A Youth Well (Mis)Spent: Paper Routes

Do they even have paper routes any more?  I'm sure they do, but given the demise of the newspaper industry as a result of the internet, I doubt they are as abundant as they used to be.  It's been years since I've seen one.  But I grew up on a paper route delivering the Salem News.  I started with part of a route (the few farthest houses that my brother didn't want to do) when I was in second grade, and then, I took his route as he inherited an even closer route from someone else sometime around fourth grade and eventually both my route and my brother's route by sixth or seventh grade.

Implemented by my father to help my brother and I to learn to be responsible, it was one of the best decisions he forced upon us young boys.  The paper route paid me more than just a weekly allowance.  It generated a variety of life lessons and opportunities that helped me in myriad ways throughout my life.  

Monday through Wednesday, it was always a race to finish it and be off to other activities, playing with friends, sports, video games, etc.  But Thursday through Saturday were different (my paper didn't run on Sundays).  Thursday through Saturday was collection days, which meant the trip was longer, but often more rewarding.  Customers were quirky.  Some habitually left an envelope, almost never interacting with me.  Others would pay by check for weeks in advance (of which keeping track was a headache, but the boon of 10 weeks in advance was awesome), while others would constantly forget, or I would hound them, coming by several times over the weekend to collect.  Much akin to the paperboy in "Better Off Dead."

Saturdays were the trickiest because there were priorities to balance.  During the week, the papers were dropped off around 1pm and I had until 5pm to deliver them.  I also worried about this deadline (again, my dad takes responsibility for this in making both my brother and I a bit OCD about time--if I'm not 15 minutes early, I feel like I'm 10 minutes late), but I usually had ample time to spare.  However, Saturdays, the papers showed up around 9am and I had until 12pm to deliver them.  In general, this should be fine; the paper route, even with collecting would take about an hour.  However, it was that thrillful time of Saturday morning for a youth that it became challenging.  I had Saturday morning cartoons to watch and the paper route had to be addressed.  Eventually, the VCR became the nearly perfect solution.  It's only detraction is that starting the paper route meant a clear end to my Saturday morning, which was a ritual unto itself.  My Friday night treat was to get to sleep on the couch in the living room when growing up; I'd get up uber-early, 6am and start my Saturday morning cartoons (granted at 6am was only Bob the Painter most times, but it wouldn't matter).  But when it was time to do the paper route, I had to put away the sleeping bag and other such things.

For much of my middle school years, the paper route funded my other obsessions:  comic books and video games.  In fact, for much of my paper-route years, my parents' disposition to things I wanted was to save for it and buy it with my paper-route money.  Indeed, I had a running tally with my parents in that if I borrowed money, I would need to pay it back and it would be "on the wall" (my father would keep a small piece of paper tacked to his den wall of what was owed).  So it taught me to varying degrees, financial responsibility (which to some degree I lost much of during my college years--but that's another story).

One of the keenest lessons I took from that paper route was the ability to talk to adults.  Each week entailed encounters with some 20-35 adults in which we would have conversations or small talk while they fished for money for collection or even asked about me and my life.  That gave me upwards of 1000-1500 interactions a year with adults besides the usual interactions with parents, teachers, etc.  Some jokes, some were gruff, some were disinterested, but all allowed me to learn de facto lessons about dealing and interacting with people.  I was also taught well by my parents about being respectful (even if I had ulterior purposes:  better tips).  I remember I went the distance with passing out calendars that the newspaper company gave us to give away along with my own purchased holiday cards that I would sign and pass out a week before Christmas (to ensure great tips for Christmas week, of course).  And in hindsight, I realize that to my dismay, I most likely insulted several of my customers who I realize were Jewish or some other religion.  It was nice of them not to berate me for my ignorance at least.

Whenever I think about that paper-route, I also laugh at the names of people.  A paper route is speckled with characters and mine was no different.  There was the "man in the ditch"--who as a person was a nice man but whose house was in a small down hill section of the street that was characterized as a "ditch" because it was almost below street-level.  There was Mr. Tweed, who I always wanted to call Boss Tweed (not really knowing who Boss Tweed was but knowing the two went together), he was always smoking a cigar, looked like he could be the slimmer parental figure to the Penguin and always had a friendly disposition.  There was Gary who first enlisted my help  to show him how to get past an obstacle in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on Nintendo and later would be an adult who gave me good advice and even hired me for his landscaping company a few times.  There was State Senator, Frederick Berry, who taught me that someone with a handicap is a competent and intelligent person and not "handicapped person."  There were many other colorful characters and many were kind in many different ways.  They gave me tips, advice, and even sometimes, meals.  Others were less kind and gave me headaches...or dog bites.  I was bitten by two of my customers' dogs.

