Tag Archives: running

Taking out the Garbage

This would be a good title for a post about writing, and getting rid of the extraneous junk that keeps a reader from getting into the flow of a story. But how could I write a post like that? I’m one of those who enjoy Neal Stephenson, despite the fact that some of his paragraphs are two pages long and filled with endless lists of … well … junk. It may be the challenge of wading through all that and staying with the story that makes me like him. I’m a sucker for challenges.

But this isn’t a post about writing, unless writing about methods for clearing the detritus out of your brain so you can write counts. Since the methods I used this morning were only marginally successful, I may not be qualified to pen that post either.

So, in the end, this is a post mostly about how I deal with … stuff. Of course, that sometimes includes running away from it.

Taking out the Garbage

That is what I set out to do on my run this morning. I wasn’t sure how far or long it would take and wasn’t fully prepared for how much I would find. It is surprising how much junk accumulates when you are distracted by the demands of life. My e-mail inbox, with its ever-expanding collection of spam and almost-spam, looks organized and spiffy in comparison. There was so much debris that twenty miles was not enough to jettison it all. Garbage remains and some of it may end up in this post … sorry.

It is no wonder that I am in the position of never being able to remember if I’ve put my deodorant on after my shower, as in every single time. I turn to put my shirt on and my shoulders slump because I CAN’T REMEMBER! Don’t worry, this always results in my putting deodorant on again, likely for the second time, but maybe the third–maybe I need to stop using the clear stick. This forgetfulness may be a sign of Alzheimer’s, but I would prefer to think it is because my head is too filled with bits and pieces–some pretty big pieces–of stuff I need to write down, or just let go.

I had only the wind and my jumbled thoughts as constant companions. It was a long, lonely run; more so since it was a result of my hurting the person I love most in the world, and her reaction to that hurt.

“Harvest of the Heart” went live on Amazon on December 13, exactly one month ago. Lately, I’ve been scrambling to get my next book “Running Scared” ready for publication, going back and forth with the editor, tweaking and hopefully perfecting what I think could be a great collection of short stories. I’ve also tried to regain some momentum in my writing of the sequel to HotH. Oh, and there is also the biography for which I’ve been collecting baseline information.

Additionally, I’ve been working a half-dozen social networks, doing interviews, setting up my physical launch, arranging a book-signing tour and Maryland launch, sending out books, and, always, looking for other marketing avenues. In other words, doing what I could to get sales. And you know what? I don’t really care about selling my book. The only reason I’m being a pseudo-spamming pain in the ass to friends on dailymile and Facebook, the only reason I’m in a radio studio at midnight for fifteen minutes of airtime, is to prove to my wife that I can earn a living with this writing obsession.

Because that is the bottom line. No matter how many stories are in my head, no matter how much I want to write, if I can’t pull my financial weight with my writing, I’m going to have to give it up. I know, from over thirty-five years of experience, that I will not be able to work a full-time job and continue writing in any manner that will be fruitful and satisfying.

Six times over the past year, I have been willing to do that–give up writing–in order to ease the financial worry that now rests on my wife’s shoulders. I’ve applied for six different jobs in the past eleven months; interviewed for three. For one, I was over-qualified and I’m certain the company didn’t think I would stay long enough for them too get their money’s worth out of me. The other two I applied for would have been challenging and rewarding, easing the sting of what I would give up to take it. I believe I gave my best at the interviews. I know I could have done those jobs as good or better than any other applicant. But I didn’t get them–and felt like a death row inmate who’d received a temporary stay of execution.

All the above is the backdrop for a major screw-up. My wife made the sweet gesture of purchasing her own copy of Harvest of the Heart through Amazon. It would be hers alone; she said it made her feel like a fan. After waiting patiently for it to arrive, she brought it down for me to autograph. I wanted the message in her book to be extra-special, so I set it aside, in a place that I thought would be safe, until I could get some quiet time to find just the right words.

In the frantic period leading up to my physical launch, I received a request from the Cheyenne Frontier Days to donate a copy of my book for a basket of books by Wyoming writers for a charity auction. You can see where this is going. My wife’s book is setting up on the kitchen counter, sealed in a padded envelope to mail out. It is signed “Thanks for supporting Cheyenne Frontier Days.”

This was a big mistake. I know that. And there is no way for me to undo it. “I’m sorry” wasn’t near enough. The sum of her reactions sent me out the door this morning for a run that had no planned end.

