Monday, October 21, 2013

Reflections on Racing

"...Because the question rarely resolves itself in material terms, running was pointless to many people. Others, far more fortunate, recognized intuitively that the very pointlessness of running was its greatest strength. That pointlessness meant that no spectator could ever entirely know what was going on as he watched a distance being run. The casual spectator might have a single clue: he had what he saw. The better informed spectator might have additional clues, by knowing what performances had been rendered in the past by the particular athlete…In sum, when running was pointless, running was fascinating because running had very little to do with running. It had to do with people and why they act the way they do.”

-Excerpt from "A Cold Clear Day" by Frank Murphy

A few months back, my brother turned me on to the book I just quoted - it's about American Buddy Edelen who is a little-known name in American distance running lore, but was nevertheless one of the greatest American runners of all-time. He once held the Marathon World Record in 1963 (2:14:28) and at a time when Europeans dominated the world of distance running, Buddy Edelen was one of the only Americans who could keep up. Anyway - it's a quick, easy read and it definitely gives the reader an appreciation for a time in the sport of Running where the athletes ran because they loved it and not because there was a lot of money (or fame) involved.

What a week (and a half) it has been! I ran races on back-to-back Saturdays; the Prairie State Half Marathon on October 12th and the Flint Hills Forte 5K on October 19th. For both races we had nearly perfect running conditions and in both races, my body cooperated and allowed me to run at maximum effort. Let's start with the Prairie State Half.

I wrote about this on DailyMile, but for whatever reason I had serious doubts heading into this race. I wondered if my goals were too lofty - I wondered if the training I had been able to do had adequately prepared me to PR in a half marathon - I wondered how I would feel at the end of the race and if I would have what it took to gut it out. I don't really know why I doubted myself because I'm not usually one to do that - usually I feel like I know what I'm capable of. I think part of it was that I had built this race up in my mind over the past few months. This was the "A-Race" for me and the one I had been training for all summer. I had run other races in the past few months, but they didn't mean nearly as much to me as this one did. I knew that if I didn't achieve my goals, the disappointment would have been substantial.

Fortunately, I slept well the night before. This was huge. I felt good when I woke up on race morning and there were no detectable aches or pains. Being 100% healthy at the start-line is an achievement in and of itself...all you runners know what I'm talking about. After packing up the kiddo and everything else, we made the 45-minute drive from our house to the Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville, IL. After picking up the race packet and a quick 1-mile warm-up, it was time to go.

I would go through the whole race, mile by mile, but I did that on DailyMile and you can read about it here if you're into that sort of thing. The end result was that I ran the Half in 1:25:56 which was my personal best by almost two-and-a-half minutes and was good enough for 11th place out of 892 runners and 2nd in the 25-29 age group. I was so happy with the result - I was ecstatic after the race and was so happy to see my wife and daughter. I don't think I could have run the race even 5 seconds faster than I did - I pushed it to the absolute limit and surprised even myself because going into the race, my "I'll be surprised if I do it" goal was 1:26:30.

The days following the race were predictable - I'm usually sore in my calves after longer races and though the soreness wasn't terrible, my legs were definitely telling me that they were tired and needed rest...I had some pretty gnarly blisters too. I took a couple of days of complete rest and then on Tuesday I opted for some pool running which is a nice change-of-pace and is a very low-impact workout. On Wednesday I tried actual running again and it was painful. I had what felt like achilles tendinitis in my lower left leg and my quads still felt wrecked. I knew I had another race coming up in a few days so I opted for rest. On Thursday I did another session of pool running and then on Friday I took another day of complete rest. In the evenings I did a lot of icing and compression and by Friday evening my left leg was feeling a lot better. In retrospect, I think it was my soleus muscle that was just really sore and made it feel like tendinitis.