I don't know if there is likely to be a replacement for the paper-route in the 21st century.  Between the demise of the newspaper industry and a culture rampant with "stranger danger", I wonder how many kids will miss out on such an opportunity.  I know for me it made a world of difference in helping me as I became an adult.  I'm sure many jobs were acquired and approval of parents whose daughters I was dating came as a direct result of the experience and interaction I honed while on the route.

I wonder what ever happened to my paper route bag.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Tales of 9 Runs: Born to Run

As mentioned previously, I was and just finished reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  This is not my first book on sports and health, but it is my first book about running and one that I enjoyed.  Though I find the sometime-meandering path and narrative McDougall laid out a bit tedious at times, there was still much to take from it.  Of course, in hindsight, McDougall's approach made sense.  Constantly, I was thinking in the back of my mind, "Tell me how they did it!"  And just as I thought I would get the answer, the book trailed off down other paths.  I realized that it was in part a representation of the story he was telling about the nature of running.  The impatient American mind (me) wants the "answer" (as if there was one singular clear answer) in a nice clean box and not have to hear about all these other things such as past races, the people involved, etc.

Indeed, McDougall's pacing was overall agreeable and interesting as he shifted back and forth between discussing some of the greatest ultra-marathon runners in the world, the coming together of some of the world's greatest runners in a race with the Tarahumara, and exploring the evolutionary biology that underpins humans ability to run serious distances.  McDougall is also great with his scene-setting and race descriptions.  Despite some of these races being some 15 years or older, his proses puts the reader right into the event.

At the core of his book, McDougall illustrates that we have drifted from fully understanding our body's abilities as they pertain to running and more improtantly, the necessity of our feet to be more connected to the ground in order for them to better report and our bodies better adjust to how moving on our legs impacts our entire body.  Without honest feedback from our feet about the impact of each step, the rest of our body cannot properly adjust.  The high end shoes block pain but not impact and pain is a feedback system that helps us move our bodies in more appropriate ways.

The book gave me ample insights and helped me better understand why I was able to enjoy running for the first time in my life.  It helped me accomplish what I thought would have been impossible 1.5 years ago and encourages me to try for even further distances.

I would recommend the book to anyone flirting with trying to run or starting to run.  I think there's a lot of potential to harness for neophytes like myself.  I also think that more traditional runners might be intrigued by the ideas that McDougall offers.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Tales of 9 Runs: Ok, Clearly Bit Off More Than I Could Chew

So today's Greenbelt's 3rd Annual Beverly Commons Trail Run didn't go as expected.  I signed up for the 7.3 mile ride, but only completed the 3.6 mile trail. In the context of everything, I'll take that as a win.  This week as a whole has been a major epic win in running.  I ran about 35 miles...in a single week.
Lance Eaton after the Greenbelt's 3rd Annual Beverly Commons Trail Run
After the run-hurting

I talked about my major breakthrough on last Sunday.  This was followed up by a 5.4 mile run on Tuesday and then my friend and I went for a 10.8 mile run on Friday.  It was his first venture past the 9 mile mark and we had a good time of it.  Our time wasn't great, but we were aiming to finish.  More importantly, for me, I found my running with him impressive because I managed to have regular conversations over the nearly 2 hour.  We didn't talk the whole time, but we did talk.  I was never one that was good at conversing while running.  I always thought it crazy because I had enough trouble with breathing.  But sure enough, we fell into our rhythms of conversation and I was able to hold most of the conversations (though there were a few where my agreements turned into grunts).

But that good run cost me on today's run as did my ignorance.   First, I didn't realize a "trail run" was different from a regular run.  I'm still a neophyte to the terminology and lingo.  I didn't pay much attention to that word until I was looking at the information for the run this week and figured it out.  I realized I had to trade in my Vibram 5 Fingers for my Merrells with the Vibram soul because if it was a forest trail, I find the 5 Fingers usually problematic with rocks getting stuck between the toes. I generally haven't run in my Merrells--I use them mostly for work and walking around.  They're my "appropriate shoes" that don't evoke looks when walking around.  They were actually fine to run in, I was just overexerted from the previous day's run.
Lance Eaton's numbers thus far.