I ran out to the railroad track west of Rte. 287, hopping two fences on the way, and turned south. And just kept going. I had no business running fourteen miles, much less twenty; but, for a time, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get myself turned around. On the way out, I tried to shovel old stuff from my brain that I had no business holding onto. I was only partially successful; like moldy newspapers piled in the basement, some scraps were stuck to the floor. There was so much crap to go through, a point was reached where I could see myself not stopping at all. Like a character in one of my short stories I would just keep on running. Guilt wasn’t the only thing driving me; there was a lot of hurt, and confusion … and anger, too.

In the end, I was able to circle about and head home. Unfortunately, not all the mental garbage was left behind. On the way back, I picked up a twisted piece of iron from alongside the tracks with the intention of carrying it until I dropped the weight of rubbish that was cluttering my mind. The iron probably weighed between six and eight pounds. Picture me with eight miles to go, already dragging, and now carrying a big chunk of iron. For two miles, it went from hand to hand as I tried to maintain some semblance of decent running form. At the same time, I struggled to get my head straight.

After a bit, I found that I had adjusted enough that I thought I might make it all the way home lugging that rusted, heavy, ugly POS burden. Then it hit me–I was doing the same thing with the garbage in my head–finding a way to adjust, to carry it along. I tossed the weight and a lot of the garbage. Not all of it; there is more that still needs to go. But, like used motor oil, I’m going to have to find the right place.

So I dragged myself home. After 20.35 miles, I was exhausted, aching and dehydrated. For almost three hours after I finished, my eyesight was blurry because I was so dried out. I know the self-flagellation I put myself through doesn’t change anything and this public “mea culpa” isn’t even an attempt to do make the situation better.

Most of the challenges I get into are meant to prove something to myself. I’m not sure that this one proved much of anything except, I don’t know, that maybe I am sometimes dense and stubborn. Whether it accomplished anything at all remains to be seen. I decided when I started this blog that my writing for it was going to be unflinchingly honest. Even if it isn’t what makes for a popular blog.

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The Iceman Cometh

Like a boxer exhilarated by the battle he faces, I fought the weather with a fierce determination. A gust hit me in the face; I absorbed the punch and countered, driving my arms and moving forward. Mother Nature had six degrees, an unblemished record, and a stiff west wind in her corner. I had Under Armour and a spirit lifted by my approaching book launch in mine. The early rounds fell  in my favor, despite the slippery trail and the rock that caught my toe and sent me sprawling. I bounced back up, an embarrassed smile on my face– “No ref, I’m not hurt a bit.” I ignored the little twinge in my back and got back into the ring. By the middle rounds, Mom had me reeling. A steady barrage of frigid blows to my head and body made me question why I was in this fight at all. But then I summoned my inner Rocky. “Is that all youze got?” I held my head and took one on the chin … and laughed. I had become the Iceman; windy punches shattered against my hard, red face. As the fight drew near the end, it was clear there would be no winner. I was tired, but still standing. Mother Nature was unbowed, and still undefeated.

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Running with rose-colored glasses

It was another picture-perfect morning here in Laramie, Wyoming. The Snowy Range was painted a soft rose by a sun that was still below the horizon from my vantage point on the prairie. Although the rest of the beautiful blue sky was clear, above that shy sun was a selection of clouds that looked as though they were designed by an artist determined to impress me. Just above the horizon was a broad, thin swirl that looked like cream spun into coffee–if coffee was blue.

My granddaughter Kate

Where the still-hiding sun reflected off this swirl it was shining like a silver Christmas ornament. Just above, a narrow contrail divided the silver-tinted art from a group of symmetrical white puff-balls that balanced on the line like a large ellipsis on a page … I was enchanted.

Although it was only fifteen degrees, I was dressed just right and the crisp air was refreshing. After two days of hard runs, my legs should have felt tired and a little achy, but the truth is, I felt great. Keeping hold of the reins so that this run would not turn into another hard one was difficult. Between the beauty of nature around me and a weekend filled with happy news from one source after another, I had energy to spare.

Dashing through the snow... sort of.

My sixth grandchild came into this world on Saturday. She is the second girl and the first for my third son, Phil, who already had three sons of his own. That my wife and I had our daughter after three boys gave a bit of synchronicity to the occasion. Phil, Tory and their daughter are healthy, happy and got home from the hospital this morning. A week from tomorrow, my wife and I will get to see them all.

