’m happy to do it.  Organizing a rafting weekend every year guarantees that I will be able to go rafting every year.  And, I do get a lot of pleasure out of making the experience available to others.  This year’s trip, however, left me wondering whether there is a way for rafting to play a more prominent role in my life.

In a blog post written while we were getting ready to set out on the Lower Gauley run, my wife showed how well she knows me:

They’ll come home thumping their chests dreaming of jobs that allow for this kind of fun every weekend and on the days in between! Monday morning will come quickly and will hit hard. Such reality is never pretty! Soon the fantasies of the dream job on the river will fade and they’ll begin making plans for next fall’s river trip.

Guilty as charged.  With 15 notches in my whitewater rafting belt, a dozen of them on either the Upper or Lower Gauley, I have to admit that the thought of leading trips instead of paying for them has crossed my mind.  This is nothing new, as I’ve always returned from my rafting adventures euphoric and full of grand ideas.  However, as I’ve gotten to know some of the guides on more of a personal level, I’ve come to realize that joining their ranks really is within the realm of possibility.

After all, not all river guides are pony-tailed 20-somethings who alternate between guiding in the summer and teaching snowboarding in the winter, living out of their car all the while.  There are Gauley guides who spend Monday-Friday behind a desk, or in a classroom, or even a courtroom.  While some Gauley guides are transients and others are West Virginia locals, there are many more who live up to several hours away.  They clock out of their “real” jobs on Friday afternoon, then head to W.Va for the weekend.  In fact, our guide this weekend has a longer commute from his home in Ohio than I would have from Charlottesville.     

So what would it take to become a guide?  I’m physically capable, and have a reasonable whitewater experience base upon which to build.  I would need to go through guide training, which takes place on successive weekends throughout the spring.  Once trained, guides can start leading trips on the New throughout the summer and fall, then the Lower Gauley, and finally the Upper Gauley. 

And that, of course, is why I can’t be a river guide.  The fact that I could spend my weekends as a river guide doesn’t mean that I should spend my weekends as a river guide.  There are guides who are married, and there are guides who have children.  However, I think it’s a safe bet that there are few if any guides who live three hours away from the river and have four children.  If there are, they certainly aren’t involved with their families’ lives in the way that I need to be with mine.

It’s taken me a few days to come to grips with this reality, as my wife predicted.  Now I feel rather silly and selfish for even having considered it.  But, it was an important exercise for me to work through.  Self-awareness and all that, you know. 

If my life situation was different, I believe that I would be guiding, regardless of whatever I was doing Monday-Friday.  I really do feel that strong a connection to it – the river, the adventure, the whitewater fraternity.  But, my life is not different, and I thank God that it is not.   

Crossing Off The List

September 21, 2007

I keep a mental list of outdoor adventures that I want to undertake before I am too old to do so.  Some of the things on my lifetime adventure to-do list will probably, once checked off, fall into the “been there, done that, got the t-shirt, don’t need to do it again” category. 

Skydiving, for instance.  I really want to jump out of an airplane.  But, once I do, I somehow doubt that I will feel compelled to repeat the experience.  Perhaps I will – I had a housemate in law school who had hundreds of jumps in his log, had his own gear, and would have done it every weekend if time and finances allowed.  Maybe I too will become similarly hooked.  But, I don’t think so.  I want to skydive for the experience of doing it – I don’t see myself wanting to spend my weekends refining my technique. 

Caving is another example.  My underground experience up to this point is limited to Luray Caverns.  I would like to go down deep where they don’t give tours and charge admission, to get muddy and probably a little scared exploring the world underneath our feet.  I have an uncle who was an avid caver college, and spent a lot of his free time exploring and even camping in the caverns of western North Carolina.  My uncle and I are alike in many ways, but I think our paths diverge here.  I have a touch of claustrophobia and I just don’t see myself making a habit of squeezing through tight underground passages.  I would like to do it once, however.

One thing that is not in the “been there, done that” category is paddling world class whitewater.  Year after year I find myself organizing trips to raft the Gauley River in West Virginia.  I have rafted the Gauley – the “Beast of the East” – 5 times.  I can recite the Class V rapids on the Upper Gauley by heart:  Insignificant, Pillow Rock, Iron Ring, Lost Paddle, Sweet’s Falls.  I can picture them all in my mind’s eye, even sitting here in front of my computer.  It’s not like the rapids change all that much from year to year, after all.   

So why is whitewater rafting not on my “been there, done that” list?  I think it’s because the night before every Gauley trip, I get butterflies in my stomach.  I have rafted those rapids before, and I know what to expect, but if I push the bravado aside, what’s left is a healthy case of good old-fashioned nervousness.  But, if the pattern holds, that nervousness will soon give way to exhiliration, and then I will return home wondering only half-jokingly if there is any way that I could support a family of 6 while working as a river guide.  That is why whitewater remains on my lifetime list, to be crossed off again and again and again.

We head up to West Virginia tomorrow morning.  Wish us big waves and a safe return.    


Easy For Me To Say

September 20, 2007

This photo gave me pause the first time I saw it. 


Taken at one of Morgan’s recent cross country meets, it shows me (and another coach/dad in the foreground) urging the runnners up a hill. “Shorten your stride!” “Use your arms!” “You can do it!”

Easy for me to say.

Cross country is a unique sport in that, depending on the course layout, spectators may be able to see and cheer on their runner(s) at several points during the race. There are no bleachers or designated seats, and anyone so inclined can run back and forth between various locations along the course to check on/cheer/encourage their runner.