On Saturday morning I felt ready to go. A quick 1.5-mile warm-up confirmed that my legs were feeling good. This 5K was in Channahon so it had been a bit of a early morning because of the drive to get there, but the race director is one of my business clients and it's a very enjoyable family-friendly race. It's called the "Flint Hills Resources Forte 5K" and it benefits the local Channahon Music Boosters Club which is a cause I don't mind supporting. The guy who organizes the race, Jim Mason, is a really good guy and is a runner himself. This was the 2nd annual race (I ran in the inaugural race last year) and the course is very scenic and flat which makes for good racing.

Right out of the gate, some guy in a red shirt took off and got out to a healthy lead - but after about a quarter of a mile, I could tell he was drifting back to the pack. About 1/2 a mile into the race, I passed him and for perhaps the first time in my life, I was leading a race. I thought to myself..."huh, this is kinda fun, I could get used to this!" It was just me and the guide-biker in front of me and for the next 2.5 miles or so it was like this. At the 1 and 2 mile markers I peeked behind me to see how far ahead I was and at mile 2 I figured I had about a 5 second lead. I really started laboring in the 3rd mile...I kept thinking about what it would be like to win a race...but also what it would be like to lead a race for this long and not win. I was too tired to peek behind me and it was taking all of my effort simply to keep the pace up. With the finish line in sight (about 1/10th of a mile to go) I got passed up...and I mean, it wasn't like this guy was struggling to pass me, he blew by me. I said something like, "nice running" as he passed me and tired to turn on the jets to re-take 1st, but I didn't have enough to overtake him. I finished in 2nd place by 1.3 seconds.

Do I wish I could have won? Surely. It would have been sweet to win a 5K. Isn't that every serious runner's dream? I mean, how many of us can say they've won a race? Even though it was a small race (200 finishers) it still would have been cool to win. Am I bummed that I did not win? No, not really. Considering I ran a PR half marathon 7 days earlier and considering I was unsure of how much of an effort I was going to be able to give only 48 hours prior to the race...I'm happy. And I got a 5K only 3 seconds, but hey, a PR is a PR right? This race is so awesome - they give out really nice fleece blankets to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place so I'm the proud owner of a new fleece blanket that has the logo of the 5K and "2nd Place" embroidered into it. Totes awesome.

All things considered it was a pretty damn good week in terms of running. Two PRs, a 2nd place AG finish and a 2nd place Overall finish? Not bad, I'll take that all day long. So, what's next? Hmm - after reading a bunch of awesome Chicago Marathon race recaps I have marathon fever like never before. I'm thinking maybe the 2014 Chicago Marathon or perhaps a different one (Milwaukee? Naperville?). I know I want to run one next fall and give sub-3:00:00 a serious go. I feel like I've learned a ton since running Chicago in 2012 and I feel like there is a ton of room for improvement.

For now I will probably take it easy. I may run another race around Thanksgiving but more than anything, my body needs some rest. I'm thinking maybe 20-30 mpw through the rest of the year. I'm going to work on incorporating some weight training into my regimen - I've gotten away from that and I think could probably use some strengthening.

I cannot reiterate enough how thankful I am for the support of the running community through DailyMile. If you're not on there - join us (!) - it's a great community for support and encouragement, no matter your speed. I'm also thankful to my wife - she's left holding the kid when I go off and do all my running and she's the one who's there at the finish line cheering me on. I'm so thankful for all of that. Thank you Leslie!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall Goals Check-In and Race Preview

I feel like I say this all the time, but time is freaking flying by these days. It seems like just yesterday that our daughter Addison was she's almost 6 months old. Anyway, I digress, talking about time flying makes me feel old. I thought I would do a Fall goals check-in and a race preview of the upcoming Prairie State Half Marathon coming up for me on Saturday. Let's start with goals.

At the beginning of the summer, I stated four goals:
1) Run at least 3 more races this summer
2) Train well for the Prairie State Half-Marathon
3) Continue with regular weekly mileage -- minimum of 25/week but ideally working up to ~40-45 miles/week.
4) Get involved with some sort of team

Hmm - well, I guess I can say that I achieved 2 of those goals. I only ended up running two races this summer - a 10K on August 3rd and a 5K on September 2nd. Both of the races were PRs but I just couldn't find time for that third race. Oh well, all-in-all it's not that big of a deal.

