About Kirk

My background is in education, specifically math. I have also spent over 10 years as a coach and been fortunate to be part of one of the premier softball programs in the country. Over the years I have developed a passion for logic and truth. Finally, I decided to write about it.

Early Morning, April 4

AR50readyArmed with all I have learned from the previous year and since, I feel as prepared as I could be for this years American River 50 Mile Endurance Run. Although I had battled Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis, I am feeling pretty good on this cold morning and ready to run.

Last year, I arrived late and had to park 2 miles from the start, barely making it back in time to start running. This year, I park at the finish and take the bus to the start line. I meet up with my buddy, Edd, and sit in his truck to keep warm. We early morning eclipsewatch the lunar eclipse and wait for the race to start. All checked in and ready to go, it is comforting to have time to relax before running.

I am fresh off a PR (although just barely) at the Way To Cool 50k and I had run the first and second half of this course to help me plan my strategy and coordinate with my crew. My main objective is to run more consistently. If my Strava graph is close to a flat line, I will consider this a success. My hope is to break 12 hours for the 50 miles. Those familiar with this race know that does not mean two 6 hour marathons. My plan is to finish the first half in about 5:30, leaving me 6:30 for the back half of the run.
selfieStrack As usual, I start out a little fast, but settle into a comfortable pace and enjoy the easier part of the run. I catch up to my friends, the Stracks, and sneak this selfie on the levee. Then it is onto the road and under the Johnny Cash bridge.

No more pictures though. My intent is to run comfortably, move through JohnnyCashBridgeaid stations, stay hydrated, and fuel smart. I opt for my Orange Mud Dual Quiver, rather than a hydration pack, because it is easier to fill and the two bottles allow me to carry water and electrolytes. I carry some Gu and some chews with me, but I am able to use what is available at the aid stations without slowing down. Peanut butter sandwiches, oranges, salt tablets, refill the bottles and keep moving.

Still feeling good at mile 10, I cross the footbridge and ARwalking bridgemake my way around Lake Natoma. I am wearing my old Hoka Mafate 2s and almost wishing I hadn’t because they are a little small and this part of the race has some downhill stretches that I can feel in my toes. Last year I ran the entire race in these shoes and I ended up losing two and a half toe nails.

The weather is about perfect. Cold enough at the start to wear a couple of layers and running tights, but not so cold that I am uncomfortable. I find myself running near Edd, who I know is considerably faster than me and feeling like I could run with him all day.

I am wrong! We hit the dirt and our first climb and back down and we are still together at the aid station at mile 17, but he leaves ahead of me and I will not see him again until the finish.

Up onto the bluffs, back onto the paved bike trail and into the best aid station ever (FTR at Negro Bar) I still feel good and still move through quickly. It’s all pavement from here to Beals Point and the half-way point of the run. Here I get to pick up my pacer, Stephanie and I indulge myself a longer rest. I change clothes for the, now, warmer weather, put on fresh socks, and my newer, slightly larger, Hoka Mafate 3s, and switch from my watch to the Strava app on my iPhone (since my Garmin has a 10 hour battery).

Completing the first half in under 5:30 (by 8 minutes), I feel in pretty good shape to reach my 12 hour goal. Looking back at the first half Strava graph later, it looks about perfect. The line is nearly flat at just over 13 minutes/mile and I still feel pretty fresh, but the technical and the steeper part of the course await me and, as I tire, consistency will desert me.

Although the terrain is not really steep, it is never flat and I find myself spending more time at aid stations. The Meat Grinder eats me up with it’s technical rolling hills and I see my pace slow more than I want it to at this point. Stephanie keeps me moving, however, in spite of this stretch having one less aid station from last year. I run out of water and am really dragging by the time I reach the Rattlesnake Bar aid station. This is where I am to meet Matt to pace me the last 10 miles, but he had a family event to go to and I learn he has switched out with my long-time running partner Dave who will push me to the finish. This is a welcome surprise, since this is the guy that got me started in all this ultra running to begin with.

