Friday, May 15, 2015

Laying it all out there

Some of my best races, the ones that I remember, the ones that taught me something, have been disasters.

The best of these was a 5K a few years ago. I was only a couple of weeks removed from what had
felt like a pretty easy sub-20 minute 5K, so I was feeling fast, strong, and pretty cocky. Just minutes before the start of this next race, on one of the season’s fastest courses, I decided I was going to break 19-minutes. “What’s another minute?”, I asked myself. “Nothing”, I replied.

From the gun, I was completely committed to laying it all out there, hammering it out with abandon, fully dedicated to going for it. And it went exactly to plan… for two and a quarter miles.

A little less than a mile from the finish, the proverbial wheels fell off. Like a teamster at 5 o’clock, my legs abruptly stopped working.

It came out of nowhere. It felt awful. There was pain, a dash of humiliation, and a pinch of bewilderment.

What the hell happened? Everything was fine! It just... blew up… with no warning.

I walked away a lot less cocky, and a fair bit wiser.

Pretty much every 5K, every race for that matter, is filled with people who are going to run smart, stay within themselves, race their plan. I’m usually one of those runners myself.

But those races, they’re not memorable, they lack adventure. You don’t learn anything being cautious. Safe, vanilla experiences don’t change you.

That 5K, going out in a napalm-doused fireball of glory, is for me a fond memory. I learned a lot about myself, about courage I didn’t know I had.

I came. I gave it a shot. I left with no regrets or what-ifs.

I’ve been reliving that twenty-some minutes from years ago, but this time it’s been spread out, over a long, torturous, exhausting week.

This time, the prize wasn’t a 5K PR, it was a “Happily ever after” with the best woman, best person I’ve ever known.

I’ve spent most of my life treading lightly, tentatively into romantic relationships, being smart, staying within myself, protecting myself.

This time, though, I laced up my metaphorical shoes, good and tight, threw all caution to the wind, abandoned all vestige of security, dismissed every instinct of self-preservation, and I went for it. No shields, no armor. Heart forward, fully exposed.

On October 25th, while running a slow 10K in the paradise of Big Sur, I deciding not to hold anything back, to give in totally, to love this woman for all I was worth. She was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. She was the one I would risk anything for.

And it went exactly to plan. It was the best decision I’d ever made. A fantastically fun, fulfilling, energizing, loving relationship, more than I thought possible … until Friday May 8th. At 6:11pm.

A four-minute phone call put a bullet in the best, and what I’d thought would be the last
relationship of my life,

Just like that 5K, it came out of nowhere. It feels profoundly awful. So, so painful, with a dash of humiliation, and a mounded bushel of bewilderment.

What the hell happened? Everything was fine! It just... blew up… with no warning.

Still, should I have kept a little back, gone into it more guarded, less exposed, just in case? And miss out on what could have been? Of course not.

I came. I loved deeply and completely and truly, with every ounce of my being. And somehow that wasn’t enough. I have no regrets.

I’m running a 5K this weekend. It won’t be sub 19-minutes. Not even close. I’m going to take it easy, go steady, see how it feels. hell, I may even blow it off and just run with the dog. But maybe someday I’ll have the guts to lay it all out there again.

And I hope that one day I meet another woman who inspires, who summons in me the courage to lay it all out there again, my life, my love, and my heart. The bar is set awfully high, but I’m not going to stop looking, nor settle for less.

Good running,

Friday, March 6, 2015

Winter in Indiana

As I type this, cold air is spilling over the edge of my laptop, an invisible waterfall, onto my fingers.

The durable, renewable, and insanely stylish aluminum was super-chilled overnight in the trunk of my car.

The fan in the computer turned on as soon as it booted up, not to cool it, but to get some warm air in and heat it up.

I have been in love with the great state of Indiana all my life, but I'm starting to believe that this may be an abusive relationship.

Eight inches of snow forced me into a parking garage for my Sunday run.

Think about that for a minute... running, a long run, in an underground garage.

Tuesday brought warmer temperatures, but also rain. With the ground frozen, the rain and the snow that it melted had no where to go. So what the day before passed as reasonable places to walk were turned into small canals, 3 inches deep in watery slush.

By Thursday the temps fell hard. Today, any travel outside, by car or by foot, is a concert of cracking ice, each "pop" reminding you that you are in a place not hospitable to human life.

I have a half-marathon in 15 days that I am in no way prepared for, and I have no where to train that isn't soul-sucking or limb-threatening.

A few hundred years ago, some brave people set off West looking for a better life. Those without the means for a new wagon, bought used, and paid the price. When their wagon broke down, on pool table flat ground, they were forced to settle down in what would become Indiana.

That's the only scenario I can imagine to explain why people chose to live here.

I long for Indiana spring, the lovely season between the ridiculously gray, cold, dreary winter and the oppressive humidity and high pollen counts... all 4 days of it.

