Sunday, October 29, 2006


20.4 miles today and it sucked mightily. The weather was good, but I don't think that my legs have recovered from last week's 10 mile race and the lack of sleep this week. My legs were dead from the start and I had some minor aches but after about an hour I felt ok and settled into an easy pace. The point of these long runs is to just cover the miles to build endurance so running fast isn't the point. After about 14 miles my camel back ran dry and it became a struggle to keep moving. I was just out of gas so I switched back and forth between running and walking. Strangely, my feet really ached when I was walking, but felt fine while I ran. Anyway, it's over. Next week will be shorter, 12 to 14 miles, and then I'll taper for a half marathon the following week.

Yesterday my sons competed in area marching competition and did very well. Their band finished first in the preliminary competition and second in the finals so they are off to state. The performances of all of the bands were just amazing and I find it remarkable that they did so well against such good bands. They will compete in the state competition on November 7 in the San Antonio AlamoDome where they hope to win the state championship.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's Been Hectic Around Here

Wow, it doesn't seem like it's been that long since I posted but things have been a bit hectic and I just didn't get time to write anything up. A couple of weekends ago I went up to Dallas to meet a friend and go to a Cowboy's game. We had a nice evening eating, goofing off, and watching Rich Franklin get his face rearranged in a UFC title fight. Seriously, he took a knee to the face followed by a kick that left his nose centered under his eye. Pretty ugly. Anyway the Cowboys won the following day against the Texans and I somehow avoided the rain on the ride back from Dallas. It was a close call because it started pouring buckets as I pulled into the garage.

Other than that, my life has revolved around running and working. I did a 19 mile run a couple of weeks ago and then prepared for a 10 mile race last Sunday. The weather was perfect for running: 49 degrees and crisp. The only negative was a gusting, swirling 20 mph wind from the northeast that had me bundled up right until the 7:45 am start. Since the temperature was ideal I decided to set a 9:00 min/mile pace for the race. That's the same pace I'd run at the previous 10k race, but I felt that I could hold it for 10 miles under favorable conditions.

I continue to be amazed at how, with practice, I can accurately judge my pace. I set out at the start into a stiff, cold wind and my split at the first mile marker was 9:00.1. I had run the first mile within a tenth of a second of my goal pace and my average heart rate was only 156. Too slow. I was feeling good and picked up the pace to get my heart rate over 160. The next mile took 8:38 and my average heart rate was only 162 so I was in good shape. The race was held on a new tollway that is due to open this next weekend. It was a one time course that had us running 5 miles out and back along a pristine new divided highway that had never seen traffic. It was flat with the only hills being the gentle slopes as we went over ramps and overpasses. We started in north Austin heading north on Loop 1, then turned east on Hwy 45, crossed I35 in Round Rock and turned around near the Dell headquarters to retrace our path back to the toll booths where we started.

The miles continued to fly by at a pace that is pretty quick for me. Mile 3 took 8:52, mile 4 took 8:45, and I made the turn after covering mile 5 in 8:32. For reference, I ran my last 5k (3.1 miles) race at an 8:35 pace so I was flying (for me, not for real runners). My pace slowed a little in mile 6 to a 9:08 as I ran up the slight incline to cross I35 again. I was a little worried about whether I could hold the pace, but my heart rate was still averaging only 164 so I decided that with the wind at my back and "only" 4 miles left I could afford to pick it up even more. Mile 7 took 8:40 with an average heart rate of 164. I pushed my heart rate up closer to 170 and finished miles 8 and 9 in 8:21 and 8:22. My legs were burning now and I was breathing so hard that spit was creating a biohazard cone in front of me. I felt like easing up, but I could see the toll booths now and so I picked up the pace even more and hoped that I didn't fade before the finish. I was trying to catch the runners ahead of me, but they were finishing strong too. As I picked up the pace so did they. I passed several people only to have them ease back past. With about 300m left I picked up the pace even more and my interval training kicked in and allowed me to finally stride past people before I crossed the red timing mats after covering the last mile in 7:33.