I spend too much time at that aid station, but I get out and back on the trail, knowing that my 12 hour dream is out of reach, I set my sights on breaking 13 hours, which is still a half-hour improvement over last year.

I almost bonk at mile 46, a result of running out of water 6 miles earlier and the fact that AR50finishmy long runs have not been supported enough by weekday runs. With Dave’s help, I pull it back together and then hit the steepest part of the course. Mile 48 is another slow mile, but I push hard through mile 49 and sprint (sort of) to the finish. I felt someone trying to catch me coming in the chute, but I can’t let happen now, so I give it all I have left to cross the finish.

My second 50 mile race in the books at 12:57.

I plan to skip this race next year. I’m sure Ill find something else to run, but I want to return the favor and pace Dave for the same race.

Truth be told, I gave it all I had and I don’t know if I could run it any faster, but maybe…

I AM Steve Avilla! (and How I PR’d Without Getting Faster)

stevebibIt was an honor to be one of many running for my good friend Steve Avilla at this year’s Way Too Cool. I had many opportunities to talk to runners along the way who were also wearing his bib, but did not know him. I would ask how they knew Steve and they would respond that they didn’t, but they were happy to join in supporting him and his family/ I would tell them that I knew him and that I had often run with him and take the moment to tell them what a great guy he was. I love the way the trail running community supports one another, encourages each other, and comes together for and with each other.

WTCvillage

 

Way Too Cool is a combination of many of my favorite trails and a race I look forward to every year for 3 years now. I DNF’d my first year and finished last year (my second 50K distance) and, although I have struggled with injury and training schedules for the past year, I set my sights on a PR.

For a back-of-the-packer, like me, and being in my 50’s now, PR’s are getting harder to come by and injuries take longer to heal. I am hoping to keep up with Steve’s actual bib, which is running relay style to complete the race he loved. That would mean a PR by over an hour and, although I doubt my ability to do that, the math seems to work out and I can see that it might be possible.

I have a plan: My good friend and running mentor (I have a lot of runners I look up to and consider mentors), Sean Ranney, offered to help me prepare for this race (and AR50, coming up) and I was happy to accept. I have a plan, but that doesn’t mean I follow it very well. Still, having a plan helps me in several ways. Even though I am not following the plan very well, I am aware of where I am. I know what I am lacking and my workouts have more purpose than they would otherwise. I include some tempo runs, some intervals, and some specific hill work. I am well short of my great plan that my coach gave me, but I am still far ahead of where I would be without a plan.

Pre-race nutrition: I try to eat healthy(ish) most of the time anyway, but I have been focusing on less sugar and less fat, unless I crave it. I find that most of my cravings come from my body actually needing something. It’s not that way for everyone, nor for me all the time, but once I learned to pay attention to my body, I find I can tell the difference between a nutrition need and a waste of calories. I usually do the traditional carb-load thing the night before the race, but this time I hit the carbs all week. I try to get more sleep and make sure I am at the race earlier than usual.

Turn pace-breakers into pace-makers:

1) Run more, walk less. Seems obvious, but in an ultra, you walk. I try to do it less. Even a slow shuffle maintains better momentum than a walk.

2) Walk strong. Like I said, I’m going to walk some. I avoid putting my hands on my hips. I swing my arms almost as if I am running, but always in an exaggerated fashion.

3) Run up. Short inclines I run up… faster. I can increase my pace for a few steps. The top of longer hills that I walk, I run the last few steps. This gives me momentum as I crest the hill and leads me into the flat or down.

4) Glide down. I let gravity do the work. I run as fast as I can down hill without breaking form. This carries me into the flats and I maintain a faster pace for longer.

5) Don’t stop! This is the biggest one for me. I walk through aid stations. I keep moving when I am tired. Nothing kills a pace like not moving.

My strategywith the frog for the race is to keep moving. Starting with friends and trying to maintain an even pace (not too fast, not too slow) for the 8 mile Olmstead Loop, I’m feeling really good. I know I’m going to need my traditional porta-potty stop at some point and I’m hoping to make it 8 miles (I didn’t, but trees are as good as porta-potties if you come prepared). This is something that always kills my pace, so I try to be ahead of pace a little.