On the other hand, I feel as though I have trained very well for the Half Marathon coming up this weekend. In June, July, August and September I logged 125, 140, 140, and 130 miles respectively and I mixed in a good amount of speed-work with 8 runs of 10 miles or longer. The races I did do showed that the speedwork has definitely paid dividends and my training paces have gotten gradually faster as well. On top of that, my body feels good and mentally I feel prepared for this race.

Weekly-mileage wise, I have stepped it up from the 25/week I was at in June. Through the summer months my weekly mileage was steadily in the mid-30s/week - I haven't hit the mid-40s like I'd hoped, but honestly, I've run just about as much as I can in the time that I had this summer so I'll take it.

Utter fail on Goal #4. I talked to Kevin Granato earlier in the summer about joining Granato Racing and I briefly considered joining the Glen Ellyn Running Club, but the bottomline reason I didn't pull the trigger on either is that I simply don't have weekend mornings or weekday nights open, at this point, to make joining a team worth it. If and when I join a team, I want to be a full participant, not just someone who shows up occasionally and doesn't really know anyone. It's still a strong desire of mine, but at least for this summer anyway, it wasn't in the cards.

So let's talk about this race on Saturday....

I'm really excited. After watching my brother smash his marathon PR yesterday at the Twin Cities Marathon, I'm inspired. Not only that, I feel like running-wise, I'm in as good of shape as I've ever been in my entire life. Unlike in last year's marathon training, I've incorporated some very specific speed-work and it seems to be paying off. My last 5K was evidence of that and I think that I've even gotten quicker since that race. In the 3 months leading up to my last half marathon, I ran a total of ~320 miles and in the past 3 months leading up to this half marathon I've run ~440 miles so from even just a sheer mileage standpoint, I'm even more prepared for this race than I was for the last half marathon I ran.

Goals-wise, I'm going to take Erin's approach and have a couple of different goals. My "I definitely think I can do it" goal is to get a new half marathon PR in this race. My fastest Half so far is 1:28:20 and I think I'm in better shape now. My "If all of the stars align" goal is 1:26:30. I imagine my ultimate time with be somewhere in between those two numbers...would love to surprise myself (in a good way) though. The weather looks like it's going to cooperate...temps should be in the low-to-mid-50s and for now there is no rain forecast for Saturday morning. The race starts at 8:00am so it won't be a terribly early morning. I looked at the results from last year, over 800 people ran in the half marathon and there were about 300 in the marathon so it's not a tiny race, but it's not very large either. which has both pluses and minuses. On the plus side, there won't be any dodging or weaving. The downside is that in the latter part of the race, it's likely to be pretty spread out so I can't count on having anyone to run with or near to help pull me along when the fatigue starts to set in. I don't know if they'll have pace groups, I imagine this is probably too small of a race for that...but we'll see.

Strategy-wise, I'm going to start out by trying to run 6:40-6:45s for the first three miles. During the last half marathon, I really got into that groove early on and it helped a lot in the latter stages of the race. After 3, I will gradually increase the pace (ideally) through the end of mile 9. Starting at mile 10, I'll spend whatever I have left. I would like to be at ~40:30 (6:41 average) through the 10M mark and at about 1:06:30  (6:39 average) through 10 miles.

So now it's just a matter of tapering and waiting. Today is a rest day, I'll probably do easy runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. I'm really excited to see how all of my DailyMile friends do in their respective marathons coming up, particularly the Chicago Marathon this weekend. I know a few others who are running either the Naperville Marathon or the NYC Marathon in November. I've gotten hit hard lately with the marathon itch again so hopefully next year I'll be running in the Chicago Marathon again. Good luck to all you racers out there - do your best and leave it all out there!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Desire

Having your first child makes you think. Besides all of the learning that needs to be done and all of the new experiences, it makes you examine yourself - your beliefs, your motives, your ability to provide, your drive to succeed, least it has for me anyway. Our daughter Addison was born about 6 weeks ago and I would say I've done a lot of soul-searching since then. Do I have what it any area of life?

