Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mike's Hotel

A high school friend with whom I have been in contact off and on over the years posted some pictures on FaceBook the other day. His name is Mike Pop.  He posted a whole album of pictures of the renovations he has made to his home.  He owns an old hotel (originally build in 1880) in rural Nevada and is renovating it into a small storefront and three apartments. 

The enormity of the task is daunting to me.  The pictures show the old rooms prior to the changes, and then the removal of walls, repairs to some of the brick arches, building kitchen cabinets from recycled wooden doors, replacing windows, cutting holes and installing stairs, and basically repurposing the entire building to his needs.  In addition to all of these changes, my friend creates a lot of art from things he finds in the Nevada desert; all of the railings on the hotel are handmade—Mike Pop originals.  Wow, that job is huge!

As I looked at the pictures, impressed with all of the work that my friend had done, I noticed that all of the pictures were labeled, stating what it was that was depicted: new window in the kitchen, new cabinets in the kitchen, the kitchen when fully painted, etc.  There would be groups of pictures as an area of the hotel was transformed, with several shots of a given area, then a shift to another area.  While the enormity of the transformation of this old hotel did not lessen, it became clearer to me how such a task can be completed.  The entire project is the renovation of the hotel, but within that project, are smaller projects. Removing the walls, framing new walls, creating a kitchen, creating a utility room all fall under the Hotel Project banner.  And those smaller projects are comprised of numerous projects themselves: wiring for the appliances, building the cabinets, changing the window, sheet rocking, painting, etc.

I think that Mike’s project is going really well; it is impressive to see all that he has done, but the list of things to come is still daunting.  However, he finishes a task and moves onto the next item, all with an overall vision of the finished product.  His journey parallels any big task.  He is not getting paid to repurpose the hotel; in fact he spends a lot of money, time, and labor on his task.  He does it because it makes him happy and he sees worth in it.  His process, of taking one step at a time is inspiring.
I get frustrated doing any kind of home repairs and improvements.  Something always goes wrong and I am left grumbling as I make one more run to the home improvement mega store.  Mike told me that the nearest lumberyard is 80 miles away and Home Depot is 130 miles.  But he has had no shortage of setbacks along the way.  I would be a basket case.

Of course, I am a basket case, but it is not an old hotel that is highlighting my dementia.  I am not building a home from the remnants of an old hotel, but I am building a marathon.  I am sure that people, when seeing my friend’s home upon completion, will be in awe that he did it all himself, yet still not grasp the enormity of the task.  When people find out that I have run a marathon (or 7) they have a similar reaction.  They are impressed, but usually don’t “get” it.

A different friend of mine once wrote that marathoners know the secret that a marathon is short.  Yes it is 26.2 miles and takes a number of hours, but those measurements pale when compared to the thousands of miles and hundreds of hours that are dedicated to preparing for the task.  Of course, like the renovation of a hotel, training for a marathon is an accumulation of a lot of smaller tasks.  There are training cycles, mesocycles, weeks, and daily workouts.  One task at a time is completed, which accumulates into a section of the tasks being completed, which eventually leads to a finished project that is turgid with my effort, focus, and passion.

In our culture of immediate gratification, it is easy to forget that change often occurs slowly.  We should dream big, set our goals high, but focus on the immediate task at hand and its contribution to the goal rather than being overwhelmed with the enormity of the goal.  Take it one step at a time, do that step to the best of your ability and move on.  The big picture will take care of itself.

Last week’s running plan (11 weeks until Boston!) got disrupted by a minor illness; I took two consecutive days off, making up one of the runs on Sunday, my usual rest day and skipping an 11 mile run.  I wound up with 56 miles for the week.  I can’t recoup those 11 miles I missed, but I don’t have to. It was a solid week, including a 22 mile long run that went very well.   I will just press on.  This week started off strong, despite some bitter cold and snow.  I completed a recovery double (6 miles am, 4 miles pm) on a treadmill at the local recreation center on Monday, bringing January’s mileage total to 270 miles (a monthly record).  I ran 146 laps of an indoor track on Tuesday for 14 miles.  Today’s project is five recovery miles.  The forecast calls for a high in the single digits (F), but I owe it to myself and the pups to get out there.  So I will bundle up and tend to the task at hand, knowing that the finished product in Boston will be something that I can be proud of.

Here are some links from Mike Pop.  More information about the hotel is available in the “pages” link on the right side of the blog.


  1. Eric, you should think about the possibility of pitching this as a radio essay. It's a well-crafted piece that starts the reader in one direction, takes another way and then brings it all together. It deserves wider exposure than your blog. Does your local NPR affiliate air essays? No kidding, look into it.

  2. Wow, Harry, thanks! I started this blog as a way to work on my writing chops. You flatter me, and I like it!

  3. Bravo, Cam! Love it...if you don't mind (and I'm sure you don't), I'm going to link this at some point.

  4. Eric, All I can say is WOW! Your writing skills are wonderful. I agree with Harry. It's a story in one direction but leads to another. It's also a story about life. Take little steps and the rest will work out.

    Our high school teachers would be very proud of you as I am to have you as a lifelong friend.

  5. I heard this this morning as I was listening to the RunRunLive podcast at the gym. Great job!