Saturday, May 27, 2017

Hashtag Best Gig In Town

I can usually tell how epic an adventure I had by how exhausted I feel afterwards. I'm typing this now with leaden fingers and drooping eyes. My awesome friend Lois invited me to be a bike marshal at this morning's Glassfest 8K. And rather than enjoying a single weekend off, I said, "of course!" I figured, bike marshal? I just cruise on a bicycle while other people run the race. There's no way I can embarrass myself.

I fell twice.


And then biked 50 more miles with Curt with my sore legs. I'm getting all scattered. What happened?

I drove down Friday. Wait, that's last night. I drove in my kilt. Well, in my car. But also in my kilt. With my bicycle on the back. On the bike rack I stole from Geoffrey. I searched the house for 10 minutes for that bike rack. I finally found it in his car. And rather than asking, or even TXTing like, "hey, I'm borrowing your bike rack." I just took it. And left.

And it would've been a perfect crime, if I wasn't writing about it RIGHT NOW. And I know he reads this shiz. So, uh... Thanks Geoffrey! He was helping Meghan move all weekend. Was/is... it's an ongoing thing. I vaguely promised his son that I would help. Instead I was frolicking in Corning with a kilt and.... Sandals maybe?

Curt, Lois, and I walked down to Glassfest for a little bit. Each of us was utterly oblivious to what we did. Each one of us said, "I don't care what we do. It's up to you." We immersed ourselves briefly in the event. Everybody eating fried foods, listening to a band that was all.... drums? I think it was a high school marching band. On stage. Finally, seeing that none of us was going to make any decisions at all, I said, "let's go." And we left.

Then I made them walk with me to Wegmans, where I bought grapefruits, lox, and Halo Top. I explained to them along the way that I have a very bizarre diet these days. I don't make any pretenses about knowing what I'm doing. I told them, "my diet is: I starve myself all day and then binge eat at night. Mostly cucumbers, fish, and Halo Top." And grapefruits. But I get like 150 grams of protein per day. And 400 grams of carbs. Still. Somehow. Sometimes I just close my eyes and eat an entire loaf of bread.

"Take a pic in front of the Halo Top!
Everyone must see the Halo Top!"

That was Friday. Saturday we got up at 5:30am. Chris met us at about 7. Again, getting all scattered, I have to mention that Curt and I totally ditched him and Lois on our long bike ride later. It wasn't on purpose! We still love you! But you know how us triathletes are. All a$$holes. We're like, "we're not doing this for fun. We're training." So after a few miles, we tore up some pavement and flew away. With Chris trying to catch up to us to tell us we were going the wrong way.


But getting un-scattered, we biked down to the race. We met Sheila, the race coordinator. We wore our bright green vests, and horrible whistles. I refused to use mine. It had a compass on one side, which always pointed the same direction no matter where I turned. And a thermometer on the other side which always read 85 degrees. It wasn't 85 degrees. But that's what you get in a 99 cent whistle. Decorative but useless features.

We rode the course once before the race. I didn't fall down (yet). Then we got back, made some semblance of a plan, and waited for the race to start. Pow! Everyone started running. I loitered, feeling like a cheater on my bike. I hung out in the middle most of the race. Chris was in the lead, Lois in the back, and Curt.... I'm not sure. Probably clearing the road of any errant gators.

"This road is gator free."

At about mile 3, I drifted into the grass on the side of the road. I tried to drift back but my tire caught the lip of the road and I fell with a resounding clatter. One of the runners tried to rescue me, which was doubly embarrassing.

After some time runners started crossing the finish line. The four of us after that just cruised back and forth, cheering runners on. At one point I saw Chris (I think?), and stopped next to him. I pulled my right food out of the pedal. My bike leaned left. I fell on my a$$. Again! I pretended like I was just practicing my martial arts. Just ignore these wounds on my legs.

We cheered on the remaining runners. Well, walkers. As the last two ladies traversed the course, I let the volunteers know they could go home. I mean, they had to pick up cones, or something. But I said, "forget it! Just go!"

I didn't say that.

The two ladies finished after an hour and a half. They were cool. Just doing their own thing. I talked to them a lot. As they approached the finish line, I told the remaining high school students there that the last two people were going to pass them soon and then they could go home. And they replied, "TUNNEL. NOW." And they totally made a tunnel. And cheered the F@#king $hit out of those two ladies. It was exceptional.

Check out those sexy marshals. Pay no attention
to the terrible whistles.

We talked to people some more at the end. Saw some more LUNARs. Took some selfies, and went and got lunch. I don't think anything noteworthy happened in that period, but my memory is terrible. Soon we were back on or bikes. We had already ridden about 17 miles. Lois got the idea that we should ride the Wineglass route.

I didn't realize she meant every single little turn. I got completely lost. Running the marathon is one thing. There's signs, and volunteers, and the runners in front of you. But riding it on a random Saturday, in reverse... Lois could've been taking us to Alaska and I would've had no clue. Finally we got out of Corning and Curt and I completely abandoned her and Chris. Just, unapologetically. With no warning.

Curt and I just rode until our watches said 25 miles. Then we turned around and rode back. The exact point where we stopped happened to have a cute ice cream shop called Twin Kiss. While we stopped, I walked across the street and peed into a bush. That's, um... the end of that. We rode back.
No joke.

Five miles from Corning Curt got a flat tire. I watched, transfixed, while he fixed it. I didn't help, except to hold up his bike. I just stared. Occasionally I made a comment. Stupid things mostly. Probably like, "oooh, that's what a tire looks like inside. What makes it all hard and stuff? Air? Huh. That's why I have that pump, eh? Fascinating."|

I told Curt I wasn't going to post this pic...

We got home and Lois made an absurdly large dinner for us. It was the most delicious thing I'd eaten in my life. Her friend Emily joined us, and we had some edifying conversations. But I don't remember any of them. She was cool.