I got about one mile into this run and realized that I wasn't going to be able to do the full 7.3 miles.  I was very content with the decision as I could tell that if I did, I might risk hurting myself with just a week before the big run.  It wasn't worth and I had nothing to prove--I had run10.8 miles less than 16 hours ago.  I enjoyed the trail running--it was definitely harder and pushed me more than street running. It's something I will have to explore further.  Shifting directions, balancing, conscious foot placing, the ups, the downs, etc.  It pushed me and I liked it.  I was also surprised because this was the first time since I started this running kick that I've taken a dive.  At one point along the run, I tripped and hit the ground.  This served as a clear indication that I was aching and wouldn't be seeing the full 7.3 miles.  However, I didn't do too bad in the overall numbers, apparently.

Well, here I am at the end of summer and it's been a long and awesome trip.  Of the 9 I set out to do, I've now completed 7 with one more to go.  8 out of 9 is a pretty good record as far as I see it.  One week from Monday, I will be participating in the 25K Around the Cape and I'm totally ready for it.

While I'm also thinking about it, the first run that I ever participated in is going again this fall.  The 2nd Annual Lynda J Talbot 5K Memorial Run is running again this fall and I encouraged anyone reading this and in the area to join.  It's a nice 5K on October 1.  Right now, I won't be able to attend (most likely I will be in Washington DC that weekend), but you can be sure that if I am around, I will be running it--coming full circle.

Given the adventures of this week, I am giving myself a post week massage from a good friend and skilled massage therapist at Shanti Bodywork.  It will help loosen up my body for next week's big run and is a well-deserved treat for this week's performance.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Verbal Handgranades, Vitriolic Banter, and Verifiable Rape

Because I am a male, I need to preface this with certain key points.

1.  I understand the seriousness of sexual assault. 

I am thankful that I have never been a victim of it (more through luck than the fact that I'm male--on two specific times in my past, mere timing prevented it from in all likelihood occurring).  I have encountered a great many people professionally and personally that have been through it.  I've seen the way it impacted and continues to impact their lives.  In writing this, I don't look to undermine the seriousness of rape, sexual assault, or the continued sex, sexuality, and gender divide in this country.

2.  I understand that language is a powerful tool used to impair people's voices.  

That is, I realize that poor means of discussing something tells us just how problematic something is in our society.  Many are not comfortable using the "correct" names of body parts (penis, vagina, anus), nevermind having a healthy discussion about having sex without switching into analogies, metaphors, and language that masks it like dimmed lights.  Therefore, even the talk and rhetoric of women (by mostly men) can create a genuine sense of paralysis or clearly indicate certain truths that are negligent and ignorant at best.

3.  I understand that sexual assault is still a serious problem.

My discussion here does not undermine or disincline me in any way to finding sexual assault appauling, problematic, and still prevalent in our society.  It's merely what I would consider something that runs parallel to it.  A problem not entirely disconnected.

Regardless of these points and awareness, some may still decide that I'm just not getting it or just using my male privilege to ignore the "real issues."  I understand, but I think what follows is equally important to consider.

Media and progressive media are doing a disservice in their orgiastic obsession over things like Chick-Fil-A, Romney's faux paus abroad, and Akin's remarks (And I won't kid myself, I'm just as guilty of jumping on the self-righteous bandwagon).  Todd Akin’s remarks are deplorable and loathsome.  Absolutely.  And yes, they are one among many examples of the Right’s poor dealing with understanding what feminism is (sadly, they seemed to have eclipsed with Palin – especially after considering Rebecca Traister’s nuanced analysis of gender in the 2008 election in Big Girls Don’t Cry).

The concern of the political, legal, medical, and physical treatment of women is extremely important.  So many people hear the appalling comments by Akin and the like and feel that this is a sign of a slide backwards, but in context, it’s not.  Every time we have a public discussion about rape, awareness goes up.  Akin’s comments would have flown under the radar 30 years ago.  Today, even Palin is calling for his departure.  Yes, it’s a problem, but that there is a conversation going on with it speaks volumes about where we are.  We at the point of arguing how language indicates viewpoints about rape and feeling because of one's viewpoints about rape, that person should personally disqualify himself from the office he's running for.  That is progress.  One has to wonder if the events around Clarence Thomas had played out today, would he have been a legitimate candidate.  I find that unlikely--and that's just 20 years ago.  That everyone, including Republicans, feel the need to respond based solely upon words says something significant.

But what worries me, is how much we're obsessing upon this and other similar events.  In the social-networking realm, I'm seeing people post many items repeatedly in and around these subjects, communicating expressions of fear and angst over the idea that there is a war on women.  Again, I'm not saying there aren't things to be concerned about and to pay attention to, but when people are propping up the straw-man idea that the Right wants women redomesticated a la 1950s, I'm doubtful.  When people say they fear for their personal safety as a result of these things, I get concerned.