This is my favorite trail and I am looking secrettrailforward to crossing Knickerbocker and the Secret Trail. Many faster runners refer to this as the “conga line” because of the single track so early in the race that gets pretty crowded. This year, I find myself in the line running a pace just slightly faster than I am comfortable, but not out of reach. This pushes me to hold my pace better and I get back to the firehouse averaging under 11 minutes per mile.

A cute kid helping at the aid station hands me a Gu and I take it, along with some electrolytes, salt, and some coke. I fill up my water and move through. I do not stop for more than a minute at any aid stations (they are aid stations, not rest AmCanyon creekstops) and this probably makes the biggest difference in my finish time. At the next aid station, I catch my friends with Steve’s bib and run with them for a while. I hope to carry the bib for a few miles.

I always seem to make one big mistake and here it is: the second fruit flavored Gu. They always make me sick, but the one the kid gave me seemed OK and so I took a second one. Within a mile I was sick! I was hoping to throw up and get it out of my system, but it kept passing and then reoccurring for the next several miles. alt trailWhen I stagger into the Alt aid station I go back to real food (peanut butter sandwich, fruit, potatoes) and immediately start to feel better. I am now considerably behind my friends, and my planned pace, from being sick on a relatively easy part of the coarse. On to Goat Hill.

possible

My time has greatly suffered from being sick, but I am feeling better now and determined to get back on pace. I climb Goat Hill and find the day has gotten much hotter out in the sun. I refuel (soup and fruit, no GU) and fill up my water and head out. Doing the math in my head, I realize that I cannot catch my friends. I am not going to get the time I am hoping for, but I might still be able to beat last years’ time. Keep moving!

Coming down from Goat Hill and to the last aid,canyon trees I am wondering if I can make last years time or not. It’s beginning to seem unlikely. There is a 1.5 mile climb that seems steeper now that I have run 28 miles. Cresting it, I am catching a few of the runners that passed me while I was feeling sick and I check my watch when I reach the last half mile sign. I am next to another runner now and I might, typically, just run it in with her, but I see that I am close to my time from last yearmust do and really want to beat that. So, I apologize and tell her that I’m really close to a PR and push hard the last half mile. I come in about 1:30 faster than last year. I was hoping to take an hour off of my time, but I’ll take a minute.

Truth be told, I really just wanted to give Steve my best race and I did that.

Steve eagleWTCfinish

Best DNF Ever!

Starting out in the early morning fog in Cool, CA, I was cold, but comfortable.Fourmidable  - 4Fourmidable  - 6 This is my first time running Fourmidable, although I volunteered to sweep an 8 mile section last year, and I am curious to see if my Achilles is healed enough to handle the tough 50k course, consisting of four major climbs.

The course winds its way over some of my favorite trails, and some I have never run before.  First finding its way down to No Hands bridge and across towards Auburn. My favorite part of running local races is seeing familiar faces at the aid stations. There is no disappointment today, as I think I know everyone out there. After the first aid and a porta potty pit stop, I’m off across No Hands and on towards Auburn. I have comfortably settled to the back of the pack and maintaining my planned easy pace. The field is small and filled with fast runners, so it doesn’t bother me at all to be running with some good friends.

Fourmidable  - 10

 

 

On familiar trail and cruising along the rollers along the river, we take time to enjoy the scenery and take plenty of pictures. We pick up a little altitude and turn onto another trail I had not seen before and enjoy spectacular views.

Fourmidable  - 28

 

Fourmidable  - 11

 

Fourmidable  - 20

 

 

The first climb to the Overlook is a rude awakening to what our illustrious race director has in store.

fourmidThis is one of those trails I have never run before and I wasn’t quite ready for it when I came around the corner. Arriving at the ADO aid station to more familiar faces, I was ready for the long downhill to the base of Cardiac.

