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Right effort

A friend of mine loves to tease me about my workouts, specifically about the ones where I'm trying to run or bike in a certain heart rate zone.

His advice is to run until you feel like you're going to throw up. Then you know you're in the right zone. Or so says the former football player who may have had one too many blows to the head.

My goal with training in heart rate zones is to learn first how to read my body. And then it's do my specific workout which has a specific purpose. Admittedly, it's easy to get tied to the numbers and absorbed in the minutia. But keeping a sense of humor about the situation, and knowing that no single workout is a referendum on your goal race, makes the variety in training enjoyable.

While there may be a few races in between, my next major race is a return to the ING Miami half marathon in January. This week meant a return to the long run -- an hour and 30 minute endurance-paced run. The workout plan said I could do the run on any course (hill, flat or, dread of all dreads, the treadmill) but the goal was to stay in a moderate heart rate zone, or run a rather easy pace.

I took to the hills around Orchard Park and Chestnut Ridge with my friend Sue. There was a temptation to pound up them. There was a temptation to run faster on the flats than I needed to.

But I made to sure hold my pace. Because my workout was not about running hard. It was about running smart.

It was about what triathlon coach Alan Couzens called "right effort."

In a recent blog, Couzens wrote about having the right effort in training, including his own tales of trying to stay with a pack of cyclists during a group ride. He worked harder than he was supposed to that day -- too hard in fact.

"After getting myself into a pretty deep hole following that camp, I wound up crashing my bike and never really regaining my mojo for my A race of the season after putting out several 'A' efforts on training days like this one," Couzens wrote.

Variety in training isn't just to keep from getting bored (although, frankly, it does help). Variety is built into training for specific purposes, to help you get better faster. And sometimes, improvement comes not by going faster or harder during training runs but actually in going slower.

"[T]he right effort in order to progress as fast as your potential will allow in day to day training is (perhaps paradoxically) never 100 percent effort," Couzens wrote. "When training with others who are willing and chomping at the bit to give 100 percent effort, this then becomes a spiritual task as much as a physical one, a task to abandon the ego and reaffirm your faith in your own training process on a daily basis."

Perhaps all-out 100 percent effort every training session is right for you.

I've learned, however, that it's not right for me. Oh yes, some days I am working so hard, I think I might just lose my lunch. But I'm totally at peace with running slower. Some times it's not about the number of miles but the quality of the run.

Ironman Cozumel: Two local athletes competed in the first Ironman Cozumel race held Sunday. Charlie Watson (29, Tonawanda) finished in 10 hours, 52 minutes, 49 seconds while Bob Willer (43, Grand Island) completed the course in 13:56:40.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Race report: Turkey Trot 2009

There are two things I should know better: Not to believe my friend Sue at the staring line of a race and that I always overdress.

Let's start with attire. The 114th Annual YMCA Turkey Trot attracted 12,000 runners (and walkers) for the 8K jaunt down Delaware Avenue and a healthy number of them were dressed up. In fact, it's become popular not to ask if you're running the Turkey Trot but what you're running the Turkey Trot dressed up as. It's part of the spectacle of the event. There were guys who had body painted tuxedo shirts on their chests, girls in Santa's helper outfits and one group who made the traditional elementary school crafts of paper hats and vests, themed for Thanksgiving. Others wore turkey hats or played on the Native American-Pilgrim theme.

Still others dressed up more for the gimmick effect than for the holiday spirit, like the duo dressed as bananas or the guy suited up as the mascot from Burger King. Or my friend who said he was dressing as a pirate. I figured it was not to make any further inquiries there.

I was without an official gimmick, but decided to create my own version. When running outdoors I use the "20 degree rule" -- dress as if it were 20 degrees warmer. And so with temperatures in the 40s, it was clearly running skirt weather. I wanted to wear my pink running skirt for my "gimmick" and decided to pair with my my white Under Armour cold gear shirt topped off with a light-weight pink t-shirt. My gimmick -- I was the "pink stuff" many of us would need later that day after eating our weight in stuffing and following that up with the ill-advised second piece of pie.

