Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent!

Advent starts tomorrow December 2, 2012. This year I hope that I can refrain from getting so caught up in the secular aspects of the "holiday" season that I miss the opportunity to truly prepare for Christmas and the coming of our Lord.

I have been wanting to do a blog post on the season and what it means. I couldn't quite get it formed in my mind though. Thank God for Cardinal Dolan. Below is an excerpt from an article by him on Advent and below that is a link to the full article. It is not long but very good and well worth the few minutes it will take to read it.

...Jesus waits for us to open up to His grace and mercy;

...Jesus waits for us to admit that, as a matter of fact, we do need a Savior!

...Jesus waits for us to admit that He is the answer to the questions our lives of searching pose.

...Jesus waits for our ultimate return to Him, for He “has gone to prepare a place for us.”

Read the whole post here. It's not long but I believe well worth it!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Am I Thankful For?

Each person enumerating the things they are thankful for; It's a tradition around many Thanksgiving day tables. We do it in our family too. The responses always range from humorous, to the cliche, to the heartfelt. All fine and good. It is part of Thanksgiving dinner after all.

As I began thinking about it this year, a line that we sing in the Gloria at Mass kept coming back to me. "We give thanks for your great Glory." What is this "great Glory" we give thanks for? I started allowing this question to run around in my mind and I remembered somewhere reading or hearing that God's Glory is His Creation. You know existence, the world, the universe, "all things visible and invisible", you and I incuded.

To help answer this question and expand on the idea of being thankful for God's "great Glory" I turned to the story of creation in the Bible and to the section in the Catechism on creation for further study. The bible points out that God created all things for the servie of man and that he created man in His image. God loves His creation and in His creation man holds a special place above all other created things. Furthermore, the catechism points out that God created out of Love and not necessity and that God holds all things in existence out of this same Love and that nothing would continue to without His will.

This year I will start with being thankful for this "great Glory", you know creation in general and my very existence and the very existence of all those who I love since all were a willful and loving act of God. I think that puts things in perspective and will allow me to see all things as a gift from God for which I should be thankful. I hope my family isn't hungry, my list might be kind of long this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Race Report

This was my first marathon and it was a great personal success. I put in nearly 1200 miles at an average pace of 7:47 MPM in training over the course of 19 weeks with the highest mileage week coming in at 80 miles. In the 19 weeks of training 6 days a week I missed only 2 runs. The first was a medium-long run at the end of a the first "step-back" week. I was absolutely exhausted. The other was a 4 mile recovery run on a day with 2 recovery runs scheduled, you know, a double and life just didn't cooperate.

I had several goals for the race with my "In your wildest dreams" goal of 2:54:59, a stretch goal of 2:59:59, a "probably can do" goal of 3:04:59 and a "least acceptable" of 3:14:59. All but the "stretch" goal were based on Boston qualification standards. 2:54:59 would allow me to register on day 1 nearly guaranteeing a spot in the 2014 running of the Boston Marathon. 3:04:59 would allow me to register in the second phase and still nearly guaranteeing a spot. While 3:14:59 would still allow me to qualify though I would have to wait well into registration to see if there was a spot left for me. The 2:59:59 would have just allowed me to be considered a sub 3 hour marathoner.

The race started in downtown Indianapolis and there was no race day packet pickup so we decided to stay in a hotel and skip the hassle of 2 trips. We checked into our hotel and headed to dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory because there is no better place that I can think of to "carb load." After dinner we went over to the convention center for the the expo and packet pickup. I got a chance to say "hi and good luck" to Angie F who was making a return to the half-marathon distance after a year and a half absence. That was no surprise I knew she was going to be there handing out race packets but what was a surprise was that guy I raced at the BeeBumble back in September walked right past me. After a moments hesitation I went to catch him and say hi. We talked for a minute and I found that he enjoyed that race as much as I did and we planned to meet again next September. This was a surprising and exciting turn of events. We are both a couple of small town runners in the big city at a larger race and we run into each other none the less. The rest of the night was pretty uneventful, sleep was understandably a little restless but not to bad. I woke up around 5:30 AM, ate my traditional pre-race cliff bar and banana and headed out to the start area.

I had a strategy for this race and it started with keeping it easy for the first couple of miles. So I lined up behind the 7:05 pace group figuring I would let someone else set the pace for the first 2 to 3 miles while I settled into a rhythm before striking out on my own at around 6:50 for the rest of the first half. As I stood there I would again meet up with my friend from the BeeBumble. We made small talk while we waited. The race began, we wished each other well and set off.

The field was crowded and tight in the beginning to the point that I was shoulder to shoulder with another runner making the first couple of turns in the downtown area. As expected the crowd thined out pretty quickly. The pace group leader blew it on the first mile by going around 6:40 but I was amazed at how easy that pace felt. He made up for it over the next 2 miles by bringing it back to around 7:10 and I just followed. At mile 3 I made my move and picked up the pace to get to the 6:50 I was looking for in the first half.

By this point some groups were forming and I would find myself becoming familiar with the runners around me each taking turns pulling ahead a little and falling back. Some of these runners would still be there at the end and some would fall off over the course of the race. One runner in particular stands out. He wore american flag printed shorts and I think 350 spectators and aid station volunteers must have commented on them. If you want people to notice you in a race wear some shorts that will stand out.

Another part of my strategy involved making sure that I didn't dehydrate and didn't "hit the wall" because I ran out of glycogen. This marathon featured aid stations every 2.5 miles with Gatorade at every other station and Cliff gels at several of the stations. Fruit and chicken broth were supposed to be available at a few of the stations but I never saw either. My plan was to try to drink some at every aid station and take at least 3 gels through the race. By the 10 mile mark I felt that I had taken too much fluid and began to back off. I stuck with the plan for 3 gels taking 1 about 10 miles another at 15 and the last around the 20 mile mark. Overall, I was pleased with the execution of this part of the race and neither dehydration nor glycogen depletion was an issue at any point.

I hit the half way mark and was really amazed at how good I felt. I started considering bumping the pace up a bit. Again, this was part of my strategy  Hit the half way mark and if I still felt fresh try to negative split the race. Not much else to remark on between 13.1 and 20 or so. We hit mile 20 and I knew that this is where they say the marathon really is. I was a little nervous but at this point still feeling pretty good. A guy and a girl who were obviously running this race together but I hadn't noticed up to this point started to make a lot of noise. It seemed that she was starting to struggle and he was trying to talk her through it. It was a psychological challenge listening to him with his good intentions saying things like "I promise the pain will go away after we cross the finish line" and "only 6.2 miles to go...... 1 step at a time."

I was getting deep into the race and had yet to see my family even though there were several places along the course that they had planned to get to and I had already passed. Little did I know that they spent over an hour in a traffic jam caused by the half-marathon runners. At mile 23 I finally saw my wife and I've said it before but that always really lifts my spirits. There she was cheering me on yelling "Go, go, you can do it!" While my wife was waiting for me at mile 23 my daughters, like super heroes, changed into their running clothes(yeah, they had their running clothes with them) and ran the last 5k of the marathon back to the finish to meet me there because with  the traffic that was the only way to guarantee someone would be there. Some things just make you think "I have an awesome family!" and this is one of those things.

