Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Staring Each Other Down

So training season is underway for the Marine Corps Marathon, and for the first month of it, I've been a bit of a slacker. I mean, I've been running, but I've been shoving workouts around, putting them off, and letting them fall back. I am not dramatically behind on my training, but I want to do better this year than last, so my attitude has to change.

Well, on my runs in Omaha, these two hills knocked the wind out of my sail a number of times. One of them is a long, medium grade hill (1/2 mile at 6% or so). The other is shorter, just 100m or so, but probably at over twice that grade. On top of all that, the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) has two major hill factors - the beginning and the end. The beginning has two big hills, one a gain of about 200 ft over about 2.25 miles, and the second has a gain of about 100 ft over about 1 mile. They didn't cause me any trouble. I hardly noticed them for the all the excitement and adrenaline. But at the end there is an hill that puts on about 100 ft over a mile and half, and of course, there is the infamous finish. At mile 26 or so, one must ascend an exit ramp (I kid you not) off of VA-110 to the finish line at the top of the ramp. I suppose if you run on a highway, you have to run on exit ramps. But what a place to put an exit ramp!

So I have decided to go on the offense against hills. Here's the one that I will be using as my proving grounds. My roommate (also training for the MCM) and I have a not so affectionate name for her, but in public, I will let it suffice to call her the Hill Monster.

Some things to note about the Hill Monster. She is located exactly 1 mile from our house. So there is a nice warmup to get to the workout, and a nice cooldown to get back. And the distance run on the Hill Monster can be pretty nicely estimated because she is so perfectly 1/4 mile long. At 79 ft (almost 8 stories), the Hill Monster is a pretty big girl. She is graded as steeply as 17% (!), about 3x as steep as the nastier hills on the marathon. It's all too perfect for a hill work out. I couldn't make this up.

So tonight we did battle for the first time. It was epic. I felt like Bard of Laketown doing battle with Smaug the Dragon. Like Beowulf fighting Grendel. Roland versus the Moors. I mean, this is David and Goliath stuff. The plan was to run up down her at an easy, recovery pace 8 times. After each descent, turn around, and run back up like I was chasin' a rabbit. Specifically, I wanted to run each up-and-down lap Kenyan-style. That means doing the second part (in this case, the uphill) faster than the first part. It gets hard after a while. So that I wouldn't miscount, I set 8 pennies on a ledge, and removed one as I finished each ascent.

Well, the results are mixed. The pennies did prevent miscounts, but they didn't prevent all the mind games that runners (or at least I) can pull. I started the workout somewhat late (8:40-ish) and had a 10 p.m. appointment with Jesus in my parish adoration chapel. I am gonna put that down as the official reason for my strategic withdrawal after 4 laps. I do know that not having brought water, and it being still warmish out, and not having really eaten since 2 p.m. or so, and... excuses, excuses, excuses... lol. But as I mentioned before, it wasn't a failure. I did successfully Kenyan it, and even with the lazy downhills and the nasty uphills, my average pace was 7:53 min/mi, well faster than what I need to run for my marathon goal. So I am basically gonna say I had the firepower to beat her, but not the supply lines or time. Next time I'll make sure I start earlier and do at least 6 laps.

In any event, the Hill Monster and I have not done battle for the last time.

That makes me think of something I've heard in the confessional over and over again, and very truly, I think. Like battling my dear Hill Monster, the Christian life does not require perfection, but persistence, in the journey with Jesus wherever He may lead. I feel like that requires having a will that is steel to the world, but play dough for Jesus. That's hard for a lot of reasons. That's probably one of the reasons I need Him.

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