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Up Iron Mtn. (x 1 3/4)

October 18th, 2011 No comments

This time around was a different story. I set my sights higher. I had been preparing myself mentally for the last few days in the hopes of yielding enhanced performance. I knew it was going to be a challenge. I knew it was going to be a battle. And I knew I could handle it.

I got on the road a bit too late and arrived at the staging area at 9:00am. My goal was to do Iron Mtn (x2) or do the 7 mile loop twice, one right after the other in less than 3 hours. Roughly, this meant 7 miles of ascent and 7 miles of descent in less than 3 hours.

I began the run at 9:10am and reached the 1.5 mile mark at 9:35am. I was at the top for the 1st time at exactly 10:00am. It was already hot, somewhere in the temperature range of the mid 80’s. I was breaking a pretty good sweat. I paused for a moment, enjoyed some casual conversation with a friendly gentleman and started the descent. I was back at the starting point by 10:40am.

1st time around was 50 minutes to the top and 40 minutes to the bottom. Makes sense I guess. An extra 10 minutes to do the ascent (no rests) in comparison to the descent (no rests).

I knew the mountain temperature now had to be in the 90’s and next ascent was going to be punishing if not grueling. I lathered myself with a ton of sunscreen, stretched, and made sure my hat covered my face as much as it could. By 10:45am I began the next loop. At 11:10 I reached the 1.5 mile mark with one very short rest. I could tell that at that time my heart rate or beats per minute (bpm) was somewhere between 180-200bpm. I took deep breaths paying close attention to my pulse. I was consuming water like crazy; having brought 2.5 liters for the total distance of 14 miles.

I was foolish to not bring Powerade or Gatorade. I still had 2 miles to go to the top and then another 3.5 miles back to the bottom. I felt a little bit of concern wash over me. I didn’t have enough fluids and the heat was starting to feel stifling. I told myself I could bang off another mile of upward ascent and then would have to turn back. And that’s exactly what I did.

The warning signs were there; it was too hot. I was consuming water too rapidly. And my body was sending me little tingling sensations from my toes. Besides I’m not a medical doctor. I don’t know the answers to such questions as;

1. What could happen to me medically if I got heat stroke or collapsed?

2. What kind of irreversible or permanent damage could be done to some of my major bodily systems if I pushed too hard for too long in the heat of the mountains?

3. If I did collapse or became unconscious, how much time would I have until something corrective needed to be done?

All these thoughts were circling in my head as I pushed for that extra mile upward. I knew I had to settle for one mile short of the top the second time around. There was too much risk involved and I was alone. After giving it much thought, one term came to mind – self-preservation.

I got back to the bottom by 11:45am. I had completed 12 out of the 14 miles in less than 3 hours; doing so with a relatively safe modus operandi. In other words, completing 12 out of the 14 miles in 2 hours and 35 minutes without leaving my carcass for the ravenous vultures.

What did I learn from this experience?

1. Doing 2 loops of Iron Mtn. (14 miles) is completely within my reach.

2. I need to immediately change a habit (getting on the road earlier to beat the afternoon heat).

3. I need to pack more fluids; including fluids that contain a strong source of electrolytes.

4. I always need to listen to my body because it is always telling me what I can endure and where and when I need to draw the line for healthy preservation of self.

As an aside, I did receive 2 funny and somewhat encouraging comments from people while on the hike. One was {Wow, I’m impressed! – from a middle-aged woman who was admiring the view with her friend}. And the other one was from a young chap (realizing that I was on my 2nd loop and that I had lapped him) who was walking on the downhill with his girlfriend “You’re my new hero man. I’m going to take a picture of you and blow it up into a poster and put it on my wall. Every morning when I wake up I’m going to stare at the poster of you to find my inspiration for the day”. To that somewhat sarcastic and funny comment I replied “If that’s what turns your crank”. He laughed as his girlfriend muttered something under her breath.

All in all I chalk it up to something as simple as this:

I just ran a half a marathon in the draining heat of the mountains. The double loop will be attained soon and I will aspire to expect more of myself.

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’, Yet…

Matthew Polkinghorne

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Up Iron Mountain

October 7th, 2011 No comments

Hiking Iron Mountain is a round trip of 7 miles. 3.5 miles to the top and 3.5 miles back to the bottom where there is a constructed parking lot. Hiking or walking Iron Mtn. is a challenge; it makes a person breath hard and it tests the strength of a person’s legs.