Then it is back up again, on one of the toughest climbs in the area, but that is what I’m here for.fourmidable -

 

 

 

At the top of Cardiac, I realize that, although I am on pace for my planned race time, I am going to be getting home later than I had hoped, and I had plans for the evening, so I pick up the pace along the aqueduct trail and back to the ADO aid station. From there it is back to NoFourmidable  - 36 Hands bridge and up the infamous K2 Training Hill. Outside of some climbs that I have done in the midst of semi- or non-supported races like Euchre Bar Massacre and Meow Marathons, this is the toughest hill I have ever climbed. For me, it’s only purpose is to make other hills (like Way Too Cool’s Goat Hill) seem more doable by comparison.

Cresting K2, and starting the descent towards Knickerbocker, I determine that I am not going to make it home in time if I complete this race. I usually leave race days clear of anything welse, but this was out of my control. Fourmidable  - 3So, at mile 21, I make the choice to take a left where the course goes right and find my way back to the Cool firehouse. Approaching the finish from the wrong direction, several friends ask me if I’m ok. Actually, I feel better than I have in months. I wanted to see if I could handle the hill. I wanted to know if I could maintain a pace. I needed to see if my Achilles and plantar fasciitia would hold up.

Truth be told, sometimes when you win, you lose; sometimes when you lose, you win; and sometimes you can learn all you need to learn without finishing the race. It’s taken me two weeks to get around to writing this, so I’ll be back at the Cool firehouse tomorrow morning. I’ll be running my best. I’ll be running for my friend Steve… But that’s next week’s blog.

Recovering with supplements

As some of you may know, I have suffered from an unfortunate string of injuries over the past couple of years. Starting with a  badly bruised knee cap, which led to over-training to compensate for lost time. This, combined with a moderate sprained ankle, resulted in plantar fasciitis and compensating from that caused Achilles Tendonosis in the opposite ankle. I have tried everything I could think of and taken advice from a lot of different people (including other runners, doctors, massage therapists, etc.) to speed the healing and recovery. I’ve changed shoes, changed inserts, and added inserts to my daily shoes. I’ve learned a lot from my research and the advice others have given me, so I’m hoping some of you will benefit from my learning.

runwithstout

First, there are many things I could have done to avoid the injuries in the first place. Like not rushing to train when I had missed training time, thus over-training. Stopping when I got hurt. Stretching better. An acute injury, like a sprain, or a bone bruise, will heal in its own time. On the other hand, fatigue injuries can be avoided. Once injured, however, recovery and avoiding further injury become the focus.

I am not a doctor, nor a physical therapist. What I am is a runner who has experienced injury and learned what helps the recovery process and what does not.

Total rest does not help Achilles injuries nor Plantar Fasciitis. To heal, these tendons need increased blood flow. Stretch, massage (Trigger Point worked well for me), and mild running. I was very tight each time I first started running, but it would loosen up as I warmed up. I stayed off of pavement and stopped if the pain started coming back. Shorter and less frequent runs seemed to help more than taking an absolute break. I also found that a good sports massage therapist can really work the right muscles and ligaments. The pain experienced during really deep massage gives great relief over time.

After about a year, a friend mine suggested some supplements that might help. Although the FDA does not back these claims, there is a lot of significant research that indicates some supplements aid in healing joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. My friend happens to be a representative for Young Living Essential Oils. The company offers massage oils and supplements to aid in general health and 3234well-being. The combination she suggested is specifically designed for bones, ligaments, and muscles (BLM). I decided to give it a try.

The suggested dosage for my weight is 1 tablet 4 times daily. A 90 count bottle costs $53.62, retail, and will last me about 3 weeks. There is an option to open a wholesale account and purchase it at 24% discount ($40.75). More information here. You do not have to sell anything in order to remain a member and receive the wholesale pricing. The included information claims that results will start being evident in 4-6 weeks, so I obtained two bottles and started taking the suggested dosage in addition to my regular supplements. I also continued my running in moderation, as well as stretching, trigger point massage, and foam rolling my calves.

