Running Tip: Take It Easy (Well This is a Life Tip Too)

Some post-hike relaxation with the running club…at my first running camp.

As I mentioned on my post about track the other day (Lessons from Last Night’s Track Workout), I missed the start on one of my splits because I was talking to another runner.

This runner is new to the sport. And good for her, being at track already! I had been running for a few years before I discovered track workouts. Anyway, while grabbing my water bottle I asked her how she was doing. She said fine, but she then asked me if I thought she’d ever run fast. I responded, “sure, keep working at it.”

I also told her that while I’m slow in comparison to the younger, faster runners at track, I’ve become a pretty decent runner within my age group. She will too.

She asked, “how long will it take?” Well, I don’t have an answer there. I told her to be patient. To be consistent. And finally, to run slow and easy most days. She was a bit perplexed, telling me that maybe she’s trying too hard every day. I said, “take it easy,” even though that sounds counter intuitive. Then I looked at my watch and said, “oh no, I have to go!” I’ll talk with her more next week.

I’ve learned, the hard way, that I need to take it easy. Like many improving runners I like to see that I’m getting faster. Some days then, I pushed a bit harder, telling myself that I was running easy, when in fact I wasn’t. Once I learned to take my easy days easy, I noticed improvement on those hard days. The ratio target is 80% easy/20% hard.

Enjoying a bit of beach time with friends.

Good for Life

As I think about it more, I’m realizing that this might be a metaphor for life. We seem to have developed this culture that prefers working hard. While there is nothing wrong with hard work, it is unhealthy if it is all we do.

This idea of hard work sometimes manifests itself into the need to always be busy (as a pastor I understand this one well). Think about this, when is the last time you responded to the question, “what have you been doing?” with “ahh just taking it easy, with a bit of hard work thrown in.” The temptation is to respond with, “I’ve been so busy with this and this and this and…” Actually the temptation is to live every day being busy with this and this and this and…

We get so busy that we don’t always have time for family, for friends, for entertainment, for life, for relaxation.

And when we are this busy, there’s a probability that we aren’t even doing a good job at all the work we are doing. Why? Because we’re too tired. I personally know when I’ve been doing too much because I get cranky…and when I sit down to read (important in my work) I start dozing off after a few paragraphs.

My lesson from running is to run hard and to run easy…all at the proper time. The same goes for work and living life. Prioritize those important times for working hard, but remember that to be effective you need those easier efforts as well. You also need rest. And that reminds me…

The Sabbath is a biblical concept that comes out of the creation story. God rested on the 7th day. Traditionally the Sabbath is set aside for worship and family and rest. We as a culture don’t do this so much anymore, but that doesn’t mean its less important, solely for the fact that we need this time away from being busy. At least 1/7th of our time if we’re the model of the Sabbath. It is good for our souls.

Lessons from Last Night’s Track Workout

img_4669.jpgMost Wednesday evenings you’ll find me at one of our local high schools grinding through a track workout with my running club. I’ve been going to these for just over 2 years and I’d have to say these workouts have helped tremendously as part of my overall training routine. I love going to track… even though track is incredibly hard.

Usually our coach posts the workouts before we get there. Yesterday he posted it just a couple hours before. When I saw it, I thought, “this is gonna kill me!”

There are three levels of workout. Most of the past couple years I’ve done level two but for the past few weeks my training schedule has indicate level 3. This usually means a bit longer distance. Here is last night’s workout:

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While I love going to track, I’m always nervous when the pace is supposed to be faster than 5k. I’m better at marathons than short fast distances…at least I tell myself this.

So last night, I had to reset my mind. While doing strides as part of the warmup I also did a bit of self talk. It went kind of like this, “I’m gonna die! No I’m not gonna die. Quit saying this! I’m strong and I can do this. I can run hard.” Strides done, I set to it.

We usually go to in pace groups, which we did last night. Mine is the 8:00-9:00 minute mile pace group. There were about 6 of us, but we quickly spread out over the track. I was aiming to run that first 1600 in 8:20, knowing that if I went too fast the latter part of the workout would be a disaster.

So first one down in 8:20 exactly. Not bad!

During the 3 minute rest I walked a bit and then went to get a drink of water and dry off the sweat. I began talking to a new runner who asked me if she’d ever get to be fast. I assured her that she would improve. Started talking about ratio of slow to fast running and looked at my watch and realized that I was out of rest time.

My pace group had already left, so I was on my own. But a group that is faster than me was taking off and I went with them saying, “ha! you’re my new pace group!” I also accidentally hit “stop” on my watch instead of “new lap” so I have no idea how I did on that first 400. I came in about 20 seconds behind the faster group.

When my 90 seconds rest was almost over I told them to go…which became our routine for the rest of the workout. I followed and tried with all my might to keep up and ran the following for the next three 400s: 1:53.8; 1:51.1; 1:51.3.