And then. Then! Curt facetimed with Jenn, right there at the table! I was so giddy I almost peed my kilt. She's a supremely awesome lady on LUNAR. I didn't know that Curt had been coaching her for her first marathon tomorrow! I kept butting my big stupid face into the phone and making ludicrous comments. He was giving her final pointers on her race. I just kept saying useless things like, "you should run the race in a bathrobe." And I gave Curt bunny ears.

This is why I'm not a coach. She'll kill that marathon though. I'm excited! On my drive home I thought, I could just drive to the airport and fly to Minnesota and pace her! With my broken legs. Oh but that won't work. I've missed all the registration deadlines. But what if I jumped into the race a few miles in! Is that a d!ck move? Finally I decided to just get more Halo Top and go home.

So I spent about 24 hours with some really amazing people. We shared a ton of love and a ton of laughs. I fell down a lot. I bicycled a lot. And it was worth every second. This is why I do what I do. Not to crush pavement. But to to crush... um, friendships? You know what I mean. Love is where it's at. And all these beautiful and exceptional people keep piling in on my life thanks to running (and biking, and everything else). So it's absolutely worth the sore legs and (occasionally) sore behind.

I can't wait to do it all again.

Luv it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

When Training Becomes Unhealthy

Fellow runner Ellie of Eat Run Pavement recently shared this article written by another athlete: Running for Mental Health: When it just doesn't add up. If you've ever pushed yourself too hard or felt compelled to train/race despite feeling like cr@p, then it's well worth the read.

I know I have.

This past week I've had a nasty infection. My face has been oozing all over the place and I've had no strength at all. Despite that, I still trained every single day. And most of those weren't easy workouts either. I really should have taken a couple days off. Instead, I feel guilty that I didn't do a long bike ride (3+ hours). Nevermind that I ended up biking at least an hour three days in a row, in addition to swimming and running.

I already feel like I don't train hard enough. I already feel like I'm squandering my potential and not focusing as much as I can on quality workouts. Most of the time I feel like I'm spinning my legs or flapping my arms to no benefit. So it's hard for me to take even one day off, for any reason. And I know I'm acting crazy. But it's already middle of May and I feel completely unprepared for this summer of triathlons.

"I'm sure I'll be fine in time for the race."

In a sense, I have to be this obsessive. How else am I going to keep exercising every single day? Even though I get motivated and excited signing up for a new race, I can't maintain that level of excitement week after week, month after month. After a while it just becomes grueling work. Getting up early, running in the rain or snow, hopping on a bike before I can eat dinner. And even the satisfaction of finishing a workout is tempered by the fact that I have to do it again the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.


It takes some serious pain-loving dedication. And the only way is to go against your mind and body's natural desires is to break your own mind (and occasionally break your body). But once you've crossed that line, you can't just hop back. You can't just say, "oh, I need to rest today, so I'm just going to flip back to the old me for a day so I can enjoy it."


And yet, you have to. You have to acknowledge when you've pushed yourself too hard, and pushing yourself harder will actually be counterproductive. It used to be an effort to make myself exercise. Now it's an effort to not exercise. I know there are some folks who wish they had that problem. But be careful what you wish for.

A nice sarcophagus for when you
push yourself past the breaking point.

The good news is that in the same way that you train your body, you train your mind too. In the beginning it's hard to make yourself go. Then it becomes hard to make yourself stop. You get hurt and you make mistakes. But your mind adapts. You begin to look at your training over a longer period of time, rather than day-by-day. A single workout won't make or break you. Well, actually, it can break you. Which is why you have to be OK with pulling back.

This will be my first Ironman, which is why I'm this nuts. On that day, I will find out whether I didn't work hard enough, or whether I stressed out for no reason. So I'm still in that learning curve. But I'm conscientious of the fact that I will have to analyze my training afterwards and make adjustments. But not before I take a luxurious and well-deserved break.

Really, I'm no expert. I write about it, but that's for my benefit as much as yours. I don't want to say, "be awesome like me!" I'd rather say, "it's hard for me too." Sometimes I feel like everyone else has it figured out except me. I don't want someone to look at me and feel like that. I don't want to be the reason that someone feels like they're failing. Because as long as you're making that effort, you're not failing. You're making yourself stronger. But I have to tell myself that too.

Then again, maybe everyone does have it figured out. They're reading this and thinking, "poor guy. Someday he'll get it." I guess you never know (insert winking emoticon here).

Maybe today I'll take a day off.

"You should take a day off."
"But I'll lose all my gainz!"

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

5 Consequences of Not Posting Workouts Online

I've taken the past 7 weeks off from posting my workouts online. I was focusing too much on my vanity and not enough on my workouts. Plus I was annoying everyone with my incessant selfies.


Social media is an intrinsic part of our lives. Most of us are online every single day, scrolling through the photos, posts, comments, and reactions from our friends (and sometimes from not-friends). We often contribute to this never-ceasing narrative with our own carefully posed pics and meticulously worded posts. A large portion of our attention and energy is devoted to this.

When I'm with people in real life, I make an effort to keep my phone out of sight (some people don't even bother to do this much). But if I'm by myself, I'm usually looking at it. I'll readily admit this. Resisting this urge is a losing battle. Technology is here to stay, and we'll only get more dependent on it as time goes on.

So it's nice to take a break sometimes. To reconnect with yourself. To sink into your own mind and allow yourself to navigate those terrifying thoughts and memories that you usually struggle to avoid via distractions. It's one of the best ways to learn about yourself and to grow. That said, here are five things I learned when I stopped posting my workouts online every day.

Oh no! It's a list article! Suffer.

I don't obsess about my appearance as much.

I'm trimming down my weight right now. But despite that it still fluctuates day-to-day from bloating and what-not. I used to worry about how I looked, knowing I'd want to look shredded for my selfie! Now that I'm not taking a pic every day, I don't have to starve or dehydrate myself just to look a little skinnier.