I’ve really enjoyed being able to do this at Morgan’s meets, and so far my efforts have been well-received by the girls. I’m a little unsettled by how I appear in this photo, however. While everything that I was saying was positive, this photo is a good reminder to beware of the line between enthusiastic spectator and obnoxious parent.

After all, it’s the girls who are running the race, not me.

Sacramento Reflections

September 19, 2007

I am, in fact, back from my trip to Sacramento.  Not that you could tell from my blogging output, or lack thereof.

I usually manage to get a post or three done while I am on the road.  Something about being alone in a hotel room with my laptop, a high speed connection, and no distractions.  But, for a variety of reasons, I was nearly post-less last week, and haven’t done any better since I’ve been home.  I’ve missed it, and will do better.  

A few Sacramento reflections:

The highlight of my week was a side trip to Oakland that I took on Thursday night.  Oakland, you say?  Of all of the places that I could have visited in California, why Oakland?  The answer is that is where my brother Brian lives. 

While I would not have forgiven myself if I had spent a week within 100 miles of Brian and had not made an effort to see him, I honestly did not feel like making the trip. Thursday had been a long day near the end of a long week, and what I really wanted to do was go for a run, get some dinner, and crash. Instead, I gassed up the rental car, chugged some caffeine, and headed southwest to Oakland.

After surviving an 80-mile journey that featured my introduction to Bay area rush hour traffic (including the idiotic California custom known as motorcycle lane splitting and a uniquely California traffic report that warned motorists of a guy who had stopped his car on the freeway, taken off his shirt, and was running wildly through traffic), I finally made it to Brian’s place.  He and his girlfriend are living in an industrial part of town (I assume that there are non-industrial parts of Oakland, although I didn’t see any) in a warehouse building that is being converted into funky apartments.  Lots of space for him to rehearse, which he enjoys.  

We had a good visit.  We went down to Berkley (and now I have a better idea why they call it “Beserkley”) and had sushi for supper.  After I managed to put all thoughts of hook-baiting out of my mind, it was actually quite good.  I brought Brian up to speed on the latest goings-on of his East Coast Fan Club (his nieces and nephew), and was able to get a better sense of what he’s up to than I’ve had for a while.  We have chosen different paths in life, but I’ve come to realize that it’s OK.  Brian is happy, does no harm, and spreads goodwill wherever he can.  That’s more than most can say. 

As I said, my visit with Brian was the highlight of my week.  I had a couple of 6-mile runs along the American River Parkway that were good workouts, but not the scenic jaunts that I had hoped for. Things were looking good as I veered off of the asphalt walkway onto one of the many inviting singletrack trails leading off into the woods, but after running into one homeless person’s campsite after another, I concluded that the trails weren’t exactly runner-friendly. I have a soft spot in my heart for homeless people as a result of my involvement with the PACEM ministry, but I wasn’t comfortable getting up close and personal with these guys in the woods. It’s one thing hosting homeless men as guests in your church, and quite another to run through their living room without an invitation – even if their living room is a hidden clearing in a public park. So, it was back to the asphalt paths for me.

What else? Oh yes, work – the reason I was there in the first place. Apart from one missed meeting where my customer had sent me an Outlook appointment that saved as 3 hours later on my calendar due to the time zone differential (so she was expecting me at 11:00 a.m. while my calendar told me it was a 2:00 p.m. meeting), my appointments went well, on the whole. People are people, even if they don’t share your accent.

So there it is. A rather disjointed post, but at least I’m back in the saddle. More to follow.  

On the Road (Yet) Again

September 11, 2007

I’m in Sacramento for a week-long business trip.  I had originally scheduled the trip for a couple of weeks ago, but we had a variety of unrelated household emergencies erupt on the eve of my departure (I’ll spare you the details but the net result was no water + no air conditioning + standing water in the basement), so I rescheduled.

A couple of weeks and several thousand dollars later, we have water, we have A/C, and the basement is (temporarily, at least) dry.  I can now travel in good conscience.

Sort of.

My job has always had a rather significant travel component, but it has been, on the whole, manageable.  (This is the cue for my wife to say “easy for you to say”).  However, travel is becoming an increasingly defining aspect of my work, and it’s wearing thin. 

For most of my colleagues, travel doesn’t seem to be much of a problem.  Over the past few years we have hired a number of hard-charging young 20-somethings with no kids, no spouse, and lots of ambition.  Business travel is still an adventure for them, and is simply a fact of life as they work their way up the ladder. 

The situation is a bit different for those of us who have been around longer.  Most of my peers do leave a spouse at home while they rack up the frequent flier miles, just as I do.  While absence may make the heart grow fonder, I doubt that many relish the separation.  However, no one has ever had to worry about their spouse growing up while they are on the road. 

Not so with kids….

Print is Not Dead, But….

September 6, 2007

Working in the publishing industry, I am attuned to the claim that “print is dying.”  As Mark Twain said of reports of his own demise, this is an exaggeration. E-books arrived with much hoopla a few years back, but we’re still cutting down trees. There’s just something about holding a book in your hands, feeling and turning the printed page, that a computer screen can’t replace.

That said, I do want to pass along a neat site that I recently came across. Readprint.com is a free online library that provides instant access to thousands of classic works. It’s hard to imagine sitting down and scrolling and clicking your way through Moby Dick or The Aeneid, but you could if you wanted to. More realistically, maybe this site and others like it will pique the reader’s interest enough to head down to the library or bookstore and check out the real thing.

While I’m at it, let me take this opportunity to plug the bookstore of a friend and former colleague – check it out!