But in my desire to color coordinate, I eschewed part of my 20-degree rule with the cold gear top and by the first mile was way too warm.

Of course, being way too warm at the first mile could also have been induced by starting the race with Sue.

Sue and our friend Herm were playing a race game -- she gets a five minute head start and Herm sees how long it takes to catch her. Void of any goal for the day other than to have fun, I decide to line up with Sue.

"I'm going to start real slow and take it easy the first mile," she told me. "I'm going to warmup in that first mile."

I have never complained about starting out slow.

In the corral, I did my happy dance (as described in yesterday's blog post) and was grateful for the opportunity to be around friends, to have a great morning to run and to be blessed with the opportunity to do something I love.

The gun went off.

And I stayed with Sue for about 90 seconds.

I worked hard to try and keep up with her, or at least keep her in sight, but it was a lost cause. By the time we got to the first mile marker, I glanced at my watch. 8:40. Wait! 8:40? I am quite sure I have never run that fast before in my life.

Yeah, so much for that nice easy warm-up mile.

I settled into a pace that was challenging but not overwhelming and then I let the joy take over. People in gimmicks passed me, and I smiled. Others found friends on the course and shouted Thanksgiving greetings. Spectators lined some parts of the course cheering on the runners. Of particular fun were the little kids who brought out their bells and tambourines. 

Any time the running started to feel hard, something made me smile. 

As the course turned back up Franklin toward the finish line, the public address announcer encouraged the runners, noting, "If you can hear my voice, pick it up. You're almost there." I didn't exactly sprint, but did run a bit faster the final hundred yards.

Before the race, I was convinced my time would be slower than last year and that was fine with me. I was running the Turkey Trot for fun and life circumstances sometimes mean we don't run fast. (Noting here that fast is a relative term.)

But alas, I focused on the fun and still beat my time from last year -- by 44 seconds.

Later that day, my brother asked me if anyone runs the Turkey Trot seriously.

Of course. For the elite runners in the area, there certainly is prestige in winning the race. This year's winners were both locals who attend local colleges. Dennis Pollow, a 22-year-old from Ransomville and the University at Buffalo, won the men's race in 24:52 while Maura Frauenhofer, a 20-year old from Williamsville and Canisius, won the women's race in 29:06.

Other runners take to the course to win age groups or run a specific workout in training for an up-coming race.

But the vast majority of the Turkey Trot runners are there to celebrate with family and friends. They may try to beat each other in the spirit of friendly rivalry or they may run together. Families of moms and dads with their pre-teen kids dot the course, making it a Thanksgiving tradition. Friends who are good runners head to the back of the pack to help their first-timer buddies make it through the 4.97 miles.

When you notice all of this in your 45-minute run for the day -- the talent of the elite runners, the pageantry of the gimmicks and spectators, the camaraderie of the crowd -- your gratitude list grows.

Thank you happy dance.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Gratitude

The question showed up several times in my Twitter my feed over the past few days: What are you most thankful for and how do you celebrate it every day?

It was a request from Gail Lynne Goodwin who compiled a list of 100 answers she received via tweets on her blog at Inspire Me Today.

And it was a question that, try as I might, I just couldn't answer.

The first part of the question is easy to answer on the surface. What are you most thankful for? There are so many things I'm grateful for -- starting with my family and friends continuing with my job and co-workers on to my health and my ability to do the things I love. I'm grateful for the education I have received, and continue to receive. Grateful for faith that is mine alone and for learning from the faiths of others.

I'm not sure which of those, however, I am "most" thankful for. It changes daily, sometimes hourly. Because what's important to me in any specific moment might bring about new reasons to be filled with gratitude. I'm not sure I can rank my thankfulness or even single one thing out. Truth is, once you start listing the things you're grateful for, the more abundance you see already exists in your life.