Or I can just pan the camera up and not
worry about having cut abs...

I've cut out sugar recently, and replaced it with more fruit and vegetables. One of the side effects is that all of that fiber hangs around in my belly, making it huge. After a bag of baby carrots and a couple of grapefruits, I look like Santa Claus (though my beard isn't as epic). It doesn't matter though, I don't have anyone to impress. That's quite liberating.

I don't push myself as hard.

This can be a double-edged sword. For most folks who first start running - or anything else - I suggest they do post online. This helps them keep accountable. It's very easy to skip a workout if you're feeling tired or not in the mood. But if you post every day, you're not going to want to let everyone down. And anything that motivates you to keep pushing yourself is a good thing.

That's not necessary for me though. I exercise every day no matter what. Posting online made me push myself harder though, sometimes too hard. I would run harder or farther than I otherwise would have. Or I'd do a double or even triple workout on a day when I was already worn out. Sometimes a little extra incentive is good. But usually this caused me to overtrain.

Overtraining? Is there such a thing...?

By not posting online every day, I don't feel that I have to show off for anyone. If my legs are only going to hold me up for 5 miles, then 5 miles is all I'll do. I don't have to kill myself to do 10. Or to run those 5 at a crazy pace. I can do what my body is capable of doing. And even though I'm not following a specific training plan, I still know where my mileage should be right now. I don't need to run 20 miles right now. If I was posting online, it would be too tempting to run that just so I could post, "ran 20 miles today just for giggles!"

Because I'm a douche. I liked doing huge workouts and then pretending they were no big deal. Which leads me to my next point.

I focus on my goals, not my vanity.

I like looking good. I won't deny that. And I like posting pics to show off my abs. I like doing workouts that would kill most people. And, as I mentioned above, I like to post those workouts and act like they're just a regular day. Like I'm some kind of superhero.

Selfies are less annoying when you're a cat...

It was all bull$hit, but I was pretending like it was the real me. That's insecurity. Pure and simple.

I'm training for an Ironman. That's a Marathon. Oh, and 4 kilometers of swimming. Oh, and over 7 hours of biking. If I'm to be totally honest, my priority is still to look good. But if that's my only priority, my training will suffer, and I'll bomb out at the Ironman. I want to do well! I realized this recently.

A couple months ago, I discovered, with a shock, that I could actually become a decent swimmer. And as the weather warms up and I can bike more outdoors, I'll likely discover that I can be a decent cyclist too. That's what I need to focus on right now. I've got my calorie counting nailed down. I don't need to obsess over burning calories and looking good for my cellphone camera. I need to be smart with my training, to continue the progress I've already made.

I enjoy racing. I enjoy working out with my friends. I enjoy a beautiful run on a sunny day, or a swim where I feel like I'm flying through the water, or a deadlift where 350 lbs feels light as air. When I first started running, I would run along trails with my dog, or run to the local brewery with my friend Dan, or just explore new streets I would have no reason to drive on.

Epic vistas, courtesy of running.

And when I stopped posting online, I remembered all the other reasons I love working out.

I get more sleep.

Smartphones are probably the biggest thing in recent times that have nuked people's sleeping patterns. Many studies have shown that just having your cellphone nearby will prevent you from falling asleep.

On weekdays I would usually finish my workouts at 7pm or even later. I would eat my dinner too fast. Then my phone would beep and light up as I was trying to go to bed. There's no way I could fall asleep if I was constantly picking up my phone to read the newest comment or view all the new likes. And I'd be lying in bed, aglow in my own smugness, thinking, "it was so cool how I did that epic workout and posted it like it was no big deal."

There was all sorts of unhealthy behavior bundled up there. I wouldn't be sleeping. I'd be staying up all night feeling like Batman. Except I wouldn't be out fighting crime. I would just be destroying any hope of being productive at work the next day.

I lost social connection.

This is probably the one thing that's been a negative. And probably the reason I'll start posting again soon. I already isolate myself too much. I'm always either exercising, or resting. There are times when social media is the only way I talk to people. It's no replacement for the real thing, but it's still better than nothing.

I've met a lot of really amazing people online, especially in LUNAR (Lace Up Now And Run). And I've met many of those folks in real life. We've run together, we've partied together, we've stayed up late together making terrible jokes and discovering many surprising commonalities beyond running. Many of the best times of my life were spent with these fantastic folks, and I wouldn't have met them if it wasn't for the exceptional running community.

And despite my annoying selfies and occasional self-aggrandizement, I have inspired and motivated people. I have paced friends in races, I have supported suffering athletes, I even guided a blind runner in Boston. And many of these opportunities would not have come up without the online community. I have become a better person thanks to these exceptional people, and I have discovered that I have more to offer beyond my over-the-top personality.

All-in-all taking this break has been a good experience. And I look forward to connecting with my new friends online with a better sense of myself and a new found wisdom. Or at least I hope so! It's also possible I'll post a grinning selfie and go downhill from there.

But you, reader, are always welcome to tell me, "quit being such a j@ckass."

Be prepared for more of this! Mwahahaha...

Saturday, May 6, 2017

My First Indoor Tri

Most of my readers should know by now that I'm training for an Ironman (and two half Ironmans). Is that the right pluralization? I want to say Ironmen. But those are men... made of iron. I guess. But iron is heavy. It would be hard for ironmen to complete Ironmans.

That's it! That's the end of the post! Close the browser, drink wine, frolic merrily, make love.

Oh, that's only 67 words. What else can I talk about? Right! I did my first indoor tri this morning! I did the Tri60 at the Y today. It's an official USAT triathlon, with rules and stuff. One of those rules may or not be that you can't take your shirt off. Meghan got thoroughly incensed when I asked if I could take my shirt off for the run. And I don't mean she was fragrantly perfumed (but I mean, she may have been). Something about how women can't take their shirts off (though I wouldn't be one to complain). So I sweated.