I get concerned because three different things occur in my head simultaneously and assessing which one (or ones) may be underlying the concern can be hard to calculate.

1.  Actual threat.  

Are the people expressing fear and concern in a position of genuine threat by what’s going on?  Is what’s going on directly or indirectly harming/effecting/hurting them?  And is something actually happening—that is, are specific laws being passed in places they live, actions being taking to people they know, now or in the foreseeable future?

2.  Echo chamber.  

As Eli Pariser discusses in his book, The Filter Bubble and his Ted Talk, Google and Facebook are sending us increasingly into our own echo chambers, where we keep hearing the information (and I use that word warily) that we preference (through our “Likes” “Fav” “+1s” and the like)—the algorithmic Internet keeps feeding us similar and familiar material.  This means that once you like or share one article about the war on women, you hear more and more of it.  Therefore, more and more types of those articles show up in our Facebook feeds, newsfeeds, even in our ads.   Unfortunately, this amplifying of the echo chamber  will also trigger the availability heuristic making us think that whatever is being amplified is more rampant and abundant than what may actually be happening.

3.  Distraction.  

We’re made to fixate on one thing—often a confusing or not-entirely clear thing, so that other things can occur while we’re not looking.  This is the magician’s flare or baffling with bullshit.  To some degree, this is also related to Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.  While we're posting, reposting, liking, retweeting, and spending other amounts of time talking about Akin's idiocy, what else is going on that we're missing?

What I fear when we look at the events and nonevents around women’s rights is that we’re slipping into the echo chamber and distraction, more than an actual threat.  Or rather, the threat is coming in different ways.  Our fixation and angst over the rhetoric of politicians is consuming our time, our attention, and our effort while other things are happening that are equally threatening to nature of our democracy and fairness in our society.  The almost quiet and overwhelmingly easy development of Voter ID laws that have risen in the last four years is scary.  The direct impact of these laws is numbered in the millions and has equal potential to shift outcomes of key states.  

Make no mistake, I think we still have a far way to go in terms of addressing the hundreds of thousands of sexual assaults that happen each year.    But what scares me more is that those who are disproportionately likely to have been or become victims of sexual assault  (see Fact Sheets on this document) are those who are also those who are most likely to be disproportionately affected by the Voter ID laws.  These laws speak to a rape of another sort  (Same word, different definition – “to plunder (a place); despoil OR to seize, take, or carry off by force").  If our attention to the rhetoric distracts us from protecting their inalienable rights that would seem to be a step back more.  This is what concerns me--we're being distracted by certain conversations that allow us to feel empowered by boycotting a restaurant, or calling for a resignation, but we're not doing much to actually help and effect direct and relevant outcomes.

Lastly and importantly, I don't want Democrats to win (and that's not to say I want them to win), because they properly played the fear-card by overexploiting idiotic quotes from people who clearly show us that stupidity is not a trait evolution will get rid of any time soon.  Fear sells—Bush showed us that and Republicans love the play the “Othered” card—look at the Birther movement, but hope is always better.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Tale of 9 Runs: I ran 15 miles, I got assalted, my face hurts, and it's your fault!

I just ran 15 miles.  True story.  It feels awesome.  I want to do more.  I set out today to just run, nothing else.  No clock, no distance tracking (till after), just me, my body and my music (ok, some Honey Stinger energy chews and $5 to buy a drink along the way).  But today was just me and the road and I totally rocked it.

I had a mental breakthrough this week (as opposed to a breakdown which people keep asking every time I tell them what I've been up to). As I mentioned in this post, I've been reading Christopher McDougall's Born to Run and it's been giving me ideas.  I'm still only about half way through it, but something seriously clicked during one section of it.  In one part, McDougall talks about a major element of the ultramarathoners and in particular, the Tarahumara, is their happiness.  They are happy when running.  Smiling, happy go-lucky, and joyous.  Hearing about this made me go back to a previous post that I written about with regard to emotional states while running.

It all fell into place in a serene way.  Much of my exercise in the past had been a fight with my weight, a fight with my appearance, a fight with emotions, or just trying to channel the negative emotions I've had in my life.  But this run and much of my running in the last year has been different.  It's not running at things; it's running with things.  It's running against something; it's running for something.  And that "something" is happiness.