In the end I finished the 10 miles in 1:25:51 and an average pace of 8:35 min/mile and an average heart rate of 164. This was a PR (personal record) over my previous year's 10 mile by almost 11 minutes and I'm thrilled at the results of the training I've been doing for the last three months. It's discouraging to do all of the hard work and then not see an improvement like in the 10k at the beginning of the month. But this time the conditions allowed me to perform at my best and get an accurate gauge of my fitness level.

My next race is a half marathon (13.1 miles) on November 12. The course is VERY hilly, but based on this race I'm pretty sure I can run it at a 9:00 min/mile pace which would again be a PR for me at that distance. This year I'm healthy and feeling good and wondering how much faster I can get before the marathon in February. Time will tell.

Anyway, after the race I had to hop on a plane to San Jose to teach a 2 day class. I was very stressed out over this class. I had never taught it before and I only had 5 days notice. I'd already been through the material, but it's different if you've never taught it before so on the flight on Sunday and in the hotel I was busily reviewing the material so that I wouldn't freeze during the lectures. In the end everything turned out well and the students gave me high marks in their evaluations. I even managed to catch my flight on Tuesday evening and get back to Austin at 1:00 am Wednesday morning. Now I'm just trying to get my sleep back onto a somewhat normal schedule and make it through the next couple of days of work.

Oh, it's also marching band competition season for the high schools. Last weekend my sons competed in the regional competition and their band scored division 1 honors and advanced to the area competition this next Saturday. If they finish in the top 4 in the area, out of 22 schools, then they'll advance to the state competition on November 6. They were state runners up two years ago (the state competition is only held every other year) and they look and sound even better than then so we have high hopes that they'll be able to win state this year. They have a good chance, but they are facing some extremely tough competition.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Poor Lake Travis

I thought I'd get some pictures of Lake Travis before it fills back up. The white band around the sides are usually covered with water and the islands are usually completely submerged. The lake is about 50 feet below it's full level and only one boat ramp is still open.

I tried to post this earlier, but Blogger kept having trouble uploading my photo until today.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It's Raining

When most people think of Texas, they think hot and humid. What they often fail to consider is that Texas is huge and has several different climates. All of Texas is hot, but the humidity is mostly confined to the Gulf coast and the east. West Texas is actually the eastern-most part of the Chihuahuan desert which stretches from Mexico to the Pecos river in Texas and then transitions to the Texas hill country that spreads east until it abruptly stops at interstate 35 which splits Texas roughly in half. Austin and San Antonio are right on the edge of the hill country and most of time their climate is dominated by the arid desert to the west. Austin is green, but that is an illusion for the tourists and visitors. All the greenery is provided by live oaks and scrub junipers which are evergreen trees that are well adapted to arid climates. If you go hiking in the woods you will realize that very little grows in the rocky "soil" under the trees except patchy grass and prickly pear cactus. So while Austin is definitely hot, it's usually not very humid.

People talk about droughts as if they are noteworthy. But when you are on the edge of a desert, a drought is the status quo and wet weather is the exception. Austin is currently a couple of years into the current drought cycle. Lake Travis is as low as I ever remember and over the summer sand bars first became small islands, then large islands, then islands connected by spits, and finally virtual peninsulas running from the shore out to the middle of the lake. I stopped by the county park on Saturday to see how low the water was and was surprised to find no water at all. The entire boat ramp ends at dry land and the whole branch of the lake is dry as far as I could see. The lake is currently 25 feet below its average level for October and falling. The lake is several hundred feet deep in the main channel so we're not in danger of running out of water soon even if it has become nearly impossible for boaters to get to the lake.

Anyway, I woke this morning to the sound of thunder and rain. The irony of living on the edge of the desert is that even though it doesn't rain often, when it does it really pours. That's why we have Lake Travis. Or rather, that's why they have a series of dams along the Colorado river. When it rains here, it comes down hard and since it is very hilly and the hills have almost no topsoil the water runs to the lowest spot and very quickly turns gullies and streams into rushing rivers, rivers into raging torrents, and anything in their path into flotsam. Some of the dams, like Longhorn dam which forms Town Lake in Austin, are required by law to maintain the water level within a couple of feet no matter what the weather. Others like Lake Travis are there to hold back the storm surge and prevent flooding. What inevitably happens is that over the course of several years the water level in Lake Travis will drop and drop and drop. Then a series of storms will fill the lake in a matter of days with enough water to supply the area with water for the next several years of drought. It is truly amazing to see the lake level rise 50+ feet in a few short days and then see all of the flood gates open as the flood waters can no longer be contained. At that point Lake Austin and Town Lake go from being lazy lakes with little current to strongly flowing rivers as all of the dams start releasing water down stream to prevent flooding.

