Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Retrospect

I have a bad memory, so even one day seems like a long time to me. In order to look back at this past year, I have to "cheat" and look at photos, and my fitness apps, and what not. This is a bit weird, because all of us are guilty of only posting the best to social media, and of course my fitness graphs make me look like a lunatic, even though I often whine about being a huge slacker.

My memory works well enough though that I know 2016 was hard for me. Just prior to the beginning of the year I was living with Pixie, and I thought I had everything more or less figured out. An awesome girlfriend who works at a brewery (!), lots of cats and dogs, running, but reasonably so. I felt good.

By January 1 of 2016 I was living in Geoffrey's house. I was truly blessed that he let me move in on such short notice. And I'm still here! I stuck it out with Pixie until about April. I'm not going to go into the details about why I left. Even though I felt at the time (and still do) that it was the best decision for both me and her, I still felt immensely guilty. And regardless of whether I was justified or not, the fact is I hurt her.

Since then I've pushed almost everyone out of my life, because I felt that I was a trash human being who only hurts others.
A trash human hanging out with his only friend.

I saw Pixie last night. We were at that brewery together. It was a very nice night for both of us. But we didn't talk to one another at all. I wanted to. I wanted to apologize. Whatever happened in the past doesn't matter. I just wanted to say, for my part, that I was sorry. But I wasn't able to. I didn't want to ruin her night. I finally gave up and left.

There's plenty of people I've hurt, and plenty of people who hate me. I for one don't want to hate anyone in return. It's an awful feeling and only poisons me. A big thing I've learned is the power forgiveness. Forgiving others and forgiving myself. Because of all of the things that brought me joy in 2016, love was by far the biggest.

Regardless of how she feels about me, and even though we're not a good fit together, I will always love Pixie. She helped shape me into who I am.

Because of my self-hatred, I pushed myself over the summer. Too hard. I had a decent marathon at Run for the Red in April (shaved 3 seconds off my PR with a finishing time under 3:15). But that was about my last good race. After that they got worse and worse. And I kept feeling worse and worse about myself, and pushed myself even harder.

It spiraled out of control and I got a really bad case of Overtraining Syndrome at the end of the summer. I had 4 marathons and a ton of other races in the fall and they were all very slow. I didn't take a break though. I just kept on training through it.

Then Wineglass happened. I spent a truly amazing weekend with a bunch of extremely positive and amazing LUNARs. I ran that race and Baltimore with Brian, a man who simply refused to give up no matter how terrible a hand fate dealt him. I won't lie, I've been a bad friend to him lately. Largely because I just have no clue what I can do for him anymore, and that frustrates me. I don't want to project my guilt and resentment on him, although distancing myself has arguably been just as bad.

"Just slow down my man. Don't be in such a rush!"

I'm ready for a change now. I had a really wonderful holiday with friends and family. It's rekindled something in me. It's reminded me how powerful and important it is to me to be with people I love. To eliminate anger, judgment, self-recrimination, and all that crap. Loving others, and being loved in return, is the absolute best thing life has to offer.

I'm going to stop exercising as a form of punishment. Well, maybe a little bit. I need to be somewhat crazy to maintain my level of volume. But I'm going to try really hard to avoid sinking to the depths of despair I felt over the past few months. I've learned a lot, and those lessons have been extremely valuable.

I jokingly say that I'm selfish. But I need to be. I can't be a good friend if I don't like myself. I need to take honest stock of myself, without lenses of anger. I've thought a lot about what will make me happier in the future. And by becoming happier, I will have a lot more love to share with the people I care about.

Because no matter how much I hated on myself, the size of my family just kept on growing! I didn't know what these people saw in me. I still don't. But you know what? It doesn't matter! I'm truly blessed by the amount of inspiration, support, and love in my life, and I have to stop squandering that.

