Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Running doesn't Have to Suck

Photo Cr: Steven Gallow Photography

As you likely already know
, I ran 18 miles Friday and biked 100 miles Saturday. I then ran 11 miles Sunday, 7 on Monday, 7 yesterday, and 12 this morning. The weird thing is, I enjoyed all of those workouts!

If you're reading this and you're sane, you're thinking, "yes, it's super weird that you would actually enjoy that stupid volume." And then there's a maybe a small portion of you thinking, "well.... That's what you do. Aren't you supposed to enjoy it?"

Sure, sometimes. But not always. I run every single day. I lift, bike and do other stuff too. Some of those days just plain suck. But having five days in a row where it's been fun - especially when I've covered over 150 miles - That's pretty rare.

Of those 6 workouts, I did 4 with friends. I usually prefer to run alone, so that I can pick a pace I'm comfortable with. But I've found that running with friends is a lot more engaging, and I end up running both faster and farther. It made me realize that most of the limitations I perceive are entirely in my own head. Sure, my body would prefer to go short and slow, but it's plenty capable of being pushed hard.

One slow man and three crazy fast women
Ft. Ellie Pell of Eat Run Pavement (center lady)

And the other two were challenging in unique ways. The 18 miler I did at 4am before work. It was still dark. Not even the birds were out yet. The birds were still sleeping off their hangovers. They party like maniacs. And of course it's fun to have bragging rights. The whole 3 hours of that run I was thinking, "man, I can't wait to post this online! Everyone is going to think I'm a lunatic for running this much before a hundred mile bike ride!"

I read an article recently that says nobody walks or runs anymore just for its own sake. Everyone counts steps, logs miles, and posts selfies online. And you know what? I'm 100% down with that. I think technology is awesome. I wouldn't be nearly as motivated to exercise if I couldn't boast about it. But so what? I also wouldn't bother keeping 6-pack abs if nobody ever saw them.

So yes, ego is a big motivator for me. But I use everything I've got available. I use an app to track my calories, and it makes it fun. If I run, I can add a thousand calories, which I can then fill up with ice cream. Awesome! And if I know that I get to post my workout online, I'm going to push myself that much harder to make it look extra epic. Does it really matter why you keep yourself fit and healthy?

I'm a member of L.U.N.A.R (Lace up Now and Run), an online community with more than 2000 members. It's awesome to not only share my own successes, but to see the successes of others. Some of them run farther. Some of them run faster. And that's great! It all inspires me to push myself harder. And I hope that I inspire some of them right back.

And the other run, the 7 miles yesterday, was great because I got brand new shoes! It's pretty rare that I buy running shoes, so I can't really depend on it for regular motivation. Otherwise I would go broke very fast. Also, my house would be full of shoes. But anyway, in order to give the new shoes a proper welcome, I did one of my splits in 5:50! I haven't run a mile that fast in over a year. Sure, my heart almost exploded. But what is life without a little bit of exploding heart?

My once annual shoe purchase

But even without new shoes or watch or some other doodad to use as an excuse, I still like to throw an occasional fast split into my runs. Then during the whole run I'm amping myself up for that one fast split. And those slow miles don't feel slow anymore. They feel like I'm getting the blood flowing and getting my legs warmed up to run fast.

These are all tricks, sure. Tactics to con my suspicious brain and my tired body into exercising every day. But nobody does anything without a good reason. I don't work because I want to. I work so that I can afford cheesecake. I don't do my laundry because I want to. I do it because I'm already super disgusting and I want to hang on to my half dozen remaining friends.
"Oooooh, you tricked me!"

I've mentioned many times before that motivation sucks and that I don't depend on motivation to get me going. I'm going to run every day no matter what. The "tricks" I'm talking about aren't motivational tricks.They're meant to make what I'm going to do anyway more fun and more awesome. On my drive to work, I listen to music. In the office I drink delicious fizzy seltzers... and far too much coffee. I do those things anyway, but that doesn't mean I can't make them more enjoyable.

I don't want to judge anyone though. Some people do need an extra push. Heck, before a year ago, I wasn't exercising every day either. So running with a friend, listening to music, giving yourself exciting goals... These are all things you can do to not only enjoy a workout more, but perhaps to get yourself out the door in the first place.