I know that last sentence sounds like something out of the hippy-guide to living life.  But reframing running as a source of happiness is the fundamental intellectual shift of the last year for me.  It's what's broken down all barriers to running and turned it into something I desire, yearn, and welcome.  I had tried running in the past, numerous times.  I got a sense of achievement when done.  But when finished, I was glad it's over.  Now, there's a tinge of sadness when I'm done.  It's an epic win.  Excitement, enthusiasm, and just a bit of disappointment that it's over; and the wonder of how soon you can battle the next big boss.

So I took what McDougall said and I added a few elements to it.  First, I visualized my run.  I kept thinking about the route (roughly), the state of mind, the emotions, and most importantly, reminding myself that as I hit the harder parts of the run, to remind myself that I am enjoying this.  There may be pain, there may be fatigue, but there is indeed fun to be had.  But on the day prior to the run and the morning of the run, I focused on two particular items.

1.  I fueled my mind with happy thoughts.  

Seriously.  Different research shows that states of mind can fuel how we experience certain moments.  If chockful of a positive emotion and thoughts, it's bound to beneficially blend or leak over into whatever is currently you're involved in.  I experience this with audiobooks, where some happy moments (not even necessarily epic, but just moments of recognizing the great things in my life) are intertwined with audiobooks that I'm listening to in that particular moment.  Even if I intellectually don't like the book, I still enjoyed listening to it, in part because it's connected to a happy moment.  Similarly, as I engaged in the run, I started a mental slideshow of happy moments, big and small.  This lead me through a range of moments shared with friends, family, loved ones, acquaintances, and even random strangers.  Each thought pushing me one step further.  (This is why I am blaming this on you people--you took part in my accomplishment, even if you didn't realize it).

2.  I smiled, a lot.  

Again, I'm further intrigued by how the body and mind work together (or against each other).  But in this instance, I have heard much about how if the body does it, the mind will follow.  In particular, I've read several places now about how the smile can nudge one into a state of happiness.  So I smiled throughout the run.  I tried to make sure there was always a smile upon my face as I ran and every time I caught myself not smiling, one would instantly appear.  Thus why my face hurts from all that smiling.  It also served as a good focus point during the run.  Focus on the smile, not on the mile.

I remember when I first go into running and a friend said to me, "I could never do it--runners always look so miserable, why would I want to do that?"  This stuck in my head as I smiled through my run because I also realized I wanted people to know that yes, I was having fun.  Despite never having liked running, I now find it an absolute delight.  Go figure.

As for the "got assalted" in the title--ok, that was a joke and not a typo.  By the time, I finished today's run, I had white granules of salt on my arms.  Hence, I got "assalted."

So there it is.  15 miles in just under 3 hours (about 2 hours, 50 minutes, I think) and a whole lot of happiness on those miles trekked.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Tale of 9 Runs: Going the Distance

Somewhere between preparing for this half-marathon, working through Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (my review will be posted), plotting out my fall semester, and thinking how the mere act of blogging has propelled me into this venture, I found myself adding two more runs to the fall:  The Applefest Half-Marathon and more importantly, the Nahant 30K.  Just 2 weeks after my first 25K, I'm gonna press my luck and up the ante.

30K...I took it up with no big whoop.  I saw the race in a listing at North Shore Road Race Guide and the question, "Can I do it?" never crossed my mind.  Instead, it was, "Does this fit my schedule?"  It did.  I signed up.  Then I realized.  "Dude, you just signed up for a 30K race?"  That's pretty much how it happened and I'm still rather proud of it.  Without blinking, I reached for it.  This tells me one of two things (though they are not mutually exclusive).

1.  You've gotten confident with your running.  Not confident in winning, but comfortable with your skill set with regard to running to believe pushing the ante further is perfectly reasonable.

2. You're frakking crazy (excuse the "frak"--been working my way through Battlestar Galactica).  A theory I've always been a strong fan of and never negated when dealing with me.

Regardless, I'm doing it and I'm excited.  And the fact that I am excited, makes me more excited.  In less than a year, running has become a passion that ranks up there with teaching, writing, audiobooks, comics, and reading.  That tells me lots about myself, most importantly, that I can still find new things to excite me.  That's something I think is important and maybe has something to do with keeping a happy-go-lucky disposition about life:  there's still newness to it.  There's new experiences and ideas to be had, if I but take the time and mind to engage in them.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Tales from 9 Runs: Run 6: The One That Didn't Get Away

Map of 25 Annual Firefighters Road Race in Hamilton
Road map for the race
So today's race was the 25 Annual Firefighters Road Race in Hamilton.  I did about 45:10, which was pretty decent given several factors.  I did a strong run, but not great and didn't improve by any means from my first run.  I was happy to see I came in as the 52 runner and before I left, it looked like there was at least 90 runners, so that put me close to the middle of the herd, which I'm more than happy to be.