I am not one to follow blindly in most cases, so I did some research outside of the Young Living website, into the ingredients and what they claim to do. Here it is:

Manganese Sulfate – believed to aid in bone and blood health
Glucosamine – for healthy joints, tendons, and ligaments (I give this to my dogs for the same reason)
Callogen – promotes cell growth
MSM – reduces swelling and pain
Balsam Fir Oil – aids in relaxation (I can find no research supporting the ingesting of this)
Wintergreen – pain relief, in particular nerve pain
Clove – reduce inflammation and pain

My Results

After 3 weeks, I had not noticed any significant change. I started the second bottle and at the end of the 4th week I started to notice that I was not waking up with the pain and stiffness I had previously experienced. My recovery after a run took less time and I did not have as much pain during the run. I still feel some mild discomfort, especially when I run on pavement. The most discomfort is during the first mile or two of my run, but then it subsides and only mildly returns when I stop running. This continued to improve for the remainder of the second bottle.

I did not notice any side effects, although my frequency of burping greatly increased and there is a strong influence from the cloves and wintergreen.

I’m not going to claim that the supplements healed me, but I’ve been out of them for about two weeks now and I have noticed an increase in morning stiffness in my ankle again. It certainly appears that the BLM supplements have been a significant part  of my healing process.

Truth be told, it is important to realize that these injuries happen over a period of time and healing usually takes time as well. Be patient. Take care of yourself. Staying healthy is easier than recovering.

Brooks Pure Grit 3 Review

In case you missed it, here is my review of the Brooks Pure Grit 3, as it appeared at Ultrarunnerpodcast.com

Summary: The Pure Grit 3, from Brooks, is a solid all around trail shoe with effective traction and protection. It is light enough to race in and durable enough for training.

Pros:

  • true sizing
  • light weight
  • solid construction
  • responsive
  • great traction

Cons:

  • ineffective sock liner
  • tongue slides to the side
  • not a true minimal shoe

First Impressions: I’ve been a fan of Brooks for several years and I have had good results running in both road and trail offerings. The Pure Grit 3 is light, but seems to be a solid trail shoe with fairly aggressive tread. Brooks effectively created an aggressive appearance with the Pure Grit 3. The red and blue with the bright yellow sole just looks fast, in the same way we bought shoes as kids because we were sure they would make us run faster or jump higher.

I use an alternative lacing to accommodate my high instep and I noticed the Pure Grit 3 has that built in with a wide stretchy band over the instep while the laces skip that part. I like the fact that they used flat laces; they seem to cut into my foot less.

Let’s give these a try.

Build: Lacing them up for the first time, they fit like a lighter version of the Cascadia. Certainly not a minimalist shoe, there seems to be more cushion that what I expected for the weight, but closer to minimal than the Cascadia by a significant margin. The shoe feels light, but solid. Brooks sock liners are never enough, so I put my SuperFeet inserts in there. The padding on the collar and tongue add to the comfort and the sole wrapping up on the toe and the reinforced heel protect the foot and preserve the durability of the shoe.

Ride: I was able to run the shoe on many different surfaces; hard dirt, rocky trail, DG bike trail, up and down hills, etc. I made a point to not avoid rocks and the rock plate offered adequate protection, although I was starting to feel it after 5 miles of purposely looking for rocks to step on (I wouldn’t recommend that), but you certainly don’t have to make any effort to avoid rocky terrain. On every surface the responsiveness of the shoe was impressive. They provide stability on uneven single track, as well as comfort and responsiveness on various other surfaces.

The Switchback Challenge is a highly technical 6.6 mile tail course (7.4 if you miss a turn) that truly put the Pure Grit, and me, through its paces. This seems to be the shoe’s element and they were nimble and comfortable through the turns and over the rocks.

Another big variation from the Cascadia is the 4mm drop (as opposed to 12mm). This significantly increases the responsiveness of the shoe to the trail, while maintaining a fair amount of cushion in the forefoot for comfort. The band over the inseam did exactly what I had hoped and held the shoe firmly in place, while saving me from any painful lace impressions on that area of my foot.