Plus, they hold you accountable. If I promise a friend I'm going to run with them at 6am the next day, I can't bail on them. I'm as guilty as anyone else of telling a friend that I'll "maybe" come to their party, with the full intention of not going. But when it comes to a run, I commit 100%. I don't give myself any excuse to flake. If I do, I'm a douchebag. And if I set a goal of doing a speed work out, then that's something I have to do as well, unless I want to be the tortoise in the story.

My point is that you don't have to suffer. And don't feel guilty for flaunting your ego via selfies or using any other dirty gimmick to make exercise more engaging for you. I hear you can even collect pokecreatures (® ...maybe?) while running now. You do it for you. I mean, don't piss people off. So maybe one selfie, and not twenty. But otherwise, go nuts. People are often going to hate on you for being successful anyway. Being bashful about it will only delays the sweet sweet taste of epic success. And other folks who push themselves just as hard: They'll appreciate what you do. Surround yourself with those people (and run with them!) and you will push one another to awesome heights!

Obviously I have to finish with a cheesy selfie
You can find Ellie's awesome blog here:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tour de Keuka Century Ride Recap

Until yesterday, I didn't think of myself as a cyclist. I've had Tsar Bicycle the Great for all of 6 weeks. Prior to yesterday, I'd ridden it a total of about 320 miles. Most of the folks I saw yesterday have been riding for years. I'm a runner, and every time I hop on a bike, I feel like I'm breaking some law of physics.

Yesterday, I bicycled 100 miles.

Today, I feel like a cyclist.

The Tour de Keuka is a charity ride that supports the Food Bank of the Southern Tier (of NY). The 45, 58, and 100 mile rides all go around Keuka Lake. The 58 and 100 mile routes also include a ride up what feels like a mile and a half long sheer cliff. More on that later.

I had heard about the ride first, but had dismissed it as being a suicidal lunatic's fever dream. Then I made the mistake of mentioning it to Meghan and Geoffrey. None of us individually thought it was a good idea. But when all three of us look at an event like this, it becomes a race of "who's the biggest a$$hole." Because if one of us signs up, then all three of us have to do it. Geoffrey won the a$$hole contest this time (as he often does).

We called our team "Czar's Lightning Machine", after our bike names: Tsar Bicycle the Great, White Lightning, and the Green Machine. Our team had a fourth individual: My archnemesis: Lesley. You will recall her from my Utica Boilermaker race report.

Lesley exists on some higher realm of crazy that I only glimpse for brief moments before I shrink away in terror. If I am a warrior, she is the dragon that idly grinds up continents with her tail. I mentioned the bike ride to her less than a week ago and she signed up two days later. She's one of those people you read about in "Super Epic Fitness Magazine", and think, OK, what planet is this chick from.

I have yet to see her spaceship, so I don't know.

Me: "This century ride is going to devour me."
Lesley: "I am going to devour this century ride."

Being my archnemesis, she suggested I do a long run the day before the ride. She did this via sneaky reverse psychology, saying I should definitely not run far the day before. So Friday morning, I got up at 3:40am and ran 18 miles before work. I was up at 3:40am again Saturday morning. I ran a 2 mile streaker keeper (because I'm retarded), and then waited for Geoffrey and Meghan to accept the reality of what they had signed up for and drag themselves out of bed. We were on the road by 5:15.

The riders gathered at the Hammondsport Fire Department were a small but friendly group. I encountered my coworker Harland there, a great guy and a legitimate cyclist who's done countless century rides. He reminds me of Clark Kent; no glasses, but you wouldn't think of him as a superhero at work. But when he puts on those bike shorts, watch out. I'm pretty sure he eats bicycles for breakfast. I can't afford that so I stick to bagels.

Geoffrey and Meghan took their time getting ready, and Lesley and I got to the start first. I'm not sure she realized that she was about to spend 8 hours with me. If she had she may have ridden with one of the other bikers she had no problem befriending (building up her supervillain squad no doubt!). At 7:30am, we were off! I don't think I had yet accepted that I was about to bike 100 miles.

Except for a few brief moments, I didn't really see Meghan and Geoffrey. I'm not going to lie or exaggerate. Their ride was a DISASTER. I considered writing our stories concurrently. Instead, you're going to have to suffer through my tale first. But rejoice, for I will recount every last one of their many encounters with fate. So read on!