A big part of my life - or at least an important part of my life - is running. I would say I've been a "serious" runner now for about 2 1/2 years. I've run a few half marathons and broke my marathon cherry last fall. In terms of experience, I've run all of the various race distances and decided what I like and dislike. In terms of training I've figured out what works for me and what leads to injury. As part of this general soul-searching that has been going on I have inevitably considered the running part of my life and asked myself "what do I want out of this?"

I think I've come to the conclusion that I want more out of this. I'm 29 years old and I want to stay in shape. Beyond that, I think I have a little bit of God-given running talent and I'd like to see how good I can get. In talking with my brother (who is himself an avid runner and sub-3:00 marathoner) and from reading books, I believe the key to improving my times is simple: dedication and time. As with any pursuit in life, if you want to get better at it, you've got to spend more time doing it and you've got to clear away (or make more room for) other things in order to spend more time doing the thing you want to get better at.

So - it all starts with desire. How much do I want it? What am I willing to sacrifice to become a better/faster runner? I think for me, the desire is there. I want to improve and I'm willing to put in the work. I think another thing that helps to keep the flame of desire burning is having goals. So I need to make some goals:

Goal #1: Run at least 3 more races this summer - could be anything from a 5K to a Half Marathon
Sub-goals: Depending on the length of races -- current goals are
-- 5K: sub-19:00
-- 10K: sub-40:00

Goal #2: Train well for the Prairie State Half-Marathon on October 12th (already signed up) with the goal of running under 1:27:00 (6:38/mile).

Goal #3: Continue with regular weekly mileage -- minimum of 25/week but ideally working up to ~40-45 miles/week. Currently at 30 miles/week.

Goal #4: Get involved with some sort of team. Whether it's a local running club or getting a running coach - I think one of the keys to maintaining interest in this sport is doing it with others.

Desire + Goals = Achievement...most of the time anyway.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dood. (Chitown Half Marathon Race Recap)

What: Chitown Half Marathon
Where: Downtown Chicago, IL (northside)
When: March 24th, 2013
Weather: Upper-20s, cloudy, wind from the East
Finish Time: 1:28:20 (23rd out of 1,063)

I have to start off this post by thanking my wife Leslie. After the race finished yesterday the first person I saw was her and giving her a hug and sharing in that moment of triumph with her was super awesome. Our soon-to-be daughter was also there for that hug as well, still just a 'bun in the oven' but she was there too. It was a special family moment. Thank you Leslie for listening to me drivel on endlessly about running - for encouraging me and for celebrating with me. I am such a lucky man.

Can you tell the race went great? Oh man - it went EXACTLY how I hoped it would. I managed to sleep pretty well the night before and it wasn't that early of a morning (6:20am) which was nice. I had my typical race morning breakfast of a banana, a cup of coffee and a couple of granola bars (and 1/2 a CLIF bar in the car on the way). I was definitely nervous. Leslie talked me down in the car on the way there. When we got there Leslie dropped me off and I meandered my way over to the start area. After scoping things out I went on a short warm-up run and that little run actually made me question myself a little bit because it was a slow pace and yet I felt like I was struggling a bit. After dropping my stuff off at the gear check I made my way to the starting line. In retrospect I probably should have waited a few more minutes before dropping my stuff off because I ended up waiting, in the cold and wind, at the starting line for a good 15 minutes. Oops.

This race, like many other half marathons, had a few pace groups and luckily for me, they had a pace group for my goal pace (1:30:00, 6:52/mile). After the gun went off I settled in with that pace group. I figured I would see how it went at that pace for a little while knowing that if I couldn't keep up, I would have to re-think my goal. I settled into a nice rhythm and in retrospect, the decision to stick in that group probably saved me some energy because I was able to draft behind some of the runners in that group instead of facing the winds along the lake on my own. The first few miles clicked off and I was feeling really good.