This was fast for me!

The second 1600 felt easy in comparison to those 400s, at least the first half of it. I caught up with my husband who was running his own 2nd 1600. We ran a lap side-by-side and then I told him to step it up. He’s faster than me so he should be going faster! Usually I start to slow at the later stages of track workouts…just like I do in a 5k race. I’m trying to get better. So I did not want to do this 1600 slower than 8:20. Could I hold on?

I ran hard across the finish line, setting a new lap, and slowed down, huffing and puffing to look at my time. Nice surprise! 8:18 exactly.

Now for the really hard part. Three minutes rest followed by 4 more 400s.

I went out with my new faster than me pace group. Ran hard, crossed the finish while setting a new lap, stopped, looked and was a bit disappointed in myself with a 1:55.6. While this is a good time for me I didn’t want to do my usual and slow down as the workout proceeded. I said, “4 seconds slower.”

90 seconds later, attempt number 2. Run hard! 153.2 Yes!

90 second later, attempt number 3. Can I keep it up? 1:52.7 Yes!

90 seconds later, attempt number 4. I was tired. I tried to keep my eye on the group ahead of me. As my legs felt heavy at the 200 mark, I pushed, thinking of how hard it is to finish a marathon and pushed. I crossed the finish line not sure about my time for this last 400. Nice surprise! 1:53.5

So…instead of this workout killing me. I killed it!

The lesson. When you find yourself daunted by a difficult task, don’t let your self-talk defeat you before you even start. Instead focus on what you can do, as you dig deep for the strength that is within. Then work hard! Don’t give up.

And another lesson. We might think we are running alone…and we often are. But when it comes to track and hard efforts, we do so much better when we help one another. I’m grateful for the encouragement of my faster than me pace group last night. They were always ahead but still pulled me along. And they were always encouraging as I crossed that line.


Growing Up Racist – #3

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” -Genesis 1:27

I love the first creation story in Genesis. I love the poetic way the writer describes order coming out of chaos. I love the way the early understanding of the world meant the sky was seen as a great dome. I love how after each day of creation “God saw that it was good.”

This creation story is not about science. It is a story about God bringing order out of chaos. It is a story of love. It is a story that allows us to think about beginnings and the wonder of this world. But mostly I love the egalitarian description of our creation.

Humankind, men and women, were created in the image of God. As we, together, are created in this image it is only possible to reflect that image when we are together.

When I meet with people who have been hurt by the church, it is often because someone has told them that they are “less than.” I always say, “you are created in God’s image and God loves you the way you were created.” This has been important for me to share with those sisters and brothers of mine in the LGBTQ community.

Today I am thinking of the awful human made idea of “race.” This idea that our skin color makes us different from one another, with those possessing white (or light) skin being created as superior. This is not true. This is not biblical. This is sin.

A struggle with this sin is that its debasing ideas are so steeped in our culture that we don’t always recognize our own thoughts as racist.

I remember the first time I consciously thought about skin color. We had moved to Texas (outside of Chandler in East Texas) and I was in 2nd grade. This would have been in the late 60s so the schools had already been desegregated.

I rode the bus…for a very long time. We lived 13 miles out of town and so were the first picked up and the last dropped off. To this day I’m not a fan of riding busses.

I discovered quickly that the busses were segregated. There were two African American boys, twins, in my class. They lived a little ways down the highway. In fact they were the only children who lived near us. But they rode a separate bus. We never played together.

In my childish naiveté, I hadn’t considered different skin color as representative of different “race” and thus the need to be separated. My first thought had been that an older sister of mine had darker skin than me. I was thankful she still lived in California because if she had come to Texas with us they would have made her ride a separate bus. The logic of a 2nd grader.

The 2nd grade me lost the opportunity to play with and be friends with the boys down the highway. Just because of skin color.

The other loss for the 2nd grader was the subconscious learning that there must have been something wrong with these boys. Why else would they and others need to be separated?

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” -Genesis 1:27

There was nothing wrong with those boys. There was something wrong with the adults. There was something wrong in a culture that perverts the truth that ALL humans are created in God’s image, and thus are precious. I wish I knew these boys. I pray for them. I pray for me. I pray for the day when we see our neighbors as precious in God’s sight and thus precious in our sights as well.

By the way, after God created human beings…male and female and with different skin, eye, and hair color, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good (Genesis 1:31).”

When did you first become aware of racism?

Hell Hill – Ray Miller Training Run #3

img_4670.jpgI’m running my first 50k December 2nd. The race is called Ray Miller because that is the first of the many trails we encounter. Today was my third run on the course.

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The loop is the second loop of the Ray Miller 50k

In looking at the course description, and in talking to past participants, I’d become familiar with the name, Hell Hill. But I hadn’t experienced it. I remember thinking about it like this, “all these hills are hard, so how hard can Hell Hill possibly be?”