Overall, it's been a long weekend and it's only Saturday evening.  Someone dear to me had a serious surgical procedure on Friday so that took up much of my time and attention the last few days.  I spent much of Friday hanging out at the hospital.  My mind in many ways wasn't in the race.

Lance Eaton before the 25 Annual Firefighters Road Race in Hamilton
Before the race
I had gone to be early (10pm) on Friday night, more from being wiped out from the day than actually getting read for the next day.  I set my alarm for 7am, knowing that I needed a good rest (the week as a whole didn't have as much sleep as I usually get).  7am rolled around and I rolled right over.  Initially, I decided against the race--too tired, too distracted, the weather appeared too temperamental, and too busy.  I awoke an hour later and got up to do some apartment chores (feed the cats, turn off the dehydrator, etc).  By about 8:30am, I realized I was up for good and since I had time, I might as well go to the race, because I still needed some exercise.

I got there, got my goodie bag and then proceeded to prepare.  I'm coming to hone into my own routine which is a mixture of pacing, peeing, and stretching.  The pacing helps me focus on my body, my movement, and the race ahead.  I'll pace in some pattern for upwards of one to one and a half miles.  The stretching loosens up the body parts I identify as needing attention as I pace.  The peeing; I think is a mixture of hydrating, nerves, and anxiety about being on the race and having to need to urinate (and having it mess up my time).  I'm a chronic urinator...ask anyone who hangs out with me for long periods of time.

Lance Eaton after the 25 Annual Firefighters Road Race in Hamilton
After the race
The aspects of the run were a mixed bag.  The weather itself was a bit rough.  I've gotten used to running in hot muggy weather in so much as one can.  During the race, you essentially deal with it as best as possible--afterwards thought, I am quickly drenched beyond comprehension (this has led me to bring a change bag with towel and extra t-shirt).  The route was a mixture of shady and sunny patches and I definitely felt the sunny patches.  It had a decent share of hills, which coupled with the heat, definitely took their toll.  By the last 1/2 mile, I didn't have any extra gusto to push myself further (though I also attribute this to my poor pacing:  I did 8 minutes with my first mile and quickly dropped off from there, just averaging out to 9 minute miles).  Without the heat and rough start to the day, I think I could have shaved at least a minute from the ordeal, but maybe that's just me being hopeful.

The highlight of the race were to the two barefoot runners I saw at the race.  There were no other runners with Vibram 5-Fingers, but two guys did the race entirely barefoot (and yes, they totally beat me by at least a minute or more). Mostly, it was interesting to study their bodies as they ran and think about how my body should or shouldn't be operating given the footwear.

Lance Eaton's race numbers thus far.
Growing number collection
Ultimately, I'm distracted by the way that August tends to be a busy month for my profession in a lot of ways. I've also had some personal projects that have kept me occupied.  But as I found earlier in the week (Wednesday), when I went for a short (5.4 miles) run.  A good hard run can do amazing things.  When I ran Wednesday and even today, it worked wonders on my stress and gave me time to offload the weight of the last week.

Well, the countdown begins.  Three weeks from the day this blog is posted, I will be running the 25K Around the Cape.  I think I'm on target to be prepared for it, but I don't think I will be making any personal records that day (besides finishing it--hahaha).  I'm definitely nervous about it.  I think I'll be able to do it, but I want to be able to do it in a manner that doesn't entail me feeling exhausted for the next week or potentially hurting myself accidentally.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

A Youth Well (Mis)Spent: The Magic of the Woods

Other writers have harkened upon the power of the woods in a child's youth.  A forest is a beautiful opportunity for a youth to have access to.  In part because, it can help foster a sense of connection with nature, but also because a forest is a nether-region; a nonplace in conjunction to the human world.  The human world has addresses, landmarks, streets, names, but a forest lacks all but that which one pmay assign.     "Dad, I'm going to the woods" says and doesn't say where you are going.  It gives a sense but no approximation.  That the child gets to name his way through the woods as well as go on or off paths as he chooses, creates a deeper connection and magic.  Like magic, the child does not own it, but can work his way through it as he sees fit.  Then there's also the potential for danger that embodies the forest.  What could happen?  What is out there?  To the child, this is marvelous and exciting (though to some parents, frightening and due cause for denying adventures into the woods).