Unfortunately, the days rains only added up to a little over an inch so very little water reached the lakes and the level will keep on dropping until the winter monsoons hit. The Pacific ocean has an El Nino which usually means a warm, wet winter for Texas, so I'm expecting the drought to end soon and the next drought to start around Memorial Day of next year.

Mormon Relgious Intolerance

In the recent general conference, Boyd Packer, the president of the church's quorum of twelve apostles, made the following statement:
There has been no end to opposition. There are misinterpretations and misrepresentations of us and of our history, some of it mean-spirited and certainly contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Sometimes clergy, even ministerial organizations, oppose us. They do what we would never do. We do not attack or criticize or oppose others as they do us.

Even today there are those preposterous stories handed down and repeated so many times they are believed. One of the silliest of them is that Mormons have horns.
He then gives a cute story where someone asked this question at a meeting of clergy from different religions. It is very clear that this was all just innocent joking and wasn't any kind of legitimate question. But I guess he expects people to believe by association that the other objections to the church are just as frivolous and silly because he doesn't even attempt to address any real issues such as Joseph translating the Book of Mormon with a rock in a hat. Instead he addresses the stupid assertion made by many other churches that Mormons aren't Christian. By carefully choosing caricatures, he encourages members to believe that they don't have to worry about anti-Mormon beliefs because they are ridiculous and easy to discredit.

But let's get back to the first point. The modern Mormon church has changed its spots and no longer openly attacks other churches, but I pulled the following quotes off of their web site from their modern scriptures. As far as I know, they are still the official doctrines of the church.
1 Nephi 14:10
10 And he said unto me: Behold there are save atwo churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the bother is the church of the cdevil; wherefore, dwhoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the ewhore of all the earth.
I don't know, but I can see how Baptists and Lutherans and Catholics might feel like that constitutes an attack. TSCC may have discovered that quoting that one publicly is bad public relations, but it is still church doctrine.

How about the following quote of God from the first vision:
Joseph Smith-History 1:18-19
18 My object in going to ainquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.”
I would say that the core doctrine of the church is clearly articulated in these verses: TSCC is true and every other one is false. Again, I can see how other churches might consider it an attack when the church teaches that God said that their churches are all wrong, their beliefs are an abomination, their ministers are all corrupt, that their hearts are far from God, and that they deny the power of God. I think you'd have difficulty coming up with a more scathing attack on any religion, but this is against ALL religions except the one Joseph founded.

So, excuse me for not joining Boyd's little pity party. He rules over an army of around 60,000 missionaries whose primary mission is to teach the above doctrines and save people from the corrupt religions of the world so that they can join the one true church. Cover it with honey if you want, it's still a shitcake for non-Mormons throughout the world and it's asking a little much for them to not resist TSCC.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Reactivating Inactive Members

I have some free advice for TSCC on reactivating inactive members.
  1. Find out why people really go inactive instead of believing your own propaganda.
  2. Stop blaming the inactives and look at yourself.
  3. Address the problems that you find.
A thread on RfM refers to couple missionaries being given the impossible task of loving inactives back into the church. This seems to presume that the problem is with the inactives or perhaps the members. It seems to ignore that maybe, just maybe, the problem is that being active in the church is very unappealing for a large number of reasons.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Develop a trained, professional, paid clergy whose full-time task is to provide competent, compassionate leadership and counseling.
  2. If members must give the sermons, let them choose their own topics.
  3. Dump the correlated class curriculum or relax the requirements so that intelligent teachers can develop their own lessons that are adapted to the needs and interests of their students.
  4. Eliminate failed programs such as home teaching that just create work and don't provide results.
  5. Do true community service instead.
  6. Provide support for critical member needs such as sex education, family planning, parenting classes, substance abuse programs, etc.
  7. Stop worrying about dogma and start worrying about helping your members be happy fulfilled people. First step: actually talk to them and listen to their input.
  8. Address the doctrinal and historical problems of the church instead of hiding them and lying about them. My list is right here on my blog. Whole web sites are devoted to former and inactive members and their reasons for disbelief so it's not hard to come up with a list. But I think I know why there is no official, church sanctioned answers to those questions.
Of course, I have no fear of helping the church out here. All of the above suggestions run counter to their core values and culture and will never be considered, much less implemented. And they'll continue to wonder why they are having such difficulty. The short answer: because church activity sucks.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Will You Deny Christ?!