I’ve hiked Iron Mtn. many a time. I like to feel the burn and strengthen my body and mind. Lately though, I haven’t found the challenge of it very motivating. It’s been boring my body a bit. I’ve been training though and training fairly hard. This time around, I decided to run the entire route. Not a Herculean task by any means but also not a walk in the park.

I geared up with a knapsack and enough water to quench any thirst. Sun tan lotion was also a must. I got the run going and immediately began to feel the burn of the ascent. The first 10 minutes were a slow burn; my muscles began to warm-up to the climb. The next 20-30 minutes were a bit hellish  as my leg muscles accumulated lactic acid, screaming at me to stop the brutal punishment.  

I focused on my breathing and told myself that the steep elevation would not last forever and my legs would eventually get a rest. I pushed through it with deep breaths and paced running. The 20-30 minutes of steeping running felt like an eternity. I winced in pain several times, telling myself that I need to put myself through this – I need to do this the hard way. I continued to pace my running, edging on and getting some of the hardest parts of the climb out of the way.

At the 1.5 mile mark, my legs were grateful for a elevation grade change. The ascent became more manageable and I was able to pick up the pace. 15 minutes of reasonable running ensued as I prepared for the next difficult leg of the climb. I prepared myself mentally; focusing again on my breathing while respecting the stamina of my legs. Then I leaned into it, resolving that I would not allow myself to stop running until I reached the peak. Switchback after switchback, boulder after boulder, I just kept on climbing. And after a while, the somewhat crazy ascent no longer felt taxing – neither physically nor mentally. I just kind of fell into a rhythm all on my own. I stopped thinking about it. I started to appreciate the view off to my right side. After all, it is a very pretty view of Poway and various San Diego communities and lakes.

It was quite a feeling. I stopped counting the switchbacks. I stopped worrying about all the annoying and jagged boulders. I just kept on going at a reasonable pace and kept on appreciating the view. I didn’t worry about being alone and I didn’t worry about how I was going to feel when I reached the top.

At the top I admired the view for a moment, turned on foot and knocked off the 3.5 mile descent lickity-split. Sure, I felt in the water encircle both of my eyes a few times during the run. And it did feel good. Yet I did not allow myself to get caught up too long in the feeling. I could feel my spirit elevating throughout the run and that was enough for me. I didn’t need to over-think it.

And who do I owe a big thank you to for a lot of this individual development? Dr. Andrew Thorn. A man of all seasons; an enlightened warrior and spiritualist to the core. Thank you sir. You have supplied tremendous support in breathing life into many of my dreams and life aspirations.

Whatever country you’re in and whatever you’re doing, many blessings to you and your family.

Matthew Polkinghorne

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We Are Sick, We Are Very Very Sick

October 7th, 2011 No comments

Do you feel the malaise? Do you feel that things are not getting better?

I hope you do. I sure do.

The concept of American exceptionalism has been blown so far out of proportion that we are failing to connect with each other on any kind of sincere level. We have become obsessed with possession and consumption and we will do anything to have one more gadget or device than the guy next door. We have created our nice little hell and we are living in it. I can feel the fire on my insides. I can feel the fire on the sides of my eyes and I can feel the fire in the society that surrounds.

We have set ourselves ablaze and I wonder; is there any turning back? No, of course, there is not. There is no turning back. We are forever connected to the guts of our consumption – forever connected to the gluttony of our emptiness. We are hopeless and doomed.

Greece is the perfect example. Everyone wants everything for free. No one should have to work and everyone is entitled to everything. Don’t want to work there? Ok. No problem. You’re entitled to twenty dollars per hour even if you don’t work. Perfect. Now even more middle-class Americans have to shell out more money per capita to help support the European debt crisis. Perfect. Just perfect. This doesn’t even take into account the potential tax hikes that may adversely affect American middle-income earners even more, increasing suffering to an intolerable threshold.

Oh well…someone’s signature somewhere will make it all better, right? Guess so. Waving of the magic wand and lightning down from the buildings. Another rainy day will wash it all away.

And then there’s the Bankers Life & Casualty company; originally founded in 1879. Recently got a prompting from a recruiter to show up for an interview (e-mail communication). Did my homework and scouted the place out (where I am supposed to go for my interview).

