29 November 2009

Born to run

I love running by the river and through the woods. There's almost no one else out there, just me and the water and the trees. So when mom wanted me to run some errands in town, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to run the trail.

From thanksgiving leave 09

I probably wound up doing three or four miles in my FiveFingers, basically rubber toe socks. SInce they have no cushion or arch support, they force you to run how you were born to run - land on the balls/sides of your feet, let your heel just touch the ground, then launch off your toes. It feels natural and smooth after you practice it a bit. And it makes your lower calves sore, since your shoes can cause those muscles to atrophy.

But it felt great, especially when I cut off through the pine and oak forests, running on the dirt and pine needles and leaves and grass. I could feel them all beneath my feet, and feel my feet automatically adjusting to the different levels of cushioning the ground offered. I padded along, smooth and content.

So after I got home with the carrots for mom, I ate a banana or something and decided I felt good enough for another run. I pulled on my FiveFingers again and headed down the road for the Flushing Township Nature Park, one of my favorite places in the world. It's got a couple meadows on the river bluff, and some floodplains down closer to the river. Most of the trails are smooth and grassy, but down by the river there's some boardwalk. Both felt great under my nearly-bare feet.

All told, I think I did about ten miles that day. And when I woke up the next day at sunrise, I decided to head out again. We were down in northern Kentucky at my cousins', staying for Thanksgiving, and I remembered a little park a ways up the road. The hills there were steep and muddy, so I had to walk in some pots, but it was a good run.

From thanksgiving leave 09

I'm gonna keep this up - it just feels so good. Dad always said I could be a runner, but it always bothered my knees. Now my knees are fine, and I want to do a marathon. Part of that inspiration comes from a book called Born to Run, about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and their frequent 100+ mile runs through the canyons. The fact is our bodies are designed for endurance running - and if you don't believe that, your shoes may be holding you back.

23 November 2009

Should I stay or should I go?

The story of one of Guatemala city's poorest and most violent slums, La Limonada, breaks my heart. It makes me want to go, to help, to serve, to love. It makes me question the very comfortable life I live here. Yeah, I have room inspections before sunrise and rigorous classes. But sunrise in La Limonada reveals the last night's bullet holes and bloodshed.

And the training I could receive at TWENTYFOURSEVEN would be great. Discipleship, evangelism, Bible classes, and a great physical training program. All things I'll need for the Air Force and for life.

I want to be where God wants me to be. I'm not interested in pros and cons lists - as my mentor told me yesterday, if you make a pros and cons list, you should go with the cons. Consider Moses, Jeremiah, Noah, even Jesus. They went with the cons.

I do not want 'success'. My goals are not safety and money and a nice house. God called Jeremiah successful, yet the people of Israel didn't believe his prophecies. In fact, they shunned him. But Jeremiah did want God wanted him to do.

For thirty years, Jesus "grew in wisdom and stature, and favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52). Moses spent his life herding sheep before he led the Israelites out of Egypt. Noah was 600 years old when the flood came. The men God chooses do not jump into ministry. They prepare, they grow, they wait. Then God calls.

I know that God called me here to USAFA. My mentor reminded me last night that we stay where we are until God tells us differently. I haven't heard anything differently - yet. But is that because I'm not listening or because He's not telling me to go?

In that light, I'll be praying about what God wants me to do here - and not focus so much on what He has for me in the future. I am here now. This is where I will live, until He tells me otherwise.

As Martin Luther said, "There are only two days on my calendar: this day and that day." Those other days are of little concern, for the One who shaped me has planned them out.

And now I will wait for His plan to unfold.

21 November 2009

Heaven Song

A friend gave me Phil Wickham's new CD, Heaven and Earth. It's amazing, eternity-focused, challenging.

The album ends with one called Heaven Song, and it's my favorite.

I want to run on greener pastures
I want to dance on higher hills
I want to drink from sweeter waters
In the misty morning chill
And my soul is getting restless
For the place where I belong
I can't wait to join the angels and sing my heaven song


I feel that. We are camping, as for a night, here on earth. This is not our home.

Let us not forget that.

Lord Jesus, come quickly.

17 November 2009

Go barefoot

You were designed barefoot.

Went for a two-mile run today in my FiveFingers, and felt great. It's basically running barefoot. No arch support, no shock absorption, no heel cushion.

Isn't that dangerous? Very - if you run like your shoes have allowed you to. But we were designed to run on the balls of our feet, without a heel strike. Shoes protect your feet, but they let your form get sloppy, with lots of heel strike and almost no use of the muscles in your feet and lower calf. Weakening of muscles there may cause more injuries than the shoes prevent, because the exoskeleton of a shoe cannot be as strong as the internal skeleton and muscles of your feet, if those muscles are allowed to develop.

Running barefoot forces you to run on the balls of your feet. It's smooth, efficient, and good for you. Your feet and lower calves may be sore, but that's because you've never used those muscles before.

And strengthening those muscles improves balance and agility and can prevent injury.

See this article for more detailed and study-based information.

14 November 2009

Pure

Sometimes I think snow is God's way of showing us how the world should look. Everything is covered in this white blanket, smooth and bright and pure.

As I walked out on the ridge last night, I couldn't help but worship. The lights of the city below bounced off the clouds, giving everything a surreal orange glow.