Also on Saturday, in the morning, my wife and I took part in the first Snowy Range Snow Shoe races. There was a light snow throughout the event, temperatures were perfect, neither of us got hurt, and, thanks to Tom Holt pulling me along, I ended up the Wyoming State Grandmaster Champion in the 10k. On top of that, I gave away a copy of “Harvest of the Heart” as a random prize and was able to invite everyone there to my Official Book Launch on Thursday. Finally, I won a random prize myself–lunch at the Beartree Tavern and Cafe in Centennial, Wyoming.

The weekend also included running with my daughter, who is having an excellent recovery from surgery, and holding grandchild number five, who continues to amaze me with how intently he studies the new world around him.

My grandson Chaitan

All of the above is more than enough happiness for one person, but there were also good things that happened on the writing and book marketing front. “Running Scared” is finished and in the hands of a talented editor. “Harvest of the Heart” received more excellent reviews, including those from Heather Faville @ Doubleshot Reviews and Rachel Abbott @ The Kindle Book Reviews. The Kindle Version of “Harvest of the Heart” is finally available and linked to the paperback and includes the “Look Inside” feature. I was interviewed for an article in a newspaper in Maryland that will help publicize my Maryland Launch. It is beginning to look like both my Official Launch on Thursday and my Maryland Launch will be well attended.

The weekend truly did see a flood of good happenings for me. Those glasses didn’t have to be rose-colored, since everything is rosy enough right now. I’d wish for such goodness every week, except I’m not sure what I would do with so many grandchildren! 🙂 So I wish instead that everyone could experience such a weekend.

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Running With Scissors

So I’m running down Route 287 just before sunrise and there on the edge of the highway is a pair of nine-inch scissors with a red handle. They looked brand new, so I scooped them up, not thinking how I would look running down the road as all my neighbors were leaving for work. Once the steady stream of cars  started passing me on Spring Lakes Road, I could imagine the conversation inside the vehicles:

“Mommy look! That man is running with scissors!”

“This is too much!” Mommy says. “Running in the middle of the night–weird, but he’s from back east, what do you expect? Running when it’s minus 22 degrees–crazy, but he’s a writer, they’re all crazy. Running when the wind is 50 mph–insane, but it’s what that Selmer guy does. Now this! Running With Scissors! Totally unacceptable!”

I felt like I should send out an e-mail trying to explain, but I have a suspicion that my reputation is already set in cement and nothing I can say will change it.
I was pretty tired for this run but that was to be expected after the unplanned sort-of tempo run last night. Only nine hours, and no food, between the two runs. If I’d fallen from exhaustion onto the scissors, at least the neighbors could tell their kids, “See! That’s why you don’t run with scissors!”

While I was out on the run,  and before I found the scissors, I realized how incredibly busy I will be over the next four months … five months … oh geez, I’m not sure I’ll ever not be busy again. I think it was one thing that contributed to the tired feeling I had during the run.

“Avenging Angel”, the sequel to “Harvest of the Heart” is just screaming to get out of my head and onto paper. At some point, I have to get moving on the biography I want to write. Then there is the short story collection “Running Scared” that is in the editing phase and will require more work before it goes to the publisher. A book launch party next Thursday; a book tour and DC area launch on January 23; and, on top of it all, I have to train for Boston–I believe I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

This is starting to sound like a whole ‘nother post I need to write. I hope that camel has a strong back, because the straws are piling up.

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Improve your running with one simple exercise.

If you consider yourself an experienced runner, I’m sure those Runner’s World and Running Times headlines bug you as much as they do me.

  • “5 Easy Steps to a Faster Marathon!”
  • “The Three Best-Ever Speed Workouts!”
  • “The Nine Secrets for Staying Injury-Free!”

It’s not that there isn’t good information in the articles, but it is usually presented as if it’s so simple, that anyone and everyone can read the magazine and immediately maximize their potential with hardly any effort at all. More than one experienced running blogger has noted the absurdity in this proposition. (Here is one) They all know that you must work hard to improve.

So it is with great trepidation I present a “secret” that I believe can help almost any runner improve. It is easy, fast, and requires little or no financial investment. Although it is possible that other people know this secret, I hereby claim that it is my idea and that I was the first to use it. It was the primary reason I had any success at all in high school and, although I haven’t used this secret in a long time, it still benefits my running. And I am giving it away completely free of any cost whatsoever! (Please read a lot of tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top satire into that last line.) 🙂

After such a dramatic build-up, you are expecting to be let down. Who wouldn’t? Nothing can be that easy and effective, too. Isn’t that what I said at the start of this post?