Eventually I decided to go out ahead of the group -- not too long after that I came up on fellow DailyMiler Britt K and we chatted for a bit. It's always so cool to meet someone from DM, especially during a race (great job Britt!). After that meeting - the crowd really started to thin out and I just kinda dropped into a zone. I don't really even remember much of a scenery - I was just focused on holding a consistent pace and not getting ahead of myself. That's pretty much how the entire middle section of the race went for me. There were a few windier sections on the course that were difficult, but I knew they wouldn't last long and they didn't.

By the time I got to mile 10 I was over a minute ahead of "schedule". I had been holding back the pace for a little bit and knowing I only had a 5K left, I decided to go for it. The last few miles, while difficult, really went by fast. I saw another fellow DMer Erin with her daughter cheering us on and that gave me a boost of energy. A few times during the last 5K I thought to myself, "eh, you've got this, why not coast a little bit?" but then I would think about how much training I put into this race or the fact that this was going to be my last race for awhile and then push the pace faster.

After I crossed the finish line (and before I saw Leslie) I let out what was pretty much a scream. There might have been some colorful language involved :) I was so pumped - I thought going into the race that I could run sub-1:30 but to run 1:28:20 - that was beyond what I thought I was capable of right now. The rest of the day was great - we spent some time at Leslie's brother's house eating and hanging out and I received a lot of encouragement through DailyMile which is always awesome.

I'm really excited for what lies ahead - both in running and in life. On the running side, I feel like I've turned a corner of sorts which is really exciting. On the life side, we have the birth of our first child coming up very soon and Leslie and I can't wait to meet her. Running might have to take a back-seat for awhile, but I've got a nice PR to bask in for awhile and I'll be back soon!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes

On Twitter yesterday, I happened to see Dathan Ritzenhein tweet about being excited to head to New York City for this weekend's NYC Half Marathon. I instantly jumped on the memories train thinking back to last year when my wife and two of our best friends all ran the NYC Half and what an experience the whole thing was. It made me realize how much things can change in one year.

Last year at this time I was doubting whether I would even be able to toe the starting line of the half marathon. I was in the midst of a nearly two-month battle with ITBS and had told my mom a week before the NYC Half that it "would be a miracle" if I was able to complete the race. I hadn't been able to run more than 2-3 miles in almost two months and the longest run I'd ever done in my life up till that point was 12 miles. So, not only was I out of shape, but I was fixing to go farther than I'd ever gone before. Miraculously, my knee did start feeling better that week (thanks to a serendipitous change of shoes) and I ran in and completed the half marathon. Things have gotten better and better since then.

I started getting back into post-injury regular running again at the beginning of April 2012. I started out really small...a few miles here and there, nothing fast. I didn't run on back-to-back days until mid-April and didn't pass 15 miles/week until the end of April. I started training for the Chicago Marathon in May and my mileage increased slowly from there. I didn't cross the 30 miles/week threshold until mid-June. Things got better quickly from there - in August I ran 207 miles, book-ended by 170+ mile months in July and September. Only 7 months after not being able to complete a 2-mile run, I completed the Chicago Marathon, in a respectable time even.

I've continued to run regularly since the Marathon and I'm gearing up for another half marathon here on March 24th. By the time that race gets here, I'll have run 1,400 miles since the NYC Half last year. This isn't an "oh look at me" post, I say all of this to make the point about how much can change in one year. There were times last February and March where I thought my knee would never get better. It was so frustrating. But they did get better - and I've gone on to achieve things I could only imagine a year ago. Over the past few days, I've felt stronger and faster than I've ever felt before. It's a 180-degree difference from last year.

