Race Report: Sandlot Minor League Half Marathon

A year ago a bunch of my friends decided to do something crazy… run a marathon around a baseball diamond. This breaks down to 384 times around the bases, which is the number of home runs that baseball player Harold Baines hit during his career. The entire event was just for fun, and because of an injury a couple days before, I decided to just go and hang out with folks.

Fast forward to 2019, and this is now a full fledged event. My friends put together a race directing team and turned their little idea into a big happening. This year 35 people signed up to run 26.2 miles in a small circle. Thankfully, they offered some smaller options for folks like myself who just weren’t ready to commit to that level of crazy, and so I signed up for the half marathon, only 192 times around the diamond. As an added bonus, I would get to do this on my birthday!

lrg_dsc09178Even though my race didn’t start until 12:15, I showed up nice and early to hear my wife sing the national anthem and watch the craziness happening on the other other two fields. The entire event was an awesome, baseball themed party, complete with a 7th inning stretch where everyone had to stop for hot dogs. They gave out baseballs as the medal, and everyone got a commemorative baseball card for participating. The event garnered a bunch of attention that even a local news show came out to put together a feature on it.

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I hung out with friends and tried to relax, but eventually 12:15 hit and it was time to start my journey. I started out with the pack, probably going just a little too fast, before easing into a nice steady pace. Rounding the bases didn’t seem too bad at first. I was able to chat with people and distract myself pretty regularly throughout the race. However, the real story of the day was the condition of the field. Our massive snowfalls had yet to melt, and so the path that had been cleared on the baselines was covered with water that had no where to go. Within 10 laps my feet were soaking wet.

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Some of us tried to find ways around the puddles, and the grounds crew attempted to fix some problem areas, but when all was said and done… it was just going to be sloppy and wet. I moved as best as I could in the conditions, but towards the end I could tell that my legs were feeling very done with this constant turning to the left. Around the 10 mile mark I decided to walk a few laps and drink a beer while I did. This was one of my highlights as I got to enjoy some moving time, and a tasty beverage, in my own personal 7th inning stretch.

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PC: Fresh Tracks Media

I lost track of my laps pretty quickly, and my GPS watch was destined to be dramatically off. These watches just aren’t meant to record data that precisely when your track is in the same place over and over again. Additionally, we were cutting the inside of the baseline pretty tight, to avoid puddles, and over 192 times around, this will heavily skew where the GPS thinks you are. Needless to say, I had no idea how close I was to finishing, until my friend Troy, who was helping keep track of laps, informed me that I had 20 laps to go.

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 3.58.32 PMI started counting them down, and when I hit 10 I breathed a sigh of release. After 192 laps I crossed the lap counter and was told I was done. My watch only registered 12 miles, but I didn’t care. I hobbled over to the main aid station and grabbed another beer to chug in celebration. My wife arrived and kindly brought me some dry shoes to put on. Shortly after, the entire event wrapped up and we all headed home.

In the following days I have discovered that I did injure my gastroc muscle in my right calf. There’s a tremendously tender spot, and running and walking has been a challenge. I’m spending a lot of time stretching and rolling it out, and it’s getting better, but it certainly shows the dangers of doing a crazy event like this.

Despite the lingering issues, I am happy I gave this an attempt this year. I had a great time with all my friends, and I know it’s an experience that I’ll never forget. However, next year, I think I’ll just volunteer!

 

Responding to tragedy as a non-theist

Back when I considered myself a Christian, I never had much difficulty in finding a way to respond to tragic events, or evil in the world. There were multitudes of theological formulae that could help bring comfort to a situation that felt hopeless. We would talk of how no matter how bleak things looked, Jesus was still Lord. We would declare that despite human evil and sin, God was there to bring peace. Our God gave us strength to triumph over our adversity and look with anticipation towards a new day.

Now that I no longer consider myself someone who believes in a deity, those old comforts ring hollow. In light of tragedies, such as the mass shooting in New Zealand, non-theists like myself need to find answers that don’t come from the concept of a spiritual being, or a divine creator. We need to discover how we can best respond to tragedy that aligns with our worldview, where humans alone are responsible for their actions, and the promise of an afterlife doesn’t exist.