Around mile 24 the pain of the marathon made itself known to me. My longest training run had been 22 miles and that was probably about 6 weeks ago. My hips, glutes, calves and feet just started to ache and burn. My back was becoming fatigued. Luckily, the route was coming back into the downtown area. The atmosphere was becoming festive, the crowd was growing and the landmarks becoming familiar. All of these things and the possibility of getting in under 3 hours really helped propel me over the next 2.2 miles.

The only real scare during the entire marathon happened at about 25.5 miles. It had started to spit rain and my legs were coming undone in a hurry. I landed on a wet manhole cover and felt my leg buckle. I thought for sure I was going down. Some how, some way I remained upright. I knew in that instance that had I gone down it would have been very difficult to make my legs go again and finish the race. By the Grace of God, my foot slipped, my legs buckled a bit but my stride was not broken.

We made 2 turns in a very short distance and the finish line came into view. I knew I wasn't coming in under 3 hours but I also knew that I had blown away my realistic goal of 3:04:59. In the end I finished in 3:00:25 for 89th  out of 2889 overall and 10th in my age division out of 333.
Finishing Strong!

Tom, a great friend and fellow marathoner  traveled a long way to be there at the finish. Thanks for all of the support Tom!

There are so many positives to take away from this race. While I didn't negative split the race I did nearly  even split it with the second half coming in just about 20 seconds slower and I am very pleased with that. Also, this is the first race that I have really planned a full strategy for and I feel like I executed it perfectly. Even my gear choice was dead on. I was comfortable the entire race. The only thing that I had to adjust during the race was my sock hat. If I got a little warm I pulled it off and carried until I got a little cool and put it back on. If you follow my training on daily mile you know that I battle being under/over dressed a lot. Most importantly, this definitely qualifies me for the 2014 Boston Marathon and gives me a very real chance of actually getting a spot and running in it. All of this in my first attempt at the marathon. I couldn't be happier with the result. As for the sub 3 hour goal, I guess that gives me a reason to train through the winter for an April Marathon.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon: Thanks for the Support

I would just like to take a minute and a few words to recognize those who's support was critical in the successful completion of my first marathon. If you have never known someone training to race a marathon then you might not understand just what a huge commitment it is and how it becomes a part of every aspect of that person's life. I wasn't training to "finish" a marathon. I was preparing to race a marathon and while there is nothing wrong with "finishing" as you can imagine racing that distance demands much more in the way of daily training. During my training cycle I ran an average of 10 miles a day and near the peak of my training it wasn't unusual to run 14 on Monday, 18 - 20 on Wednesday, and 12 or 13 on Friday while still running 6-8 on the other days.

This demanding schedule left me fatigued and hungry. Two things that make me a "bear" to be around. So I would like to thank people who put up with me on a daily basis; my family, my boss and my coworkers. I am truly blessed to have been surrounded by so many understanding people who at the end of it still wished me well.

Three people that I want to thank specifically are my wife and daughters; Mary, Kasey, and Hannah. To my wife, I know I have been tired and grumpy and you put up with me anyway. Before my first 20 mile run I was so scared that I nearly quit. You could have let me but you didn't. Instead you encouraged me and gave me the push I needed to get past what was a humongous mental barrier at the time. You gave up valuable study time and valuable down time to come support me in the "tune up" races that I ran and you can have no idea what seeing you on the course does for me. You have listened to me yammer on endlessly about running, nutrition, training philosophies, etc, etc. All of that and you are still here. All of that and I could see the genuine excitement and pride in the glow of your smile when we met at mile 23 of the race. I think that I will never forget that look.

To my oldest daughter Kasey, you are now the official race photographer for the family (unless you are running too of course). I love the pictures that you got during the race. I know you had a million other things you could have done last Friday and Saturday but instead you came to cheer me on. I will never forget that. I appreciate the advice you gave me on nutrition and your concern for how I ran the race didn't fall on deaf ears. That honest assessment will serve me well in the years, training cycles, and races to come.

To my youngest daughter Hannah. You have been my greatest and most vocal supporter throughout this whole thing. I set crazy goals and at times I know you are the only one who believed with all of their heart that I could actually attain them. Your belief in me pushed me harder than I could have pushed myself in training. I didn't matter what anyone else said or thought and even when I said I couldn't do it you were right there with unwavering support and encouragement.

I have learned a lot during this training cycle but I think the most important thing that I have learned is what great people I am surrounded by. A humongous "thank you" to all for the support and encouragement that I received.

 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

2012 Indianapolis Marathon and Half Marathon Race Report

This is my second year in a row running this race but there was a huge difference this year. I am in the first week of "taper" for a very aggressive marathon training cycle. Last year I decided to run this race about 6 weeks out and didn't do any real focused training. I had been running long runs of any where from 10 to 12 miles every week or so. This year because I am following a high milage training plan I have been running long runs once a week as far as 22 miles and runs of 12 to 15 miles 2 times a week.

I have been excited to run this race for a few weeks now. It is about 2 weeks out from my goal marathon so it was a great tempo training run with plenty of time for my body to absorb the physiological adaptations and make me that much stronger for the marathon. About a week ago my youngest daughter Hannah finished up the cross country season and began an intense off season training program on her own. I signed her up for the 5k as a baseline race for her to build her training program around. But once again we had a daughter missing, this time it was Kasey who was busy at her last cross country meet of the season. We missed her but she ended up posting a PR for cross country so it was worth it. Hannah PR'ed the 5k at 26:10 and took second in her age group.

The race is set in the city of Lawrence IN an east-side suburb of Indianapolis. The city is home to Ft. Benjamin Harrison and Ft Benjamin Harrison State Park. The race course spends a lot of time inside the park and the landscape of the park is a scenic oasis in the middle of Indiana. Really a very beautiful setting especially in the fall. The half marathon had 1802 finishers this year along with the 650 marathoners and the 600 5k participants so this is a mid-sized event.

The course is well staffed with water and gatorade stations and there are volunteers at every turn to help guide the runners and keep them on the right track. All of the volunteers seem to be great people and offer tons of encouragement to the runners. Not to mention they are just standing out there in the chilly, windy conditions for hours on end. You couldn't tell it though from their actions, words, and smiles. They look like they are having the time of their lives. I always try to make it a point to thank them as I pass. These races would be a whole lot different without all of the volunteers who give up thier weekend mornings to put on them on.

It was about 40 degrees and overcast this morning so the gear for the race included a long sleeve fitted tech shirt with a short sleeve tech shirt over the top (for warmth and pinning the bib to). Sock hat, gloves and shorts rounded out the clothes. I wore my Brooks Adreniline 12s and of course my new Garmin Forerunner 610. I made a last minute decision this morning to forego the heart rate monitor and I kind of regret that now that it is over because I really love analyzing the stats of my runs and would have liked to see what my heart was doing on the hills. When we arrived I got out of the car and ditched the sock hat, I could tell that it was already to warm for that.