But the real hang up was the second part of the question: how do you celebrate it every day?

And on that question, I was stuck.

How do I celebrate my gratitude every day?

I have tried to make it a habit in the mornings to think about the things I am grateful for as way to start my day on a positive note. But that's not really celebrating.

Celebrations, we know, don't need to be elaborate. They can be a smile, a laugh, a happy dance. Still, we tend to reserve celebrations for big events or major holidays. But what if we did celebrate every day? How would that look? How would it make us feel?

This morning will be my second showing in the annual 8K Turkey Trot down Delaware Avenue into downtown Buffalo. Perhaps I'll celebrate by doing my happy dance at the start line. I can celebrate my gratitude for friends and health and running before the gun even goes off. And then, perhaps, see the race through completely different eyes.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

The Biggest Loser: Health and Wealth

Being extremely overweight is a pricey proposition and last night's episode of The Biggest Loser drove that point home with special guest, financial expert Suze Orman.

The Centers for Disease Control in the United States estimated that as a nation obesity costs us $117 billion a year with more than half of that going to direct medical costs. Obesity also costs employers while people who are overweight often pay a higher premium on their insurance policies.

Losing weight and getting fit is not just an exercise in vanity, it's part of a complete wellness package.

And so often we forget about the connection between wealth and health.

It's not just about the dollars -- the extra money gone each month for medical conditions, the lost money from taking sick days or not being able to do certain jobs. Often, financial problems, like weight issues, are about other things -- like how we view ourselves or how we cope with difficult episodes in our life. In these cases, often when the contestants felt bad about their finances, they would eat. When they felt bad about their weight, they would spend. And round and round we go. When we don't feel good about ourselves, for whatever reasons, our actions flow from those places.

(Personally, I would have enjoyed seeing more about that connection which Suze Orman alluded to. She conducted one-on-one financial discussions with the five remaining contestants and more of those will be seen on her CNBC show this Saturday.)

The show was whittled down to the final four contestants and it was Amanda who had the deciding vote. She finally had her breakthrough week, admitting through tears how happy she finally was and how she could say she loved herself as she was. She could have chosen to keep Alan in the final four, a decision which would have been smarter from a game-playing point of view and put Amanda in a better position to win the $250,000 grand prize.

Instead, she chose to keep Liz in the final four for the reason that she was a threat. All the contestants left The Biggest Loser ranch this week and Amanda felt knowing that she was competing against Liz, who could beat her in a body percentage weigh-in, was the motivation she needed to finish her own weight loss journey.

It wasn't so much about getting the win as it was about making the most out of the process.

It's an idea that translates well into the world of athletics. Just ask the Niagara women's volleyball team.

Niagara will be making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament after winning its conference volleyball championship this week. The amazing part of the story -- the team was just 6-24 last year. This year, they're 23-8 and conference champions.

Even more amazing is how they got there. Last year, they didn't talk about losing. They didn't talk about trying to get more wins. This year, they didn't talk much about winning or trying to get to the championship game.

They talked about the little things. The things they could control. They worked on their sport-specific fitness goals (like weight room workouts to increase their vertical leap) and on skill development. They didn't fixate on the outcome. Outcomes take care of themselves. They thought only of the process.

And it won them a championship.

When you take care of things in your control -- when you make the choices which you know will make you better -- the winning and losing, whether it's a race, a championship or The Biggest Loser, takes care of itself.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Boston closes out, Lockport opens a winter window

Just because the weather is getting colder doesn't mean you thought distance running took the season off, did you?

We start our tour of with the news earlier this month from the Boston Athletic Association that the April 2010 Boston Marathon is officially closed. It is only the second time in the event's history that registration has closed early. That means even if you ran a qualifying time at an upcoming marathon, you could not register for the 2010 race. You would have to wait until 2011.

