Fixing Broken Springs

Inside every mechanical watch is a mainspring, a coiled piece of metal that, in the ages before digital, required periodic winding to keep the watch running. Let the spring relax fully, and the watch slowed to a stop. Wind it too tight, and it broke.

Runners have mainsprings, too. For some, it is a love of racing that gets them out the door to train. Others prefer the more relaxed journey of a trail run. Many only run because they want to stay fit and putting a pair of shoes on and getting out the door is an economical way of getting cardio.

My mainspring is either wound down or broken; I don't know which. I stopped running shortly after returning from Kenya. It was not sudden, more a petering out, thinking, "Nope, don't wanna, not gonna."

Now, this has nothing to do with Kenya, and everything to do with me. Kenya, and Kenyans, are wonderful. Watching the athletes work at their sport with such dedication is inspiring. Seeing the families interact and recognizing all the similarities was enlightening, as was observing the differences.

But when I came home, I began a process of evaluating what I considered important, a process that is still on-going. I also walked into the busiest market I've seen since the real estate bubble days of 2006-2008. Work took over and dominated everything. First I stopped running, then I stopped writing. Two months without a run, almost as long with out writing anything of significance.

However, work does not provide the same sense of release. I'm good at what I do, inspecting homes, and I care passionately about it. As I mentioned, the real estate market is hot. This does not bring out the best in some people, as the greed factor prevails over fair play. I have been in more battles over basic codes issues in the last three months than the previous decade. The hours of research to 'win' the argument exhaust me.  It's petty and stupid.

It came to a head on Memorial Day while I swapped comments with Justin Lagat who had just raced at Ottawa. He might be running a race nearby, if he can get an American visa and a sponsor. I told him if he got close, I'd come and cheer if I could clear some time.

As we closed the conversation, a voice inside questioned the 'if' in my semi-promise. A second voice chimed in with asking why I'd only go to cheer.

Once upon a time, I'd show up to run, like I did for the Turkey Trail Marathon I did with my friend Adric. I had no business being on the course under-trained and at altitude. Still, I finished and was happy to do so, even with a personal worst.

Now, I looked at the work schedule. No time for training while working six days a week and long hours at that. Plus the battles against real estate agents who would rather take me to task than do the right thing. (For those agents I work with, I'm incredibly grateful that you have such high standards - and I offer my apologies for oft-times making your job harder.)(For the grammar-nazis, yes, I see/know the flawed usage there. Too bad. This is a casual blog and does not follow the Chicago Style manual.)

The thought that I have no time pissed me off. Work is supposed to be a means to acquire the basics of life, not be the sole reason for living, unless you live in a subsistence culture. Many Kenyans do; most Americans do not. When my work life takes over the rest of my life, when people start placing demands on my time, changes get implemented.

I made two decisions. First, I cut back work, effective today, to a single inspection per day and now charge for all my services. Gone are the freebies, because they get abused. One inspection a day, six days a week, plus travel and research, makes for a full-time week. I'm killing off the overtime work. For years, I was the hardest working inspector in the area. Time for someone else to take over that role. It might kill my company. I'm betting it doesn't.

Second, I signed up for a marathon, a clear sign of insanity. Or, as Jackdog Welch put it, I'm a knucklehead. Could be Jack's got a point . . .

Of the two, the work decision will have the biggest impact, freeing up time to do things I've missed, like writing articles on this blog or coaching junior high cross country again. I was going to skip coaching, but when my gut said I'd miss it, I listened. When Coach Thummel asked if I'd help out again, I said yes.

The spare time also gives writing space to breathe. I stink at lollygagging and writing will fill in a goodly portion of the time that I have carved out. I certainly don't lack for ideas. Around here, there like flies in the Australian Outback. Instead of an Aussie salute, I write the ideas down in a notebook so they don't disappear. If I started today writing two thousand words a day, the backlog in story ideas would keep me writing for a decade.

The rest of the newly-created 'spare' time fills with training for the marathon. Race day happens on October 9th, a scant 117 days from now. I have to go from over-weight couch potato to fit enough to run 26.2 miles in less than four months. That gives me 117 days to figure out if the mainspring ruptured beyond repair, or if it just wound down.

I'll keep you posted.

Run gently, friends.