I live about an hour from Lawrence and since the race offers morning of packet pickup and we learned last year that the city and race organizers do a very good job of traffic control and parking we decided to forego the additional costs of either two trips involving one to the expo Friday night and one to the race Saturday morning or the cost of a hotel for the night. That being the case, the day started around 5:15 AM for me. If you follow my training you know that this is sleeping in for me anyway. As a testement to how well orginized this race is, all went as planned we arrived, parked, did the packet pickup in plenty of time before the race. I did a little light jogging between the car and packet pickup location and called that a warmup.

My plan going into this race was to not get hurt, to not push so hard that I needed more than a day to recover but to get a good test of my fitness and preparedness for the Monumental Marathon in two weeks. Some other goals were to get control of my pace through the opening mile or two and to try to negative split the race and finish strong. I also wanted to and was pretty sure that I could get a sub 1:30 half marathon. Mission accomplished on all fronts.

I was in corral A and I started about mid-pack in the corral. Again, I wanted to control my opening pace so I wasn't worried about congestion, especially corral A type congestion. I controlled the first mile a little to well as I came in around a 7:00 minute mile so I picked it up just a bit in mile two. I remembered from last year that mile three included a hill that already had people walking so I knew I had that to contend with. Even though my goal race is supposedly as flat as a pancake I have included hill sprints in my training to help build leg strength and speed. While that allowed me to recover quickly after the hill, the hill still took it's toal on my pace in mile three pushing me back down around 7:00 minute mile.

Once the pack spread out I was only passed a couple of time in the rest of the race. Once was during mile 4 where another runner came up beside me and struck up a conversation. I was happy to learn that I could pass a talk test at this point of more than one or two full sentences. We talked a little about training and after finding out he hadn't run this course before I warned him about a nasty hill around mile 10.5. He started to build a gap and the competitive runner in me wanted to surge, close the gap and drop him. But we were only at about 4 miles or so and I had a plan and I was sticking to it. This is not my goal race and I wanted something left in the tank at the end. I gritted my teeth and let him go.

From this point on there is not a whole lot to say about the race. A few minutes after my conversation I caught sight of my wife which always raises my sprits and motivates me. There is a joke in my family that there are pictures of everyone else running but never any pictures of me. Even though she tried to rectify that in the last race I surprised my wife with my finishing time and she missed getting a picture even then. This time she was ready and caught me by surprise right around 4.5 miles and got my picture.


Mile 4.5 2012 Indianapolis Marathon and Half Marathon
My wife finally got a picture of me running.
From here until mile 11 I kept a pretty even pace right around 6:30 with a few miles a little faster and a few a little slower, all in all even. Mile 10.5 offers a pretty nasty hill especially that deep into the race. There were two runners ahead of me well with in striking distance and I felt that if I could maintain an even effort I would get them by the top of the hill. I was able to pass both runners and I also closed the gap a bit on my friend from mile 4. I began to visualize catching and passing him over the next 2.6 miles.


The full and half split right before mile thirteen and as I caught up with another runner I asked which he was running and found that he was doing the full and that it was his first. Again, happy to pass a talk test with full sentences at this pont. I offered him some encouragement and we split. Me heading for the finish and he for the next 13.5 miles.

The gap between my new friend and I was continuing to close and I noticed that he was beginning to look back. I caught him with less than a mile to go we talked a little more and he said that he had gone out to fast and was running out of gas. From here we could look diagonally and see the finish line. I pointed it out to him and encouraged him to dig and finish strong. As I pulled ahead he encouraged me and I called back and told him to hang with me. We made the turn for the last .1 and I had plenty of fuel left. A friend on dalymile.com, Cesar, had pointed out that based on my recent 10k performance I should be able to get under 1:28:00 for a half. I was a little worried that I wouldn't get in under 1:28 so I gave it everything I had in that last .1

I finished with a new PR by 4 minutes and 45 seconds at 1:27:22 for 2nd in my division out of 112, first in my AG since first in the division actually placed in the overall, 26th out of 1802. This was another great race. I have confidence in my pacing strategy and ability to execute it for the upcoming marathon. I have gained additional confidence in my physical fitness and preparedness for the marathon and I have gained more respect and trust inthe training program that I have been following. I think all of the psychological boosts that I recieved today will help over the next couple of weeks as the marathon begins to loom large.

My only regret is that my plan for the marathon includes fluid and nutritional intake and I should have practiced that today. Instead I took absolutely no fluid for the entire race and no nutrition. In retrospect I wish that I would have used the race today to practice that.

I know I will run this race again next year, I am just not sure at this point if I will do the full or the half. I'll do something though because the Indanapolis Marathon and Half Marathon is a great race, at a great time of year, on a great course!

2012 Indianapolis Marathon and Half Marathon.
Placing in our age groups. It's a fun family activity that we like to do some Saturdays.
2012 Indianapolis Marathon and Half Marathon
Finishing Kick!


Monday, October 15, 2012

A Prayer for True Worship

This prayer came to me a few weeks ago, has been running around in my head quite a bit and I find it helpful when I realize that I am practicing religious habits out of habit rather than out of love, devotion, and adoration of God.

Lord,

I don't want to be a whitewashed tomb. (Matthew 23:27)

Breath life into these dry bones (Ezekiel 37:5)

that may worship you in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

Amen

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Product Review: Garmin Forerunner 610

For my 40th birthday my wife got me, among other things, a Garmin Forerunner 610. I have never done a product review before and decided to do this one because after using the watch a single time I could see how much potential it has as a training tool. What can I say, when something positively impacts my life I want to share it so that someone else may benefit too. Instead of a single post however, there is so much that this watch does that the review will actually be a multi-part post of at least two and maybe more. It's hard to say because I find this watch more useful every time I run. A few key features that I want to hit in this post are the user interface, the GPS, and the lap/split functionality.


First off, the user interface is very well done. The 610 is a touchscreen device and initially I thought that the touch interface was going to be problematic because it didn't seem responsive enough until I read the manual and followed the manufacturers recommendation on how to interact with it. Unlike most touchscreen devices we are used to the 610 is designed to respond to touches by finger tip instead of the full finger pad. Once I read that the interface became much more responsive. I have even used  this watch several times with gloves on. The performance is no different and that will be valuable come this winter.

The main components of the user interface and menus seem very intuitive  I didn't need to read the manual to find where to go to start running, to view past  runs, or to set up basic information. Some of the more specific things in the interface didn't quite make sense to me until I fumbled around. Like how to turn off the auto-scroll feature during a run. Not to get to far off track but the auto-scroll feature scrolls through the various training screens. I thought it would be nice so I turned it on and found I didn't like it. I wanted to turn it off but couldn't get it figured out while I was on the run. Still, I never needed the manual, just a few seconds to think about it.