The Tri60 was a 10 minute swim, a 10 minute transition, a 30 minute bike ride, a 5 minute transition, and a 20 minute run. All indoors. It turned out to be crazy fun. I did it with Geoffrey, Meghan, and Meghan's daughter. None of us knew exactly what to expect. But we pushed hard and had an epic time!

A few minutes before the first wave!

The kids wave was first. We watched and cheered them on. Meghan's daughter is a turbo swimmer. She was a blur of movement. I quickly lost count of her laps. Then they went upstairs for the bike portion and we got in the pool. There were six of us total in the 2nd wave, including me, Geoffrey, and Meghan. I split a lane with the only person there who swam slower than me, which helped boost my fragile ego. But she was nice and didn't splash me.

I swam 19 lengths in 10 minutes, or 475 yards. That's not super impressive as far as swims go, but it was by far my fastest swim, so I was quite happy. Geoffrey and Meghan swam farther, but they're made of pure muscle and train brutally. I could see Geoffrey in my peripheral vision flying back and forth, that is when my lane-mate wasn't blocking my vision with her backstrokes.

We dried off in the locker room and I changed. I would've high-fived Geoffrey, but that's awkward to do when you're naked. I would've high-fived Meghan, but it would've been super awkward if she'd been in the men's locker room. We headed up to the spin room with time to spare. We had arrived earlier that morning and Geoffrey had helped me pick the settings I would need for the bike. So I set up the bike, hopped on, and started to warm up.

Crazed athletes

How do I describe the bike portion.... It was ridiculous. I was ridiculous. I'm used to riding a stationary in front of a TV. So without anything to engage me, I filled the room with absurd chatter. Keep in mind there were six of us biking in there, half of them strangers to me. And then two volunteers: One I believe was a spin instructor, and the other a guy with a clipboard.

I remarked about the "scenery" on our ride. "There's the Eiffel Tower! Watch out for that truck coming up behind us." Meghan and I teased Geoffrey on his long transition times at triathlons. I joked about passing each other, and about Meghan falling off her bike (which was quite stable). I mentioned how I was sweating so much that our next transition would be a swim. The spin instructor couldn't contain her laughter. Meghan mentioned afterwards how "distracting" I was. I think I may have cost her a couple tenths of a mile on her ride (insert laugh out loud emoticon here). It was my devious ploy all along!

Our half hour rides were all within a mile of each other. We stumbled off our bikes with jellied legs and headed to the treadmills. I was completely soaked at this point (again). The volunteers all gave shrugs about my shirt-removal query, but Meghan was so vehement with her argument that I decided to suffer for the sake of fairness. She was right though: It would've been an unfair advantage. And other USAT tris don't let you do it.

It was hot in that gym! But the run was my event. The others may smoke me on the swim and bike, but I can still run like there are coyotes nipping at my ankles. My goal was to run a 5k in 20 minutes. But it was just too darn hot and my scalp was tingling with that "you're about to pass out" sensation for the entirety of it. I managed 2.96 miles - with Geoffrey cheering me on from the next treadmill over - for a 6:45 pace. Not too shabby!

The three of us placed in the top three overall, although it was based on the total distance, not any sort of weighted average. So the swim, my weakest event, didn't count much against me. It didn't matter anyway, because there weren't place medals. We all got awesome finisher medals! None of us really cared that much anyway. It was such a fun time! And we all went as hard as we could.

Medals medals medals!

That was the coolest part of the Tri60. It was short enough that you could go nearly all out on every segment. And there weren't any hills, or wind, or choppy water, or sharks, or errant tree roots to throw you off. It was all you, pushing at maximum effort. And even though everyone performed at their own paces, we were all together for the whole of it. That's rare!

It was a fantastic event, and I absolutely recommend it to everyone who's interested in triathlons. Any skill level can participate. It's great for training, to measure your current abilities, or just for fun! The volunteers were awesome, and the Y was awesome for hosting. I believe every YMCA does the same thing. There's no reason not to do it!

I am super excited for the rest of the tri season!

See? Excited!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Coping With Responsibility

"Coping"... You like that? Having responsibilities usually means you've successfully become an adult. But also they suck. Nobody likes responsibilities.

When I was younger, I avoided responsibility like it was a rabid alligator (fun fact, only mammals can get rabies... shhhhhh). I had all sorts of smart-sounding excuses, but they all came down to fear and avoidance. I only exercised when I "felt" like it, I only dated "casually", and I generally avoided doing things that required significant or lasting commitment.

I preferred to sit around and drink, go out and drink, or invite someone over for drinking and "casual" adventures (I was too much of an a$$hole to ever offer to go to their place). Again I had some smart-sounding zen reasons for this. Stuff I stole from Eastern Asian philosophy and twisted to say, "life is about doing whatever you want and not taking yourself too seriously."

Then I realized that I was a huge douchebag. That I wasn't doing anything to make myself proud of who I was. That I didn't have any goals beyond how big of a fire I was going to build for me and my dog. I was just living day by day. And it was fun. But if at any point I looked back, I realized that I'd accomplished almost nothing.

"This fire better be huge."

And I wasn't going to be young forever. At some point I would experience health issues (beyond hangovers). I would have to deal with retirement and life insurance. I would grow a conscious and start hating myself for all the people I'd hurt with my selfish frivolousness. And I would actually want to set challenging goals and achieve success.

Today I have many more responsibilities, both towards myself and the people I care about. I don't exactly crave responsibility, but I do appreciate that having more of them means I'm taking a more active role in the direction of my own life. That I actually give a $hit about myself and the people around me.

Exercise and eating right requires responsibility. That's what I usually talk about on this blog. I've mentioned repeatedly that you can't depend on motivation to stick with health and fitness. And in general, I'm rarely motivated to take on more responsibility. So how do you accept it? And how do you deal with it once you've taken it on?

