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January 18, 2006

My New Job For This Weekend (And The Next Several Months)

When I pulled into my driveway after work yesterday, the sight that awaited me is pictured here:

Note the 8-foot section of railing that was formerly on the upper section of the deck, collapsed on the ground 15 feet below.

For another perspective, this (below) is what it looks like from the front door:

Our house is a "fixer-upper" in every sense of the word. It's more than 30 years old, and suffice to say it wasn't exactly built like Fort Knox.

Our family, under the direction and assistance of my father-in-law, has gradually been making improvements and repairs, but since we do all the work ourselves, projects tend to progress very slowly.

Particular jobs move up the priority ladder by triage. For example, on the day last summer when I fell through the second-to-top stair of our 10-step entry staircase, I commented to my wife, "I think it's time to fix the stairs now." Within a few days I finished the job.

We had planned on replacing our rotted, poorly secured, unstable deck during the summer, but it's amazing how an 8-foot section of falling guardrail can force your hand in some cases.

So now we have a deck to build. Actually, first we have an old deck to tear out, then a new one to build.

Major projects around here obviously require a significant time commitment. For at least the next few months, most of my days off from work, and many of my evenings after work, will be spent on one aspect or another of this new task.

At first glance, the timing doesn't appear ideal for somebody who is running two marathons in the next 15 weeks, one of which happens to be my biggest race of the year. Yet I'm not too troubled by this development, for a number of reasons.

I like to view these large-scale labor tasks like an accessory to my training: not exactly cross-training, but something that burns additional calories and keeps my tail off the couch for a couple extra hours each day.

They sometimes have a galvanizing effect on me, where I assume a mindset of continual activity. For some reason, if I know ahead of time that as soon as I get home I'll change right away into work clothes, stay outside until dinner, and go to sleep right after the kids are put to bed, it doesn't seem like such a burden. After a while it will become the routine and not seem so extraordinary. And for a short period of time, it's not too unbearable.

Our kids enjoy goofing around outside while we're working, so they'll be happy to spend a lot more time digging holes, cathcing snails, and making mud pies while Mom and Dad and Grandpa are climbing around the job site.

And finally...I've done big projects in the springtime before. Some years we've done major renovations that led right up to the Big Sur Marathon, and I still managed to have decent races. Of course, there's no way of knowing if I would have run better had I rested more and worked less leading up to the race, but that's not really the point.

Running has to find its place amidst all the other things happening in our family's life. It wouldn't be nearly as satisfying to run a marathon five minutes faster at the expense of delaying our deck project for another three months. So when important projects come up, they get priority over my ideal training scenarios.

The new project starts this weekend. Coincidentally, this Saturday morning is one of my favorite training runs of the winter - I'll describe it in a brief post on Friday.

I'll still do the run. I'll still train as much as I'm able to, and race the marathons this spring.

And hopefully by the summertime, we'll have a new deck on our house, a few months ahead of schedule.


Stacey Teague 1/18/06, 9:31 PM  

Mark isn't working this weekend, so if you need an extra set of hands, just give us a call!

stronger 1/19/06, 7:55 AM  

Could you please put up some yellow caution tape? Or at least a trampoline on the ground below?

Tammy 1/19/06, 4:08 PM  

Wow... glad no one was hurt! That's scarey! I like Stronger's idea of a trampoline :) But then again, it might encourage jumping.

Don't work too hard!

jeff 1/20/06, 7:00 PM  

i enjoy the balance you strike and your commitment to having running find it's place, rather that replace.

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