Speaking of the training screens, the 610 can have up to four screens that display data about your run however you want to set it up. I have found for me the default set up is just right. During a normal run the primary screen I use is the main training screen that displays elapsed time, the average pace for the current lap and the total distance. I occasionally flip to the time of day screen and the heart rate monitor screen and flipping through the screens couldn't be easier, just swipe on the screen left or right.

Being able to see the screen and make out the data is very important. You would think that goes without saying but when using the back light on my previous watch the smaller data displays were very difficult if not impossible to make out. How the back light affects the display is crucial to me as I run almost exclusively in the dark. The 610's back light causes no problems what-so-ever because all of the data is displayed large enough to make it out even while running. Furthermore, the back light uses the right color/brightness combination so that it actually makes it easier to see rather than harder. On that note, one very useful feature for me on this watch is the "always on" back light. The back light can be set to stay on a certain number of seconds after pressing the light button or to stay on until you press the light button again. For me, leaving the light on allows me to just glance down to see where I am and refocus on my running.

The 610 is a GPS enabled watch and the technology is built right into the watch itself meaning no external GPS receiver to lug around. Even with that the watch is very comfortable to wear and weighs an acceptable 2.75 ounces. The watch fixes on satellites quickly and by and large seems very accurate. The only exception to that is that it seems a little off in the first mile or so. Thinking about this I have to wonder and will probably research whether this is a result of the quick "fix." Another nice thing about the GPS on this watch is that the display shows to the hundredth of a mile and is updated every second. Which means you know exactly how far you have gone at any point.

The final feature of this watch that I want to touch on is the lap/split functionality. Again, on a running watch this seems like a no-brainier but my previous watch didn't do laps/splits at all. Not only does the 610 do laps/splits it can do them automatically based on whatever distance you choose. Again, I found the default set up (1 mile) to be perfect. Not only is this a great feature for analyzing the run when you are finished but since the watch alerts you on every "lap" and displays your average pace for that lap it is a great tool to keep you on your goal pace for the workout. So far this feature has been very helpful to me and I wish that I would have had that kind of feedback throughout this entire marathon training season.

So far I am really enjoying this watch. The user interface is intuitive and well designed, the GPS gives the kind of accurate feed back that is helpful and the lap/split functionality is a great motivator during the run as well as a useful tool for analysis after the run. Some more in-depth features of this watch that I am excited to detail in coming posts include interval workouts, custom workouts, virtual racer and the Garmin connect site where you can upload and analyze all of the data the watch collects.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bee Bumble 10K Race Report

I ran this race for the first time last year at the suggestion of a coworker and I was hooked. This is a small town race with about 450 or 500 runners and walkers participating in a 5k walk, 5k run, or the race I run the 10k.

The people who put this on really know how to do it to. The cost is a mere $18.00 for the 10k run + shirt + a ridiculously large 5 lbs goody bag packed full of things like moon pies and granola and everything in between. The best part is the supreme breakfast buffet that is served up after the race. Biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt, fresh fruit and a host of other breakfast foods. This breakfast smorgasbord is included in the race entry as well. I'm telling you, the people of Burnettsville know how to put on a race and I just don't think you could find a nicer group of people than the swarm of worker bees that volunteer their Saturday morning to put this race on.

I was very excited for this race because my oldest daughter Kasey was running it also. It worked out perfectly as she had a weekend off from running cross country. To make the day even better at the last minute my wife decided to sacrifice her Saturday morning to ride along and support us. I cannot tell you how much that means to me because I know she gave up valuable study time. The only thing missing was my youngest daughter who didn't have the weekend off from her cross country schedule and we missed her for sure.

On to the race. It was about an hour away with the very foggy conditions and back roads that we had to travel to get there but we made it in time to check in, warm up, hit the restroom and line up with about 10 minutes to spare. Plenty of time for a small race.

When I signed up for the race I was hoping to go under 40 minutes. I really didn't think I was feeling it this morning and I initially lined up in the middle of the pack. After a few minutes I reminded myself that that is not really the runner I am and started making my way to the front. I couldn't get all the way up but I was comfortable where ended up and knew that I could get through once we started running.

As always, I made the Sign of the Cross and offered the race as a prayer. It is something I do in thanksgiving for the gift of my body that is healthy enough to run and the gift of running itself. We started out and the running felt slow and relaxed and I just figured I would settle into a rhythm and see where I was. We hit the first mile and I was running a 6:11 pace. 6:11, oh yeah I am feeling it and it is on!

The course is an out and back and the first 2 miles are pancake flat. Mile 2 has a couple of moderate hills and the hill work I have been doing paid off. I ran those hills with very little trouble. Mile 3 right before the turn around has a hill that belongs in some other part of the country like a mountainous region. Okay, I may be exaggerating slightly but the hill is steep and long. The kind that makes your heart feel like it is going to come right out of your chest. Again, the hill work paid off, I climbed it and it hurt but I recovered quickly as the turn around was right at the top and we headed back down that same hill.

At the turn around I spotted a runner and targeted him for a pass. I concentrated on closing the gap and caught and passed him but offered encouragement as I went  by in hopes that he could finish strong. I wasn't sure how much longer I could hold my pace. My quads were burning and my legs were starting to feel a bit like jello and nausea was beginning to set in.  A few minutes later I heard the foot falls and labored breathing from behind and thought that he had gotten a second wind. I kept fighting and finally caught sight of the runner out of the corner of my eye.

It was not the guy I thought but a new challenger. This is exactly what I needed to help me finish strong. I am an very competitive runner and cannot stand to be passed. It was an all out foot race for the last 2 miles. With a 1.5 miles left I officially threw down the gauntlet as we passed a water station and I pointed it out to him and said "You better get a drink, it's gonna be a long mile and half". From that point on we traded the lead a couple of times and I tried my best to block him and cut him off. Anything to throw off his stride in hopes that he wouldn't be able to regain it. But he hung right there. In the last 10th of a mile you round a curve and the finish line comes into sight.

I don't remember what the clock said but I knew I was going to make it in under 40 minutes. We were still racing but I began celebrating in my mind. With about 5 steps left I began to pump my fist in victory. I didn't have the lead that I thought I did and this loss of focus was enough for him to come into my peripheral vision. I tried to surge to lock in the foot race victory but my feet got tangled up. I am not sure if it was the mat or if they just tangled in themselves but I went down as I crossed the finish line.

I tore the palm of my right hand up pretty good and have a bruise on the side of my right knee and right hip. I jumped up right away and went to offer congratulations to my competitor. That foot race alone was probably the most exciting thing I have done running since I started running. I cannot tell you how something like that changes the race, it is just something that you have to experience.
That is what I get for celebrating early. Lesson learned.

In the end, I PR'ed, I won my age group, placed 7th overall, and got a sub 40 minute 10k. My official time was 39:37, an average pace 6:23/Mile. My daughter also PR'ed the 5k and took second in her age group. A very happy day indeed. I have been training hard for the marathon and all of that hard work showed up and paid off today. This race was a humongous confidence builder and I am re-energized to finish out the marathon training.
Yeah, 1st in my AG!

