The Anatomy of a HUGE Decision


On New Year’s Eve, we sat at a restaurant with two of our best couple-friends and over good food and good wine we talked about our lives in 2013 and shared our hopes, dreams, and ambitions for 2014. What I didn’t know just 5 months ago is that something would shift in us and all our good intentions for 2014 would get placed on the back burner and instead we will for the second time, be building a house this year.

Ten years ago, we built our current house. (And when I say we built, I don’t mean “we got a contractor to build for us.” We did most of the work.) And we love our house. We love the land, we love the neighbors on our street, we’ve loved our kids’ school. We’ve loved our life on Chase Lane. In fact, most of the time over the last 10 years, Jennifer and I have struggled with guilt: we feel like we don’t deserve to live in something so nice.

But, I’m restless. And, if you read my last marathon post, you know that I want to be a person who “does epic shit.” And I’m a little perfectionistic about some things. And, I’ve told Jennifer over the years, “you know, I’d love to build again.” But, she’s much more stabile than I and simply wasn’t open to the idea.

But about a month ago we were talking. And due to some unfortunate timing and  bad choices 8 years ago, we got into a situation with rental properties that causes tension between us and unnecessarily stresses our finances. And as we talked we realized that we had two options before us: we could either dig ourselves out over the next 10 years, or we could sell our house, pay off our debts and start over.

And so we’ve talked. And talked. And talked and talked. We’ve talked about almost nothing else for the last month. And once we opened ourselves up to the idea, other pros & cons presented themselves. And we’ve moved from never-leaving-this-house to it-seems-the-best-idea-is-to-move. And then, we started to talk to our inner circle our friends. And a week ago, we sat with my parents and our close friends – the kind the really tell you the truth – and for almost 3 hours talked through our ideas, all the different angles. And they asked good questions, trying to help us see the best pathway.

And in all of the talking, it’s become clear that this is the best pathway for us. And so, this weekend we’re showing our house to a couple that we really like who have told us for years that they would buy our house if we ever sold it (“ha, ha, just kidding, but seriously”). And today, we put in an offer on land.

And we’ve cried. (I’m tearing up sitting here in the coffee shop writing this. Totally embarrassing.)

I can’t tell you how much we’ve loved our house. And how much we’ve loved raising our boys with Todd & Jenni and their kids. And how we’ve loved Cindy Norton and the kids’ teachers and Kickapoo baseball. And Jubilee State Park has become my own cathedral where I’ve run and lost nearly 70 pounds.

But, in a deeper place I know that this is true for me: when you have a chance to change your life for the better and when the people around you affirm your choice, you do that thing: even if it’s hard to do. (And more tears in Starbucks. The woman next to me has to think I’m loco.)

And I told my dad yesterday, after we met with a zoning board, that I feel building this time is kind of like when I signed up for my second marathon: I know that it will be hard. But I also know that it will be rewarding. And there will be days that I want to work – I really do love building. But there will also be days where I just want to go home and watch TV for the evening or go out for dinner with friends. And there will be times of incredible community. But there will also be times where I will be working at the house late at night, and I will be so very lonely. There will be blood and there will be tears.

Brene Brown says of parenting: “In terms of teaching our children to dare greatly in the ‘never enough’ culture, the question isn’t so much ‘Are you parenting the right way?’ as it is ‘Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?'” And this is the tipping point for us choosing to build a house again. We want our boys to grow up to be young men who do the right stuff, even when it’s hard and it even scares you a little bit. And so, for us, for them, we are building a house this summer.

This Side of My Second Marathon


I wasn’t going to write this post, but I was talking to a friend on the phone today and she requested it, so this is for you, “Tina.”

If you’re just arriving, I ran my second marathon last weekend in Champaign. I wrote a post leading up it, giving all my reasons. Then Eric wrote a brilliant comment that I’ve thought about a bunch since I read it last Friday. He said,

It sounds weird, but I think the second marathon really will be more of an achievement than the first- because one point is an event, but two points makes a line.

“Two points makes a line.” Wow, I love that idea. You can do something once and check it off your bucket list, but when you do something a second, third, or fourth time, you’ve moved from an event to a direction. So good. Thank you Eric!

Anyway, “Tina” asked me to compare the first time and second time, so here are some random thoughts, reflections, things that came to mind. If you really hate my posts about running, I’m sorry. This should be the last one for awhile.

