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On craziness: The C210K program and why I did what I did today May. 2nd, 2010 @ 11:51 pm
So a little less than a week ago, I'm talking to a good friend of mine who has over the past 2 years become a running enthusiast, going from brief recreational runs to tacking a marathon last winter.

She's talking about the Heart of a Spartan run on campus - a 10k, 5k, and 1 mile set of races that took place today. She's planning to participate, along with her fiancé. At some point, she says, "You should do it with us. You can do it."

A few days later, we're at a rehearsal, and my new horn sectionmate and carpool partner mentions the race as well. She's friends with the other friend who first mentioned the race. My carpoolmate is on the fence about running, and I tell my first friend that she needs to talk her into participating. They huddle up and much cajoling takes place. They then approach me and say, "You should do it too."

I'm not a runner. I tried running briefly in college, and my oft-maligned knees betrayed me. Since then, I've discovered the problems aren't my knees but my hamstrings, gone through physical therapy, and bike every day to work. It's not a long ride, but enough to break a good sweat most days. I've gotten good at that.

So my thoughts go like this:
I don't run.
But I'm pretty fit.
There's a 5k and a 10k.
K says that when she ran the marathon, her best previous run was 20 miles. She did the last 6 on guts.
C says that her best run is 3 miles and thinks she can do the 10k.

And then I think:
I'm thinking too hard.

Here's the thing. So much of my daily decision-making is about thinking out options, weighing possibilities, considering pros and cons, making evidence-based informed decisions. At the point of this conversation on Tuesday, something snapped in me. On paper, there was no conceivable way that running a 10k today was a good decision. I didn't run, I wasn't in any particular shape or training, I could seriously hurt myself, I could even just do the 5k and probably get through it and be fine even though everyone else was running the 10k.

I realized that thinking through the decisions is limiting. It takes out the notion of imagination, of risk-taking, of doing something that scares the hell out of you just to see if you can.

And so. I decided to do it.

People said I was crazy. I talked to lots of folks about it - people who knew me well, people who didn't, people who ran. Their reaction, across the board, was that I had lost my marbles. My friend at work, training for a triathlon, told me she didn't even run 10ks. prynne was deathly afraid I'd hurt myself. My friend C., who is an incredibly thoughtful guy, told me this was a whole new level of crazy - not just crazy quirky, but crazy what are you thinking should we call the guys in the white coats.

By all rights, I should've been deterred. I'm still not sure why I wasn't.

On Saturday, I bought running shoes and some gear. I tested it running with the dog, cold. 2.1 miles about an 11 minute mile pace, was a little sore after it but okay. I caught myself thinking about whether or not I could do this. I shut that thought process off.

My alarm went off on Sunday morning at 6. It was pouring. Do people really run in this weather? I snoozed, and the rain let up a bit at 6:45. Got up, fed cats, bid prynne good morning, and went to the race.

My left knee was stiff from Saturday's run. I felt it at the starting line, clearly telling me not to go forward. I ignored it. I couldn't find my friends - something that might've prompted me to walk away another time. I didn't. I put the headphones on, cued up music that would probably prompt me to run at way too fast a pace.

Starting gun went. Knee complained immediately. I wondered how much of it was my mind trying to find an excuse. By the first mile, the rain had picked up to a steady pour. I decided a 12-minute pace would be fine with me. Hit mile 1 at an 11-minute pace. At mile 2, I saw K's fiancé, M, someone whom would be keeping about my pace. I ran for a mile behind him thinking that this would be a good focus for me. And then I realized I was slowing myself to keep up with him.

I blew past him at mile 3 and didn't look back. And I just kept running.

In mile 5, I started to pass people - people who were clearly experienced runners. My pace was actually accelerating. The funny thing was, I was all psyched up to have to tell myself all day to keep going. I didn't have to say a word to myself.

Something happened to me when I started that race. I said I'd do it and I never had to think, never had to remind, never had to convince. I had this thought as I approached M in Mile 1 - I'll follow him, focus on shadowing him and making sure he's okay (he looked to be laboring early), and that'll be my motivation. When I passed him, I realized that it wasn't about him. For this moment, in a way that I hadn't ever really executed before, this was about me. And it wasn't about making a big deal of it, it wasn't about shouting it from the rooftops, it was about a new way to think and make a decision - to just make a decision, follow it through, and do something that I couldn't have imagined doing if I had plotted it all out on paper.

1:02:57 later, I finished. 67th in my age bracket. 10 minute per mile pace.

And so, in the spirit of the C25k program, I present Mike's C210k program.

1. Imagine that you can do it.
2. Get off the couch.
3. Run 10k.

I'm not sure what this all adds up to. But I know it's different. And that's kind of neat.

Education lost an inspiration tonight. Mar. 30th, 2010 @ 11:02 pm
RIP, Jaime Escalante.

If you don't know his story, he was the inspiration for the film Stand and Deliver, which resulted in a lifelong friendship with Edward James Olmos. Escalante came from Bolivia and took a failing calculus program at Garfield High in East LA and turned it into one of the top-achieving mathematics programs in the nation. The man gave kids who by all rights had no chance, simply based on the families into which they had been born, and gave them hope, inspiration, and a future.

I had the distinct privilege of meeting him and his son less than 2 years ago, when he spoke at our commencement. Even in his late 70s and long retired from teaching, he still had the ability to captivate and inspire.

Godspeed, Kemo.

On Twitter, social media, and bringing people closer together Nov. 17th, 2008 @ 10:31 pm
I'm not sure precisely what it is about Twitter. I didn't see the point initially, and early on it was really an extension of the conversation here on LJ. But for some strange reason, the social media/connections aspect really works (at least for me) on Twitter. I've become connected to people, locally and at a distance, that I would never in a million years have encountered.