This brings up all sorts of questions. Should the Boston Marathon let more people into the race? Should they make the qualifying standards tougher and lower the qualifying times? Has reaching Boston become too easy? Are there too many charity runners?

Guy Morse, the executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, discussed these topics in a Q&A with Running Times Magazine.

His answers in short: While they are looking at different options, nothing is really in motion to change qualifying times or participation numbers. "We have looked at either trying to allow more runners to enter, which means greater capacity, although we're more interested in quality runners versus quantity," Morse said in the article. "That remains important to us -- the quality of the run, not just the number of people running."

So, should the standard to enter Boston be tougher? Or is it fine as it is, allowing people to have an attainable goal to run one of the most hallowed events in American sport?

As far as charity runners, Morse said at Boston about 80 percent of the runners are ones who qualified while only 20 percent are running with a special invitation, exemption or to raise money for a charity. That component remains important for major city marathons, who want to give back to the communities which support them.

A different kind of challenge has emerged along the Erie Canal Towpath in Lockport as ultrarunner and triathlete Sam Pasceri is kicking off the Beast of Burden Winter 100 Miler and 24 Hour Ultramarathon. Scheduled for Feb. 27, runners can choose to either run 100 miles or see how far they can run in 24 hours. The event is limited to 30 athletes and because of the winter conditions is requiring participants to have ultra running experience. The event is billed as the only official winter 100-miler in the United States.

Not ready to run in the dark, cold and snow? The event is also looking for volunteers.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Ironman recap: Inspiration in Arizona

There were two options for Rudy Garcia-Tolson when he was 5-years old -- continue to spend time in a wheelchair or have both his legs amputated. 

At age 5, he chose amputation.

Rudytm "I see that as when my life really started," Garcia-Tolson said in an article on Ironman.com. "It was a blessing. I started a new life. I have no regrets -- it was was the best choice I ever made. I don't think I'd be as motivated now if I had legs."

The 21-year old finished Sunday's Ironman Arizona in 16 hours, six minutes and 27 seconds. He swam the 2.4-mile course in 1:00:42, rode the 112-mile bike course in 8:44:45 and ran 26.2 miles in 6:00:22.

Garcia-Tolson already is an accomplished athlete with gold medals in the 200 individual medley in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games. He began the first bilateral above-the knee amputee to finish a 70.3 race using a standard bike.

His goal of becoming the first bilateral above-the knee amputee to finish the Kona World Championships last month fell eight minutes short of the bike cut-off.

That was disappointing to him, but not devastating.

"The real disability is having a negative attitude," he said on Ironman.com. 

In the professional race on Sunday, Jordan Rapp and Samantha McGlone set course records to pick up wins. Rapp, who finished third in Arizona twice, picked up his second Ironman win after taking Ironman Canada in August. McGlone, meanwhile, started slow in the swim, coming out of the water 10th, then crawled into second place on the bike. She took the lead around Mile 8 of the marathon, running a 3:10:10 over 26.2 miles for her first Ironman win. (See the full pro recap here.)

Local finishers at Ironman Arizona included:
Patrick Dalton, Jr. (26, Cheektowaga) 13:54:28
Tim Dieffenbach (51, Holland) 15:57:47
Brian Foster (36, East Amherst) 11:55:46
Anthony Garrow (54, North Tonawanda) 12:30:08
Diane Sardes (57, North Tonawanda) 14:34:54
Jeff Tracy (40, Lockport) 13:57:45
Greg Weber (47, Amherst) 12:31:33

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Preview: Ironman Arizona

Last month it was the World Championships in Kona.

This weekend, the qualifying cycle begins again as a sold-out field competes in the sixth Ironman Arizona on Sunday.

The Arizona event originally was an April affair, but the Ironman corporation moved the race to November in its race calendar when temperatures in Tempe are bit more conducive to 140.6 miles. (In fact in 2008, there were two Ironman Arizona events -- one in April and one in November). Ironman Arizona is the last North American IM race on the calendar until Lake Placid in July. Only six of the 22-branded Ironman races are in North America.