I and tens of thousands of others have had personal experience that is "evidence" that God lives - will you deny that? - that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior and redeemer of all - will you deny that?
Man, I've been away from the church too long. How could I have failed to recognize that question and it's significance? I almost flippantly replied to it without realizing what a serious question this is to Mormons.

First please excuse me for presenting a little Mormon doctrine.

Doctrine and Covenants 76:
31 Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and asuffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power—
32 They are they who are the asons of bperdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born;
33 For they are avessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity;
34 Concerning whom I have said there is ano bforgiveness in this world nor in the world to come—
35 Having adenied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having bcrucified him unto themselves and put him to an open cshame.
36 These are they who shall go away into the alake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels—
37 And the aonly ones on whom the bsecond cdeath shall have any power;
38 Yea, verily, the only ones who shall anot be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath.
39 For all the rest shall be abrought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the btriumph and the glory of the Lamb, who was slain, who was in the bosom of the Father cbefore the worlds were made.
40 And this is the agospel, the glad btidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—
41 That he acame into the world, even Jesus, to be bcrucified for the world, and to cbear the sins of the dworld, and to esanctify the world, and to fcleanse it from all unrighteousness;
42 That through him all might be asaved whom the Father had put into his bpower and made by him;
43 Who aglorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of bperdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.

Please excuse the two monumentally long run-on sentences. Apparently God has the same limited education as Joseph Smith or at least lacks to power to enable to Joseph Smith to speak in any words other than his own. Let's stick to the ideas. This is where the doctrine of "sons of perdition" is spelled out for Mormons. Note that all other sins, even murder, will be forgiven, but not those who deny the Son. It consists of rejecting Jesus after having had a perfect knowledge of him. It is also known as the sin against the Holy Ghost because Joseph Smith taught that a man can only see God and live if he is first quickened by the Holy Ghost and that the witness of the Holy Ghost is what makes the vision a sure knowledge. Verse 43 also says that the Father has to reveal the Son, but who knows what that means. Maybe like in the New Testament where the disembodied voice of the Father testifies while the Holy Ghost descends? Those that reject Jesus after having a sure knowledge will be cast out with Satan and all his angels and will never be forgiven or redeemed or ever experience the presence or power of God.

I regularly hear former Mormons who think that Mormons will label them as sons of perdition. But such Mormons would be extremely ignorant of their own doctrine because it presumes a sure knowledge of Christ that is outside the experience of any members that I know.

Becoming a son of perdition is a really hard thing and would require an extremely dense person, not a particularly wicked one. Wyhy would someone confronted with a sure knowledge of the truth deny it? Why would they reject God when witnessing his full glory with the overwhelming power of the Holy Ghost confirming it? I mean, there's evil and then there's just stupid. After all, there are plenty of believers who commit horrific sins so believing in Christ doesn't necessarily preclude willful wickedness. In fact, it's almost as if the more wicked you are the more you have to gain my believing in Jesus since he will, in the end, forgive and forget as long as you bow down at the judgement day. The ultimate sin, it turns out, isn't to be a mass murderer on the scale of Stalin or Hitler; it is to want to be independent and not subservient to Jesus.