I've already hinted at it. You have to look at it as a good thing. You have to rewire your own brain. I've mentioned before that running every day basically requires you to be insane. Insane in the sense that you don't think the way other people do. Other people don't like to run, and they don't like to take on extra responsibility.

Here I am, pretending like I actually wanted to swim.

But you're not other people.

You want to be an exceptional person.

And the harder you work, the more exceptional you become. But it takes a long time to translate that work into reward. The donuts/whiskey/coffee part of your brain doesn't want to wait that long! It wants dopamine now! So you have to become your own dog-clicker. When you train a dog, you can't throw a treat at its face every single time it does something awesome. You teach it that a click = treat. And eventually it gets that hit of dopamine just from hearing the click.

Responsibility and hard work becomes that click. The treat will come later! But you have to teach yourself to feel good from "hearing" the click. In this case, hard work and responsibility becomes that click. It becomes its own reward. And to get there you have to remind yourself every day why you do what you do, and visualize that success.

Because you will get it, as long as you stay true to yourself and your responsibilities.

"You got that?!"

Of course, we're not dogs. Life throws monkey wrenches into our plans (beyond just distracting squirrels). The excuses creep in. We'll take a "break". We'll stop exercising because of a sore joint, with the vague promise of starting back up again as soon as it recovers (yeah right). We get overwhelmed.

I feel good when I run, or swim, or write, or shoot photos, or reach out to a friend to let them know I care, or to do whatever else I feel responsible for. But sometimes I'm just too tired to even care about feeling good. Lying down and doing nothing feels even better. That's when the guilt creeps in.

Guilt is a "bad" feeling. We don't like feeling guilty. But negative emotions aren't bad in and of themselves. We humans have them for a good reason. They're tools, to push us to act. The problem with guilt is that people use guilt as an excuse to not act. They feel that they're making up for their failures by feeling guilty for it.

"I can't stop eating! I'm such a loser!"

"I forgot to get back to my friend. I feel so bad!"

"I totally missed that deadline. I totally suck."

We express our guilt or self-recrimination, and then the people around us say, "it's ok." Because most people can relate, and most people are nice, so they try to make you feel better. But this is validation. So we don't do a thing, we feel bad, somebody validates us, and we get that hit of dopamine.

Delicious delicious dopamine

When I start feeling guilty because I failed to meet a responsibility, I get up and do it. That's my trigger. I recognize that it's a tool. I use it as such. It's like the alarm clock on my phone. I don't like to feel guilty. And when people say, "it's ok," my immediate thought is, "no, no it's not."

It may be OK for ordinary people. But I don't want to be just ordinary. I'm striving for more.

All of this requires you to be conscientious of your feelings, and to be totally honest with yourself. It's very easy to lie to yourself. Don't. And when you stop lying to yourself, you no longer have excuses or empty validation to fall back on. And the only option it leaves you is to get up and fix the thing that's bothering you. To handle your responsibilities.

And the more you do that. The stronger you'll get. The better you'll become.

Steps to success! You just have
to climb them first...

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Embrace Adventure!

I'm in Baltimore this week for DrupalCon. The opportunity came up just a couple weeks ago. My boss asked me if I wanted to go. My first thought was about the long drive and my cat maybe starving and my training and other bull$hit.  And then after a few seconds I thought, "Ummmmm, I'm stupid; of COURSE I want to go." A paid trip to Baltimore? Yes please!

I got to run Boston last week in pretty much the same way. The opportunity popped up a couple weeks prior. And my immediate reaction was that it's scary, and far, and what about my training? And then followed by the inevitable, duh! Of course!

I'm not a spontaneous guy. I know these examples make me sound like a whirlwind of nonstop action, but I'm actually a lazy homebody. I prefer to do the things I usually do, followed by sitting around at home doing nothing. I like to know what I've got going on, and to have the time to pad that thing with laziness. It's like a sandwich, where laziness is the bread.

But I love adventure.


That may not make sense at first. But laziness is just about comfort. Adventure is about stepping out of that comfortable area. And that's something I try to do regularly. I do that every day with my training: Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. Because as much as I enjoy lounging around, I don't want to get trapped in that bubble of safety.

I was tired yesterday after driving for 5 hours. There was some whacky traffic. I saw a sign that said, "Aggressive drivers high accident area." Seriously? And then after I got here I had to check into my hotel, find a parking garage to leave my rental in, and then go spend a few hours at the Con. But once I finally got back to my room, the first I did was throw on my running clothes and run 8 miles along the Inner Harbor.

How could I not?!

It was a gorgeous run, despite the threatening rain clouds. I even recognized some parts from the Baltimore Marathon I ran 6 months prior! Some of the other Con-goers were probably still drinking beer. I used to think that was an adventure, drinking in a difference place. But that's just more comfort. Navigating the world stone cold sober is way scarier. Running across busy intersections and around a completely unfamiliar place is an adventure!

It's something I used to force myself to do, to expand myself as a human being. But now I relish it; I try to seize every opportunity I can. Training is about adventure. Because at the end of the training, I get to go somewhere, meet some cool people, explore some new scenery, and then do a crazy race! The Ironman I'm doing in August is in Quebec! I need, like, a passport to get there!

The Con is cool too. Today, I went to a session titled "Dungeons & Dragons & Drupal." Yes, I'm a super nerd. There's a large expo that runs every day where you can drink coffee, collect stickers and other freebies, watch them make you a silk screen shirt on the spot, and play ping pong. I watched a demo at the Pantheon booth by a guy wearing a large purple hat. I got yelled at by a woman with a thick European accent because I sneaked in before it was officially open yesterday.

Good times!

I try to be conscientious of my fears. And every time they crop up, I face them head on immediately. That's the path to growth and improvement. It's too easy to get lulled into complacency. To decide that your life is "good enough" and just settle in with beer and ice cream. It's very powerfully attractive. We're built that way as humans. Scary things used to eat us. So we would prefer to be safe and comfortable. To venture out only when it was necessary.