Placing in our AG's, just another thing my family likes to do together :)


The Great Surprise

Last week before Mass I  was once again surprised by what had sadly become cliche to me. On the 1 hand it saddens me that I have fallen into the trap of letting it become cliche and meaningless but on the other hand I am so happy for the times when I discover the beauty, truth, and goodness of our faith that gets buried in these cliches.

The discovery was simply this, I am created by a God who loves me and truly want to be reunited with me. He doesn't just say this, He showed me by taking on humanity, walking along side of humanity and subjecting Himself to the worst humanity had to offer, hanging Him on a cross to die an excruciating death and forgiving humanity, and me, despite it.

I don't think this is a free pass and don't want to imply that it is. I still have to respond but God wants me to be with Him and all I have to do is respond. When I really think about it this is cause for great joy. What should cause this joy to ever fade; what could?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My AMDG Run: An Answered Prayer.

I have never been a person to pray for specific favors. It never felt right to me. My prayers generally are for strength, guidance, an acceptance of what comes my way. That is always how I "felt" right praying. To pray for a specific favor like a good grade, to do well in some competition and things like that just always felt a little wrong and to pray for physical healing was something I never would have considered.

I am not saying this was any kind of selflessness. I am not sure exactly what it was. A fear of seeming childish or perhaps it was out of fear that my faith would be shaken if the prayer wasn't answered. Regardless, this is how I generally pray. And that is not to say that I don't or didn't think that God doesn't concretely answer prayers. I believe that He does. For instance I have always prayed when overwhelmed something like "God, I cannot do this all alone, please help me" and I will somehow, someway find my way through whatever it is. Not only that but how the situation resolves more often than not leaves me in awe knowing that the only way it ended up like that was by the Hand of the GOD. So I don't like to pray for specifics and I do believe that GOD concretely and actually answers our prayers, makes tons of sense, right?

This Monday morning during a workout called a "tempo" run, I hurt my knee. A tempo run is a run in which a large chunk, 5 miles for me yesterday, is run as fast as the runner can sustain for 45  minutes to an hour. This is a hard workout. Near the end of the 5 miles I tweaked my knee and I was unable to run home and instead had to walk/jog for next 3 miles and even that was painful.

I iced and adviled yesterday and "hoped" for the best. But I didn't prayed about it. Around 9 last night I went for a short 1 mile test run. I am in marathon training and had a longer run planned for Tuesday morning so I wanted to see if there was any chance I could get it in. It was pretty painful and I was resolved that I wouldn't be running for at least a few days and would need to supplement with some other form of exercise.

After the test run, my wife and I were sitting on the couch watching Olympic coverage. Everyone in my family runs so the Olympic runners have been getting a lot of attention from us. My wife had read an article about Ryan Hall the other day and had started telling me about it. Hall readily shares his faith and in this particular article she read somethings that caught her attention. One of those things was that his wife shared a story of healing through prayer that happened to her.

Hall's wife is also a runner and apparently, she had an Achilles problem that doctors were not able to cure even after a year. She took matters to God and received what she asked. Her heal problems were cured and she has since not had any recurring problem with it.

As I said, this is never how I have prayed. But when my wife relayed this to me A flood of Scripture and Tradition came into my mind. I realized that one of the most prevalent and concrete ways God has relayed Himself to man throughout the Old and New Testaments has been through physical healing. I also realized that this continued in the in the early church and continues even today at places like Lourdes. I also realized that I and probably a lot of other people don't have enough faith to even give this a try. We hear stories and either think "oh, that's nice" or "umm, what a nut job." Looking back I wonder how I ever rectified the fact that God manifested Himself to people throughout the Bible but somehow we think today that He will no longer do that.

I was moved to pray for a healed knee. It wasn't a profound prayer. It wasn't a profound movement even. There was no glistening light from above, no music. I barley even realized I was praying. I am not even sure what if any words I used. It was a split second and I didn't give it much more thought. My knee didn't all of a sudden feel any different. But when I got up Tuesday morning there was absolutely no pain or even discomfort.

I woke up to workout and my knee felt fine. I put on my clothes and just thought I would give it another try before heading to the gym to use the elliptical machine (a torture device used by injured runners as a means of punishment for being injured). But after 1 slow mile and no pain and I thought, I can go a little farther. 2 miles down, no pain then 3 and 4, still no pain. I am beginning to realize what has happened. I am picking up the pace and still feeling just fine. By mile 5, I know that this is nothing short of an answered prayer. There is no other explanation; remember 8 hours ago 1 slow mile was painful. Now I am running at a normal pace and am over 5 miles into it.

I finished off 14 miles at an overall pace of 7:44 mpm and ran the last 2 around 30 seconds faster than that. WITH NO PAIN. Having been the person who actually lived this event, I have no other explanation and I've got to say, I don't really need one.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Today's Mass Readings



I love it when the a daily reading from Mass is one that has a special meaning. But today both the first reading and the Gospel were passages that have meaning for me. The first reading , 2 Timothy 2:8-15 contains our Bishop's Episcopal Motto "The word of God is not chained" and the Gospel Mark 12:28-34 included the "Two Great Commandments", "The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."

The first is meaningful because it is our Bishop's Episcopal Motto. If it means enough to a "Successor to the Apostles" to make it his motto then it should probably be a passage that I contemplate, perhaps I would learn something. The second from the Gospel is a great passage that I find really simplifies what I need to focus on during an examination of conscience.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Readings from Trinity Sunday

I am always interested in how the readings at Mass come together to form a cohesive teaching and theme. All though most of the time I try to find it on my own by reading them before Mass the connection is more often than not lost on me. That is when I rely on either the Missal (or some form of it) or the priests homily to point it out. I always get it, I just sometimes need some help. After all, I am not a biblical scholar and let's be honest there is a whole lot of background, cultural anomalies and "you had to be there"'s going on most of the time to make the connections. So when I do make that connection, when I can see the cohesiveness on my own, I get kind of excited. 


That happened  this Sunday and because this last Sunday was the Feast of the Holy Trinity the homily focused on the mystery of the Trinity. Almost any commentary to be found on Sunday's Mass was focused on that as well.  There was also an underlying connection in the readings that really points to the joy of the Christian life. 


It begins with Dt 4:32-34, 39-40. Moses poses questions and gives examples pointing out how God choose the Israelite people to be His people and all of the things that God did for them. This begins setting up how wonderful it is to be a people of God. It moves from there to the Psalm (from Psalm 33) and the response "Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own." Again, showing what a wonderful thing it is to be a people of God. 


The readings move on to the New Testament and point out what is possibly the greatest message of the Gospel. The best of the Good News if you will. In the Gospel reading (Mt 28:16-20) Jesus gives the Great Commission to his Apostles to go and make people from every nation a people of God through the Sacrament of Baptism. Now anyone who wants to be counted among the people of God can be. It is no longer just the nation of Israel. But it gets even better, because as the Paul teaches in the reading from Romans (8:14-17) in this baptism we are not just a people of God but children of God. If it was great and blessed and awesome to be a people of God, how much more to be children of God!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Running Goals or Running Goal; What is it That I Want?