Picture of a field in Peabody, Massachusetts
I had the luck of growing up with acres of woodlands at the top of my street.  Though I spent a significant portion of my childhood playing video games, watching movies, and reading comics, I also spent a good portion playing, exploring, traversing, and retreating in those woodlands.  They were a key component of my childhood and teenage years.  Just as much I lost myself in a video game or comic book, I could immerse myself in the woods.  From six years old till my later teens, those woods were a destination I often set off to spend a significant amount of time.  

I learned much about the world from those woods (they were uniformly referred to "the woods" by all the kids in the neighborhood), had many an adventure there, and was taught much from the woods.  It was a place of escape as much as it was a place of danger and a place of safety.  I explored, I experimented, I observed, I encountered so much.  I spent many hours walks its paths and forging new ones; noting its changes, and leaving my own marks on it (more about that later).

Picture of a field in Peabody, Massachusetts
Beyond plants, the woods were the first place I came into contact with animals.  While in my younger years, I was told (and to varying degree believed and was intrigued by the idea) that there was a wild bobcat lurking in the woods.  I never did find that urban legend.  However, I did encounter other animals in fairly close proximity including muskrats, rabbits, turkeys, and even a fox.

The woods were also a place of realms, spaces that had folkloric names granted by older kids (such as the infamous "Party Rock") or those which I had christened including Biker's Lair, Paradise, Bamboo Village, Bear Hill, and My Mountain.  They were places that an neophyte would not necessarily distinguish, but I had quartered off into a specified domain.  I knew all the paths and ways of getting there.  Which path was quickest, which was the most scenic, which was the stealthiest.  They were imprinted upon the mental map of my mind and had walked them so many times, I still can idly recall the paths to get to any of them, though I have not stepped foot on any of them in 15 years.

Though I had no actual claim over them, they were indeed my woods for no one knew them like I did.  To be sure as much as I glorify the woods as saintly ground for my childhood, I still did not treat it with such reverence in my youth.  I left my impression upon them as surely they did upon me.  There were at least two times where my youthful fascination with fire led to small wild-fires (it's been 20 years; I'm sure we're pass the statute of limitations).  These were not intentional but as a place of exploration and experimentation, unfortunately, some experiments go out of control.  There were also the trees that I felled with an ax, not in a pursuit of building but in pursuit of working out frustration and building inner strength.
Picture of a field in Peabody, Massachusetts

The Phases of the Woods

The woods in my mind had three phases.  The first phase was marked by exploring and routine.  It was an extension of me in some ways.  I regularly engaged with it as a matter of daily life.  I would often take the woods to and from school because it was quicker (and cooler).  I can remember a morning of spring vacation getting up early and wandering about the woods, net in hand, capturing early signs of spring which were abundant therein.  It was where I first french kissed a girl (to be sure, it wasn't at "party rock").  They were the place I "ran away" from when I packed up a bag and hung it on a stick, just like they did in the cartoons, and trekked into the woods (only to return 2 hours later because no epic search party had been launched).  I build forts and forged paths.  I learned its secrets.

Picture of a field in Peabody, MassachusettsThe second phase occurred when a 2-3 acre section of the woods were significantly altered.   What had been while where plowed over, a rock pile was introduced (later I would use this place to break rocks with a sledge hammer, to again, work out aggression and frustration).  I don't know that it completely altered my relationship with the woods, but given that this was the section I played around in most and was a region I needed to walk in order to get deeper into the woods, I think it left a taint about it in my mind.  It spoke to something in my mind that these woulds were not entirely mine and would be gone someday (though I also fantasized about buying when I grew up).  Despite that, this was also the phase of retreat and escape to the woods.  By this point I was in middle and high school, and the woods were a place for me to wander away from the problems and challenges of school and family life.  I could go to the woods and be me without disruption or distraction.  I could find allow myself to think and be all the things I wanted to be without disruption from the world around.  It was a place of peace.  So much did I find those woods a place of peace that even today when I'm asked to visualize myself in a peaceful place for meditation or reflection, it's to those woods and the various niches I spent sitting, relaxing, thinking, being.

Google view of Meadow Golf Course in Peabody Massachusetts
See it on GoogleMaps
The final stage was the saddest and mayhaps be why I spent the time writing this.  I can remember when I was around 20.  The city had decided to turn much of it into a public golf course.  I travelled up there and walked around as they were in the formative stages of it.  It was actually heartbreaking.  So many of the nooks and crannies that I had strong palpable connections to were destroyed.  Those places that I had named were just names and no longer places.  I did actually cry.  It struck a nerve of sadness deep within me.  It hurt and left me with a sadness that the memories embedded throughout the woods were lost behind those that flash into my head from time to time when I walk in other woods or just triggered by different thoughts and moments.