There have been other life things that are completely different now than they were a year ago too. We're a month away from bringing our first child into this world whereas a year ago we were still wondering if we were ready to take the plunge into parenthood. Now, ready or not, it's coming - and we're so excited. I think this upcoming race will be special for me in the sense that I may not be able to dedicate as much of my time to running after our daughter is born. I have no idea what this world will look like post-baby, but I'm willing to give up running so many miles if life requires that. So this may be the last race, for awhile, in which I was able to put all the necessary training in. I hope that's not the case, but I'm treating like it will be - and I plan on leaving everything I've got out on that course. I'm determined to achieve my goal of a sub-1:30 half marathon.

I'm sure the next year will bring a lot of changes too - I have no doubts about that. I'm excited to see what they are!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Interview with Myself

The title sounds pretentious, I know. Actually, I have to give credit to another blog for this idea; fellow DailyMiler Erin did this exact same thing on her blog and I'm stealing the questions. I think she stole it from someone else anyway so it's cool, right? Feel free to steal it for your blog if you want. I had some fun with it and it was an easy blog post to make.

1.  How did you get into running?
Hmm. It’s tough to say how I started - my dad ran triathlons when my brother, sister and I were young so we always had him as an example (and a running partner early on). I think when I was in 6th grade or so I started running - I joined the middle-school track & cross-country teams and ran with them for a couple of years. The cross-country races were never that long and I have no idea what my times were, I honestly don’t remember. I stopped running towards the end of middle-school/early high-school because I got more involved in other things. I briefly picked up running again in college, just more as a workout activity more than anything. Then again, after college, I started working out at lunch regularly and running off and on.
Things didn’t really get serious in the running department until the fall of 2010 - I was playing softball on a rec-league team and managed to break my arm. After surgery to fix the damage I was pretty much without the use of my left arm for 6 weeks and that’s when I started running regularly again. I entered a 5K the following spring it has sort of progressed from there. At first I said I would never run a marathon and had no interest in running one and then I went and did the Chicago Marathon last fall. Running has really become a big part of my life in the past 2+ years.

2.  Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s #1 on it?
I would love a) go on a European tour and b) go see Machu Picchu in Chile. Running-wise, I don’t really have anything that I would consider to be “bucket list”. I’ve gotten to do a lot of cool things with running already. I would love to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but I’m not gonna kill myself to do it. More than anything, I would like to continue to be able to keep running as a part of my lifestyle…both now and well into the future. I always admire those 50, 60, 70 and 80-year-olds I see out there, still running and enjoying the sport. I wanna be like that.

3.  What has been your favorite race?
I loved running the NYC Half Marathon last year. The ironic thing was that prior to the week of the race, I didn’t think I was going to be able to run it. I had a nasty bout of IT-Band Syndrome in the two months leading up to the race and then miraculously it cleared up the week of the race and I was able to run it. My time wasn’t all that good, but it was such a cool experience to run through Central Park and Times Square, I’ll never forget it. Unfortunately, I’ll also never forget the guy who took a shit, with his butt facing us runners, up on a hill around mile 4 or so. Everyone was groaning and yelling at the guy. I also remember crossing the finish line and being so grateful for being able to run the race, for being able to complete it - it was an awesome feeling. It was also my first half-marathon.

4.  What motivates you to keep going?
Always wanting to get better. I know there will come a day, because of age or whatever, where I simply won’t be able to improve on my PRs. Fortunately, that time is not now and so I’m hell-bent on taking advantage of my prime years to set lofty goals and achieve them. I’m so grateful to have this body that God gave me; a body that works well and seems to be able to perform at a higher level than most people. Using my talents in running is one way that I worship the God that created me.

5.  What is one habit you have that you wish you could break?
I’m a nail-biter and I hate it.

6. If you could have ANY job in the world—what would you do?
Probably detective - hope to do it someday.

7. What’s your favorite piece of gear?
It’s probably a tie between my Garmin 305 and my Saucony shoes.

8. What is your go-to pre-race meal?
On race morning I usually keep it really simple. A cup of coffee, a banana and maybe a PB&J or Clif Bar. The night-before meal could be anything.