Originally I was going to talk a little bit more about my fitness over the course of the year, as this is a blog about CRUSHING PAVEMENT (pumps fist). But, frankly the above is more important to me. In the charts below you'll see the spike in the summer, the dip in the fall, and then a steady climb again. 2017 will see me focusing more on training for next year's Ironman. Which is really exciting! I still hate swimming, but hopefully I can get (slightly) better at that.

There's a lot of people who deserve individual mentions and individual thanks. But that list is just too huge now, and I know I would forget too many. But know that I love you and appreciate everything you've done for me. Even the anonymous readers: You give me a reason to keep writing. And this has been an amazing catharsis for me. Thank-you.

That swimming line is really smooshed down. But I got up to 10 miles in December!

For all of my obsessing over my weight, I've managed to keep it pretty steady. It jumped up around October due to too much ice cream, but I quit that, and it's been dropping since then.

Boilermaker was awesome!

Haven't chatted with Arch-nemesis in a while, but running with new people is always great!

Tromptown almost killed me!

Wineglass was absolutely one of the highlights of 2016. Wow!! And all of you LUNARs, who are too many to name individually, you are beautiful and incomparably inspirational people!

Baltimore was another incredible experience. And the medal is to die for! And this pic has three very special people in it. Geoffrey, my dearest friend; Meghan; who has brought so much love into my life; and Brian, who has taught me more about myself than I would have expected.

I've been training and teaching karate for over 20 years, and it continues to be a source of strength, community, and grounding for me.

This man is truly a brother. Thank-you Geoffrey... for more things than I could ever list.

And of course my flesh and blood brother. Every year I love my family more and more. If it wasn't for them I would have never started on the path of self-discovery.

This man! After my Ironman, Dan and I are going to do some serious ultra trail running. Just you watch!

This will likely be the last time I mention Pixie. I doubt she reads my blog anymore. If you do Pixie... I'm sorry. And thank-you.

Have an amazing 2017 everyone! From me and Haiko, my ever vigilant running companion.

I love all of you. You bring my life real meaning.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Awkward High School Dances

I've always been weird. I never "got" people, and I still don't. They all flit about, delighting in one another's company. And I'm just like, "what are they even talking about? Football, shopping, yard work?" Are those things?

I was home-schooled until the 5th grade, so I missed the entire window when most kids learn to socialize. We moved around quite a bit too, so I made approximately zero friends. Towards the end of high school, I had about half a dozen dudes that I would roleplay with: Dungeons and Dragons, Rifts, Vampire: The Masquerade, that sort of thing. Usually those devolved into putting soda cans into socks and hitting each other until we got tired (but, like, in a fun way?).

You're thinking, "weird kids always grow up to be the coolest! I bet you blossomed in college!"

I did not.

I made exactly zero friends in college. I would go home on the weekends and hang out with my friends who threw dice and books at me, and hid pepperoni under the cheese of my "totally meat-free pizza." And we would pee in each other's bottles of Mountain Dew.

Truly, we were enlightened.

Like this, but with yellow soda instead of booze.

When I was 23 I did a google search for how to be normal. I don't know why I'm lying. I did a Google search for how to meet women, because I was tired of being sad and antisocial. About the same time I started drinking.

It took me about 6 months to turn into a party animal. But whatever romantic comedy starring Vince Vaughn or Dane Cook is dancing through your head right now, throw it out. I had a ton of hilarious adventures, but it didn't end in me living happily ever after, having learned a valuable lesson.

Oh I definitely learned some lessons. Like, driving drunk and hitting things is not ideal. Throwing an epic party and then being hung over for several days is super great for one day and super not great for several days after. Selfishly using people for your own enjoyment is fun but also leaves you feeling totally awful inside forever. That sort of thing.

When I was in middle school, before I learned the "3 second rule" or how to "spot IOI's" or any of that crap, I went to the school dances. Do schools still have dances? Did social media ruin that too? Anyway, I'd go because there was pizza, and my family was poor. I loved pirogis with sour cream as much as the next kid, but sometimes I just wanted some flippin' pizza.