Stats:

  • $120
  • 4 mm drop (19mm stack at heel)
  • 10.1 oz (size 9) Brooks lists it at 9.9 oz

Final Impressions: Brooks markets their Pure series of shoes as minimalist, but compared to other minimal shoes available, I found these to barely fit in that designation. However, if you are wanting a durable trail shoe that is a little closer to minimal and a little closer to 0-drop, without being either one, this might be the shoe you are looking for. I enjoyed running the trails in the PureGrit 3. I could feel the trail without the discomfort I find in more minimal shoes. It is just plain fun to run in these. The light weight made me feel like I could move as one with the trail and I’m pretty sure they do make me faster. I plan on putting a lot more miles on these.

Find out more at http://www.brooksrunning.com/

If you’re thinking about purchasing these shoes, visit your local running store. If you’d rather purchase online, please consider using this link as it’ll drop a few nickels into the Ultra Runner Podcast bucket. Thanks.

 

Back Of The Pack Frustration

I still love to run! Races, on the other hand, are starting to frustrate me.

The back of the pack is filled with a different type of runner. The back of the pack crowd FullSizeRenderoften sign up for a race without training. They trot along having conversations with the people around them. They don’t worry about form. Often you can hear them slapping their feet onto the ground like they are wearing wet flippers. They hold their phones in their hands so they can listen to their music without headphones. Occasionally, they will take a phone call and have a conversation during the race.

When I first started running a few years ago, I was in this group and I hated being beat by people who obviously had poor running form and little or no conditioning. Yet, there they were, some of them, faster than me. I knew that the only way to avoid their distracting conversations, music, and foot flapping, was to train harder and get faster and stronger.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to win anything and if you are one of those conversating, foot flapping, music sharing runners, good for you! I’m glad you are out there having fun and enjoying this great sport. I’d just like to run with those that take the running part a little more seriously, at least during the race, but I’m just too slow.

But here I am, back with the back of the packers, running slower than I was last year, even after my initial injury. I have gone right past slowing down from injury, to slowing down from lack of training. My lack of training is now hurting me more than my injury.

IMG_1440I ran the Folsom Blues Breakout half marathon last Saturday. My time was 28 minutes slower than it was last year. My Achilles was a little sore, but my quads were burning the last 2 miles and I had to slow to a walk a couple of time just because I was out of breath. I’m carrying almost 20 pounds more than last year, which doesn’t help. My Plantar Fasciitis is better, but my Achilles hurts, especially when I run on pavement.

I still love the run, the people I run with (or behind), the beer after (if there’s any left), and IMG_1444the swag. A few years ago I couldn’t imaging running a marathon. Now I’ve completed a couple and two 50ks and a 50 miler. I just can’t imagine not doing more of that.

Truth be told, I have to find or create time to train, and I have to heal completely, so I can move back up in the pack. I’d like to be able to keep up with some of my friends, and get away from the back of the pack.

Organized Chaos

Now 1/4 of the way through the school year and I’m still not really clear on exactly what Common Core is, but then, neither is anybody else.

I have made two significant changes in the way I teach. The first involves putting the students in groups andgroups letting them figure things out for a while. More often than not, they are able to come up with a solution or a reason by discussing among themselves.

The second change is waiting. This is difficult for me. I have to give the students time to figure things out. I feel like I only have so much time to cover so much material and, if I wait, we will never get there. The waiting makes them think, however, and getting students to think is really my primary goal. Another challenging aspect of this is that students have been conditioned to wait for someone else to give them the answer. They believe that if they wait long enough, the teacher or another student will tell them the answer and they won’t have to figure it out. It’s really a game on both sides and by me out-waiting the students, they are the true winners.