One friend described it as a hill that requires using you hands, to help push your quads to ascend. This hill occurs about halfway into the race.

Today, my daughter (Megan) and I did a 14 mile run completing the middle of the three loops that make up the course. It was a beautiful day. The temperature was close to perfect. The sky was blue and we could see forever. This was a much easier run than the 12 miler I did in late August (Ray Miller Training Run #2). That day was hot!

To keep my easy efforts truly easy I’ve been running by heart rate and trying to keep it around 130 bpm on average… although how easy can it ever be running on hilly trails? I had no problem with this today, with an average of only 121. I was VERY slow today, with an average pace of 15:00 per mile.

Part of the slowness was a tentativeness in running on the trail, since last time I went hiking (Overdoing It) I did a face plant.

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 7.41.08 PMAnd then…we encountered Hell Hill. Oh my! My average pace in this little section was almost 25 minutes! At one point I envisioned just wanting to crawl up into a ball and resting! After every curve in the trail we saw more uphill.

Once we made it to the top of Hell Hill, we had about 4.5 miles to run. At first we both thought these last miles would be hell. I started running, jogging really, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that my legs were good to go.

Those last 4 miles were nice!

Last, I concentrated on the trail and made sure not to let my mind wander as this seems to be when I trip and fall. After I hit 14 miles (and still needed to go .2 to get to the bottom), I was startled by a lizard that darted under my feet. I tripped. But I caught myself and stayed upright. Success!

The next Ray Miller will be in 2 weeks. Next week I’ll be running 20 on the roads, as my last long run before the Ventura Marathon on October 22nd.

Casting a long morning shadow. Camarillo, Oxnard, and the ocean are off in the distance.

Quit when it’s hard? No Way!

IMG_3672.JPGMost of us have contemplated quitting something. Sometime our reasons are perfectly valid, but not always. I’ve been thinking about this topic, quitting, after my latest fall while hiking (read about it here: Overdoing It).

I confess that while picking myself up, rinsing off the blood, and brushing all the dirt off my clothing I thought that maybe I should give up trails…running and hiking them. Once we started walking again I voiced this defeatist idea to Scott, who responded, “but one of your falls wasn’t on a trail.” Oh yeah. This is a perfect example of why we need to share our thoughts with others.

I’ve still been thinking about it though. Not because I want to give up trail running but because I wonder if maybe we are too quick sometimes to quit. We face difficulties in all areas of life: work, home, trying to eat healthy, relationships, societal, basically anywhere we want to improve on something we face difficulties. Or maybe a better way of looking at it is that positive change is hard.

Those of us born with a stubborn gene (I’m sure there is one) are probably at a bit of an advantage here, because we don’t like to admit defeat. But still there are times when we’ve contemplated giving up on something.

While I have many stories of persevering, and stubbornly holding on when I shouldn’t, I’ll just share two for you. One when I quit and one when I didn’t. They’re both related  to my Call as a pastor.

First, I wasn’t raised in a church. And as a teenage and young adult I didn’t like Christians. (This is a long story that I’ve shared in my church, and maybe will share in a blog post some day). Anyway, when I was in my late 20s-early 30s I sent my children to a Lutheran preschool and that was the beginning of my slow, slow, slow immersion into the Lutheran church. This mostly happened because I met Lutheran Christians who were very different than the stereotype that I had of Christians.

Eventually I became more involved, participated in Bible studies, participated in ministry training programs, and began to feel a call to serve in some greater way. At the time I was a member (and now staff member) of a Lutheran church in a denomination that does not recognize God’s call on women leaders. I went to seminary (Fuller in Pasadena) “because I wanted to learn more.” While there I began more and more to discover that God was leading me to something far different than I had ever imagined. Unfortunately I was in a church that said, “no you are wrong to think that God would call you in this way.”

Some in this denomination told me “if you don’t like it then leave.” Yeah, saying that to a stubborn person usually insures they’ll stay! Others wanted me to stay and work for change. But I eventually came to the conclusion that God did not call me to “bang my head against the wall” trying to change something, when in reality I had no voice. This denomination needs men to step up!

So I quit. Not because it was hard but because I recognized that I needed to be elsewhere. Maybe it’s the seeing another path that is a good sign for those times we do need to quit whatever it is we are struggling to accomplish.

Fast forward many years… I am now a pastor in a different Lutheran Church (ELCA) and have served for a little over seven years at my congregation in Oxnard CA. I honestly can’t say that I’ve been an awesome pastor, but maybe I can say I’ve been a human pastor. Maybe that’s all we can expect.

It’s interesting to become a pastor at a time the church (not just my congregation) is declining. There are all sorts of reasons for this and many have ideas of what we should be doing…I could go to conferences on this probably every month.