Good running,

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Trail Dreams

Three Lakes Trail blaze
image from
I'd been dreaming, literally dreaming, of running along a narrow, wooded trail in the middle of winter, in the middle of nowhere, for weeks.

In the dreams single-track trail draws out in front of me. I can only see maybe 80 yards of it, and it swishes just a bit left and right. It's lined with trees too tall to measure, too numerous to count, too think to see very far. It's quiet except for my foot falls and my breath.

This vision wasn't just at night. Idle time during the day took me back there, deep in nature, far from the world.

It was as if there was a string looped around my heart, tugging, gently, but incessantly, pulling me to a place with hills and trees, lots of hills and lots of trees.

My genes, my lineage as a human, my primal instincts to run were telling me what I needed.

I needed to get lost in the woods.

Last Saturday, though I had no right to think I was fit for a 10 mile tough-ass trail run, I really didn't care.

The girl, the dog, and I headed to Morgan-Monroe State Forest and hit the Three Lakes Trail.

The run was a slog. A slow, lung rupturing, leg mutilating slog.

And it was glorious!

The sun shone bright though the wind was plenty cold. We took wrong turns, we crossed countless streams, we climbed endless hills, and we trudged our way through an ugly mile of muddy slop. (Why, oh why did I ignore that detour?)

The girl and I finished with salty faces and mud caked shoes and spattered legs. The dog seemed disappointed at stopping.

We were sore, and exhausted, and thrilled to have done it, and that it was over.

The three of us did little else for the rest of the weekend but watch movies in front of the fire... a fitting reward for surviving such a harrowing adventure.

As I think about that run, I can feel that string tugging again, calling me back.

Can you feel the string looped around your heart? Where is it pulling you?

Good running,

Sunday, January 18, 2015

1,500,000 Steps

My step tracker's app often sends me messages.

Two or three times a day it will tell me how many steps I've racked up so far. Occasionally it will send me a challenge to try to motivate me to move more. And for some reason, it seems very concerned when my band hasn't synced recently. The app is a little needy.

I notice most of these messages, but I have to admit, they usually don't get more than a glance.

Today, though, it sent me one that made me stop in my tracks...

Holy. Shit!

That number... 1,5000,000!

It was world-rocking... 1.5 Million steps, in less than a year.

I'm a math major. I have a really good idea of what one million is. It's a whole hell of a lot. Seriously, it's an assload.

And I moved 1.5 Million steps... without really trying. That boggles my fucking mind.

Ok, those of you who have done the math already know that my average is only 5000 steps a day, half what is recommended. Those of you who are getting your 10K steps a day are hitting over 3 Million a year.

But that's not the point, really.

My body, which is way past its warranty period, has remained more or less upright for 1.5 Million repetitions of walking, or running, without any real wear.

In 301 days.

That is remarkable. To think that my knees, hips, all of those little muscles and bones in my feet, have survived, unscathed, from well over 1,000,000 repetitions of the walking gait. Seriously... remarkable.

I feel very fortunate.

And it sure as hell makes me think... How many steps have I taken in my life? How many do I have left?

We move way more than we think we do.

We rely on our bodies way more than we are aware.

Imagine for a second, that it's not mine, but your knees and ankles and tendons and muscles and tissues moving that many times, supporting your weight, taking the shock, maintaining balance, moving you forward.

Now imagine that with every step, there is pain. Just a little pain, but pain nonetheless.

What if you had to feel that pain over 1,000,000 times a year? That's 3000 times a day.

Can you think of any pain small enough that you could bare it over 3000 times a day, 187 times per hour, about every 3 seconds you are awake? Neither can I.

If that were me, I'm pretty sure I'd move as little as possible.

And I can promise you, I'd be a royal pain in the ass to be around if I couldn't move across the surface of the planet as I pleased.

Take good care of your body. Stretch, workout, cross-train, keep/get your weight under control. Back off when you have pain. See a sports doc if it doesn't get better.

We have millions and millions of steps ahead of us. Let's make sure we get each and every one.

Good running!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Throwing a Fitbit

I own a fitness tracker... a Jawbone Up24.
Oh sure, it stopped working for a week. And, yes it's my second one after my first bought the farm. [Jawbone promptly replaced it.]

But I confess, I do love the damn thing.

Lots of people must love them... they're everywhere. They've become the new fitness vanity fashion accessory. Kinda like Livestrong bracelets 10 years ago, but way more expensive. Pretty much the same people wearing them, though.

I've found that not everyone is as fond of their tracker as I am. In fact, I think they are becoming the newest appliance of disdain, much like the maligned bathroom scale.

I've seen people visibly upset, at their tracker, because their step count was low for the day.

I know someone who bought a tracker, and didn't like the step counts it was reporting. So, she went and bought a different one, wore them both, and kept the one that recorded the slightly higher number of steps.

One day a running buddy threw his step tracker into the woods with a Yop! of frustration. A woman in the same office was beating his step count by mall walking.

Blaming, yelling at, or chucking your tracker is, well, kinda crazy.