I would loiter mostly. Sit on the bleachers. And make frequent trips for more soda and pizza. I can't really remember, but I suspect I was pretty bloated at these things. It's probably a good thing I wasn't more popular. Or any amount of popular. I couldn't imagine holding in that much gas for that long. I still can't!

I had a crush on a girl. I think it was the 8th grade, or 9th, or some number. I'd look at her and feel warm and fuzzy. That was about the extent of it. I didn't know what to say or do beyond that.
"Do I talk to her? What do I say?! What if she doesn't like me!"

At one of the dances, terrified, I asked her to dance. She said no. I'm not sure if I was heartbroken, but one thing I'm sure of, I was relieved! I'm always relieved when someone I like says no, even to this day. But then she felt bad and approached me later that evening. Aaaah crap, I knew my bravery was going to bite me in the a$$.

Nope, noooo romatic comedy here either. It was awkward. Really very painfully awkward. This is the first time I'm mentioning it at all. I've kept it bottled up.... what, almost 25 years now? Hahahaha, that's how awkward it was. But writing it... it's like taking this thing that's been wadded up inside of me, pulling it out, and blowing it out of my hands and having it sprinkle into the wind like dandelion seeds.

Because really, who cares. To literally everyone it's just a funny story. It only holds power over me if I give it any.

Back to the now. I got tired of hurting people. Really tired. It's all I was doing. Hurting myself - and more importantly - hurting others. The fun times I had were ephemeral. They didn't stick around forever. I liked staying up late and drinking half naked with ridiculous people, but that's not something that made me proud. I wasn't looking at myself and thinking, "man, I really accomplished something last night, with that whiskey and broken furniture. Suuuure did."

So I've come around full circle. Back to not getting people. Back to a totally solitary existence. Back to the awkward kid at the high school dance. I just run. Partly it's an escape. An escape from others and an escape from myself. Partly it's to punish myself for all the idiotic mistakes I made and all the people I hurt. Actually, this part is a big part: It's why I enjoy pain and punishment so much. And then part of it is to shape myself into somebody better. Because I can't hold on to that anguish forever.

"I'm sure this is somehow good for me."

It's stupid. I know it is. I'm very conscious of that. Beating myself up all the time is not sustainable. But I feel like I'm on a track now. A track that's going.... somewhere. I'm not sure where to yet, and it's a bit bumpy, but I'm definitely moving. And that's exciting, and it makes me feel good about my future.

A future of fitness. A future of pride in myself. A future of love with people who support me that I support right back. People who are all on the same track, spiraling upwards towards ever billowing joy and success. I've had tastes of it, and unlike those long ago nights of 40's of malt liquor and passing out in parks, these moments linger. I still remember the party with the amazing LUNARs I had after the Wineglass marathon.

Shared passion, shared craziness, shared love. I think I'm finally starting to get it.

"Life isn't as complicated as you think.
Just be majestic, like me."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Everyone's Miserable and That's OK

There's a lot of things that can make someone miserable. Work. Family. Health or fitness. Money. The person you're with. Or the fact that you're bitterly alone. Or maybe that time is flying by at warp speed and you feel like you haven't accomplished any of the things you wanted to.

That's a lot of possible reasons, and I'd wager that at least one of them applies to you. I don't know you, but I'm reasonably certain that something makes you unhappy.

And that's OK.

Feeling bad isn't OK. It kind of sucks. But misery pretty much defines being human. And you're not the only one who experiences it. Trust me, you really really aren't. So when I say it's OK, what I mean is that you're not the only person who fails at life sometimes (or a lot of times).

Social media is bull$hit. 100% of what people post on there is a lie. I'm not even going to say 99%. Because then you'd be like, "oh, so there's a 1% chance that Susie with her perfect family and trips to Italy really is that happy." No. She's not. It's f@&king false.
"It's all true! I'm amazing!"