I often say (and believe) that the church will always exist, but not as we know it today. Yet I don’t know what that future church will look like. Some leader!

So, it’s hard.

I never, before becoming a pastor, thought I’d be addressing massacres and racism and terrorism. Naive on my part! I still remember my hands shaking as I got up to preach on the Sunday after Sandy Hook…then again and again.

I’ve tried mightily to explain why Black Lives Matter as a movement is so important…and that I know Black Lives Matter to God.

I helped lead us to become a congregation that welcomes and affirms our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. We are a safe place in this regard.

Then last November’s election happened and I had to question my call. Every day I had to start the day with remembering my gratitude, because what I really wanted to do was to quit trying. I grieved…not so much for myself but for my brothers and sisters who are not white cisgendered middle (or upper) class Americans. I could not understand how those who follow Jesus could support someone who was so hateful towards others.

For most of November I wondered if I really did have a call. I talked. I ran. I prayed. I ran. I read. I prayed. And I ran some more. And I came to the conclusion that I do have a call. To use my voice (even in a small church) to speak of God’s love for the oppressed, the marginalized, the immigrant, the orphan, the widow, the poor.

It’s been hard.

I’ve been reading more about racism lately. I’ll share some discoveries later. After Charlottesville I believe that it is even more important. I also believe that it is not the responsibility of my African American sisters and brothers to convince me (and those like me and in my church) that change is needed. I believe that this is a call from God, not just to me, but to the church. I’ve said this to my congregation. Will we respond to this call? I hope so.

Do I fully know what to do? No. But in every hard thing that I’ve done, I’ve not known fully what to do. I can even think of instance where if I’d known, I may not have started. So I’m ok with discerning with others the next steps. The lives of people who God loves depend on this. The church depends on it as well even if her members don’t realize it.

It’s hard…but I’m not quitting.

And…I’ll keep trail running too, hopefully I’ll be better at picking up my feet.

A Thought on Forgiveness

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” -Matthew 18:21-22

This wood had been hidden by cheap paneling, which when removed reveal a split. It was repaired, though not perfectly. It’s a good reminder that when we forgive we still bear the memories, but they no longer have a hold on us.

I think these words hit home for many of us because we, like Peter, can think of that person who hurts, annoys, or angers us over and over again. We ask ourselves, “how long must I put up with that person?” For Jesus, the answer seems to be “forever.”

I’ve struggled with this because I’ve also struggled with difficult relationships, or better described as unsafe or unhealthy relationships. In one case, when I didn’t realize the extent of the problem, I equated forgiving with putting up with. I’ve learned that they are not the same.

Yes, forgiveness is necessary. But here’s the rub, it’s not most important for the person receiving the forgiveness. Rather forgiving is important for your own well-being. When we can forgive someone, we have taken away the ability of that person to have any power over us. When we forgive we consciously decide to let go of our anger, our hurt. When we learn to forgive, we learn anew that the only behavior we can control is our own. We learn to let go of our desire that the other person act in a certain way.

Of course this isn’t easy. Most of us are very good at holding on to our hurts… of revisiting them… of allowing them to control our attitudes.

I remember (many years ago) speaking with a married couple about in-law problems. In this case the wife was upset with her husband’s parents. She did not believe they respected her and she was in a perpetual state of anger toward them. They did not behave in a manner that she desired. She said, “I can never forgive them…”

We talked about this. I described forgiveness as not something that she was giving to them, but rather something she could give to herself. I also invited her to pray for her in-laws as a way towards forgiveness. She discovered that as she let go of her expectations, and let go of her anger, the relationship actually improved. What a wonderful ending to this particular story. Unfortunately all stories don’t end this way.

So what happens when forgiveness doesn’t fix the situation? Do we count the number of times we’ve forgiven the person? That seems to be the question asked by Peter. Do we continue to put up with the situation?

Here is where we need to learn healthy boundaries. Here is where we need to learn that forgiving is not condoning. Forgiving is not permitting. Forgiving is not choosing to become a doormat. Forgiving does not mean that you, or I, must put up with bad behavior.

In my own personal experience I had to learn to say “no.” I had to learn that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily lead to restored relationship. Rather forgiveness led to a sense of wholeness in my own life as I learned to set firm boundaries in one case and to let go of old hurts and old relationships in another.

This isn’t always easy. Actually it is never easy. But maybe as we practice forgiveness we can do our part to make our world a little less angry. And that will benefit us all.

When have you struggled with forgiving someone? What happened?

And one more thought…on the benefits of exercise. If you are struggling with an issue or a person or anger or hurt I suggest a great form of prayer. Go for a walk or a run or a bike ride. Go outside and experience nature. Work hard. This won’t erase your experience, but it will help you cope physically. It will help you stay healthy. It may even give you the ability to release your feelings into the hard effort of exercise.