The forest was always a place of magic and mystery.  Look at how many folk tales and fairy tales take place within them.  They can be a place of danger, but mostly because they are a place untamed.  And sometimes, that's what a child could use; untamed wilderness, to find himself or herself.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Letter to the Editor: Columnist misleads on Chick-fil-A

To the editor:

Deroy Murdock’s concern about hypocrisy or the supposed totalitarian slant of Democrats expressed in yesterday’s Salem News is disappointing and clearly misleading.

First, in all politicians, there are opportunities for totalitarian machinations. There are innumerable incidents in which the same rhetorical magic tricks could be shown to illustrate just how totalitarian Republicans are, trying to regulate people’s bodies and people’s choices. His biggest misdirect was his attempt to equate the bigotry of Dan Cathy with the more nuanced approach that President Barack Obama has taken. This is clear by the way he decontextualizes his quotes and doesn’t provide the full quotes of the president. The 2010 full quote: “I think it’s a fair question to ask. I think that I am a strong supporter of civil unions. As you say, I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage.”
For the rest of the letter, check out the Salem News.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Tale of 9 Runs: Men Cry, Go Figure

Sometimes when I run, I cry.

Somewhere with the intermix of powerful (for me) music, the physical exertion, and the realization that I'm doing things I never believed I could; my body wells up with an awesome force of energy and emotion that propels me forward in running and generates tears.  It doesn't happen every time I run, but regularly enough, usually when I take that mental step back to look at this arc of my life and what I'm doing:  running, and enjoying it.  It happened most recently when I breached 10 miles in my training without feeling it.  By that, I mean, getting from 9 to 10 miles didn't feel like a Herculean effort--there wasn't some imaginary bar that made it harder--I did rather well in terms of time and energy.

Crying with physical exertion is not something entirely new for me; I don't know about others.  In my younger days of sports in middle and high school, I cried a lot.  In the aftermath of practice (usually football, but also baseball; neither sport I chose to play but was propelled into), I would need to cry.  Back then, at least how I processed it was as a response to playing the sport that I didn't care to play, the pressure to enjoy something that I detested, or being enveloped in a world that was unequivocally foreign to me.  It all coalesced into this great outpouring after the physical and social exhaustion.  So, I cried.  Tears flowed and a mixture of anger, frustration, and sadness overwhelmed me.    

But these tears are different.  This emotional state feels to be on the opposite spectrum of that what I felt when I was 10-15 years of age.  The emotion is a mixture of joy, elation, empowerment, and warmth.  It's an inner sense of pride.  I know my highs and lows of my life; I know things I perceived as real and unlikely.  In the very act of running increasingly long distances, each run, each mile, each step is a slap in the face of the ways I used to understand my body, my abilities, and my self. It's when I'm struck by this, I'm simultaneously struck by an overwhelming sense of inspiration and hope for all humans and their capacity to change, adapt, improve, and endure in their lives.  It's in these moments that I'm truly humbled by all people's accomplishments; those who set off and change their lives in a profound way.  I'm moved by those too who must fight inner and outer demons daily and do not/cannot change.

Crying Is Good

These are amazing internal moments in my life and that only leaves me thinking.  Yet "real men" (whatever that means) don't cry or if they do, they don't embrace it and distance themselves from it as quickly as possible.  I find that ideology problematic. They provide no room for vulnerability; which as Brene Brown says is more harmful to our inner (and most likely, outer) lives.   I tend to agree here in that what I've found more and more throughout my life is recognizing and embracing my vulnerability has been a rewarding and relieving experience much more than hiding it or pretending it doesn't exist.  That men, in general, are discouraged to embrace this is disconcerting (and makes me wonder about how and why men perpetuate violence).  I wish there was more space in our culture to allow for males to be more enveloped by emotions; I know I've certainly benefited from it.  

So should you ever see me running with tears streaming down my face.  It is not agony.  It's inspiring awe.  It is not sadness.  It's pure happiness.   It's not weakness.  It's amazing strength.  But even if my crying weren't those positive things, it would still be ok.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Recent Post on LETS Blog: I’m Digging Diigo; Are You?

Over the last year, I’ve become a huge fan of Diigo.  Diigo is a social bookmarking site and tool that allows you to access your saved links on any computer.   But of course, it’s much more than that or we wouldn’t be talking about it here.  You can get a fuller sense of its capabilities by checking out our Youtube Playlist on Diigo.  But for now, let’s identify some of its best qualities.

For the full article, click through to the NSCC LETS Blog.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.