My dad retired in his late fifties and has been having the time of his life for the past few decades. He turns 85 this year and is still doing his thing – playing tennis, hunting all sorts of birds and doing real yard work. He loves to play games – especially bridge and gin rummy, and he does crosswords and Sudoku daily. He has two homes between which he migrates every spring and fall – one in the midwest and one on an island in the Pacific Northwest. He’s a devoted husband to my mom and a great father to me and my three sisters –
and a loving “PK” to his eight grandchildren. He spends the majority of his best thinking on his investments and trying to maximize what he can provide for his bloodline. His brood is indeed fortunate.
But maybe what’s best about him is his shared wisdom and sage advice, especially when life gets tough. I remember when I was going through a rough time and was facing many challenges and big changes in my life. Things were not going according to my “life plan.” I was stressed, sad and needed a boost.
I decided that I would fly up to Seattle and meet dad on his drive back to the Midwest that September. We settled into the long trek – just him, me, the highway and our little world in that car. As the miles eased by so did my stress.
On the second day I got around to discussing my situation, the details flowed out and so did some tears. Dad just listened and acknowledged things without judgment. I was babbling and feeling pretty down, wondering how I would get through the morass. Then he looked over at me and said: “Well, Karl, you know what? Every day is a great day. Sure there are ups and downs, sun and rain, but every day, every one, is a great day. Always remember that.”
It was a pretty simple point, but coming from him it was very meaningful, and it was just what I needed to hear at that time. I realized right then that everything in my life was happening for a reason and that it all would work out. There would be wonderful days ahead – well in fact, every day could be a great day.
I was recently visiting dad back in the Midwest and we were enjoying a duck dinner after splitting wood together that afternoon. My mom and 17-year-old daughter were there too and the conversation turned philosophical. Usually dad heads to bed right after dinner, but that evening he reconvened us around the table to share more of his thoughts.
His eyes grew wide and animated as he said: “Some people think that life here on earth is all about living a good life so that when they die they will go to heaven. Well… there’s another way to look at this… heaven is right here on earth. We are actually living in heaven right now, and you only have to open your mind to that and you will see that it is true. You just have to see it and let it in. This… is heaven.”
His arms were raised and his face was glowing. Gracie, mom and I were speechless and I realized at that moment that he was in heaven, and so were we. When the moment passed I connected the dots: when heaven is on earth, every day is a great day.
Thinking back on some of the not-so-heavenly days I’ve had, I also realized that hell can be on earth too. But that’s ok, as long as you can turn your attitude around and bring it back to heaven. In fact, a little bit of hell makes heaven that much sweeter. Maybe this is one of the appeals of ultrarunning? After all, the Tahoe Rim Trail Ultra motto is “A glimpse of Heaven and a Taste of Hell,” and I know that every ultrarunner can relate to that.
This issue has a number of articles that touch on this dynamic. Christina Bauer’s article discusses the heaven and hell that depression can inflict even on an elite ultrarunner. John Trent’s article about Dave Mackey’s journey from the top of the sport to embracing a new reality is also on point and particularly inspiring. And Ellie Greenwood explains how she is putting her “injury lemons” to very good use. We also have plenty of science in this issue too – glycogen depletion, carb complexities and probiotics, but Cory Reese reveals that the real answer to race day heaven may just be Nutella.
May your every run be a great one,