9. Do you take supplements? If so, what?

10. What do you love about running?
I don’t get to do it very often, but I love running with other people. There’s something about going on a run with someone else that’s special. I also love the sense of accomplishment after a great workout or race. Secretly, I love being in the gym, seeing all the muscle-heads flexing and thinking to myself, “I could waste you in a 5K.”

11. What is your next BIG race?
Next big race is the Chitown Half on March 24th. Training hasn’t gone exactly as I had hoped, but it’s been solid and I’m feeling confident. My goal is to break 1:30:00. This will be my third half-marathon and I think if the weather conditions cooperate, I can do it. Training has been going well and according to my other recent race times, McMillans says that I should be able to do it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Week, New Soapbox

The catalyst for this week's soapbox is this article ( that I saw on If you don't feel like reading it, it is an opinion piece suggesting that the FBI, instead of mandating that all new software applications be out-fitted with "wire-tap" capabilities, they should be hiring forensic computer hackers. It's a 'fight fire with fire' argument that makes sense when you consider it. That said - it was a couple of sentences in this article that got me thinking:

"Whether we like them or not, wiretaps — legally authorized ones only, of course — are an important law enforcement tool. But mandatory wiretap backdoors in internet services would invite at least as much new crime as it could help solve."

Legislation is expected to be authored later this year that will require all new internet applications and software programs be out-fitted with a "backdoor" so that if the need arises, the FBI can tap into it. This is not new news - all of that is covered in greater detail by the article. What got me thinking was this notion of government regulation as a means of ENSURING that crime continues -- and thus validating a NEED for government oversight. Lest I be thought a conspiracy theorist (which I am not), let me further explain.

What's another hot-button topic these days? Gun Control. Understandably so right? The knee-jerk reaction of our country to the numerous school-shootings over the past 10 years has been to demand more gun control. What will gun control do? Will it stop criminals from possessing or using weapons? No. Will it stop crazy people from accessing guns and committing crimes? No. In-short, will it stop school shootings? I feel that if you're being intellectually honest with yourself, the answer is no. So, what then, will more gun laws do? One thing it is sure to do is extend the reach of government. More regulation means more surveillance on the part of the State into your affairs. More regulation means more justification for the Government to spend your tax dollars -- and not only that, but also to ask for, and justify, ADDITIONAL tax revenue.

If that example isn't good enough for you - how about the "War of Drugs." Have drug laws stopped the manufacture and distribution of drugs in this country? No, they are still available in every city in America. Has it curbed drug-use in this country by limiting the availability of drugs? Maybe a tiny little bit? Maybe? Has the U.S. Government been successful on ANY front of the "War on Drugs"? If you read/watch the news and read anything about it, the unequivocal answer is "No". What has the war on drugs done? One thing it has done is justify an entire sub-branch of the U.S. Government (namely the DEA, and to an extent the ATF) and thus has justified the expenditure of LIMITLESS U.S. tax dollars. Put another way, it has justified the waste of countless tax dollars without any accountability for results. Let me be clear, a drug bust here and there or the break-up of a drug-ring here and there are not results...results consist of the actual accomplishment of your objectives which, in the "War on Drugs" would be the curtailing of manufacture and sale of drugs in this country. Am I suggesting that we legalize everything? No. But what I am suggesting is that we start being honest with ourselves and the failure of this war -- afterall, our government is ACCOUNTABLE to WE THE PEOPLE.

As a corollary - the War on Drugs has also allowed the government to justify a number of other things. Because drugs are illegal they are bought and sold on a black-market...mostly by gangs. Fights over "turf" explode into violence on our streets (22 murders so far in Chicago in 2013) and then justify the need to more law enforcement in the form of police officers and over government enforcement (FBI, DEA, ATF, etc). This ultimately costs more tax money...but the government can turn around and say, "hey, we have a huge problem here and the citizens NEED us." States have begun to decriminalize marijuana and shockingly (sarcasm) there haven't been vast increases in crime. Not only that, these states are going to start bringing in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana and will actually being making a profit on the industry, rather than spending vast amounts of tax dollars to curb marijuana use.