I know it is currently all the rage to criticize militant Islam and its founder for being a barbaric, religiously intolerant religion that promote violence, but is this really any better? Here we have God saying, bow down and worship me or else you will suffer forever. Why does he care so much? Does Jesus have a large ego? If he loves his children so much couldn't he just confine the rebels without having to torture them? Heck wouldn't he be more merciful if he simply put them out of their misery? Why keep them around? It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

I'm sorry, but it sounds a lot more like a doctrine concocted by egotistical men to try to convince people that if they don't join the church then they risk eternal damnation. It's also an open threat to those in the church who have been elevated to the inner circles and experienced the mysteries and most sacred ordinances that there is no escape and that if they try to back out then there will be no coming back. Ever.

Anyway, would I reject Christ and God? No. I'm open to the possibility that they exist, but I've never had any experiences that I would consider undeniable proof. For that matter, I've never had any experiences that I would consider even weak evidence since I've learned that those experiences have perfectly normal explanations.

I would hope that if there is a God, he is more concerned with how we live our lives and treat the world around us than what religious dogma we subscribe to. In other words, if a person's behavior is the same, what should it matter whether his is atheist, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Christian, or Muslim? If the purpose of religion is to develop morality and good living, then why is God so concerned if the end is reached in different ways? What kind of God would exalt a righteous Mormon and reject an equally righteous Muslim? Not a God that is worth worshipping.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

How Sluggish Newbies Ruined the Marathon

Click on the title to see a recent article in Slate. I actually find it amusing because I might have once felt the same way. I found a similar opinion piece on a running web site decrying how people give all the attention to feats of super endurance while ignoring the truly difficult accomplishment of running fast. Here is a typical quote from the Slate article.
Today, the great majority of marathon runners set out simply to finish. That sets the bar so low that everyone comes out a winner.
He points out that the number of marathoners has risen from 25,000 in 1976 to about 430,000 last year and that the average finishing time has risen from 3:32 to 4:20. His argument seems to be that many people are doing the marathon for bragging rights, but that simply finishing isn't really an accomplishment worth recognition and that people not willing to do the work to run a respectable time should just stay home or concentrate on shorter distances. He throws in some concerned comments that it is also bad for them and that injuries are common, but I don't for one instant believe that the article was written out of concern for the misguided penguins waddling along at the back of the pack.

While 430,000 sounds like a huge number, the total U.S. population is 295,734,134 so less than 0.15% of the population completed a marathon last year. Many of them ran more than one and even more had also run in previous years. The reality is that despite the growth of running, only a fraction of a percent of the population has ever run a marathon. So, if simply finishing is setting the bar low, it is still a bar that very few even attempt to hurdle.

So, do I rate the accomplishment up there with the elite athletes of the world? Never. I take great satisfaction that I've completed the marathon once, but I'd never put myself in the same universe as the good runners who run the distance at paces that I can't even run for 100 meters. Heck, my friend Jim runs the marathon in 2:42 which is a pace that is 2 minutes per mile faster than my best 5k race time. And as amazing as he is, he is still 35 minutes off of the world record time.

Another point is that a trained athlete might think that I was loafing along when I ran the marathon in 5 hours flat. That might be a leisurely pace for a 3:30 marathoner, but what isn't apparent is that for me, it required running at more than 80% of my maximum heart rate for 5 hours. I don't look down on people who walk either. I know people whose heart rate is hammering along just from walking. Some people may be loafing and taking it easy, but you can't really judge the effort based solely on the pace. The heart rate tells the real story. I know people who whisper and snicker when they see a fat person in the gym. I've never been one of those people. I have a great respect for them and the effort it takes to make a positive change in their lives. In many ways, it is harder for them than it is for someone who has been athletic and fit for their entire life.

But I think that the lure of the marathon is that simply finishing IS a big accomplishment. Sure, most people could do it. But most don't. Not only don't they do it, but they possibly couldn't do it, and many probably can't imagine ever even wanting to do it. I know. That is where I was at until a last year.