I went way too fast in the first 30 miles or so. My archnemesis is a lightning pedlar. I just looked that word up and it means she sells narcotics. That... I mean, I don't know, maybe? I doubt it. I meant she's a fast biker, and I tried to keep up. In that first stretch there's a really huge hill, and I blasted up it like an idiot. That earned me the title of "King of the Mountain" from one of the other cyclists. I'm not sure he realized that I blew my entire, um, load (totally not PC) in that first portion.

Thankfully, when I started to feel pretty gassed, we got back to the Fire Department (at about mile 45) and took an extended break with lots of food and water. I saw Harland for I believe the third time. He was always ahead of me and I would briefly catch up with him and his team at rest stops. But he was super supportive, and it helped me a lot to get encouragement from a real cyclist! At that point I wasn't entirely confident I could survive the entire 100 miles!

Black coffee only powers you for so long.

Geoffrey and Meghan caught up with us as well. One of their many disasters befell them shortly after Lesley and I left. But again, you're going to have wait. Ha! If I can suffer bicycling in the heat all day, you can suffer reading my fluff for a few minutes. The rest break did me good and I set out with renewed vigor (vigour if you're British... maybe Canadian?). I pedaled vigorously (not narcotics).

The next 20 miles along the West side of Keuka Lake were fairly luxurious. It was pretty flat, with just gentle rolling hills. The view of the lake, when it wasn't blocked by $200,000 garages, was gorgeous. But deep down inside, I knew I would soon be murdered by a hill that rivals the Himalayas. Keuka is shaped like a letter Y. At the northwest tip there were two signs.

One said, "hello 45-milers! Go on straight and rejoice!"

The one for the 58- and 100-milers said, "turn right here and be forever lost from the world (probably)".

The signs didn't actually say that. They were just numbers with arrows. They didn't care. They just pointed. We turned right.

Lesley and I rode down a bumpy seasonal rode, ticking down the miles until we reached the bluffs at the crease of the Y. I was going pretty slowly at this point and she got ahead of me. But a couple of miles later I caught up to her. She had stopped and waited. I thought, that's so sweet of her!

Then she said, "I'm not going up that hill alone." Fair enough.

I wouldn't go up that hill alone either.

I had about decided that the hill didn't exist, that the race coordinators had thrown it on the elevation profile to panic us. Then we rounded a turn and there it was. It didn't look super bad.

Harland, however, had warned me ahead of time. He told me that the beginning of the hill was an 11-12% grade. And then a very brief respite. And then a 17-18% grade. If you don't know what that's like, try bicycling up an escalator that's going down. And it was really hot out. So pretend there's a guy at the top with a flame-thrower. Also, you hate yourself.

Lesley flew up the hill like a hummingbird that had just bathed in nectar. I put my bike on the lowest possible gear and cursed when it hit the end. I clambered up that hill an inch at a time, my screaming legs threatening to abort. There was a turn at the top of this first section. Some riders thought that was the end of the hill. I knew better. Lesley turned the corner and vanished.

A couple of minutes later, I turned the same corner. A sheer wall rose up in front of me and stretched into the stratosphere. Zeus sat atop, cackling at me with vengeful delight. I couldn't actually see him for all the swirling mirage-like clouds of heat that danced across the top of the hill, but I could feel his goading laughter surround me like a sweaty hug. My archnemesis was already halfway up, her Herculean legs slamming her bicycle into submission.

The blood in my legs had been completely replaced by lactic acid at this point, but I kept going. My entire universe was this hill and the pain in my body. I pulled so hard on the handlebars I thought I would tear them off. I would push on a pedal, the bike would move an inch, and then come to a complete stop until I pushed the next pedal.

Then I hit the 17% grade.

Are you in a room? Look to your left. Do you see a wall there? Good. Get on a bicycle and ride up that wall. But first, don't drink any water for a week to get the full effect. Enjoy.

I was pretty sure I was going to die. Nothing could sufficiently motivate me to go up this hill. Not Meghan and Geoffrey getting up at 4am to do this ridiculous event with me. Not Lesley being so divinely generous as to hang back with my slow plodding butt this whole way. Not Harland's persistent encouragement every time he saw me. I was going to lie down on the side of the road and let darkness consume me. But then it happened.