The other day I got all caught up in setting running goals for myself for the rest of the year. After the goals were set, I found myself starting to worry about how I was going to reach them. Wondering if there would be time to sufficiently prepare for them all. My goals were to run a 5k in under 20 minutes, to run a half marathon in 1:25 minutes and qualify for and run in the Boston marathon in 2014. At first, I thought that setting and meeting these goals would make me a more serious runner. In fact, I thought that to be the "serious" runner I want to be that I needed these goals.

However, while I was running the other morning I realized that first of all, I was thinking about how to shift my training to meet my 5k goal. Then I began thinking about the right approach to a 1:25 half while training to qualify for Boston in a full marathon a month later. That is when I realized that the ancillary goals were starting to consume my focus and quite possibly interfere with the big goal. I also realized that the ancillary goals would quite possibly manifest without focusing on them through the course of preparing and pursuing the real goal.

So, after some reflection I realized that while it would be nice to have a sub 20 minute 5k in my list of achievements it really isn't something that I care about in terms of running. Even the half marathon in 1:25 isn't really something that I care about. I have run a half marathon 3 times now and I have run each faster than the last. My goals  no longer need to be restrained to distances I have already covered and times that my natural progression show I will hit anyway. I need to shift my focus to bigger things. What I really want in terms of running is to run Boston in 2014.

So now I have one goal that I can totally focus on and the difference is that by dropping the goals for a 5k and a half marathon I no longer need to feel like I have to worry about them. I don't have to worry about finding a 5k at the right time. Even if I do find the perfect 5k to run in, I don't need to worry about shifting focus to prepare for it. The same goes for the half marathon goal. While, I intend to run at least one more half before my target race, I don't need to worry about it and more importantly, I won't have to interrupt my marathon training to focus on hitting a goal in that half marathon.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: Running Ahead of the Sun by Greg Strosaker


Initially I bought this book because I have really enjoyed the author, Greg Strosaker’s, blog and following his training on DM(dailymile), a workout journal and social networking site for athletes. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I didn’t think that I would be getting a book that I would put down and look forward to picking back up, but that is exactly what I got. In other words, knowing the book was a compilation of training entries from dailymile and blog posts I was expecting an enjoyable read but nothing that would really grab and hold my attention. I soon found out that the book would be one that I was eager to get back to.

In the prolog you get an overview of the injury that would bring Greg’s previous season to an early end and the treatment he went through to get back to running. This really sets up the book nicely and puts you in Greg’s corner wishing him the best as he begins running again after a season ending injury. Once through the prolog you are taken along on his journey through an 18 week marathon training program as he chases ambitious running goals in the middle of his “real” life as a father, husband, and employee.

I have been following Greg on DM and his blog predawn runner for about 6 months. I know that his entries on DM always provide inspiration and insight. I also know that his blog posts are always worth reading and I can usually apply something from them to my own running. I was surprised how this was amplified in the book. I suppose that is because instead of the entries being separated by a day or two I was able to read through an entire week, or more, and see them not so much individually but in a more connected way.

The DM entries when read straight through in this manner allowed the continuity of the complete training cycle to be much more visible. Being connected to Greg’s training like this only amplified my desire to see him succeed.

Adding to the uninterrupted stream, the blog posts were interspersed and addressed a running theme or sub-theme in the DM posts. As I said, posts on predawnrunner.com are always worth the read but the way Greg fit the posts into the book around the training cycle served to enhance not only the story itself but the points being made and the insights of the posts.

However, the most surprising part of this book was the climax. It’s essentially an autobiography told through a training log. What kind of climax do you expect really? If you thought not much of one, you would be like me, dead wrong. The climax of this book comes in the form of the author’s experience running the 2011 Towpath marathon. At this point you are rooting for Greg from all the setup of the book. He details the race from start to finish. I was taken completely by surprise at the personal excitement and satisfaction I got through the author’s telling of the final leg of the race.

This is an excellent book. The reading is light but valuable, the story is compelling and if you are like me and have aspirations to run at a little higher level than your "average Joe" there is certainly much inspiration to be found. The book is available through amazon both in paperback and kindle editions here. Go get it an treat yourself to a nice summer read.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Alleluia!

If there is one characteristic of worship during Easter that I would point to as something that I truly enjoy and look forward to more and more it is the frequency with which we pronounce "Alleluia". The word certainly is not restricted in use to only the Easter season but during this season we use it a lot. In addition, this word is familiar to nearly every single person regardless of their faith. In fact, the word seems so common place that its significance sometime seems lost. But when you stop and take a minute to look at this word, which the Church seems so intent on saying during the main celebration of the Christian faith, its significance is striking.

As this article in the Catholic Encyclopedia points out, the word Alleluia comes to us from several places in scripture, most notably in the Psalms and in Revelations and is the worship-word of Creation. The word means "All hail to Him Who is!"

I like to keep this significance in mind  at Mass when we proclaim Alleluia because it helps remind me what I am doing at Mass or rather what is being done for me at Mass. Understanding the significance of the word makes it a great short prayer that can be said anytime anywhere. Proclaiming "Alleluia" with an understanding of the word, what it means and where it comes from, allows me to turn any moment into a profound prayer.

I'd like to share a couple of my favorite uses of the word. The first is from the hymn for Evening Prayer from April 30th this year. The second is a quote from Pope John Paul II, which is often attributed to and may very well have originated with St. Augustine (I just can't solidly verify that).

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal: alleluia!
Christ has burst the gates of hell; alleluia!
Death in vain forbids his rise; alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise; alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King; alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once, he all doth save; alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led; alleluia!
Following our exalted Head; alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise; alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies; alleluia!

"We are Easter people and alleluia is our song!" -- Pope John Paul II

Monday, May 7, 2012

One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon 2012 Race Report

A year of anticipation. A year of preparation. 12 weeks of intense, focused training. 3 weeks of competitive banter with a dailymile running friend. All of this led to a 1:32:39 13.1 mile PR effort at the One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon on 5/5/2012.

I ran my first half marathon here a year ago and I was hooked on racing. I knew when I crossed the finish line in 2011 that I would be running more races. I knew that I would be back for the 2012 running of this race. What I didn't know is how much faster and how much more competitive I would be. In other words, I have been looking forward to this race for a year. It has been a primary focus of my life for the last 12 weeks as I went from my regular running to an intense focus on preparing for this race.

The mini is the largest half marathon in the country. 35,000 people run the half marathon and another 5000 run the accompanying  5k for a total of 40,000 participants. Factor in these people's family and other spectators and downtown Indianapolis gets swamped with people. Furthermore, we live about an hour and a half from downtown Indy with no traffic. For these reasons, we put out the money for a hotel room right downtown on the start line. Lesson learned from last year, arrive downtown in plenty of time to deal with traffic, get checked in, deal with the wait for dinner and still make the expo in time for packet pickup without stressing. We got to our hotel and checked in by 2:00 PM.