Despite the fact that we don’t believe in a divine presence, we still need a framework by which to engage with the world. The word ‘theology’ comes from the Greek word theos meaning god, and the notion of logia which denotes a study or knowledge of a thing. In modern times the idea of theology has been generally equated to the study of the Christian God, though by definition it can apply to other theistic or spiritual faiths as well. When we talk about theology, we ask questions about how human existence and the spiritual interconnect in the world. Theology is only relevant in terms of how it affects the life of human beings.

As a non-theist, can we have a theology? Undoubtedly yes! If we break apart the word theology again, we then can ask the question, what is the theos that a non-theist is talking about? If a person does not believe in a deity, the concept of non-belief becomes the theos of theology! To a non-theist, the lack of a divine presence is the building block upon which we study and know things in our life. The theos in ‘theology’, for a non-theist, is the foundation of how we approach life. It’s the basis for how we answer the tough questions about how we should live and exist in the world with other human beings.

The theology of non-theism is a belief that we only have one life to live, and therefore how we act and treat others has a direct impact on how each and every one of the hours that we have left, is spent.  If we treat people badly, and without love, then our lives will be lesser for it. Whereas if we approach the world with compassion, grace, love, and respect, our own lives will be enriched and more full. Creating, loving, sacrificing… these are all acts that bring life to it’s fullest, not just or us, but for those around us. If we only have one life to live, why shouldn’t it be as full as it can be?

So, how does this influence how we respond to tragedy? If we can’t bring comfort in the hope of an afterlife, how do we wrestle with the hatred and death that surrounds us? We bring hope through the understanding that every action that we do has an impact in the hear and now, and that fact is of utmost importance. By showing love and compassion to those who need it most, we’re improving not just their life, but the entire human condition as well. Every act of sacrifice that we perform enriches our understanding of what it means to be human. We learn and grow as we show love to others, and this growth helps bring our society together. Just because we don’t have the promise of a life hereafter, does not mean that the non-theist cannot bring love into another’s life.

When events such as racially charged mass shootings happen, the response of the non-theist should be one of anger, sorrow and grief, but also of hope. Hope that when evil is brought out into the light that it is shown for what it truly is, and that its lies and ugliness becomes a repugnant smell to everyone around it. Hope that those who suffer can be given comfort and care by people who can show them love. Hope that anger and pain can be turned into positive actions that make a difference in the lives of those who will come after us. We do good in the world, for the sake of the world.

The late Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better, when we all do better.” This is the theology of the non-theist (and many theists!). A theology of hope and compassion towards everyone around you, seeking to make the world the best it can be in the time that we have.

A snowshoe adventure

This February, Minnesota decided to show us what a good old snowmageddon feels like. With over 30 inches of snow in the month it became the snowiest February on record, and one of the snowiest months ever. All of this meant that people like myself who love playing outside in the winter have a magical playground waiting for them. In particular, this year was amazing for getting out the snowshoes.

There was one problem though… I didn’t own any. I hemmed and haw’d for weeks deciding what to buy until finally a couple of weeks ago I pulled the trigger on some clearance Redfeather Hike shoes from REI Outlet. The price was right, and as luck would have it, we had one more snow storm on track for the weekend after they were arriving. I would get at least one shot at using them before we turn into a wet mess.

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This past weekend my buddy Mike B. and I headed out to the Elm Creek Singletrack to snowshoe for a while. The snow had just stopped on Sunday morning and so we were the absolute first people on the trail. We headed out and I got used to the different movement that you need to make when wearing snowshoes. It’s a lot of quad work when lifting your legs higher, and made the entire morning feel like a slight hill workout.

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I need to work on my look. Mike looks way cooler than me!