I’m accustomed to having a fairly controlled class where I present material while the students take notes. They copy my examples and then try a couple on their own and we check them and then they ask questions. This is not the way it goes anymore. Now, I present a problem and they discuss how they might solve it. Being teenagers, the conversation quickly and easily diverts from the topic at hand. My task is to cruise around the room from group to group, providing prompts, questions, and encouragement. I can’t stay too long at any one group because as soon as my attention is focused on one, there is at least one other going off on a tangent somewhere. To the casual observer, it probably seems completely out of control. Often, it does to me as well.

At this point (midterms) I’m not seeing much of a difference in the grades of my students over previous years. It’s hard to say if they are learning more, but they are not scoring higher on tests. I am seeing an increase in what I consider to be good (or productive) questions and more often than not, students are able to answer those questions.

Truth be told, there will always be some great new method for teaching, but I believe the significant changes in students’ lives come from the relationships they develop. IF I can connect with them on both an intellectual and a personal level, I have a better chance of helping find success in whatever they attempt. The  biggest benefit from common core, may be that students learn how to better teach themselves, so they will continue to learn when a teacher is not present.

More

I’ve been thinking this week how we all want more… more time, more money, more talent, more attention, more stuff. Then a couple of things occurred to me.

First, we don’t really have anything accept by the grace of God. He alone determines the number of our days. We are born with our talents that we choose to develop or not. We, by providence or by a series of choices, are at the station in life we now are now. What we do with what we have is more significant than how we can get more, since, for the most part, getting more is not really an option.

I’m reminded of a video I saw recently (I tried to find it for this, but I can’t locate it at the moment) where a person pretending to be homeless first goes to people in a fast food restaurant and asks for food. After being turned down by those who had just bought their own food, he goes to a homeless person around the corner who has just been given a meal from the same restaurant. He asks the homeless man for some of his food and the homeless man shares it happily.

There is a lot to learn from this social experiment, but one lesson is that those with much seem to hold on more tightly to what they have than do those who have little.

In Malachi, God tells the prophet to tell the people to “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse and see if I won’t pour out a blessing that you won’t even be able to receive it.” Growing up Christian I’ve heard the claim that if you pay your tithe that God will provide for you in financial ways. You won’t get sick. You will get or keep your job. Your car will last longer. And so on. The problem is that when things go bad financially, as they can and often will, people holding on to these false promises think that God has turned against them. But God never made those kind of promises. Jesus taught that He came that we might have abundant joy. He did not promise us an easy life, good health or prosperity. He gave all that we could be free from sin and death, but He also taught that those who follow Him will suffer.

Yet, we have the opportunity to have true joy, whether we are suffering or not. Paul taught that he learned to be content in all circumstances. God makes that possible in that we can do al things through Him that gives us strength. Which leads me to my second thought.

It is only by realizing that we really have nothing, that we are able to more easily let go of that which we think we have. Realizing that God provides our time allows us to use it to serve other for His purposes. Realizing that all of our possessions are provided to us through the blessings of God allows us to use our assets to provide for others through charities and the local church. God gives us all we have and asks for us to trust Him by returning 10% to Him. Once we learn that He can do more with 90% than we can do on our own with all of it, this becomes a much easier task.

Truth be told, I have to learn this lesson over and over, because I am always wanting more, but my greatest joy comes when I trust God to provide what I need and let go of things I can’t have. Someday, maybe I’ll get it right.

Losing My Religion

IMG_1172.JPG
It’s been almost three weeks since my double race weekend. I know a lot of my running friends do races on Saturday and Sunday on a regular basis, but I never have… until now.