First we visited the expo got our packets and browsed through the various vendors.  Downtown Indianapolis is well laid out with almost everything with in walking distance. We walked from the expo to the Spaghetti Factory for a traditional pasta dinner. After dinner we made our way back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.


Spaghetti Factory spaghetti. This is alone worth all of the training!

Hannah and me getting ready to crush some carbs!

It was a family affair this year. My wife and oldest daughter ran the 5k while my youngest daughter and I ran the half. 5k participants had to be lined up by 6:45 AM for a 7:00 AM start. The alarm went off at 5:15 AM  and the streets were already coming to life with news crews and some participants. We made our way out to the starting area. My uncle and a close family friend came all the way from Cleveland and Columbus OH respectively to support us in our race. They made it just after the 5k participants lined up so we walked around and met up with them for a few minutes before we had to line up. It was great to know that we had such support.


2012 Indianapolis Mini Marathon Start Corrals
A great thing about this race is everything goes off like clockwork. a 7:00 AM start is a 7:00 AM start, not a 7:10 AM start. When your starting corrals look like this, you had better be organized. 

If you are still with me you must be really interested, so I will get onto the details of my race. I was feeling very confident going into this race. I had trained hard. I was prepared. I was starting pretty close to the front. The Indianapolis Mini Marathon is a great race for the big race experience. That being said, if you are starting anywhere but upfront it can be very congested at the start and in the Speedway. But, if you have done well enough in a previous race to start near the front, you get the big race experience with out the frustration of the congestion that necessarily comes with it. Luckily, I had run a good enough effort last fall to be seeded in corral B and I didn't have to deal with the congestion. Finally, this was it, we were starting. I made the Sign of the Cross and offered the run as a prayer.

Almost immediately it looked like it might all go bad. Before the first mile was up, my breathing was labored, my quads were on fire and my shins felt tight and uncomfortable. What the heck? This is not how it was supposed to be. However it seems that it may have just been nerves because at some point it all went away.

I settled into a pace and got into a running groove. I began to enjoy the entertainment which was, in the first half of the race, almost non-stop. But more so, I enjoyed all of the people who come out to cheer on the runners. What a smile many of them brought to my face with their cheers of encouragement. Great people in Indianapolis!

Before I knew it we were approaching the Indianapolis Speedway. This is a pivotal point in the race. You go into the speedway at about mile 6 and come out at about mile 9. As you are coming in you can see the runners who are exiting the track. What I saw exiting the track was the lead car and a group of about 5 runners behind it. This means I was only about 2.5 miles behind the leaders. It was probably the single most exciting thing that I have seen while running.

Once out of the speedway, there is just about 4 miles left in the race. I had been challenged on dailymile by a childhood teammate, Brian Vinson to a virtual race. While I was running in Indy, he was running in the Capital City Half in Columbus OH. The competition provided a lot of fun and extra incentive leading up to the race. I had been running at or a little below a 7:00 minute/mile pace for 9 miles already. I was getting tired but the competition was now in the forefront of my mind and helped me to maintain close to that pace for the final 4 miles.

As I was making my way down victory mile it didn't even dawn on me that there might be the slightest chance that I would finish in the top 500. But as I crossed the finish line A volunteer handed me a medal and said "Congratulations, you finished in the top 500!" As exhausted as I was I couldn't help but feel another surge of adrenaline. I finished in the top 500, out of 35,000 (see the image above!).

Me crossing the finish line. If you are a runner you know what I am doing. For those of you who are not runners the single most important thing to do while crossing the finish line is "pause the watch!"

Running, at my house it's a family thing.

My time official time was 1:32:39 a PR by about 4 minutes and nearly 18 minutes faster than last year. It was 2 minutes and 40 seconds over my goal of 1:29:59 but all in all a great run. The rest of my family did great as well. My Oldest daughter finished the 5k in 29:45, my wife, on  a bad knee, finished the 5k in 30:40 and my youngest daughter finished her first half-marathon in 2:19:41.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter: A Season of Great Joy.

Easter is not over! Lent, our preparation for Easter, lasts for 40 days. For 40 days we deny ourselves everything from candy to hot showers and even sleep. We are putting aside our creature comforts in order to bare our souls and make room for a greater relationship with our Lord. So intent, somber and focused is our preparation that even at Mass we omit the beautiful music of the Gloria and the Alleluia before the Gospel. The point is, Lent is a time of long and intense preparation for Easter.

So we spend all of this time, 40 days (46 counting the Sundays and Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday), preparing for the joy of Easter. When Easter Sunday comes in the church the penitential purple of Lent is taken down and replaced with the gold that signifies the great celebration that is the Easter Season.

What you will notice for the next 50 days when you are in church is that the gold remains. The church will remain decorated with the gold of great celebration because the celebration of Easter is not over. However, in day to day life it seems that the importance of Easter is lost. In fact, the world would have us believe that Easter is one Sunday a year when we hunt colored eggs and shove our faces with candy and then it is back to business as usual. Is this what we spent 40 days preparing for? Or could it be that we have forgotten something or been mislead?

Don't settle for the impostor that would have us believe that Easter is about bunnies and candy! Easter is much more than this. Easter is central to our faith. We are celebrating the Glorious Resurrection of the Lord in which he has defeated  our enemy sin and death. Our joy at this should know no bounds. Such an earth shattering thing this is, can we even fathom what it means? Let's look past how comfortable we have grown with the idea. Let us stop seeing it as something that we are detached from. Let's take a moment (or 50 days) and see Easter for what it is; a great thing the Lord has done!

Alleluia!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday


Although I don’t remember the exact words or even where I found it, the sentiment of something I read last year has really stuck with me. The author pointed out that on the first Good Friday there were 3 kinds of people present. Those who hated, mocked, beat, tormented, and ultimately crucified our Lord; those who loved Him and watched in horror as He was treated in such a way; and those who were indifferent to Him and what was happening.

Surely the people who treated Jesus in such a despicable way sadden Him, how could it not.  However, the author pointed out how those that were indifferent to Him must have really saddened Him. Here is Our Lord being beaten, mocked, tortured and executed in a most horrific and excruciating fashion. He didn’t have to endure this treatment but he did for our sake. Yet people were indifferent to Him. We all know how it feels to make a sacrifice for someone else and not be appreciated. What sacrifice has anyone of us made that can even begin to compare? Still we have felt the sting of indifference.

Today let us fast so as not to seem indifferent. Today let us spend more time in prayer so as to not seem indifferent. Today let us participate in the Liturgy of the Passion so as to not seem indifferent. Above all, today let us not be indifferent to the great thing our God has done for us.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Praying the Rosary: Staying Focused

I have been praying the Rosary for several years now and I notice from time to time that things get just a little too routine. When this happens I feel like I miss the point of the prayer. On my run this morning I finished the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and realized I hadn't been paying much attention to it. In fact, I finished it and it seemed as though I hadn't actually prayed.