But now we have the luxury to choose to venture out. To face fears our ancestors fled from. To push ourselves beyond our limitations. To explore the very boundaries of our identities. And it's terrifying. But in those moments when you're far outside of your comfort zone and nearing the edges of the danger zone... Those are the moments when you truly discover yourself.

Seek adventure, and you will find yourself.

Eating Halo Top without a spoon
is an adventure too!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Boston Marathon 2017


When you hear the name, something invariably pops into your head. Maybe you think of the Red Sox, or MIT, or of tea parties. Maybe you think of seafood, or music and art. Maybe you have friends or family there, and it gives you a warm feeling. For me, and many other runners, when we hear Boston, we think of the marathon.

And for good reason. It is the world's longest running annual marathon, hosting over 30,000 runners per year. Those are just statistics though, and you can't truly appreciate the scope of the event until you find yourself surrounded by all of those excited runners in Athletes' Village. Men and women train their a$$es off to qualify for one of the world's most famous events. It's an achievement all on its own just to find yourself on the starting line.

I didn't qualify for Boston. I need to run a marathon in 3:10 to do that, and I missed the mark by 4 and a half minutes at Run for the Red. As is the case for many runners, Boston is a culmination of many years of training, a recognition of one's dedication to the sport. When I failed to qualify, it only meant that I had to keep working, to keep making myself stronger. So that I could one day be part of the mass of talented runners.

But fate decided I had earned that privilege anyway. Yesterday, I found myself in Hopkinton, suffused by the palpable joy and anticipation of more people than I had ever seen at once in my lifetime. I felt a pang of guilt, as if I had sneaked my way in. But that was quickly overcome by the sheer exhilaration of the fact: I was running Boston Marathon!

How did it come about? About 3 weeks ago, a fellow LUNAR (Lace Up Now and Run) friend, Sheila, shared a post that a blind runner, Mike, was scrambling to find a guide for Boston to replace his previous guide, who'd gotten injured. I figured it was a long shot that I would get picked, but I eagerly reached out with my excited offer!

Barely two weeks before the race, I got a reply. And after some communication, it was set in stone. Unbelievable! It all happened so fast as to be surreal. My mind honestly could not contain the reality of it. I called the BAA and sent countless emails to make sure all of the details were ironed out. I kept thinking the rug would be pulled out from under me. That it was just a dream. It was not!
"It all starts here"

I've signed up for races on short notice before. But this was entirely different. Who the heck runs Boston Marathon on two weeks notice?! And not only that, but to help fulfill the dream of a disabled runner! I hadn't run a sanctioned marathon in 6 months, my New Years Day solo marathon notwithstanding. I'm training for an Ironman! And I had already registered for a half marathon just the weekend prior.

It was frightening. I had suffered my first DNF at Syracuse half-marathon just a month and a half ago. Would my body hold together for a full marathon? And it wasn't just about me. I had promised to guide a blind runner for the entire 26.2 miles. I didn't have the luxury of bonking out halfway, because I wouldn't be ruining the race just for me, I'd be ruining it for him too. And Mike, it turned out, was a super cool guy.

Boston is challenging too. It's not a victory lap after a year of training. It's hilly. It's windy. And mother nature always throws something extra at you on race day. This year it was heat! No joke. It was HOT. Burn-your-skin-to-a-shade-of-lobster hot. But I'll get to that.

My amazing friend Meghan allowed me to stay with her over the weekend of the race. Actually, it was her sister's house. It turned out Meghan's entire family were amazingly kind and generous! Truly I was blessed. And they hosted two other LUNAR runners, Michael and Charles, who had traveled all the way from Michigan for the race. I had no clue I was going to meet them until I arrived!

Me, Mike, Charles, and Michael
Photo Cr. Meghan

They had qualified for Boston the old fashioned way, by being super fast! But despite being powerhouse runners, they were exceptionally fun and down-to-earth guys. I don't know why I say "despite". Every LUNAR I've had the pleasure of meeting has amazed me, and these two were no exception. Geoffrey's daughter Aria was there as well, so the house was packed with awesome people.

Michael is a 56 year old who runs faster than me! He is quite the character. He'll talk your ear off about running if you give him the chance, and he doesn't hold back any of the gnarly specifics, including precisely how many deuces he has to drop before race time, or how much chafing his manly bits may suffer throughout. I got to run with him and Aria on both Saturday and Sunday before the race. Michael is definitely a memorable "old fart".

Charles is a tall and devilishly handsome runner in his 40's. We hit it off immediately, talking at length about the challenges of dating while training as much as we do. By the end of the weekend, we were exchanging some rather intimate details about one another's escapades with the fairer gender. I don't know how Aria put up with us; we seemed to amplify each other's um... masculine behaviors. But she seemed to enjoy our ridiculous antics. She kept trying to force us to stay up past our early bed times to play pool.

Me, Aria, and Michael

On Sunday, Meghan's family had an Easter meal. I didn't know about it at all. I was sitting on the front porch, wearing only a bath towel, when people started arriving with their kids. But as I mentioned, they turned out to be really laid back folks. And they invited us to stuff ourselves with a tremendous amount of delicious food. I can't remember the last time I've eaten that much or that well. I must have weighed an extra ten pounds on the morning of the marathon. And yes, I did eventually change out of the towel into real clothes.

The morning before that, I headed into Boston with Charles to hit the expo. While wandering Boylston St., we ran into another LUNAR, Noel, also a very talented and prolific runner. The three of got to the expo right at 9am and did some shopping. Not surprisingly, the expo was HUGE. We got out of there before it got too packed. Even that early, it was quite overwhelming.

Me, Noel, and Charles... That filter makes us look like babies!

The three of us parted ways and I went back to my car. Or I tried to. I spent half an hour looking for it and finally gave up. At that point I decided to just head back to the expo and meet Mike, the runner I was guiding. I helped him go up and get his bib, and we managed to be in and out in record time. I did run him into a table, which... yeah, lesson learned. I did have the fun of pushing people out of the way, and then watching them turn around to make a scathing remark, only to swallow it in a hurry. Evil delight, that.