A couple hundred feet shy of the top, Lesley got off her bike and started walking, the cleats on her shoes clicking on the pavement audibly.

And that was it. I finally found exactly one thing I could beat my archnemesis at. I feel somewhat guilty writing this now, because she really was truly amazing throughout the entire ride, the 一番 companion one could hope for on a ride (your computer didn't just glitch out, that's "ichiban", which means "number one"). But in that moment, the one and only thing that would get me to the top of that hill was my ego.

I don't remember much of the rest of that hill. There was so much pain it blotted out all my other senses. I - very very slowly - passed Lesley at some point. It felt that hours had passed. I expected the sun to set and the moon to come out, the seasons to change. Leaves fall, snow piles up, then the sun comes up and the plants blossom once again. When I reached the top of the hill, I was surprised I hadn't grown a full beard.

But I never put my feet down. I got to the top, and kept going. No rest. I just scrolled up and apparently I've dedicated about 10 paragraphs to that hill. It was tough. Let's just leave it at that.

At the next stop we caught up to Harland's group again. At that point we were scarred veterans, survivalists who had conquered a seemingly impenetrable obstacle. I drank a gallon of fluid. After many long minutes, I got back on my bike. The wheel spun in the sand and I promptly fell on my behind. I laughed uproariously. We were off again.

I wish I could say that after that it was all "downhill" so to speak. But there was still almost 30 miles to go and I was completely exhausted. But I won't recount the rest of it in excruciating detail. We almost got lost at one point if it wasn't for Lesley's mysterious sixth sense. There were many more pretty views of the lake (obstructed by massive garages). My muscles took turns cramping. I drank the rest of my water and then drank the rest of Lesley's water.

After mile 90 I started ticking down the remaining miles, and prayed that my phone wasn't off on mileage. At mile 99 I got a massive cramp that paralyzed my entire left leg. I limped across the finish at a little over 101 with one barely functional leg. Lesley was already there, looking like she wanted to go do another 100 miles just for giggles. It had taken us around 6 hours and 40 minutes of moving time to finish. Our average pace was just over 15mph.

We hung out for another half hour, eating and drinking as much as we could jam into our faces. But she had to go. She was pet-sitting for half the cats and dogs in the county. Then I lay down on a bench. Gradually the volunteers tore down the venue and left. Eventually it was just me and one awesome volunteer named Paul who kept me company.

I waited for Meghan and Geoffrey for another two and a half hours. Here's there story. It's not for the faint of heart.

In the first quarter of the ride, Meghan's brakes started rubbing against her front wheel. As she and Geoffrey headed up the first giant hill of the ride around mile 24 she looked down at her brakes to see what the he!! was going on. She fell. She also discovered that trying to start back up on a steep hill with clips is very difficult. She fell twice more. She was sore. She was embarrassed. But that's nothing compared to her bike. The seat was pointed in completely the wrong direction. Her right brake was on the wrong side of the handle bars. Her bike looked like it had just gone through a garbage compactor. And she still had 75 miles to go.

Their last happy moment...

As she and Geoffrey were leaving the rest area at mile 45, Geoffrey hit something and his tire spewed out hot air and died an ignominious death. With much cursing he returned to the car (thankfully it was right there). He replaced the tube in the tire. He pumped it up to 120 PSI.

The tire EXPLODED.

I mean that literally. It exploded. It deafened him in one ear. He threw his helmet into the lake in a fit of rage (well, it didn't quite reach the lake). He may have kicked a small puppy. What the frig had gone wrong?? He pulled out another spare tube. He slowly looked at the box. 700C. He looked at the previous box. 26 inches. Somehow, against all odds, he had packed the wrong tube. And then with valiant struggle had managed to fit it into his tire. And it had exploded.

He put in the correct tube and, with much delay, they were off again.

Remember how at the point of the lake we were supposed to turn right to head towards Mount Doom? Geoffrey and Meghan accidentally went straight. It wasn't until another rider pointed this out that they realized their error, after they had gone up an extra hill. They turned around, adding miles to their ride.