It's a tool.

It's doing its job.

It's not the tracker's fault you spent too much time on your butt. Blame, yell at, but please don't chuck, yourself.

You bought the thing to do exactly what it's doing. Let it do it and quit bitching about the results.

I see my tracker as a polite, innocent well meaning nagger. It reminds me that I didn't run or walk enough to justify a snack.

It taps me on the shoulder (by vibrating on my wrist) if I've been sitting too long, urging me to get up, stretch my legs, maybe take a lap around the office.

It watches me in a not-at-all creepy way while I sleep and, in the morning, tells me how much and how well I slept.

It reminds me to try to get in more steps tomorrow and to go to bed a little earlier.

And then it goes back to counting... sometimes counting nothing... but that's its fault.

Good running,

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fear is a Liar

I've been thinking a lot about fear lately.

I've been thinking about what I'm afraid of.

Snakes, mostly. Not much else.

But being afraid of something isn't really fear.

Fear is anxiety over what might happen.

Fear is our reaction to thinking into the future and imagining bad things happening.

Fear is literally a figment of our imagination.

Fear keeps many people from running.

Whenever I talk to people about running, people who aren't themselves runners, they can rattle of a several reasons why they don't run. It usually starts with some knee thing. Then stuff about breathing, shin splints, ankles, their back, neck, hip, or hamstring. And there's the traffic, busy schedules, heat, cold, sun, dark, rain, snow and unicorns.

The truth is that they are, at that moment, imagining all of the things that could possibly, just maybe might, go wrong, and using those bits of dark make-believe to justify not running.

That is fear at work.

It's the same fear that keeps people from dancing*, singing, and trying something new. It's what keeps way too many people from having fun, seizing the damn day, and living a life that will put a grin on your face that the mortician won't be able to take off.

What if we thought about running the way we think about eating?

When most of us see a box of donuts, or my personal favorite food fantasy, a never ending plate of fudge brownies, we imagine how delicious they will be, how creamy and yummy and sugary and good they will taste.

We don't think about the sugar rush and crash. We don't think about the empty calories that end up on our thighs. We don't think about the plaque building up in our veins. We don't think about the bad things that could... actually, will happen. We only see the upside.

Why don't we think like that about running?

Why don't we imagine the feeling of calm we'd have or how warm and loose we'd be after a run. Why don't we think about how much better our quality of life would be if our blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight were down. Why don't we imagine the peaceful experience of our rhythmic footfalls, our steady breathing, and the joy of being out, experiencing our world?

Our early ancestors needed to eat fatty, sugar foods when they could be found, which for them was rare, so we evolved to crave them. I can see how that makes sense.

But I also believe that we evolved to be great runners, and we know that running is good for us. And it feels good!

Why don't we crave it?

I know.. some of us do, those of us who have run right over those early fears and have reaped the benefits of a running lifestyle, including brownies.

But the vast majority of people fear running.

We're a weird species.

Good running,

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mizuno Baton

The good folks at Mizuno running have a new advertising campaign: "What if everybody ran?"

I'm not sure its a very good marketing strategy, but it's a helluva concept.

Imagining a world where everyone, and I mean everyone, was a runner, starts to blow your mind.

Everybody would be happier, healthier, nicer, easier going, more productive, better in bed, and they'd sleep better afterward.

What I love about this idea is that it has the same vibe as John Lennon's Imagine. It's a concept that is absurd, but so damn appealing, and hopeful, that you start to actually think about it as if it were possible.

The problem with the campaign is that a running shoe company is preaching to the choir. I don't know that they will sell more shoes with it.

But they sure as hell will sell more shoes with one of their programs that is part of "What if everybody ran?", and that's the fucking brilliant Mizuno Baton.

Click image to learn more and to get the app.
Here's the deal:
1) You download an app to your phone.
2) For one week, you run as many miles as you can with the app counting your miles.
3) Mizuno donates $1 per mile to Back on My Feet, a national non-profit that uses running to help homeless people re-establish their lives. (I am an ardent supporter of BoMF).
4) After your week, you pass the baton to someone else - they get to run with a greater purpose, BoMF gets more awareness, and more money.

See? Fucking brilliant!

How do I know this will sell more shoes, because I am going to buy a pair of Mizunos to support this effort. I can't even runic Mizuno's! Too narrow. But I'm going to buy some anyway... expense ones. This is the type of marketing that makes me want to like a company, want to support it. It beats the shit out of "Just Do It".

I'm also going to run my ass off for a week. And then I'm going to challenge someone else to do the same.

I want to talk more about "What If Everybody Ran?", but for now, I leave you with one of the slogans for the campaign:

Running is powerful enough to transform everyone.

And it takes just one person at a time, one mile at a time.

Update 9/19/2014: Mizuno Baton has ended. It raised over $87,000 for Back on my Feet. At $1 per mile, that's 3 times around the Earth. How cool!

Good running,