I keep scrolling back up through this post as I write it. I know I'm missing a huge amount. Countless conversations and adventures with Charles, Michael, Aria, Meghan, and her super cool family. The experience of meeting Mike for the first time, knowing we'd be running together for a long time the next day. The massive and constant love and support I got online from friends and LUNARS. But if I tried to recount every detail, I would never stop writing.

After a very full weekend, Monday morning arrived. Thanks to Meghan, the logistics of getting us to Hopkinton was very straightforward. She had run the last four Boston marathons, and this was her first year spectating. She told me that the experience was very different. As a runner, you only have to worry about yourself. But this time she had to worry about a lot of things, some of which were out of her control. It gave her a new appreciation for all of the friends and family who had supported her in previous years.

Meghan dropped me, Mike, Charles, and Michael off and we got on the shuttle buses. The amount of coordination that was required to facilitate such a massive race boggled my mind. Everything was well-organized and ran smoothly. After a short ride we arrived at the Athletes' Village with plenty of time to spare.

The sheer volume of runners was colossal. I quickly lost Charles and Michael. I helped Mike navigate the crowds, and for the most part we avoided stepping on any runners sprawled on the grass. We navigated our way through the two massive staging areas. We got some coffee and snacks, and then waited in the long lines for the port-o-potties. The guy in front of us had a very strong British accent, which tickled me.

We spent a couple hours waiting for our wave (4) to be called. We eventually got reunited with Charles, and met his friend Christina, who he was running with. They were in Wave 2 and were soon called. Watching thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people stream through the chute towards their starting corrals was mesmerizing. The entire time we sat and waited, the runners poured through the chute in a never-ending river.

Thirty thousand people. I can't wrap my head around it. That's more than the population of the town I live in. That's more than the entire staff, faculty, and student population of the University I work for. It's more people than the Baltimore Running Festival, which had five races at once. It's more than the Boilermaker by a factor of three, and that crowd never seemed to end. And every single one of those people walked from the Athletes' Village to the starting line.

Then Mike and I were there too, slathered in sunscreen that somebody offered us from their front lawn. Time seemed to compress. Your senses are constantly stimulated to the max, and it just doesn't feel like that much time passes. The whole race was like that. A huge amount of sights and sounds engage 100% of your mind. Screaming cheering spectators every inch of the way, even before we started.

I could barely remember waiting in the starting corral. Because suddenly we were running! After days off anticipation and a mind-numbing disbelief, I was suddenly running the Boston marathon! The roar of the spectators was near deafening. There were runners in front of us and behind us as far as the eye could see, and this would be the case for the entire marathon. I had never before run a race where I was always surrounded by people.

The miles flew by. Not because we were running quickly. It was too hot for that. But because there wasn't a single moment of the race that wasn't awash with the energy of the runners and spectators, and the sheer magnitude of what I was doing! And of course I had to be conscientious of Mike the whole time. Despite my best effort, I ran him into other runners.... pretty much nonstop. After the first couple minutes he told me to stop apologizing.

The heat! It was almost 70 when we started. There was a tailwind in the beginning, which was apparently quite rare. But with how much we were sweating, an occasional cross draft felt really good. We stopped at almost every single table and grabbed several cups of Gatorade and water. Everybody ran slow that day, and quite a few people dropped out. Most of us had trained through the winter months, and while 70 may not seem that hot, to us it was a heat wave. The course had no shade, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Scorch city.

But we kept on going. Mike and I encountered quite a number of other blind runners and their guides. We even encountered a pair from Japan! Hiro and his guide.

"Konnichiha! O'tenki wa totemo ii desune!" I said ("Hello! The weather is very nice!).

"Atsui!" The guide replied ("It's hot!").

"Hontou desu ka!" I laughed ("I know, right?!"). We passed them again later and I complimented them on their speed and asked how many marathons they'd run. That was about when I burned out on the Japanese I knew. It made the race all the more amazing though, that I could have a conversation with runners from the other side of the world!

Before the race, Charles had told me about the Wellesley college girls. I couldn't recall if this was before or after he remarked on the many many beautiful women in Spandex. He'd told me that the girls would kiss passing runners. And I don't mean bashfully on the cheek either. These were full, tongue-in-the-mouth, drool-everywhere, kisses.

I thought he'd been exaggerating at the time.

He had not. It seemed like every single female student was on the side of the road, and about half of them had signs that said things like, "I just aced my bio exam! Kiss me!" or "kiss me I'm [adjective]" or "I'm single! Kiss me!" And sure enough, runners ran over there to receive their smooches. Sadly, I could not risk pulverizing Mike into the barriers, so I only got to look on with longing. Charles told me later that while they ran together, he'd asked Christina, "so are you going to kiss any girls today?"

She did. And Charles also got to play with dogs while waiting for Christina to take one of five bathroom breaks. So clearly he had a grand ol' time as well. At one point he had four German Shepherds licking sweat off of him. Seriously? Boston Marathon for you.

In no time at all (but actually about 3 hours in), we ran past Meghan and Aria. Meghan had told me ahead of time she'd be cheering us at mile 16.8. And there she was, yelling her head off! Apparently she'd also gotten to see Meb Keflezighi run past earlier (much earlier)! She'd waited forever for the opportunity, and seeing him in his last Boston was extra special. She also saw Galen Rupp and Jared Ward. And Meghan screamed her head off when she saw Desi Linden run past. Astonishing!

We hit Heartbreak Hill after mile 20. The whole course was hilly, but I could see what all the rage was about. Heartbreak is a big hill! It made it that much more impressive that the elites ran as fast as they did. The hill does gobble up an occasional runner, including, unfortunately, my friend Michael.