Then, of course there was the hill. They were already in a foul mood. Meghan described it thus: "It was worse than my nightmares." But they're still alive today, so clearly they made it up. At some point they got lost again. They gave up on trying to finish the race in any reasonable sort of time. They stopped at a gas station and filled Geoffrey's camelback with more fluids than it could physically hold.

By this time the course started shutting down. Among other things it meant they no longer had signs to follow. Whereas Lesley and I got to take a bunch of scenic side streets that ran along the lake's edge, Geoffrey and Meghan had to take the highway back to Hammondsport, adding extra hills to their already defeated legs.

It was during this point that Meghan's feet started to feel like she had dipped them into liquid magma. They were on fire. She showed us the blood blisters later on and.... yeah. Gross.

During this entire brutal trial there was a lot of pain, anger, and frustration. They yelled, they shouted, they cursed one another, they threw things. At one point Geoffrey told Meghan to put on her "big girl pants." But if it wasn't for one another, they could not have finished it. They were one another's heroes. Warriors. Champions. They did not let each other quit. And despite their absolutely atrocious mood during the ride, they were laughing as they told me the story in the car.

They crossed the finish after 5:30. I had been waiting for almost 3 hours. I got up on my sore legs and cheered them, even though it was probably the last thing they wanted to hear. Brave Paul, the volunteer who refused to leave until the last riders had crossed finally got to go home. And so did we. After 11 hours in Hammondsport we went home. Along the way we ordered 2 sheet pizzas and 30 boneless wings.

Not even kidding.

That day, that bike ride, was a microcosm for all of life. We had felt every single emotion you could possible feel over the course of a full and rich life. Anger. Elation. Frustration. Pride. Bitter hate. Overflowing love. Agonizing pain. And a wash of pure unfiltered joy that rivals having a child or getting married. It's impossible to know what that's like until you've done something like this.

A lot of people don't understand. Many never will. They may think, "why would I subject myself to such punishment or torture for no reason? You didn't even get a medal!" I ask them, why would you deny yourself the greatest physical and emotional high that one could ever experience in their life? Take the feeling of falling in love for the first time. Take the feeling of winning a million dollars. Take the feeling of your most amazing accomplishment. Compress those three things into one little ball and experience it all at once.

It's like a pill. And you can take it whenever you want. But in exchange you have to suffer - horrendously - for many hours. Personally, I'm an addict. I take that pill as often as I can get it.

Geoffrey's version of the pill is chocolate chip pancakes
with butter, peanut butter, chocolate sauce, maple syrup
and a side of mint chocolate chip ice cream

And I can't forget that, through our suffering, we got to help dozens - maybe hundreds - of hungry kids get fed. What a through-and-through achievement for the riders and amazing volunteers.

EDIT 7/27/16: The Tour de Keuka has raised about $65,000 for the Food Bank so far, which will provide about 195,000 meals for kids!!!

Thank-you Geoffrey. Thank-you Meghan. Than-you Lesley. Thank-you Harland. Thank-you to all the other riders along the way who helped cheer us along. Thank-you to the volunteers who helped us stay hydrated. Thank-you, Paul, for sitting with me for well over 2 hours. Thank-you to all of the friends and family who donated and helped make this adventure possible for us. Thank-you to the Food Bank for giving us a purpose for our grueling challenge. Thank-you to everyone I may have forgotten because I'm full of ice cream and sleepy as I write this. And thank-you, reader, for getting this far. I hope it inspires you to do something truly insane, but also truly rewarding, one day.

Good night.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Exercised Induced... Loneliness

Apparently exercise induces all sorts of things! I wrote recently that it can induce depression, although in retrospect I believe I just wasn't eating enough food. I've about tripled my intake of cheesecake and ice cream, and have been feeling much better lately.

It also induces some really awesome things, like strength, health, confidence, patience, community, and a bunch of other things. I mentioned community in there and it's pretty important. Exercise is often a lonesome activity. You can run with a buddy, but as your mileage increases, you will find fewer and fewer cohorts who are as crazy as you. You can take a class with other people, but getting all of your exercise in a classroom can get expensive.