Well, here it is then… One simple exercise, described in  seven very easy steps:

  1. Obtain two items that fit comfortably in the palm of your hand and weigh between two and four pounds each; weight is dependent on your relative strength, but should not feel heavy enough to present any strain at all during five arm curls. These can be light hand weights, cans of soup, metal rods… even a plastic water bottle (filled) could work. Each item should not be so large that it prevents you from holding it comfortably in your hand.
  2. Stand in front of a mirror in which at least the top half of your body if visible.
  3. With your shoulders relaxed but not slouched and your arms held so that your forearm and upper arm are at approximately a ninety degree angle, begin swinging your arms. Don’t look down at your arms and don’t look directly at your arms in the mirror.
  4. Focus on your head as you begin swinging your arms as if you were running at a comfortably fast pace. You want your head relaxed but not moving dramatically either up and down or side to side. The same for your shoulders; yours arms should swing from the shoulder, not swing with them.
  5. Now, without dropping your head, glance down enough that you can observe the swing of your arms. Their movement should not appear stiff and robotic, but smooth and natural. Relax. There are four important things to check: First – your arms can swing toward, but should never cross the center of your body at any point in the swing. Second, your hands should not move up and down like a piston. That approximately ninety degree angle should not change more than a few degrees. But this should not make you stiff and inflexible. Third, your hand/wrist should be in a natural position in relation to your arm. (If you hang your arms at your side and relax your hands, this will show you the best position.) And fourth, on the forward swing of your arm, your elbow should reach a point even with your hips. On the back swing, your hand should go slightly behind this same point.
  6. Continue to swing your arms at a comfortably fast pace for as long as it remains comfortable, all the while monitoring your head, shoulders and arm swing. During the first few times doing this, it may be necessary to shake your arms out occasionally in order to make sure you are staying relaxed.
  7. At some point when you are confident that all the physical actions are being performed properly, close your eyes and imagine that you are out on the road running. Try to imprint on your mind how this correct arm swing feels. I recommend that you do this exercise just before bedtime and go to sleep dreaming about the perfect running form you are developing.

At the start of my sophomore year at Northwestern High School (we had three-year high schools in PG County, MD), my arms were the weakest part of my running. By spring outdoor track, teammates were calling me “Super Soph”. For a little guy, I think I achieved a lot and most of it was because, once I had run my little heart out and my legs were hardly more than quivering lumps of meat, my arms were pumping straight and true and getting me to the finish line.

If your arms are working efficiently with the rest of your body, you can propel yourself forward with less effort and a smaller expenditure of energy. This simple exercise can help you develop that efficiency. Do it enough, and your smooth, relaxed and efficient natural arm swing will stick with you the rest of your life.

If you are visiting for the first time, please explore a little! And I hope you’ll consider following my blog.

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Why YOU should be proud of running

Unabashedly, I consider myself a runner. But it would be easy enough to substitute cyclist, or swimmer, or something else active in the post that follows. If you’re not a runner, feel free to do so! 🙂

Yes, you are an inspiration!

I have a lot of my friends on Dailymile. They come in all sizes, shapes and speeds. Some inspire me with their high mileage (like Jonathan S) or incredible pace (like Susan). I am uplifted by other friends who may not run far or fast, but have faced daunting obstacles and remain runners (like Holly T). If you are one of these groups, I thank you for the motivation and inspiration you provide. You should be proud of what you are accomplishing.

But, if you are among the aforementioned, this post is not about – or dedicated to – you. This post is for the significant percentage who aren’t aware of the inspiration that they have become for me. They are sometimes missed by the Dailymile population at large, since they don’t log long miles, record amazing race times, overcome impossible odds, or carry run streaks that are three and four digits long. For some reason the members of the group I am referring to think what they are achieving is small and unimportant. Just getting out the door every day might be the toughest struggle they face. They don’t always overcome every obstacle; often life gets in the way of their running; their motivation is sometimes weak or non-existent, and inspiration hard to find.

But they don’t quit. They miss a day, or two, or a week… but they keep coming back. Many of them eventually move on to become “hardcore”; they start logging the big miles, adding days and months to streaks. Not all, though. Whether you make that transition or not, you should be proud that you call yourself a runner.