I think it's the searchability and keyword access, combined with the public nature of tweets by default, that makes this happen. Witness the following that happened tonight:

At 9:58, I tweeted:
"LL Bean is using my fav Fountains of Wayne tune in their ad. I'm not sure how I feel about that."

At 10:20, I get tweeted at by someone named Steve Fuller, who I don't know:
"@mdsteele47 - We're big FOW fans here in Freeport. (At least tell me that the spot was easier to follow than Heroes...)"

After a quick Googling, I established that Steve Fuller is indeed the Executive Vice President of Marketing for LL Bean.

There are a lot of businesses trying to figure out how to best make social media work for them. To me, there's one really easy way - provoke direct conversations between your company and your potential customers. Suddenly, I'm more likely to think about LL Bean for holiday purchases just because they are listening to me - and they're doing it before I'm even a customer, not because I'm a customer.

And hey, he likes Heroes Bonus.

Well played, Freeport. Well played.
Current Location: 48823

All Childish Things Nov. 8th, 2008 @ 10:59 pm
A local friend suggested tonight that we go see the play All Childish Things, which sadly closes tomorrow at the Boar's Head Theatre. The basic premise (more can be found at the link) is a group of four friends - the three manchildren all being die-hard Star Wars fans - hatch a plot to rob a Kenner warehouse of a collection of pristine, rare Star Wars toys and action figures. Despite the wacky-caper premise, there is a lot in the show about depth and growth and dreams. It was both amusing and a little bit emotional. A lot of the nostalgia really hit home - plenty of lines dropped from the films, both well-known and obscure, and lots that reminded me of my childhood. You see, Star Wars toys, and playing with them with my best friend D., was a formative experience in my youth. Through these little plastic molded figures, ships, and playsets, we explored morality, the nature of good and evil, learned how to interact with people, with the world, and to communicate our hopes and dreams. For anyone out there who wonders why grown men with rich, full lives like me still think fondly of the films and the associated toys and experiences, that is why.

On a lighter note, the theatre went all out. The Grand Rapids detachment of The 501st Legion - Vader's Fist had representatives on hand. Fully clad Stormtroopers, a Biker Scouttrooper, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett. Two of the Stormtroopers sat right behind us for the show - a male and a female. And yes, when we broke for intermission, I did ask the diminutive one of the pair, "Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?"
hearing: 48823

Concert tonight! Nov. 7th, 2008 @ 12:32 pm
Hey locals! Debut performance of the Mason Chamber Orchestra is tonight, 7:30, River Terrace Church in East Lansing. The concert is free, the group is invitation only so the quality is quite high, and the program is Gounod Petite Symphonie and Mozart Symphony 38 (Prague). Should be about an hour of music. Come one, come all!

80s Party Nov. 2nd, 2008 @ 10:18 am

80s Party outfit
Originally uploaded by mdsteele47.
Four folks in my department turn(ed) 40 this year, and they decided to throw a combined birthday party in their honor. Given that they grew up during the 80s, the party was 80s themed. More pictures to come, but this was the outfit I put together. The picture on Flickr has sources for all the pieces and prices.

Based on conversations at the party, it seems that the Goodwill store in Lansing had a pretty good day yesterday.

Debate: Education and the Next President Oct. 20th, 2008 @ 03:45 pm
I figure there are enough folks on this list who are interested in this to post it...

"Education and the Next President," a debate between Linda Darling-Hammond, education advisor to Senator Barack Obama, and Lisa Graham Keegan, education advisor to Senator John McCain, which will be held at Teachers College in the Cowin Conference Center on Tuesday evening, October 21st, 2008, at 7 pm. TC President Susan H. Fuhrman will moderate.

You will be able to view a live Webcast of the debate at www.tc.edu/edadvisorsdebate starting at 7 pm on the 21st of October. The Webcast will be archived for subsequent viewing on www.tc.edu and iTunes U the following day.

Evolution gone wrong Oct. 16th, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

Evolution gone wrong
Originally uploaded by mdsteele47.
Entirely from the mind of http://twitter.com/dashkdot

Yellow tape and instrument searches Oct. 2nd, 2008 @ 10:18 am
Obama's coming to campus this afternoon. While this is of course a Good Thing (TM), there's more than a bit of craziness around the place today.

Poor drdingbat is essentially barricaded into the music building. The field adjacent to the music building is the site of the rally, and all but one approach to that area is roped off with police tape, and two of the three entrances to her building are locked up. They've been told that large instruments are subject to search. The field is also right by one of the main entrances to campus, which is always a little bit over capacity to begin with. And things don't actually start until 2:30 (although the gates open in an hour).

I'm not able to go, although I'm not sure if I'd want to anyway... they're expecting 15-20k people on a field that's probably only going to hold about 1/3 of that before they put the stage and podium on it. I do have to go get a tire changed on the bike - with all the rerouting, I was on an unfamiliar sidewalk and blew a tire on a big gouge in the concrete. Bike shop opens at 1...

The good news is that drdingbat and I are going to see The Wedding Present perform in Pontiac tonight. And tomorrow is my travel day to NY, so it won't even matter if we get back über-late.

I really wanted to write über-latté there, just because it's an amusing mismatch of languages and accents.
Current Location: 48824
hearing: The Wedding Present - Getting Nowhere Fast

Ow. Sep. 23rd, 2008 @ 09:59 am
Bike is awaiting new tires.

Decided to skate in today.

Seriously underestimated impact of skating with my work backpack on.

Failed to navigate the square of missing sidewalk outside the Hannah Center that sits with no advance warning whatsoever. Death to East Lansing Public Works or whatever utilidrones were too lazy to find a cone.

That pathetic moaning you hear is actually coming from the muscles in my back, not my vocal chords.

Now, to try to work.
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