It's not really the sort of loneliness I'm talking about. I'm pretty blessed with the friends I have now. I lift in the mornings with my friend David. And I can often run or bike with a friend if I choose to. Unless you're an antisocial troglodyte, you'll eventually meet folks who are into fitness as much as you are.

Fellow shirtless lunatics

"So what the heck are you talking about?" You're thinking. "You sound like you have more friends than Dwayne Johnson, you boisterous fool."

Well for one, there's the transition period. I wasn't born pumping iron, much to my mom's relief. Less than 3 years ago I was a chubby alcoholic who threw parties every other week. So I had lots of "friends". Or at least, I could always find someone to have an adventure with, even if I had to seduce them with whiskey or half-naked Twister®.

When a person first starts exercising, their friends encourage them. This is because their friends know they will fail. I know that sounds harsh, but the fact is that the vast majority of people who start dieting or exercising give up. And by "vast majority" I mean like well over 90%. Everyone can relate to that. It's not uncommon for someone to post, "I'm going eat only water chestnuts and jazzercise everyday! Wish me luck!" They'll collect their 200 likes, feel good, and then everyone will forget about it in a week. It's an easy way to get a hit of validation without actually accomplishing anything, and their friends will all be there to console them with chocolate cake when they give up.

This is how I console myself.

But in the really rare circumstance that they don't fail, and in fact start showing amazing results, a weird thing happens.

People make friends with people who are similar to themselves. So if you transition from "nacho and margarita Fridays" gal to "get up at 5am to run" gal, you're no longer similar. If you transition from, "BBQ and 30 rack of beer on the lake" guy to "bicycle 100 miles around the lake" guy, you're no longer similar. And your friends don't stop being friends because they're dicks. They just can't relate to you anymore.

You've become a completely different person.

No, I haven't lost all my old friends. And I'm sure some of you reading this are saying, "you're totally 100% wrong. You probably just suck at life." I mean, yes, probably. Those people who do stay in your life, those are true friends. They're people who don't hang out with you just because you buy them drinks. They're people you share a deep and meaningful connection with. Undergoing a metamorphosis is a great way to find out who your real friends are.

However, if you've gotten accustomed to always having a gaggle of hangers-on around, you're in for a rude awakening. And I can't just keep on staying up late and partying. My life now is incompatible with that. I go to bed early every night so that I can get up early to exercise, even on weekends. Yes, I'm crazy.

I don't even get to enjoy this cuz it's still dark out.

It's more than just a matter of priorities though. I don't have the time or energy to go out after a long workout. So unless I exercised with someone, I'm probably not going to want to see any other humans that day (except to eat a massive lunch immediately after a long run). I end up neglecting the friends I do have, and rarely make new friends.

OK, I feel like I a liar right now. I saved this post as a draft a while ago. And I've actually done a lot of socializing in the past week or so. So I'm writing it now, not feeling lonely at all. So I guess the main takeaway so far isn't that becoming a fitness fanatic means you'll be sad and alone for the rest of your life. Just that it will take time to adjust your life, and the people in your life, during the transition.

Something I haven't figured out yet though is the dating thing. At the risk of sounding conceited, I had no problem meeting women when I was rotund. Contrary to what some people believe, looks don't really matter. But you do have to have the time and energy to meet lots of new people, and as I mentioned, that's hard when your life is, "exercise, work, exercise, eat, sleep."

"You're spending way too much time
with me and it's creeping me out."

On top of that, I can't really date anyone who's not as into exercise. But not for the reasons you think. It's hard for someone I'm dating to not resent me for all the time I spend in the gym or outside and not with them. They may respect and appreciate the hard work and dedication. But at the end of the day, they want to go out to dinner with me, or at least watch a movie on the couch, and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and go to sleep (especially if I'm getting up at 5am the next day).

And it effects me too. I feel guilty for neglecting a person I care about. And that combination of resentment and guilt is murder on a relationship. I know there are folks out there who are married and have kids and work and still find the time to exercise. Those people to me are mystical wizards. Some of my friends think I'm a lunatic for working out 10-15 hours a week, but I've got nothing on people with real lives. I don't have to worry about feeding other humans, or going to soccer games, or picking up kids because they got themselves stranded at a friend's house an hour away.