From randoms of fall 09

I stood there, still, listening. The woods make me quiet, but it was hard to quiet my thoughts. I am too busy.

I need more time like that, time where nothing material matters at all. Time to slow down, to think, to pray, to care.

The woods usually make me quiet.

13 November 2009

FiveFingers

I loved going barefoot as a kid. Running around the yard, getting weeds stuck between my toes, not being able to scrub the green off my feet for days. It was a good life.

But out here in Colorado, going barefoot is not a good idea. Colorado has cacti and briars and all sorts of nasty stuff. That's where Vibram FiveFingers come in.

From eagle's peak

They're pretty much just a 3.5mm Vibram sole - the company that makes soles for my combat boots - with toes, and covered with mesh. Other models don't have the mesh on top; or they have just a strap. This is the KSO - Keep Stuff Out - model, which seems the most versatile to me: hiking, running, climbing, kayaking, walking, maybe swimming on a rough beach. They don't do a horrible job of keeping snow out, either.

So far, I haven't spent much time in them, but they only get better. I hiked Eagle's Peak, up a steep, rocky trail that follows a stream. It's about 2,000 vertical feet, so there was some packed snow and ice on the trail near the top. Not much traction there, but for the rest of the trail, it was nice to be able to wrap my toes around stuff. Just had to watch out for small rocks.

Today, I took them down to the climbing gym. I don't think they're as good as actual climbing shoes, but they're a lot better than tennis shoes. And once my feet get tougher and stronger, I should be pretty good.

Haven't done any serious running with them yet, but I plan to. I love walking around in them, feeling the ground beneath my feet, all its bumps and softness and clues. They're super quiet in the woods - could be good for hunting. And if only they didn't have that logo on the top, I might be able to pull them off with blues...

06 November 2009

The four and forty rule

"Dammit, you're not kids! You're adults!" As our sergeant briefed us today, he talked about following the rules - especially the one about TAPS, which says we need to be in bed by 2300. He said we should be expected to know the rules and follow them without the need for correction. He's right in that.

But this is a perfect example of the four and forty rule: treat cadets like they're four and expect them to act like they're forty. Assign them a bedtime and expect them to obey it, like 'responsible adults'. If the irony is not apparent, I'll explain.

Responsible adults don't have a bedtime. They don't have NCO's walking through their house, making sure they are "sleeping or quietly studying in their rooms" at 2245. It's unnecessary.

Cadets are not four-year-olds. They don't need a bedtime. They are smart enough to get enough sleep, and if they're not, they're responsible enough to pay the consequences.

Some rules are important. But let's start treating cadets like twenty-year-olds, and realize they're gonna act like twenty-year-olds. They're gonna talk on their cell phone after bedtime, whether it's against the rules or not. They have girlfriends, unlike four-year-olds. And they're in college, unlike forty-year-olds.

05 November 2009

Economics, USAFA, and life

My goal in life is to one day be as smart as my kids think they are.

Over the semester, I've had the good sense to write down some of my economics professor's quotes. He's a grad, 1978, I think. Apparently, he was a terrible cadet, breaking rules and letting his hair get too long. But...

If you stay inside the boundaries, you never get in trouble but you never do anything.

Today, an A-10 pilot and 1999 grad told us one of the most important things he learned from the Academy: living under pressure. It's a good skill - there's a lot of pressure in the cockpit. Dr. L agrees:

The whole four-year program is a course in crisis management. You've got five or six balls in the air and you've gotta figure out which ones you gotta keep going and which ones you can drop.

He has other advice about USAFA, which the A-10 pilots seemed to agree with:

One of the crazy things about this Academy is that we do an exceptional job of hiding just how fun the Air Force is.

He also has some advice on life:

Getting old beats the alternative.

The secret to happiness is low expectations.

People are willing to give their lives for their country, but they're not willing to ruin their careers for their country.

And a little bit about economics:

The reason economists are dangerous is because they think they're right. The average person knows he doesn't know. The economist doesn't know but thinks he does.

Economist: someone who's good at numbers but doesn't have the people skills to be an accountant.

Most important is what he's learned about officership:

When engineers look at problems, they look for solutions. The problem is that as an officer, your problems won't have solutions. They'll have trade-offs.

All this comes from a man who was a terrible cadet, but by what I can gather, a great officer. That's probably because a good cadet is someone who shines his shoes and keeps his hair short. A good officer cares for his men. His uniform is far less important than his people.


01 November 2009

Starbucks ride

Ninety miles on a bicycle is a good way to spend a Saturday morning. Left with seven other Falcon cycling team members to head downtown for the Starbucks ride, a nice long ride with some hard efforts and big group.

You know you had a good ride when...

Your coach tells you to be in good position for the hard part, after a certain turn. Going into the turn, you're the second man in the paceline.

After the ride, you can't sit down without falling down.

Going upstairs hurts.

Going downstairs hurts.

Walking makes you breathe hard.

All you can think about is meat and fluids.

Your odometer reads 90 miles, and shows an average speed of over 20.

You can taste the salt running off your face in the shower.

You have shadows under your eyes, even though you slept 10 hours the night before.

You burned more calories than most people burn all day.

Your head feels weird without a helmet.

Your wicking skull cap looks like someone soaked it in saltwater, and then let it dry. Which is basically what happened, as the white streaks testify.

Your thoughts are simplified and somewhat difficult.

Life is good.