Comfortable: providing or experiencing physical well-being or relief (`comfy’ is informal); free from stress or conducive to mental ease; more than adequate

Why do we always want to be comfortable? It’s a topic my violin teacher and I have been discussing a lot lately. For many years I worked on being comfortable when I was playing. In fact so much so that I payed attention to how things felt rather than what sound was coming out of the violin. I would play through something, and then immediately ask myself how it felt with no attention to how it sounded. My fingers hurt, or I was pressing to hard, my brain would start processing how to make it more comfortable. It amazes me how little I thought about the sound coming out of my violin. The focus was never about sound quality, something that frustrated my current teacher for quite some time. My quest for comfort over shadowed any thought I had about what I heard. I didn’t listen.

Then I started working with my current teacher because I wasn’t happy with my violin. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting very far with my career. Gradually I came to learn that I really wasn’t listening like I thought. I was feeling, and it was creating a less than appealing sound. He pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I came to realize more and more that being comfortable doesn’t mean that it’s right. The more I listened the better I got. Instead of asking myself how things felt, I worked hard to ask how things sounded. My sound started to change, along with many other aspects of my playing. And in an odd twist I relaxed more, and worked much less than I ever did when focusing on comfort. It still surprises me how uncomfortable I feel sometime, but how right it sounds. It’s something that I struggle with a lot with the Bach fugue I’m working on. I feel so uncomfortable playing it, but it sounds right.

I have this struggle with my own students on a regular basis. “Do you hear that the note is out of tune?” “Well yes, but that’s where my finger lands.” “there’s just one problem, it’s not about where your finger lands, it’s about playing the right note. Your finger isn’t doing that. You need to listen.” “Oh, but the other way isn’t comfortable.” “But the other way is right!” they are so concerned about how it feels that they forget to listen to what they’re doing.

How often do we fall into the trap of wanting to be comfortable? It’s one of the reasons I run marathons. I want to challenge myself, to push myself out of my comfort zone. It’s the reason why my violin playing has gotten significantly better. Not everything has to be comfortable, it just has to be right. It might mean pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, but sometimes taking a risk has a huge reward. The more I listen the more I learn, not just with playing, but with everything in life. What are my students really saying? How are they acting? What are their parents doing, or saying? What do I hear? Sometimes the answers to these questions are uncomfortable, but important. It’s how we learn, how we grow. I never want to stop growing even if it means listening to feedback that I don’t like, or critic that isn’t fair. It’s what we choose to do that is more important. So, sometimes I may have to be uncomfortable. I’m okay with that. It’s making me a better violinist, a better runner, and hopefully, a better person.

The Race in Pictures

I waited rather impatiently all week to see what my race pictures would look like. Deep down inside I knew there had to be a good one in there somewhere. Here’s what I got!

On the way out of Piedmont Park just past the 21 mile mark

Just a couple of blocks from the finish. Closing in on mile 26

Not quite what I had expected for the finishing photo, but it’s still a good shot, and privileged to finish with a friend!

Post Race at the Team in Training tent. Annie wanted a photo for her supporters, and we were only too happy to oblige.

Left to right: Javi, Annie, me, and Ken


And now for my very favorite part, there’s a video!!! A truly awesome video of crossing the finish line. It’s pretty much why I bought the photos!

A few thoughts

Even before I finished the race Sunday there were tons of things already swimming through my head. I learned a lot on Sunday, and here are just a few things:

  • Trust your training! Everything I needed to finish on Sunday had been done, and I was ready. I’ve learned not to push myself past what I’m able to do (no need to implode on a race course).
  • Success is not always based on what time you finished, but rather how you finish. PRs are icing on the cake, and can mark improvement, but a successful race doesn’t have to include an PR. Finishing with a sense of accomplishment, and with a smile trumped all of my PR finishes.
  • Who the heck designed the course changes made last year? That was just mean! The original course that I ran in 2008 was manageable. Last year they changed the course to separate the 1/2 marathoners and marathoners, and give the elites a better traffic flow to the finish. The problem, they added at least 10 additional hills, some of which are just insane! Did the person who designed the course actually run it? This year’s course was by far the hardest marathon course I’ve ever run (and that includes Nike!)
  • I was surprised that there was so little food left in the finishing shoot of the race. Walking to the start in the morning I noticed signs for chocolate milk, bagels, etc. When I went through they had crackers, bananas, and M&Ms left.
  • For the first time I can remember everything was clearly marked, and the starting area was fairly easy to get around. The only problem I had was trying to get into the starting area since everything seemed to be fenced off
  • the volunteers this year were awesome! There were course marshals all the way up at the MARTA station giving directions, and all over the course. It’s the best course support I’ve ever seen for this race!
  • Some of the water stops were a little, um, understaffed. Seems like there should be more than 4 people at a marathon water stop, but do I know. I must sincerely thanks the folks at Chandler Park, on the crazy hills of Virginia Highlands, and the folks on 12th street. Your water stops were awesome, fun, and so encouraging. Thank you for what you do!!
  • I am trying to patiently trying to wait to see my race pictures, but I’m dying to see my finish line photo. Please hurry ASIphoto!
  • This year’s medal may very well be my favorite. It’s super snazzy in my humble opinion 🙂