We were breaking trail the whole way, but the shoes made it easy to stay on top of. We managed to cut a decent path that the bike groomers could use as a base later in the day. Our biggest issue was all of the low hanging branches that were collapsing under the weight of the snow. We had to stop far more often than we would have liked to shake snow off the trees, so that they would no longer bend down and block our path.

img_4166Despite this, the morning was amazingly beautiful. The sky was incredibly blue, and the temps were in the upper 20’s. We only had to wear light layers to stay comfortable, and at times I was even taking off my hat. In the end we did 7 miles in about 3 hours of hiking. My Strava showed that I got a decent workout through it all and I certainly felt the burn when I got done.

img_4167The one issue was that I was wearing my new Vasque Arrowhead boots, and it turns out that they are just a bit too big for me. I will most likely need to wear multiple layers of socks when wearing them in the future. However, I ended up with two very severe blisters on the back of my ankles where my foot was loose.

img_4169When snowshoeing your foot moves up and down a lot, and that meant that my ankles were constantly rubbing. About half-way into the hike I noticed the problem, but I had nothing with me to fix the problem, so I had to just soldier through and get back to the car. Two days later and I’m still in intense pain when they get rubbed. It’s time for some aloe treatments tonight to try and speed up healing.

Despite this issue, I absolutely loved snowshoeing. It was some of the most fun I’ve had out on the trails in a long time. I got to spend time with a good friend, on a beautiful morning, doing something amazing. You can’t ask for much more.

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Quick Review: Captain Marvel

For my son’s birthday we decided to take in a movie. Captain Marvel just came out and so it seemed like a great option. I’m happy to report that we weren’t disappointed.

I’ll keep this review spoiler free as best I can, but I do need to comment on a few things that I really enjoyed. Right off the bat I have to comment on the setting. This movie is set in the 1990’s and they captured the era amazingly. At one point I actually asked myself the question, “Where in the world did they find so many mid-90’s cars that are still operable!” It was this attention to detail that added a huge amount of charm to the overall story.

I also really appreciated that there was a bit of humor in this film. It was really successful in movies like Ant Man, and Thor: Ragnarok, and it helped to keep the characters more believable in Captain Marvel. After all, we’re expected to accept that we’re seeing Nick Fury and SHIELD in it’s early days and that we’re not supposed to know anything about him yet. It was fun to actually get re-introduced to the character and fill in a lot of back-story.

The visuals were top notch as usual, and the story was as fun as the best Marvel movies. Brie Larson does a great job as Captain Marvel, and was an excellent choice for the role. She has a toughness to her personality that is offset by a bit of roguish charm. It makes her believable and entertaining.

I’d recommend going to see this in the theaters and seeing it on the big screen. As with most comic book movies, the visuals are worth seeing on a big screen. Captain Marvel is a fun ride, and I’m anxious for everything to tie together in Avengers: Endgame.

Starting the running year off well

One of the big successes I had last year was in my running. I managed to shatter my mileage from previous years and topped out at 1600 miles. One of the weakest areas of my 2018 though was my early training. It took me quite a while, last winter, to get back up to speed, and I hoped that this year I’d be able to reverse that trend.

However, what I’ve discovered is that isn’t really realistic for me. Coming off a big December means I need a bit of a rest before jumping right back in. I realize a lot of people might be able to go strong 12 months out of the year, but I’ve found that it just doesn’t work for me. Between the cold, the dark, and the general feeling of needing a break, the year usually starts off pretty weak for me.

I’ve also discovered, now that I’m heavily involved in the winter ultra scene, I just don’t have as much time as I thought I did in January. Tuscobia is at the end of December, the St Croix 40 is the second week of January, and then Arrowhead 135 finishes out the month. Toss in a potential trip to Vegas, and I feel like I need to change jobs to something where I can just take the entire month off.

It’s not all bad news though. I went back and looked at where I’m at this year, compared to last year. As of today I’m only about 13 miles shy of my 2018 running totals on this date. What that tells me is that I’m on the same trajectory that I was last year. With how good last year turned out, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. From a long term maintenance outlook, 1200-1600 miles per year is just fine with me. Maybe some years it’ll go higher, but I really don’t need to keep pushing for a new goal every. single. year.

There’s a phenomena that hits most trail runners. We accomplish something, and then we need to move on to the next big thing, and then the next EVEN BIGGER thing, and so on. Eventually, you reach a point where you come to realize that every year doesn’t have to be bigger than the last. You can run for the joy of running and go with whatever sounds interesting. Maybe there’s a year where you just do some shorter races, or perhaps it’s a big multi-ultra year. What matters is realizing that whatever you do, it should be done with joy.

I’m on the right track this year. I’m running happy and ready for whatever adventures await. Go out and experience life, and run with joy.