A typical sedentary american can't just go out and finish a marathon. It took me over 4 years of regular running before I reached a level where I could attempt to run a very slow marathon. Initially running hurt. It didn't feel good but I did it because I had high blood pressure and was getting enormous. But a funny thing happened. It became easier and started to feel good. The discipline trickled over into other parts of my life. It became easier to control my eating when I realized that eating junk food was undoing the benefits and efforts of running. I started reading books and magazines and learning about the sport and how to train properly. I entered a race for heck of it and enjoyed the experience. I started doing a long run each week and discovered that after a certain point it felt like I could run forever. I finally started to see a marathon as a possibility and a challenging goal that I wanted to reach. Even then it took over 6 months and several injuries to reach the goal. While I wouldn't expect the recognition of the elite athletes I think it is a worthy goal that requires significant preparation and dedication and a love of running.

Do all of the penguins diminish the accomplishments of the elites? Before I seriously took up running, I had no idea who the big names were in distance running. Now I do and I'll wager a bet that all 430,000 marathon finishers last year also know and have a monumental respect for what it takes to run fast. Far from diminishing the accomplishments of elite athletes, the growing ranks of runners has elevated the popularity and visibility of those elite runners so that more people than ever before know who they are. Not only that, the growth of the sport and business of running has enabled those athletes to make a living off of their running. Not only can they win prize money, the top marathoners also benefit from sponsorship deals from companies that are paid for by the legions of regular people that run non-competitively. Some also earn a living training fast and slow runners alike.

In the end, you also have to realize that competition is tiring and can suck the enjoyment out of an activity and not everyone wants to or can be fast. When I race, I try to go as fast as I can. But if I didn't enjoy running, I'd stop. Running is a basic, primal activity that cleanses me and unleashes a basic joy. It tunes my body up and makes the rest of life easier in comparison. As I run along a trail with my dogs I share their excitement to just be moving and to have a body that allows me to glide along as the world passes around me. It's one of the few times I can just be in the moment and at peace with no cares in the world.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Another Choice Example of Flawless Mormon Reasoning

Here's yet another choice quote from my recent email exchange with my father. Enjoy.
It's pretty simple in the end if you consider the simple possibility that Joseph Smith made the whole thing up. [ I can consider that possibility and then reject is as utterly false. I and tens of thousands of others have had personal experience that is "evidence" that God lives - will you deny that? - that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior and redeemer of all - will you deny that? - by instituting the resurrection of all, good and wicked, and the resurrection was witnessed on both continents - will you deny the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon? and We have personal experience that the Book of Mormon is true and wholesome - and it is LUDICROUS to state or believe it was "made up" by a liar. ]
I think it's humorous that even he had to put the word "evidence" in quotes. So, will I deny anecdotal evidence as proof? You betcha, especially if it has perfectly mundane explanations. Will I reject circular reasoning (such as using the witnesses of the Bible and Book of Mormon to prove the events on their own pages as evidence of their own truthfulness)? I'm not sure how personal experiences of truth or wholesomeness in the Book of Mormon are evidence of its basis in fact. I could as easily argue that the Swiss Family Robinson is wholesome and full of truths, but it is still a work of fiction. And finally, putting a word in all caps doesn't make it more persuasive. Quite the opposite. If something is ludicrous then you should be able to demonstrate it with actual facts and the ridiculousness should become apparent to your reader.

For example, it is a fact that Joseph Smith found a brown stone while digging a well for Willard Chase. It is a fact that he claimed it was a seer stone and that when he placed it in the crown of his hat he claimed he could place his face in the hat and see the location of hidden treasure and many other wonders. It is a fact that he and his father made money by using it to search for hidden treasure. It is also a fact that he used the same seer stone in the same way to translate the Book of Mormon, sometimes when the gold plates were not even physically present. Another fact is that Parley P. Pratt claimed that he used it to translate the Book of Abraham. Finally, it is a fact that the brown seer stone is still in the possession of the First Presidency and that I have a picture of it in one of my history books. These facts are not from anti-Mormon sources but from first hand witnesses such as the 11 witness of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's own family.

You see. I never once used a loaded word, stated a conclusion, or put a word in all capital letters and I think it makes the origins of the Book of Mormon sound LUDICROUS!!!! So take that: bold, italic, all caps, and not one, not two, but four exclamation points! I think I made my point and if you can accept those facts and still not see why I have an issue with the credibility of Joseph Smith or the believability of the Book of Mormon then I don't know what else I can say. And that is just one particular topic. A lot of other facts make it looks even more spectacularly ridiculous.