This might as well be a short dissertation on why I am a Conservative...a Conservative bordering on being a Libertarian. I will never feel like the Government does a better job at regulating my day-to-day life and choices better than I do. I believe that you and me do an astronomically better job at over-seeing our day-to-day lives than the Government ever has or will. The Government has a place, of this there is no-doubt, but that place is not in creating a need for itself. By making laws that extend the reach of government for the sake of "catching criminals" - the government is pulling the wool over the proverbial eyes of Americans as to what it's true objectives are.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Soapbox Post: We Know Next to Nothing

Just an up-front warning: this post has nothing to do with running. Well, not much anyway. The catalyst for this post is a book I've recently been reading in conjunction with several articles I've come across lately. The book is "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" written by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It's a long book, but it's very well written and it takes you through the evolution of medical thought with regard to cancer itself as well as the evolution of cancer treatment. Among the many fascinating parts of the book is this sense of just how far our understanding of cancer has come in the past 50-60 years...AND how much there still is that we don't know.

In the 1940s the treatment for cancer, if there even was one for the particular type that you had, basically consisted of a surgeon trying cut it out of you. For breast cancer, the treatment ideas at the time were particularly horrendous and involved major surgery that a fair amount of patients didn't even survive. A new invention around that time was chemotherapy which, in it's infancy, was a terrible ordeal to have to go through and involved months of retching, weight/hair loss and extreme fatigue...for only possibly a few months of "remission." Most of these treatments back then only retarded the advance of cancer and for most patients, the cancer would return and eventually cause death. Today the treatment methods are quite a bit more nuanced and effective, but cancer is still a serious disease and some forms of it, like pancreatic cancer, have extremely high mortality rates.

So, what's my point? My point is this: in today's world, it's easy to think, "wow, look how technologically advanced our society is, I mean, we have smart phones, fighter jets, and starbucks on every corner - what else is there to discover?" The fact is, there is A TON we don't know about. I would even go so far as to say that there is more we don't know, way more, than things we do know about. For example, here is an article I saw today ( For all of our advancements in telescopic technology and in our understanding of space, it's likely that if there were an asteroid out there that could obliterate earth, we wouldn't even see it coming. As NASA puts it, "“With so many of even the larger NEOs [near Earth objects] remaining undiscovered, the most likely warning today would be zero,” We would see nothing at all until suddenly, just as the impact occurred, we noticed a “flash of light and the shaking of the ground as it hit.”" And yet our society is "so advanced."

Basically I've come to the conclusion that we know and understand next to nothing very little about our world. It seems like we know a lot and no doubt there have been huge strides forward in our knowledge and understanding in a lot of different areas over the past 100 years, but there is a LONG way to go. There are numerous examples throughout science and medicine. There are real-world examples RIGHT NOW. For example - why are there all these school-shootings happening in the U.S.? Is it the availability of guns? Is it the prevalence of violence on television and in video games? Is it our cultural attitudes towards mental illness? Is it a lack of real-parenting on the part of a lot of parents in the U.S.? Is it the decline of personal responsibility and morals in our country? Suffice to say, it's probably more than one of those things and perhaps there are additional factors than those that come into play.

Like I said before, it's easy to think we live in the 'age of enlightenment' and sure, compared to past eras and civilizations, we are "enlightened" I suppose, but there is still a lot of be discovered. I keep going back to the verse in the Bible, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9, NIV) I imagine we are quite amusing to God at times -- the created says, "I've figured this out!!" and God looks down and says, "Ha, just you wait and see." It's an incredible thought really. Another verse that comes to mind is God saying to Job, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand." (Job 38:4, NIV)

Anyway, those are my thoughts today - like I said, not related to running much. I suppose they could be related to running. There have advancements over the past 30 years in shoe technology, compression technology, physiological understanding, training philosophy and the like, but if all other disciplines are any indication there's still a lot more to learn about our bodies and about the sport of running. I'm looking forward to seeing more advancements and gaining further understanding, no matter the field.