As writer Liz Hichens points out in her preview for Triathlon Competitor, the professional athletes find Arizona a key race after Kona. The top 10 finishers at Kona automatically qualify for a return the following year. Finish outside the top 10 and you have to qualify at another race. Arizona gives the pros a chance to do that early, taking the pressure off other races during the course of the year.

For Sam McGlone of Canada, Sunday's race is about challenging for her first Ironman victory. McGlone placed fifth in October at Kona, securing her spot for 2010. While a world champion at the 70.3 distance, she has recently made the move to Ironman and is looking for her first win. She was third at Lake Placid this year.

Fellow Canadian Heather Wurtele is in the field with some impressive results the past two seasons. She won the 2008 Ironman Coeur d'Alene in Idaho then placed third in the race this year. She also has a third place finish at the 2008 Ironman Canada.

Others to watch in the women's division include American Linsey Corbin (who finished outside the top 10 in Kona and is looking to punch her return card for 2010), Australian Kate Major (who won Arizona in 2005) and Great Britian's Leanda Cave (last year's runner-up in Arizona).

On the men's side, most of the contenders will be racing on tired legs, competing in recent Ironman and 70.3 events.

The favorite in the field is South African Raynard Tissink who this year took third at Ironman Louisville then won Ironman Wisconsin two weeks later. Tissink finished eighth just two weeks ago at Ironman Florida. He will contend with Joszef Rapp, who won the April Arizona race in 2008 and returned to place fourth at the November race. American Jordan Rapp won his first Ironman this year, at Ironman Canada. Rapp placed third in both 2008 Arizona races.

This year, Ironman Arizona features a handful of Buffalo-area athletes. Included in the field are Patrick Dalton, Jr. (26, Cheektowaga), Tim Dieffenbach (51, Holland), Brian Foster (36, East Amherst), Anthony Garrow (54, North Tonawanda), Diane Sardes (57, North Tonawanda), Jeff Tracy (40, Lockport) and Greg Weber (47, Amherst).

You can track the progress of athletes on Sunday at the official Ironman website.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Adding up the mega miles

It was my second run of the day and frankly, the thought that this was a bit freakish entered my mind. Normally I don't run twice in one day, but life circumstances had me miss a run earlier in the week. With warm, sunny weather for November in Buffalo, I figured why not sneak in the easy run I missed the day before?

So in the morning, I completed an easy 45-minute run. In the late afternoon came the second run, another 45-minutes this time with some tempo intervals.

In the grand scheme of running, two 45-minute runs isn't all that crazy.

Especially when I came across this article on mega marathoners in the Wall Street Journal.

Mega marathoners are those who complete numerous marathons in a year. We're not just talking two or three in a 12-month period but anywhere from 30 to 100.

The article features 73-year-old Eugene DeFonzo, who recently ran marathon No. 402. Last year he ran 35 marathons. His doctor calls him both a "nut job" and a "marvel." The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Mega marathoners are different from ultra runners. Ultra runners go long distances in one race, typically 50 or 100 miles. Mega marathoners run the traditional 26.2 distance, just a whole lot of times.

That much racing doesn't leave much time for training. Then again, some people hate training and would rather just race. Mega marathoning would be one way to do that.

While some people go strictly for quality in a marathon, looking, for instance, to qualify for the Boston Marathon, others go for quantity. Or for the fun factor, getting to travel to different locations for races. There are people who strive to run a marathon on every continent. Yes, there is even an Antarctica Marathon and Half Marathon, only it's sold out until 2012.

There are those who want to join the 50-state club, running a marathon in all 50 states. In fact, there are two clubs runners can join en route to that mark -- The 50 States Marathon Club and the 50 States and DC Marathon Group USA. For those who want the travel but a lighter workload, there also is a half-marathon 50-state club.