When I originally told my father this a couple of years ago, this was his reply:
I cannot imagine how any living person today could, with any credibility, state that Joseph Smith put a field stone on his head and buried his face in an old hat and dictated the text of the Book of Mormon and didn't even need the plates. No living person today would be a "first person witness". A person living today could only "quote" what someone in the 1800s said/wrote. I have read a couple of the anti-Mormon books, one by an Eastern reporter - the book is disgustingly lacking in credibility. He fills the book with things that are clearly inconsistent with other reporters or writers of the time - the book is riddled with typically malicious intent and illogical "anti-" verbiage. I note quite clearly that "modern" anti's simply quote and re-use impeached accusations of the earliest "anti's"
You see how persuasively he argued and what a firm foundation of knowledge of early Mormon history he brought to bear. He and my mother rather humorously sent me a FARMS book that confirms all of the facts that he so vehemently denied above. And to think that Daniel Petersen and his ilk at FARMS claim that if Mormons don't know their early church history it is their own fault. My father has been fanatically active since he converted as a teenager and he doesn't know the facts that even FARMS admits in its own publications.

It's that ignorance of the facts that makes discussion with Mormons so difficult. The facts clash so horribly with the church's own version of its history that when they hear them they just know they are lies. The alternative would be that the church had systematically lied and deceived them their entire lives. It's almost as if the more divorced the church's version of its history is from truth, the more believable it will be to the members and the more difficult it will be for them to read and accept the actual facts because the disconnect is so large. When I finally found scholarly, unvarnished histories of the church I was floored.

I have some sympathy for my father. The church tries to teach good Christian values to its members and my father values the positive and is able to ignore or dismiss or completely fail to see the negative. He sees the church as a cosmically powerful force for good and has swallowed the endoctrination that all of the goodness he sees is only available from the church for those that join the church. I've come to the opposite conclusion that the only unique things offered by TSCC are negative and all of the goodness can be found for free elsewhere.

So he remains frustrated that his persuasive arguments such as those above fail to change my mind and believes that I'm rejecting the compelling evidence and reason that he presents because I've made my mind up and dismiss anything that challenges or disagrees with my prejudices. The fact that reaching my new conclusions required me to change my mind about almost everything I'd previously believed about the church doesn't seem to disconfirm that, because that change of heart was obviously due to my wickedness and loss of the Spirit and a desire to swallow a bunch of lies.

Shaking my head....

The Challenge Has Begun

  • 55 degrees F
  • 6:00 am, 75 degrees F, 88% humidity
  • 163 lactate threshold
  • 31 inches
  • 2500 runners
  • 8:00 am start time
  • 251 m starting elevation
  • 249 m lowest elevation
  • 254 m highest elevation
  • goal 8:57 min/mile pace, 160 bpm heart rate
  • mi 1: 9:02.2 avg=159 end=163
  • mi 2: 9:21.9 avg=162 end=164
  • mi 3: 9:34.3 avg=167 end=168
  • 5k: 28:49.3, 9:14 average mile pace
  • mi 4: 8:38.3 avg=173 end=175
  • mi 5: 9:17.5 avg=176 end=177
  • mi 6: 8:59.5 avg=176 end=178
  • mi 6.2: 1:31.8 avg=180 end=185
  • 2nd 5k: 27:36.1, 8:51 average mile pace
  • 10k: 56:26.0, 9:05 average mile pace
  • 10k: avg=169 max=185 avg=91% of max

Sometimes numbers tell the whole story. Yesterday was the IBM Uptown Classic 10k, the first round of the Austin Distance Challenge, a series of 7 races totalling 101 miles. I was hoping to lower my personal record (PR) in the 10k in the race, but wound up coming nearly a minute short of my goal. Without the above number I might be disappointed, but I can honestly say that I ran a good race and that the combination of conditions and perhaps my own conditioning just didn't allow it.