From the outside the building looked semi-professional with local fast-food franchises in the vicinity. As soon as I entered I immediately noticed that the elevator to floors above was out-of-order. A woman of darker complexion was sitting on the 1st step of the 1st floor stairwell. She had a cane in one hand and gave the appearance like she was breathing heavily. She said the stairs were a tough walk. I bolted myself up 3 flights of stairs to scope where the interview would be. As I reached the top of the 3rd floor stairwell, 2 gentlemen of darker complexion stood at the entrance to the 3rd floor corridor.

They motioned for me to step inside. I motioned {after you}. The sign for the Bankers Life & Casualty company was on a very small template, positioned on the right wall beside the middle of the door. Thinking for a split second and noticing a thinner gentleman of lighter complexion out of the left corner of my eye, I turned on heel, moving swiftly down each flight of stairs.

If I would have went in that room…well…I don’t know. I might not have been impressed with the interview location.     

Many times the reality presented to you is not the reality.

Do your homework.

If you decide to not move with stealth; go with at least one or two friends. Do not go alone.

Can you feel the malaise? We need to heal. We need to get better.

Matthew Polkinghorne

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The Things I Cannot Control

October 1st, 2011 No comments

Mostly everything, but let’s talk about it a little bit.

I cannot control the people that are a part of my life. For better or worse, I cannot control their actions, thoughts, feelings, and words. Much as I want to influence how people behave toward me and treat me, I really cannot control how a person close to me will act.

I cannot control how I am feeling inside. I can do my best to manage and understand how I am feeling inside yet I cannot control it. I cannot control the absolutely awful temper I have. I can do my best to manage and understand my absolutely awful temper yet I cannot control it. If I don’t talk about how I am feeling inside and if I don’t talk about my absolutely awful temper I will eventually get myself into trouble and create big problems in my life.

I cannot control the great pain that keeps returning to me. I cleanse my system of the deepest and darkest emotions through emotional release and I still cannot control the great pain that inevitably returns to me.

I cannot control the need I have to express myself through words. I can tell myself not to do it. I can make myself feel guilty for putting my thoughts into words and sharing them with whoever will read yet I cannot control the need I have to express myself through words.

I cannot control the need I have to express myself through music. I can tell myself not to do it. I can make myself feel guilty for putting my feelings into song and sharing it with whoever will listen yet I cannot control the need I have to express myself through music.

I cannot control the fact that the world does not want me to have money right now. I can tell myself that the world should pay me money for the things I have done and the things I will continue to do yet I cannot control the fact that right now the world does not want me to have money. I cannot control the fact that part of the world blames me for the current economic financial crisis (because of how I look and because I fit the profile of a male WASP). I cannot control it. Right now the world is focused on blame and who should pay.   

I cannot control the fact that the world likes to project anger onto me. I can tell myself that it is the world’s problem and not mine yet this will not change the fact that the world likes to project anger onto me. Much as I want to influence the world to be kind to me, I cannot control what feelings the world projects onto me.

I cannot control if the world wishes to isolate me and starve me of positivity. I can tell myself that people are hateful, vengeful, and spiteful toward me yet this does not change the fact that I cannot control all the negativity the world pushes toward me. Much as I want to influence the world to treat me with love and respect, I cannot control how the world acts toward me.

I cannot control the fact that I have an aesthetically pleasing face. I can tell myself that eventually people will come around yet I cannot control the face that was given to me. I cannot control the thoughts I have of deforming it for you. Sad as I make myself look; happy as I make myself look I cannot control the fact that the world will probably always view me with a suspicious and distrusting eye regardless of the expression I show.  

All of this I cannot control. And there is a whole bunch more I cannot control. What I can determine is my acknowledgment and understanding of the things I cannot control. As I acknowledge and understand the things I cannot control I become and stronger and happier person.

The minute I attempt to control the things I cannot control is the same minute I begin to lash out at the world with flailing anger, frustration, and fear. I cannot control if the world wants me to make a scene. I can tell myself the world wants me to be calm, cool, collected, and rational yet I cannot control if the world wants me to be the exact opposite.

I can learn to appreciate and respect the things I cannot control.

What things can you not control? How would your life change if you stopped trying to control the things that you cannot control? What can you acknowledge and understand today that will make your life easier tomorrow?

Matthew Polkinghorne

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