"There's a great reward at the end of all this -- finishing, because you're going through a lot of physical and mental pain." DeFronzo said in the Wall Street Journal online video (see below).  "Of course at the finish line you feel such a tremendous relief and a tremendous feeling that you've accomplished something great."

What's the reward for doing a marathon in each state? Or running hundreds of marathons? Motivations are different for different people. Perhaps it's a bit of an obsession, boarding on a running or racing addiction. Perhaps it's a need to continuously challenge yourself. People will debate whether the mega marathoners are inspirational, whack jobs or just plain doing something dangerous. Some will think their slow times, their desire to merely finish, is disrespectful to the marathon.

But our goals, our desires, our passions are ours and ours alone, regardless of what others might think about them.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz



The Biggest Loser: Makeover Week

It's one of the highlights of the show The Biggest Loser -- the makeover. At some point late in the game the contestants get a celebrity-style treatment of hair, makeup and clothing. On the surface, it seems a bit like an exercise in vanity, but there is a symbolism to it that runs much deeper than just getting a new look. As Tabatha Coffey, a hairstylist and reality show maven herself, described, the contestants are letting go of the person they once were, the perceptions they once had of themselves in order to step into the person they are becoming.

The makeovers were in conjunction with a task they were given at the beginning of the show -- each of them had to give a speech to an auditorium of 300 people. They had to use the platform to inspire and motivate others, just like previous contestants on the show inspired and motivated them.

And while speeches don't make for as compelling reality show television as say, accusations of game playing between Rudy and Rebecca did later in the episode, I wish The Biggest Loser spent more time wit this segment.

Because this is where the power lies.

Each of the six left had the opportunity to share his or her story.

For Alan, his moment of truth came when, as a firefighter he found it difficult to protect the lives of other people when he was in fear for his own life. He began to feel he was a liability with his weight and his health.

Danny had a turning point when his daughter came into the living room, jumped on his stomach and said "Daddy I want to have belly just like you when I grow up." He told her that no, she didn't. And that moment turned the light on for him.

Rudy revealed for the first time that when he was 12 years old, his big sister was diagnosed with cancer. He ate to deal with the feelings, but his sister told him she wanted him to make a change and lose the weight. He was finally on his journey so that he could play with his kids.

Liz, in her late 40s, talked about putting everyone else first -- family, business, friends. "I tried to be everything to everybody," she said. "And somewhere along the way I lost myself." She recalled watching the first season of The Biggest Loser, eating ice cream while watching the weigh-ins and claiming that she would do better next time. Eventually, she got her next time and realized how important it is take time for herself.

Amanda and Rebecca both talked about being the fat girl. Amanda said she didn't have any tragedy in her life that led her to gain weight. She just always saw herself as overweight and it held her back from too many opportunities. Rebecca, too, said she had been overweight since she was 10 years old and always saw herself as the chubby friend and the chubby sister.

Rebecca's sister was in the audience and during an interview with the show, said she never saw Rebecca as her chubby sister -- just as her sister.

That's the story that resonated with me. Both Amanda and Rebecca come from a place where they believed they were the fat girl who belonged in the back. And they became the fat girls in the back because that's what they believed about themselves. We become what we think about all day long.

Not only did Rebecca become what she thought about, she projected that feeling and belief onto others who are closest to her. We often guess how other people see us, but really we have no idea. We're merely projecting our own beliefs about ourselves onto the eyes of other people. More importantly though, it doesn't matter how others see us. It only matters how we see ourselves.

Because how we see ourselves is the person we become.

If we change our thoughts, change our definitions of ourselves, than our life experiences will change with it. The people in our lives will start to reflect this new definition. And more joy will come our way.

Rebecca was the eliminated player last night. But as she changed the way she viewed herself her outsides and her insides finally began to match.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Work, joy and Grandpa

It was 5:45 in the morning when we started our run. The odd warmth for November made it a pleasant start, despite the darkness. After a mile, I came to the hill which would serve as my bounding station. Four times bounding up -- slightly bigger than normal stride, using my arms, thinking of my form and trying to keep a smooth and steady pace -- then a light jog to the bottom. 

