Letter #2: To the OPSF 50/50 Organizers & Volunteers

While I was running the brutal course yesterday, wondering why it was that I’d signed up for such a ridiculous race, I knew who I’d be thanking.

David and Sara, the couple who put this race on, and all the volunteers who set up, mark, and monitor the course are nothing short of amazing. They are all upbeat, happy, and encouraging along the way.

Unlike traditional marathons with thousands of volunteers and fanfare, ultra marathons take place in the middle of the woods and have few participants. The organizers and volunteers bust their collective humps to help a handful of crazies run up and down hills all day.

They deserve more than we could ever give them. This letter will go out in the mail on Monday, but I thought I’d post it now.

***

Dear David + Sara:

I wanted to send you – and all the volunteers – a letter expressing my heartfelt thanks for putting on such a great event. This is my second year running (and first finishing) the OPSF 50/50. This year – as with last year – I found everyone I spoke with to be genuinely kind and helpful. That is no small feat considering how much work goes into setting one of these events up, and how long the volunteers are asked to sit outside while the rest of the crazies run up and down hills all day.

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Letter #1: To Our Dog Trainer

Rebecca, Maxx the dog, and I stopped into the Castleton PetSmart this morning to see our dog trainer. She’s been working with us for several months, and we’ve grown quite fond of her.

While we’re taking a break from training because of life, we wanted her to know that we’d still swing by to see her.

She’s also the first person we wanted to thank during The Year of Thank You so yesterday I dropped off a letter Rebecca and I wrote. After Maxx was checked into Doggie Day Camp, I tracked down the manager and talked with him for a few minutes about our experience with the trainer and told him that I hoped he’d share what we said to him.

We found out today that he shared it with the entire staff.

When we came into the store, employees continually came up to us and thanked us for writing that letter about her and about the staff. We continually were told: “Nobody ever says thank you.”

Their comments weren’t said derisively. Instead, there was a longing about it as if they were also reminded that they didn’t say thank you enough either. What was supposed to be a quick hello to our trainer turned into a 35-minute meet-and-greet with the staff.

It was a pretty good morning, and an amazing reminder about the power we have to create the world that we want. Just a few little words brightened the day of the people who have helped us with Maxx the dog.

Here is the letter we gave to the general manager (with the name of the innocent party removed). And don’t forget that I’d love to hear your stories as well.

***

Hello:

My name is Brad King, and my fiancée Rebecca Hutton and I wanted to write a letter to let you know about our wonderful experiences with <our trainer>, who has been our dog’s trainer for the past several months.

Too often we let good deeds and good people get pushed aside in the swirl of the day-to-day activities of life. While understandable, we believe that a general lack of acknowledgement subtly reinforces the idea that positive interactions are no different than negative interactions.

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The 52 in 365 Challenge: The Year of Thank You

The 90-in-90 writing challenges I’ve posted have sometimes taken on a life on their own. Other times they’ve taken on my life. And other times still they have simply faded away.

Fortunately, I’m way more into process than product so the outcome of my personal missions is rarely the point.

For this challenge, though, the product is more important than the process. Let me explain:

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“Going Home”

I’ve sat here in tears re-reading one of my favorite Jon Katz’ pieces about the death of a family pet.

I first found Katz after Columbine with “Voices from the Hellmouth.” Later I would teach his book Geeks in my class. Now, I sit here sobbing reading an excerpt from his book, Going Home: Finding Peace When Your Pets Die.

All of our pets are healthy and happy (Misha cat, Little Cat, and Maxx the dog), but the arrow of time always hangs over us. We try very hard to enjoy every moment we have with them (and each other) because we know.

As I watched the video below, I burst into uncontrollable – but quiet – tears. Without any prompt, boy Maxx the dog came in from the other room, jumped into my lap, and laid his head on my legs while I watched.

The power of life, and family, and love has shaken me in ways I never imagined this year. I am moved by these feelings more often than I thought possible. And even in the sadness of the message, I am thankful that I reminded by my pets, and the life in this home of ours, that every moment counts. (Even the ones that happen at 3 in the morning!).

Day 84: Ultra September, a Call for Runners

**Here’s a synopsis: I’m looking for running partners on Saturday, September 29 to help me with a training run on the Monon. Any distance, any leg are helpful. I’ll be running between a 9:30-10:30 pace depending on the day. Feel free to leave a comment or drop a line if you’re interested.**

I’m two months away from the 2012 OPSF Ultra Marathon, the only race I’ve ever DNF’d. (The upside to that race: I met this girl on my way home.)