As an engineer, I'm pretty comfortable with numbers. Part of the reason is that sometimes perceptions are very different than reality and the numbers help realign your perceptions with the real world. The trick is to get the numbers. My old heart rate monitor (hrm) recently gave up the ghost (either that or I suddenly became a heartless monster) so I purchased a new Polar hrm that along with being a stopwatch also records average and maximum heart rate for a workout and average heart rate and ending heart rate for each split in the workout. Let me interpret the numbers for you.

The ideal temperature for running a race is 55 degrees F, but Sunday morning dawned very warm and with very high humidity. Going into the race I knew it would be very tough to PR under those conditions so I resolved to not go out too fast in the first 5k and to limit my heart rate to 160 beats per minute (bpm). My lactacte threshold was measured at 163 bpm last February and exceeding that pace results in lactic acid building up in the muscles so that the muscles burn and you have to slow down. I was hoping to be able to run 9:00 minute mile pace for the first 5k and then pick up the pace and finish strong.

A legacy of a lifetime of lifting weights is that my thighs measure about 31 inches around and rub together when I run. I was wearing running shorts instead of the spandex shorts I normally train in and as I neared the starting location at Northcross mall I suddenly realized that I hadn't brought my Body Glide. Body Glide is a marvelous product that makes body parks slide across each other instead of rubbing themselves into hamburger. As I visualized the bloody, burning mess my inner thighs would become after 10k I spotted a Chevron and pulled in and bought a small jar of petroleum jelly.

I arrived around 7:15 am and the parking lot was already full so I had to park across the street. After carefully coating my inner thighs with a thin layer of petroleum jelly I walked to the starting area and tried to ignore the sticky coating of vaseline now covering the palms of my hands. I jogged slowly for about a mile to get the blood flowing and bring up a sweat, made quick trip to the porta potties, and got into the mass start along with 2500 other eager runners.

The horn sounded at 8:00 am and two minutes later I crossed the red mats at the starting line where the chips fastened to the shoes of each runner caused the timing system to chirp in a cacophony of electronic noise. The course was very flat with a total change in elevation of only 5 meters or about 15 feet. The hills are very gradual which allows the runners to run a very steady pace for the entire 10k. But, running at the limit, even a gentle rise takes its toll and I very definitely noticed the effect in a couple of places on the course.

I started deep in the pack and I had to jump onto the shoulder of the road and then the sidewalk to escape the crush of shuffling runners. Nevertheless, I was right on pace for the first mile. I was surprised that my pace dropped in the second mile despite running a little faster than my target heart rate. So I picked up the intensity some for the third mile so I could have a chance of beating my PR. Despite the higher heart rate, a gentle rise made my split for the third mile even slower than the second, but now only 5k remained and I picked up the intensity again. I figured I'd need to run about 8:40 pace for the second 5k to have a shot at my PR.

My fourth mile was my fastest of the race, but my heart rate was now solidly in the mid 170s which is typical of very intense interval training. Despite the intensity, my time for the fifth mile slipped again and in the sixth mile my legs began to burn and I really wanted to slow down. But I tried to relax and mentally disconnect from the straining machines that were pulling me along the road. As I passed the marker for 6 miles I knew that it wouldn't be much longer and I stepped up the pace again. As the finish line came into sight I transitioned into my kick and for the last 200 meters I ran as fast as my burning legs and lungs would allow and passed a bunch of people. I hit my stopwatch as I crossed the line and slowed to a spent shuffle content that I'd run as hard as I could.

In the end, my average pace was 9:05 minutes per mile which was slightly slower than the 8:57 pace I ran in the same event last year. But my average heart rate for the race was 169 bpm which is 91% of my max heart rate of 185 and over the last 5k I was running at 95% of my maximum heart rate. I simply can't imagine running any harder for that distance so I'm satisfied. I think I'm in better shape than last year, but the conditions were very tough and even the elite runners struggled in the heat and humidity. The ability to sustain a high intensity reflects the endurance I've developed in my long training runs (18 miles the previous Sunday) but in order to run faster I also need to increase my heart capacity (VO2 max) by doing more speedwork. And, of course, losing weight would make the biggest difference.

Anyway, that's how my race went, by the numbers.

Next up: The Girl Scout Scenic 10-miler on October 22.