"The heartbreak is over"

Michael's day had started out great. His coaching plan had been good and he had a very ambitious goal for the race. He ran conservatively due to the heat, but by mile six his feet were on fire. He dropped to a more comfortable pace, but by the time he reached Meghan he was alternately walking and jogging. He sucked down water and Gatorade at every stop and ran through every sprinkler. He felt so bad he wished he could've thrown up. He even took his shoes off at one point, his feet were so hot. He got his photo taken with his shoes in his hands, which made him laugh.

Michael figured he just had to get to the top of Heartbreak hill and he'd be home free. But halfway up he stopped. He dropped his head. He felt lightheaded. Angry runners collided with him as he struggled to the side. He was done. The volunteers thought he was saying, "water!" But he was saying, "meds!" He had to lie down. With the help of an EMT named Steve, he was taken to a med tent on a gurney. 

They called Charles, who was one of Michael's emergency contacts, but he wouldn't receive the message until he picked his phone up at the end of the race. So nobody knew what was going on. Meghan almost drove to the hospital. They had threatened to send Michael to the hospital. Believe it or not, he had hypothermia! His core temperature was 94 degrees, his lips were blue, he had all the textbook symptoms.

They gave him IV's and put him on a hot bed. Of course his body immediately started cramping up, but they couldn't do anything about that until his temperature got back up. A nurse named Natalie talked him through it all. Finally his temperature came up and an athletic trainer massaged his muscles. Michael was given the choice to go to the hospital or take a shuttle back to town. He decided to go to Boston.

The race was hard on everyone. Just about everyone ran slower than their goal time, including Mike. I was lucky in that I didn't have a goal, except to love every minute of it as I guided him to the finish. As we got closer to Boston, the crowds became thicker and more ecstatic. Mile 22 was Mike's fastest split of the day! It was a bit painful keeping up with him as he suddenly turned on the jet engines, but I managed. And that last turn onto Boylston Street!
Blurry pic, but the street sign says "Boylston St."!

I can't overstate how incredible that is. It seemed like half the population of Boston was on the side of the roads screaming at us as we approached the finish. There wasn't a single empty inch of sidewalk. It was a continuous cacophony of ecstatic shouting! And then to see that street sign: "Boylston St." My heart almost exploded in my chest. And that final stretch.... Wow. I couldn't even feel my body. I can't compare it to any experience I've ever had. It was powerful.

I made sure to let Mike finish just ahead of me. I pumped my fists and shouted wildly, trying to compete with the spectators. We finished in just under 4 hours and 52 minutes, but it didn't feel anywhere near that long. I felt incredible, like I could run another marathon.... until a few minutes later.
The finish line!!

After some doing, we all managed to reconnect again. Everyone was in a panic over Michael, but we found him too, high on drugs. He was disappointed of course, he told me.....

You know what Michael, if you're reading this, you're awesome. I'm not going to repeat the self-bashing, because I've been there. I've had a lot of lousy marathons, and I even had my first ever DNF recently. It sucks. But if you're as insane as I am (and I'm pretty sure you're even more insane!) then you'll get over this and get back to doing mind-blowingly crazy things in no time. Anybody who can crash that hard and then say, "ambulance? No thanks," is tough as nails in my book. It makes for a much better story than, "yeah, I ran a race and got a medal." You're going to be telling this story to your grand-dogs for years! And of course, I still think the whole story is a lie and you don't want to admit you got totally sidelined by an over-amorous Wellesley lady!

We had an insane amount of pizza afterwards. And I'm just overlooking.... so so much. Charles got to see a man in an assless Bumblebee costume (100% true). I saw Santa Claus. Michael got to see the Old Ironsides and the Heritage Trail. Being a spectator, Meghan was reminded of how truly amazing Boston is, after burning out on running it 4 years in a row. She was reminded of how incredible everyone was: The elites, the folks raising money for charities, the disabled runners, and just all the regular folks who make the epic journey!

And that's what it's all about. I got a huge number of compliments for volunteering to guide a blind runner. Even my mom teared up at what a great guy I was. But, to be honest, it surprised me a little. I didn't think I did anything so special. The biggest thing I've learned about running is that... it has nothing to do with running. It's about the community. And the community is amazing.

Me and Mike post-race!

I want to give back to that community. I want to keep meeting amazing new people. LUNARs, like Charles, Michael, Noel... John and Deborah who joined us for the pizza party.... Maddie, who I sadly missed but ran an astounding race after a challenging winter of training. Friends who go out of their way to support us, like Meghan's incredibly generous family. Volunteers who take many hours out of their lives to make it all possible, like the ones who made sure Michael made it out OK. And the countless people who inspire us with their courage in so many ways. And just everyone in Boston who make us feel so welcome, and the whole world that was there for us after the bombings in 2013 (which Meghan and Mike experienced first hand). And folks like Aria who make us laugh so we don't take ourselves so seriously!

I know I'm missing people. People I should thank. I'm forgetting key events. I only transcribed a third of the notes I got from Michael and Charles about their races. I'm forgetting so many people I met. The lady I met at a rest stop on my way home who'd also run the race! It was such a transcendent weekend: An entire lifetime packed into 3 days. I totally forgot that I stopped in Western Mass on Saturday for my niece's fifth birthday party!

I have to stop writing. It's late and I'm tired and I still have to scrounge up all these photos. So much love. So much adventure. So much fun and hilarity. Late nights. Too much mac and cheese (as if!). Mosquitoes on the front porch (in April?!). Too much intimate detail about Michael's bodily functions and Charles' ex-girlfriends (but really, no such thing as too much). Photos on cellphones that will hopefully never see the light of day. And the love. I said it once. But the love. Incredible. That's what I feel. Love for all of these many many unbelievably wonderful people.

Good night and thank-you for reading.

I can't believe I almost forgot to thank Mike! Mike, thank-you so much for the opportunity and privilege of running with you. It was a truly incredible and singular event, and it would not have happened without you. Thanks for making all of this possible.