Running at 9000 feet is never easy anyway. Add obstacles and ice water and mud and electric shock and you have Tough Mudder. My goal was to finish and keep something in the tank for my race the next day. There were some tough climbs and some really tough climbs. Going trough mud and over logs and up walls and ladders really worked my arms. I have very little in the way of upper body strength and I did not spend any time in the gym getting ready for the obstacles that I would face. I had to skip a couple of the later obstacles that required all arms and I also skipped the 20 foot jump into the 12 foot mud bath, since I’m not a strong swimmer. There were a couple of ladder wall climbs where I could use my legs to help my arms. The Arctic Enema and the Electro Shock Therapy obstacles were the biggest psychologically. Jumping into a giant ice bath and duking under water literally takes your breath away. Just when I thought I had done all I could, I’m faced with the 50 foot curtain of electric wires to run through. Just before running through, they spray you with ice cold water. Not all of the wires are the same voltage. The first shock was a twinge on my arm. The second made me dodge slightly left. The third threw me to the ground like a rag doll, slamming my face into the mud. When I stood up I couldn’t see, but I forced myself to stagger forward to the finish. I soon discovered that my contacts were somehow shriveled up by the 10,000 volts of electric current I had been zapped with.

IMG_1166.JPG
I woke up early Sunday morning more sore than I could have imagined. We made the drive part way down the hill to Fresh Pond. I had signed up for the 20 mile run. I wanted to know if I was recovered enough from my injuries from the year before (Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles) and if I had worked my way back to ultra strength after taking time off to heal. My goal was to run the 20 mile course in 5-ish hours and then sign up for a 50 miler the end of September.

6 hours later I made my way across the finish line, pleased I had finished, but disappointed in my time and how tired my legs were.

IMG_1173.JPG

I love the trails around Jenkinson Lake and the views that you get there, but the trail is tough and I now had to re-evaluate if i could be ready for a 50 miler in 6 weeks.

The Achilles was very sore and my legs were just dead. After taking an entire week off, I came to the disappointing decision to not sign up for the Sac River Trail Run 50 in Redding. I realized that I just wasn’t going to get enough miles in before then.

Unfortunately, I have not felt like running much since then. I have run a couple of 2-3 mile runs and a 7 mile run.

Truth be told, I don’t really feel like a runner right now. I’m starting to not look like one either. It seems my weight comes back at the same rate my motivation disappears. I hope I get the desire back soon… I feel like I’m losing my religion.

And now, for something completely different

The first two days of the new school year under my belt and I have to say I’m pretty excited about it, but last week I might not have said so.

I’m sure a lot of you have heard at least something about Common Core State Standards. In theory, it all seems like a good idea. Shouldn’t an Algebra class in Sacramento teach the same things as an Algebra class in Iowa? I have had students move into my school mid year and they can’t transfer their knowledge because the classes are so different in scope and sequence. It certainly seems that if all the states had the same standards, then students would be better prepared for their next step, whether its college or trade school, or a career.

There are two entirely different sets of problems with the whole thing. The first is what most people have heard about. The federal government has too much control over the minutia of our lives. I’m not going to disagree and what has the federal government ever done really well anyway? The second set of problems is significantly more important. No one, up to this point, has been able to tell teachers exactly what Common Core means to the classroom. The early implementation at the elementary level has largely been chaotic. Most students and most parents do not even understand assignments that have been sent home. In an effort to encourage students to think “outside the box,” teachers are presenting assignments in a manner that is just confusing. They don’t seem to understand the difference between allowing different thinking and forced confusion. The idea is to let students learn in ways they feel comfortable with, but too often it has been about forcing students to be uncomfortable.

Clarity snuck into our pre-service meetings this year. Other than the fact that we had three days to change everything, I finally began to see some benefit potential for the new way of learning… and that it isn’t really new. Many of the teaching strategies that I learned in my credential and masters programs, and have been discouraged from using in my current assignment, are exactly what we are being asked to do now.

So, I rearranged my classroom in groups. The first two days have been a total divergence from what I have done for the past 10 years or more. Rather than present a rule, show a process, deliver an example and then let the students try on their own, my new process is to present a problem and let the students develop a method to solve it amongst themselves. The different groups communicate and find multiple paths to the same solution. They talk to and encourage each other. The students dictate how the material will be taught. Not what is taught, but how it will be taught. The students show me where they are and I can then take them from there to where they need to be. Students have less homework and more responsibility. Students learn to learn.

Truth be told, I’m still not excited about the federal government managing my classroom, but I am excited about the amount of learning that will go on in that room this year, by me as well as my students.