The first one nearly killed me. The second one was tough. The third one made me want to cry and the fourth one caused me to continuously repeat in my head "c'mon it's the last one."

I had done hill-bounding work on this hill before and didn't suffer as much. But it wasn't so much a physical pain as an emotional one to work through on this particular morning.

On Friday, my grandfather died. He was 88 (and proud of being 88, wondering how the heck he got to be 88) and generally sliding into poor health. After a week in the hospital with a long recovery ahead of him, he quietly decided it was time for him to go home in the eternal sense. Along with the mourning came a sense of joy for him -- that he was finally at peace and at last reunited with my grandmother, the love of his life, whom he missed more than I think I can ever imagine since she passed eight years ago.

And during my long run on Sunday morning, he was on my mind.

Those who run (or bike or swim or do yoga) understand the healing power in exercise. There are studies which document the physiological effects that a run can have on the brain and on mood. Sure there's the cliched "runner's high" but more than that, running serves a a clearing affect on the mind and the body.

Then there's the community effect. Running by myself sometimes feels great -- it lets me wander in my own thoughts, in my own body and enjoy the time alone. But other times, running with friends is just as healing, whether we chat during the run or not. Sunday morning meant running with Sue, who seems to know just when to listen, when to tell stories and when to let the silence of friendship carry us through a few miles.

As our run progressed after the hill-bounding interlude, the sun started to rise, giving way to a beautiful red and orange horizon. And I thought, "red sky at morning, sailor's take warning." I'm not positive, but I attribute learning that rhyme to my grandfather. It fits anyway -- he was fascinated with the weather.

He was fascinated with a lot of things and shared that curiosity with his family. He introduced me to a wide range of things -- from taking me on my first trip to the Buffalo Museum of Science to teaching me how to keep score at a baseball game (and I still use his system in my scorebooks and can not attend a game, even for fun, without procuring a scorecard). My grandfathered loved to learn, though he never made it to college. The second-youngest of seven boys, his father died when he was a teenager and money became tight. Instead of going on for more education, he took a series of jobs. Then came World War II.

Leading his unit through parts of Germany and France became his endurance sport.

Img099 He was proud of his service, telling stories about his unit of combat engineers which traveled about the country, going into areas after a battle to restore roads and bridges. I thought of that during the last part of my run. Not that I'm comparing running out of Chestnut Ridge Park with marching across Rhine in full combat gear, but thinking about his ability to endure made that last part of a hilly, challenging, long run a bit more bearable for me.

Of the many things I learned from my grandfather was the power of seeing a job through to the end. He loved to be busy, whether that was with his family, at work or around the house. He found joy in things other people called "work" whether that was mowing the lawn or taking the kids, and later grandkids, out of the house to give the women a break. 

I thought of his approach to "work" during that long run. There are people I've met who see running and exercising as a chore (hence, in some ways, the term "work out"). But that's not how I see it. It's challenging, yes, but I enjoy it. Training has become one of my passions. Something that brings me joy in a variety of ways both large and small.

Same too with my grandfather who had hobbies that to many others seemed just like more "work" rather than enjoyment.

In the end, all that matters is how you define what you do. And that what you do brings you love, laughter and joy.

The worst part of these last few years for my grandfather was his physical inability to do those chores. The family begged him to just relax, let it go, not worry about it. I mean, really Gramps, you're upset with yourself because you can't keep up with the dusting and vacuuming?

It puzzled me for a long time, but I think I'm starting to understand.

And while his desire to continue with "work" increasingly resonates with me, I also take from him the life lesson he failed to learn -- that sometimes it is just as valuable to rest, to take some time to go inside and to not be afraid of what you may find in the stillness.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

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