Serious athletes have it tough. Between their schedules, restrictive diets, and carefully measured energy, it's hard to balance a social life. And you have to be pretty obsessed - crazy even - to commit to something to such a great degree. You look at a fitness model in a magazine and assume he or she has loads of friends. But it's quite likely that they're actually very lonely. And at the risk of feeding into a stereotype, some of them get into fitness because they never quite got comfortable with other people.

So why do I bring all this up? What's the point?

The point is to not let this happen to you. Love and companionship is critical. It's the most critical thing in your life. Some may think that being healthy is most important, but it's not. A short happy life is better than a long miserable one. And yes, I feel good while I exercise, but if I don't have anyone to share my success with, it feels pointless.

For a long time I convinced myself that I was a lone wolf. That I could be like Batman, quietly awesome in the shadows. But the older I get, the more I realize how important it is to me to have love and friendship in my life. I've tasted solitude, a lot. And while I may impress myself with my ability to be strong all on my own, I'm the only person I impress. Nobody else cares, if there's nobody else in my life.

Great job asshole. Nobody cares.

I need a reason to do what I do. Just "being awesome" isn't enough anymore. I want to motivate others to exercise. I want to inspire others to pursue their goals, no matter the challenge. I want to have people in my life who can bolster me when I falter. Because no matter how tough I think I am, I suffer, especially when I'm by myself. I want to care for and be cared by other people. I want to matter. I want to be able to rejoice in the successes of others, not just myself.

I want love in my life.

There's a lot of hurt in the world, and a lot of anger. Most of it, I believe, comes from people who aren't loved. When I'm alone for too long, I start getting dark thoughts too. I feel like maybe I don't deserve joy. And then I start imagining that others deserve to suffer when I suffer. And that's a horrible thing to think. But when I'm with a friend, even just one person, I feel that other people are wonderful as well. People are people. Your opinion of them isn't based on what they do. It's based on how you feel. If you're happy, then you see positivity everywhere. And you help to spread it further.

It becomes a resonating force. The more love and joy you put out, the more of it comes back to you. And it just keeps going up and up. But if you allow yourself to get trapped in your own head, you get stuck in a negative loop. It drags you down, and it becomes increasingly harder to break free.

Get out of your shell!

So exercise, but don't neglect others. And don't exercise as an escape. I've done both those things a lot. And I still do. I appreciate now, though, how important it is to me to have people in my life who matter to me. So that too is a priority now. There will be a day when my strength finally fails me. And when I look back onto my life, I won't think of sweating over a barbell or on a sidewalk. I'll think back to all of the people who made my life truly amazing.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Motivation is for Losers

Total click-bait title, I know. I'm not calling anyone who misses a workout a "loser". Most runners - and athletes in general - already beat themselves up plenty without having insults heaped on them. I know I feel that I suck if I only run 13 miles when I was planning 20, ninety degree weather notwithstanding.

For purposes of this post, I'll call a loser someone who gives up on their goals, or doesn't even try to accomplish them in the first place. A very common excuse for this is lack of motivation. They "lose" their motivation, and don't know how to "get it back."

Here's a secret: I have no motivation.

I have a huge heap of little projects I've started on in the past few months, and I'm not working on any of them right now. They're all there, waiting for me to get back in to them, mocking me. But I'm just too tired. It's a million degrees in my bedroom, so I don't get any sleep at all. I exercise every single day and am perpetually fried. And if I run in the heat or don't eat enough, I have to deal with dehydration and/or low energy.

So yeah, my Pokemon Go ripoff called Cthulhu Go is a total nonstarter.

Gotta catch 'em all!

So you might be thinking, "ok, you're not doing those things because you lack the motivation." No. I'm not doing those things because they don't matter.

At least, they don't matter enough. Because if something is important, you'll do it. Period.

For those who complain that they don't have the motivation to exercise, I have to ask: How do you go to work? I definitely don't want to get up in the morning, brush my stupid teeth, feed my pudgy cat, put on my dumb clothes, drive through obnoxious traffic, and then sit at a desk and pretend to do whatever I'm supposed to be doing. If you're super excited about work, then that's awesome, but I'm guessing most folks aren't.