This is Lent and it is no time for zombie prayer! What to do? Pray it again and try harder to stay focused? Move on and try to get into some contemplative prayer? Just count it as a Rosary prayed and try again tomorrow? Then I thought of a new strategy. I would spend time summarizing, paraphrasing,  and analyzing each mystery before praying the prayers and then try to keep the fruit of that exercise in mind as I prayed the mystery. I have no doubt that this technique is not unique to me. If the truth were known, I probably read or heard about it somewhere but I can't really say when or where.

The time I spent before each mystery ended up taking longer that the prayers themselves. That was just fine. I had all the time in the world to pray the mysteries because this morning I was running 13 miles. Generally on a run of that length I can pray a full Rosary, Luminous Mysteries and all. But this morning after plowing through the Joyful Mysteries and realizing that my heart and mind hadn't been in it I spent the rest of my run simply re-praying the Joyful Mysteries in this new way.

I found this to be exceptionally helpful in focusing my mind on the mysteries I have prayed 100's of time before. Not only did it help me to stay focused on the life events of Our Lord, which is what the Rosary really is, really spending time looking at those events allowed me to see nuances I had over looked or had never noticed before.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Right to Lifestyle vs. The Right to the Free Expression of Religion



Are we really watching this fight? The fight between an inalienable right granted to us by our Creator and the new "right to health insurance" granted to us by our government. Worse still, it is only being called a "right to health insurance". That is not even what this fight is about.

Instead, there is a certain political faction that is trying to trick us into thinking that birth control is health care. Not only that but, they are trying to make us believe that health care is incomplete without artificial birth control and abortion inducing drugs. What this fight actually comes down to is a fight between the inalienable right of free expression of religion and the right to methods and drugs that have existed for only about 50 or 60 years. It is a fight between a right that is truly ours as part of our very nature and a  "right" to demand that someone else pay for our lifestyle choices. Because anyway you cut it birth control is a lifestyle choice.

The other day I was running on the treadmill at the gym and I look up to the television in front of me and saw Al Sharpton interviewing Sen. Barbara Boxer on MSNBC. The part of the interview that I saw apparently was focusing on the recent HHS mandate that will require Catholic's (or anyone else for that matter) who provide health insurance to employees to cover contraception and abortion inducing drugs*. I almost fell off of the treadmill when Al asked the senator how they could pass a law that said an employers religious view trumps your right to be insured. Senator Boxer makes the argument even more incomprehensible by comparing birth control to life saving (or even life improving, life extending, etc) medicine.

When the people who are in a position with mass media to influence public opinion are so willing to make a case for the government being allowed to trample our human rights we are in for a fight. When the people we elect to government are so willing to trample our rights to push their agenda, we are in for a fight. But then again we were never promised an easy road were we?






So yes,  Al Sharpton, yes, Senator Boxer, my right to free expression of religion and yours and everyone else trumps any right you may think you have to demand that I pay for your lifestyle choices. Because there is a difference between rights we posses by our very human nature and those thought up and instilled by bureaucrats.


* If you don't already know Catholic's hold that birth control is intrinsically evil. For an very good explanation of why the Church teaches this read  Humanae Vitae

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Church and Birth Control: Maybe it's More Than You Think.

I read Humanae Vitae this weekend. If you are unfamiliar with this document it is a papal encyclical written by Pope Paul VI in 1968. The document addresses the problem of artificial birth control in the context of modern society and applies the Church's Traditional teaching on the matter.

When it comes to current events involving birth control and the teachings of the Catholic Church you don't have to look far to find people saying things like "it's none of their business", "why doesn't the Church move in to the 21st century", "what does an old celibate guy know about sex anyway", "the Church just wants to tell women what they can do with their bodies" etc, etc ad nauseum. Sadly, it is not only people who are outside of the Church saying this but Catholics themselves often express like sentiments.

I think the most common objections to the Churches teaching are answered in Section 17 "Consequences of Artificial Methods"  which states
"Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."
There are two take always for me from this section. First, the real possibility of pregnancy through un-contracepted sex is an incentive to the young and unmarried to adhere to moral law. Namely that the sexual act is the right of a man and woman united in marriage for the procreation of the human race and the strengthening of the bond between them and that removing that incentive thereby making it easy for them to break that law is evil. Far to often our society tells us that providing kids with contraception is a good thing. They are going to have sex anyway, right? But no, as faithful Catholics we are not free to believe that. Pope Paul VI tells us that it is in fact evil.

The second take away was the Churches view of the woman. By standing firm in it's rejection of artificial birth control the Church is in fact affirming the real and true value of the woman. The Church is saying that men owe her reverence and care for her physical and emotional well being. By rejecting artificial birth control the Church is protecting the dignity of the woman, not controlling her.

I feel like the time I spent to read this document was well worth it. Humanae Vitae is only 12 pages long. I am a pretty slow reader and I like to go back over sentences and paragraphs several times while reading and I finished it in about 45 minutes. It has a lot of good teaching in it and would be a great read for someone who has wondered why the Church refuses to go along with the rest of society affirming the "goodness" of birth control.

The full encyclical can be found in pdf form here

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Are You Looking For?

In today's(1/15/2012) Gospel reading for Mass, our Lord asks "What are you looking for?" of 2 men who follow after Him. I am sure there are many ways to contemplate this reading but one particular angle that presented itself to me was "How would it change my day to day plans when I answer this question to the Lord?"

As a Christian, I profess to live a life of following Jesus. Therefore, I could expect at any moment for our Lord to turn to me and ask "What are you looking for?" If I recall this question as I go about my daily life, put myself in the place of the disciples and know that it is God that I am answering, how does that affect my answer and thus my actions throughout the day?

It seems that using this question to make my day to day plans and decisions would be a great start in the struggle of trying live the Christian life. I know that answering the question is just the beginning but I think answering it in this light would help in moving my life int he right direction.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Blessings; Count Them and Contemplate Them

Count your blessings. We have all heard it and probably said it. It helps us get through tough times and put our trials in perspective. There is certainly nothing wrong with counting your blessings. But how often do we contemplate our blessings and what happens when we do.

A while back I spoke to a priest because I felt like my relationship with God had kind of stagnated. The priest introduced me to the daily examen prayer. In the daily examen prayer you look at your day with gratitude and spend time reflecting on the blessing that you received that day. And even though there are other parts to the prayer, it was through it that I discovered the difference between counting blessings and contemplating blessings.

I have become very interested in this prayer because through it I can really see how God is in my life. It allows me to understand how strong that relationship is. Before I found this prayer I might go all day without thinking about God much at all except during times of active engagement with him. Prayer, reading scripture or talking specifically about Him.

However, with this prayer, because I spend time looking at the proceeding day and seeing how God moved though it I am more attentive to finding Him in the present. In other words, when I spend time contemplating the blessings of the prior day, it helps my see and appreciate blessings that I receive as I receive them. Thus keeping me more connected with God throughout the normal course of the day.

So go ahead and count you blessings when life gets tough and you need some help getting through. If you want to grow in your relationship with God, contemplating your blessings might be helpful.