  • Overall, I’ll preface everything by saying that I ran 8 minutes slower than last year, but I felt a lot stronger. In 2013, I had to start walking brief stints starting at the 18 mile mark. This year I didn’t walk until the 23rd mile. Last year I had some serious leg cramps, this year, none.
  • Because I ran the same marathon as I did the first time, I was familiar with the course, and that familiarity gave me a lot of strength and confidence. I know some of you will not believe this, but the first 16 miles or so seemed to fly by. And even the miles of suffering (everything post 19 for me) weren’t so bad.
  • I can’t put into words how meaningful it is to have a cheering section. It was just as meaningful to have my family there as it was last year. And because my oldest sons were on bikes this year, I saw them a lot more.
  • The second time, you gain some wisdom. I drank a lot more water in the days leading up to the run, we stayed in a better hotel (although I still slept terrible, fearful of not hearing my alarm), I wore a better pair of shorts this year with better pockets (last year I lost some GU packs…not good), and I planned better during the race to hydrate and eat at better intervals.
  • Another thing I learned last year, is that the last 6-7 miles is just painful. So, this year, I carried my headphones. Most of the marathon I ran without them. I really do enjoy the camaraderie among runners, the people cheering you on throughout the course, the music, etc. But, at mile 19 I put on my headphones. I had a playlist mapped out. I knew what songs I wanted to finish with and I knew that if I started at mile 19 it would help me to get my mind off some of the pain.
  • I recovered a lot faster this year. I felt like I wasn’t as well-trained as I was last year due to our harsh winter. I was sore on Sunday-Monday, but by Tuesday I was running up and down our stairs at home, no problem.
  • Finally, a word about signs. This caught me by surprise last year, but people make all kinds of funny posters. Here are some of my favorites: “worst parade EVER,” “Run now, beer later,” “Chafe now, brag later,” “Toe nails are for sissies,” “1 in 100 people poop their pants…are you the one?” and “Run like you stole something.” But my favorite this year, the one that inspired me the most was “Do Epic Shit.” I came across that one just before mile 6 and I thought about it much of the race. I think it’s because it really resonates with my reasons for running. I just want to be a guy who does epic shit.

Seriously, I’ll answer any other questions you might have. Just leave them in the comments.

Running Against the Voice in My Head


Last year, at this time, I was nervous. It was the day before my first marathon and I didn’t know what to expect. I had chosen an aggressive training plan, and targeted an aggressive time, but I just didn’t know what would happen after the proverbial 20-mile mark. (The “wisdom” from marathoners is that “anyone can run 20, it’s the final 6 that kill ya.”)

In short, there was suffering. A lot of suffering. At mile 18 my knee started hurting due to IT Band issues that cropped up late in my training. There were simultaneous muscle cramps in my hamstrings that at mile 25 dropped me to the pavement, and there were tears; first of pain, and then  joy and relief.

Last year, running my first marathon was about the culmination of a major life change for me. It was about all the weight I had lost and about how I’d started to fall in love with running. It was about checking something off my “bucket list.” It was a deeply spiritual experience, a major life achievement. It was a beautiful experience shared with my family and friends who came to watch and cheer me on.

This year it’s different. I’m running for different reasons. This year I’m running to tell myself that I’m not a flash-in-the-pan. I’m running to tell myself that losing all the weight was not a fluke and it’s not inevitable that I will someday put it all back on. This year I’m running to tell myself that I’m the kind of guy who does stuff that seems outlandish and out-of-reach for most people, the kind of guy who reaches for big goals.

Several years ago, I read a book about U2, and an interviewer asked Bono (this isn’t an exact quote, but just how I remember it) “why do you write so many songs about peace?” and Bono replied, “because I’m a violent man and I have to write songs to myself, to remind myself to not be violent.”

That idea has stuck with me for a long time. I think it’s so true. In regards to running, I have to run tomorrow because I’m inherently lazy and without a marathon on the schedule, I would have spent most of the winter drinking dark beer, eating dark chocolate and playing games on my iPad. But, because there’s been a race on the schedule, I’ve run throughout most of a particularly nasty weather throughout the Midwest.

This year, because of my experience last year, where I tried to run too fast, and because the winter really wreaked havoc on my training schedule, and because I’m about 7 pounds heavier than I was last year (which MATTERS over 26 miles!), I’ve set a lower target pace. Unless I have a miraculous finish, I’ll finish at a slower pace than last year.

I told a friend this, that I I was targeting a slower pace, and he asked what the point of running was if I wasn’t trying to better my last year’s pace. And I explained about the difficulties of training this winter. But really, here’s my answer. I run to finish. Yes, I have a fuzzy target pace in mind for tomorrow, but I’m trying to hold it lightly. It’s not the most important thing to me. I’m not running to win awards. I’m running because it’s my way to creative a narrative about myself.

Most days the voice-in-my-head runs a pretty negative commentary about who I am and what I’m about. He questions my motives, tells me I’m “not good enough” and tells me that I’m overshooting, reaching too high. But when I cross 50-yard line of Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois tomorrow morning around 10:40, I’ll quiet the voice. And that is why I’m running.