I can go up to someone - a friend, acquaintance, anyone - and have this conversation.

"How's the thing?" I ask, where the thing is their job, or loved one, or new puppy, or literally anything.

"Eh," they reply with a forced smile.

"That bad, huh?" I say.

"Oh no, it's fine," they lie. "Just, you know...."

"It kind of sort of makes you miserable."

And then there's that moment, where they feel like they should lie, keep up the social ruse. But then there's that other part of them that desperately wants someone to know how much the thing really sucks. I've had a puppy, and yes, they really suck that much. F@&king obnoxious little a$$holes.

I wasn't going to post this. I was like, what is this bull$hit? I'm not even cranky right now. I was a couple days ago. I had a headache, which translated into, "my life is awful right now. And will be forever. Unless I start drinking again." It was a bizarre thought process. And then I forced myself to get out of bed and run 8 miles. Which did nothing for my headache, but at least helped me scatter my thoughts.

But as my mouse pointer hovered over the delete button (it didn't really; I'm being metaphorical), I saw a post come up on Facebook (which would be impossible, since it's in another tab; what I really mean is I was staring at Facebook the whole time like the useless sack of poop that I am). Also, parenthesis? Whatever.

Anyway, a friend of mine posted, "What's your biggest concern in life right now? (No jokes, please)". It's been up for one hour - one - and it's up to forty serious replies. Money. Loneliness. Depression. Angst. The future. I'm being vague on purpose, but you get the point. And this friend is a comedian. Like, a stand-up comedian. So this isn't a bunch of people who circle-jerk each other with sadness all the time. These are folks who are normally expecting humor, but had absolutely no problem answering a question about why their life sucks right now.

And I see plenty of stuff like this all the time from folks who are normally positive and cheerful. I mean, we typically use Facebook to post the best stuff, because we want our friends to be jealous and sad about themselves. But sometimes we just feel so down that we puke it all over the digital world.

How is this supposed to cheer you up? I'm saying don't get stressed. Or more specifically, don't get stressed about being stressed. I know, that sounds like the stupidest thing anyone has ever written. But you're going to feel inadequate, insecure, and unhappy, and that's just a thing that's going to happen. There's no solution.

I'm in the best shape I've ever been in my life. All the various pieces of my life are generally getting better every year. I make more money and spend less than I make. I don't drink anymore. I have a lot of awesome people in my life who make me feel loved.

I'm also more miserable than I've ever been before. Because I'm stuck in my own stupid head too much. The more I think, the less happy I feel. And that's because all of the life stuff, it's irrelevant. I mean, being too poor to feed your kids matters, yeah. But whatever is going on, you get used to it. You deal with it. We humans are awesome at that.

Plus we humans have coping mechanisms

It's only when we stop and think, that we're like, "ugh, this is all super terrible." When we compare ourselves to others. Or look back on our own lives and compare the things we've experienced with the list of things we wish we'd experienced.

It's all in your head.

If you can fix something, great, otherwise just move on. Dwelling on something that can't be changed just makes you sick in the inside parts of you.

Obviously, it's not that easy. That's why I exercise so stupidly much. Anytime I'm out beating pavement with my feet, or beating iron with my hands, I'm not in my own head. I'm doing something. Something that makes me feel good. And that's the best you can hope for.

Fill your life with as many things that make you feel good as possible. The more of these things you have, the less time you have left to feel bad. Because no matter how many good things you have, you will always want more. That's just another fact of being human. It doesn't matter if you have a thousand or only one. It's enough.

And if you're in a funk that you simply cannot escape.... that's OK. That's totally fine. Be in a funk. Lie in the dark. Stare at the ceiling. Churn in anguish. It's totally 100% OK. You're not doing anything wrong. You're being perfectly human. Doing what humans do.

And that's cool.