The moment I decided to drop out of the race, I knew I’d be back. You never finish on a miss. My dad taught me that lesson many years ago when I’d shoot free throws on our driveway. The last shot you take before you go inside has to be a make. This was no different.

The 50k Ultra — in this case a 35-mile run as the course was mis-measured — is an entirely different beast than a road marathon. The hills, the trails, the solitude, the limited aid stations, and the location make these races equal parts mental and physical.

When I DNF’d, I decided to skip the rest of my races in 2011 and 2012, and instead dedicate myself to conquering the ultra distances. I retro-fitted my road bike; I ditched my road marathon equipment and bought lightweight trail running gear; I joined CrossFit to build the endurance needed to run up and down thousands of feet; and I put one race on my calendar: November 3, 2012.

As September begins, my training picks up. I ran 20 miles on Saturday, Sept 1; I’ll run 24 miles on Saturday, Sept 8; dial it back for 18- and a 14-miles runs the following Saturdays; and on Saturday, Sept 29 I’ll do a 30-mile training run.

It’s the last run that sticks in my head: a 30-mile training run.

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Day 79: Remiss in Writing, Not in Doing

We’ve been so tied up with the start of school, training, the wedding, and life that I’ve forgotten to write about the 90-in-90 even though I’ve not forgotten to live it.

The girl and I have continued our CrossFit ways: twice a week and once on the weekend. We’re debating bumping up our membership so we can go more often. Finally after 3 1/2 months of lifting things, we can lift them in the proper way. Let me just tell you: Olympic lifting gets a lot more fun when you’re strong enough to do things moderately correctly.

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The Strangest Phone Call I Ever Made

This is apropos of nothing:

Ten years ago, I called a friend of mine. I hadn’t spoken to him in several years, and I don’t exactly remember why I was calling him. I know I was visiting my home, and I probably wanted to go have a drink.

What made the call stranger was that another friend of mine (I didn’t realize the two knew each other) answered the phone I called. When I asked Friend B why he was answering Friend A’s phone, he said it was his phone now. (This, my dear friends, was a LAND LINE!)

“I thought he lived with his girlfriend,” I said.

“He did. Now I do.”

“Oh. So then he’s not around,” I said questioningly. 

“Not in the manner you mean.”

* * *

Sometimes when I reflect on my life, I can’t help but wonder how it all ended up this way.

Day 52: As School Approaches…

While I don’t write about writing much anymore, I’ve been writing a ton every day. Unfortunately, none of the writing is on my writing projects. I’ve nearly finished my research proposal for graduate school (which involves writing a short novella), I’ve written scores of pages for my online classes, explaining the details of my assignments, and I’m constantly writing grants for projects I’m aiming to accomplish.

In fact, I just turned in the last batch of work for 2 chapters I’ve written for a textbook on magazine journalism. (This is – I swear – the last thing I’m writing for a traditional publisher unless I’ve negotiated the contract.) Also: I sent out a note today that said between now and August 20 my answer to every query not related to school is: I can’t help you.

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Day 48: Run, Bike, CrossFit

Last Sunday, Rebecca and I decided we needed to kick our training up a notch. After all, we’d been going at CrossFit for about 2 1/2 months, and we were starting to feel…energized.

If you’ve ever worked out for an extended period of time, you’ll understand that feeling. When you finish a hard workout, you recover and want to get started again.

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Day 47: Crossfit + the 90s

image Rebecca and I started going to CrossFit about 2 1/2 months ago after deciding that running probably wasn’t enough for us.

She’s attempting her first marathon (which comes after a car accident one year ago) and I’m trying to finish that Ultra that kicked my ass last year (and the Tecumseh Trail Marathon that whooped me 2 years ago).

We’ve dedicated one weekend day each week for BIG EXERCISE, which means a run (at least 5 miles), a long bike (at least 25 miles), and some time at the CrossFit open gym.

Rest assured: We are feeling old. As I told my friend Austin, “I’m getting in shape but I’m realizing shape in your 40s isn’t actually shape.”

Still, we’re starting to fit into our gym wear (which is good). This is my new summer running shirt + my CrossFit workout shorts.

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