And what about all the other stupid crap you have to do? How do you do your laundry? I did my laundry yesterday. My clothes aren't organized. I have to take all the clean clothes out of the hamper from last time I did my laundry. Then I have to hunt down every errant sock, buried under piles of work pants (totally not put away in drawers) and old receipts. Then I have to drag all that junk down two stories and... anyway, you know how to do laundry. It takes more than zero seconds.

How do you get your car fixed? Do you just say, "oh well, guess I'm walking from now on." No, you climb into your busted a$$ vehicle, chug along at 10mph to the car-fixing-place, give them a bunch of money from the job you're totally not motivated to go to every day, and then come back two days later, get your car, and buy it ice cream. Except cars don't eat ice cream, so you eat it. How tricky of you.

Of course if you do walk, you might catch some critters!

You do those things because they're important, not because you're motivated to do them. I exercise every day because it's important to me. I sure as heck don't want to exercise. I also don't want to write this post, but I'm doing it anyway.

I get up every day, brush my stupid teeth, feed my pudgy cat, work out, and then do all the rest of the stuff I totally don't want to do. Then after work I exercise again. I go running even before I eat dinner. Because it's more important to me than eating (and I wonder why I struggle to get enough calories). And I do all that every weekday.

I didn't always. I used to only exercise sporadically, whenever I felt "motivated" to do so. I also used to be chubby. Back then it wasn't important. I knew, vaguely, that exercise was good for me. Most people "know" that they should exercise. But it's not a priority for them, and it wasn't a priority for me. Which meant I didn't do it much.

So whenever someone says they're not feeling motivated to exercise, what they're really saying is that it's not important to them. And I realize I sound like a dick right now. Most of those folks will say, "it is important.... I just can't get myself to do it!" Recycling is also important, but nothing bad will happen to you if you just throw your cans in the trash.

You have to feel that importance down to the bones. Missing a workout should give you the same feeling of panic that waking up half an hour after you're supposed to be at work does. So how do you do that?
This old pic of me is also panic-worthy

For some people it's something huge. They have a heart attack, and really really really don't want to get another one. Nothing like that happened to me. I just decided one day that I wanted to get fit, and to stay fit forever. I guess you can say vanity is what did it for me. And I refuse to go back to the fat me. But I can't say what it would take to make it super important to you. Crushing self-loathing maybe? Just kidding.

You do have to be somewhat insane. I definitely am. But then, going to work every day is kind of insane too. There are plenty of people who don't work at all, and they get by just fine. They have a nice trailer. They even have a TV so they can watch Maury Povich with their five kids. I'm stereotyping a bit, but you get my gist. You work because you enjoy the lifestyle it affords you.

Cheesy pic to represent freedom? Success!

I exercise because I enjoy the lifestyle I gain from it. I like being strong and fit. I like being part of a community and having like-minded (crazy) friends. I like knowing that I can push myself every day and conquer challenges other folks wouldn't even try. I enjoy the sense of power and control I get from striving forward no matter what. Partying and drinking booze never gave me the sense of freedom that I have now. Freedom of body, and freedom of spirit.

I'm not willing to give those things up. I don't need motivation to exercise. Because not exercising is scary to me. What would I do if my sense of power suddenly dropped away? The world is a scary place. Really scary. There's been some stuff in the news recently that's downright terrifying. I'm sure you've seen it. Going out and hitting the pavement is a shield. It protects me.

I don't mean that I'm oblivious to the world's ills. I'm quite aware of them. I'm just not afraid of them. I drive myself past the point of pain every day. I can handle pain. Pain doesn't scare me. And I don't want to live in fear. I don't want to go back to living in fear. I want to be able to do things every day that are so hard that I feel like I can handle anything by comparison.

The anger and hatred you see out there, it comes from fear. I don't want to be angry, and I don't want to be hateful. I want to be open-minded. I want to understand and appreciate people without judgment. I want to look at a situation without bias. It's hard to make yourself do that. If you live in fear, it will taint everything. You can try to be thoughtful all day long, but if you're not used to facing stress, pain, and brutal challenge every day, your caveman brain will take over. It's fight or flight, plain and simple.

I totally burn out that fight or flight instinct every day. All that's left is calm. I'm too tired to be scared. I just let life wash over me. That's what we're here for, to experience life, good and bad.

So far it's been pretty awesome for me.

Do you dare clicketh?