Running, as recreation or exercise, at any speed, anywhere, and under any conditions, is a challenge that you should not underestimate, with rewards you should not undervalue. Despite the “popularity” of running, the running population is still a small percentage of the total. Statistics are hard to come by, and vary from community to community. (In Boulder, Colorado it is the oddball that doesn’t run.) You might think that 50% of the population had run a marathon, based on the talk, the number of new races, and the large crowds. But, according to MarathonGuide.com, less than 2/10 of 1% of the US population recorded a finishing time in the marathon in 2010. If you consider that many of them were people who completed more than one, the number is far less. Stats for shorter races are even harder to find, but I suspect that less than 1% of the people in this country would call themselves runners.

The remaining 99% are becoming obese at an alarming rate. HealthyAmericans.org says in the last 30 years that adult obesity has doubled from 15% of the population, to 30%. Child obesity has tripled. If you are among those fighting this disastrous trend, then you should give yourself a pat on the back.

And I want you to know that you do inspire others, even if you don’t realize it. That 1.5 miles you log tomorrow has value. Those four days you ran last week are important. Keep doing what you do; dragging yourself out the door, feeling guilty when you miss… coming back and starting over. This post is dedicated to you.

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Dailymile is a unique and wonderful place

On Dec.13, 2008, I logged my first workout on Dailymile. Yesterday I went to my training list, clicked “Last” and there it was. What serendipity that the release of my debut novel was today – Tuesday, December 13 – exactly three years later! It is hard to believe how much my life has changed in those three years. And now the most exciting change of all… I’ve become a published author! Dailymile was the first place I announced the release. I wanted my DM friends who have been so supportive to be the first to know. Your encouragement helped me reach this day. Dailymile is far more than “Facebook for Runners”. To me, Dailymile is family.

The heroine of  “Harvest of the Heart” is Elsa, a runner and a character that I hope you will come to love, since HotH is the first book of “The Elsa Chronicles”. I’m already working on Book Two – “Avenging Angel” – and plan on a September release. In addition, “Running Scared”, a collection of running-themed short stories that I’ve written especially for my DM friends, will be released in March.

Something I’ve learned during my three years on Dailymile is that stubborn determination can only take you so far. There are times when you need to admit that you need the support of others; that you need a helping hand. Leadville certainly taught me that. Being willing to ask for (and give) help and advice is a big part of what being a Dailymiler is all about.

Now I’m going to demonstrate how well I’ve learned that lesson. 🙂 I’d really love your help in getting “Harvest of the Heart” off to a fast start. (Even if you’re reading this and aren’t a Dailymiler) Of course, I hope you’ll buy the book :-), but even if exciting, suspenseful thrillers aren’t your cup of tea, you can still help me immensely by spreading the word. A large publicity budget (which I don’t have) can’t beat word-of-mouth for creating buzz and assuring a book’s success. I don’t imagine that HotH will become a viral entity, but even a little spread is better than none.

I know that a number of you have already started helping and I’m guessing  that more would be happy to be part of spreading the word. There are a lot of little things you could do that would mean so much to me:

If you have a Twitter account, please follow me (@MichaelSelmer) and Tweet about the book a few times. My web-site (http://www.michael-selmer.com) has links on where to buy it, and I will also be tweeting the Amazon address the moment it comes online.

Are you on Facebook, My Space, Goodreads, Google+ or any other social networking sites? If so, could you write a post about the release and link to my website? Also, I have an Author Facebook Page and a Google+ Page and I’d love to have you “friend” me.

Once you’ve read the book, please write a review for my Amazon page, which is already online. It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate. Saying that you liked it and mentioning a couple reasons is enough. Having a lot of reviews on Amazon is an important signal of quality to potential readers.

If you are one of my many DM friends that have a blog, I’m open to doing an interview, answering questions for a book review, or writing a guest blogpost. It can be about running or writing. If I’m not already linked to your blog from my website, I’d be happy to do that, as well as tweet about the post. If you know someone who has a blog that might be interested, I’d really appreciate it if you’d refer them to me.

Maybe there is some other way you can help. Are you connected with a reader’s group, book club, or media outlet? Even a little mention in one of these venues goes a long way.

Doing all of these things is too much to ask, but an Indie author can’t accomplish anything alone. Even the smallest part you play in helping make “Harvest of the Heart” a best-seller will be greatly appreciated. Becoming a best-selling author may be just a dream, but if that dream comes true, I’ll never forget the part you played in making it happen.

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