Good job.
"Huh. I guess I am being perfectly human..."

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Cold, Dark, Do It Anyway!

I wrote the below a couple days ago. Then somebody posted a link to this article, which is closely related: 10 Reasons to Get Out and Run Even When It's Dark and Cold ... I think the article is.... not great. So if you're bored by what I wrote, you can look forward to me tearing apart the article at the bottom!

It's winter time. It's dark until... well it's cloudy out, so it's still dark. It's cold, the kind of cold where 30 degrees is meaningless. A calm sunny 30 is wonderful. A windy hailing 30 is murderous. For the most part you just want to hibernate with every blanket in your house and a box of pastries.

It's the season where pastries are sold in boxes.

This is NOT a box of pastries.

Getting up and working out is tough any time of year. In the winter you really don't want to move, much less work out. Every morning the alarm rings at 5:15am, or whatever time I have it set at. Pretty much the only reason I get up is because I have to pee so bad. And then once I'm up, going back to bed is stupid. So I go lift, or swim, or whatever I want to punish myself with that morning.

As hard as weekdays are, at least I don't have a lot of time to torture myself. I have to get up and exercise, then I have to go to work, then I have to work out right after I get home from work. Then maybe if I'm lucky I'll have a little time to relax before bed. Weekends though are a pain in the a$$.

On weekends I think, "I have all the time in the world!" And it's a total lie. Saturdays I sleep in, because of course. And then I alternate between exercising, lying in bed, and eating. This past Saturday I got up... I don't know when, but the sun was up, so it must have been late. I did deadlifts. Then I lay in bed. Then I went to the pool around noon and swam a mile. Everyone thinks I'm being adorable when I complain about how slow I swim. I'm not. Swimming a mile takes me a really long time. Then I lay in bed more. Then I dragged myself the 2 feet to my bike trainer and watched TV and pedaled for two hours.

Happy.... that I'm done swimming!

Then I ate a bunch of food that Meghan and Geoffrey made. And spent the rest of the night doing nothing.

Sundays are a little easier because I usually do "only" one thing for a really long time (instead of 3 things, also for a long time each but slightly less of a long time). This past Sunday I ran 17 miles. Because my legs are perpetually broken, it took me 2 hours and 45 minutes. The weather was cooperative though, and I think I even got a couple drops of vitamin D.

Then I made dinner for a change, and it was amazing. But, yeah, rest of the night: Nothing. 

I don't think this will be surprising for most endurance athletes. Our lives are exercise and food. Regular people talk about going to a "show", or going "out", or just living their lives. I worry about a really good movie coming out that I want to go see. I will never get back those 2 hours when I could've lay in bed doing nothing!

As often happens, I've totally lost the point of what I was writing about. I was going to try to encourage you to work out every day, instead I'm saying if you do, you'll no longer have a life. BUT, it's not like anybody actually does anything during the winter anyway. Everybody for the most part stays at home, watches Netflix, and eats. I do that, but I also exercise. Most people get fat during the winter. I think that's bull$hit.

"Winter is bullshit. Getting fat is awesome."

Some athletes - probably most of them, actually - have an off season. And it's right now. They don't quit exercising altogether, but they do less. And they eat more. I can't do that. The only reason I can exercise every day is because of the awesome power of routine, which if you've read my blog at all, is like my favorite thing besides.... Well I quit ice cream, so I don't know what.

To me, that sounds terrible: To take a break from exercising, have a relaxing and joyful winter, put on a few pounds from cookies and pies. And then to start exercising and dieting suddenly after the New Year. To "get in gear" for a summer of marathons or Ironman(s) or whatever.

But for lots of people, that works. Half a year of hard work and half of relaxation. Well, really more like 8 months and 4 months respectively, but who has the brain power for math. Working hard for a long time makes the rest periods that much more rewarding. And really, I do the same thing, just on a shorter scale. I'll work out hard early in the day so I can relax and eat lots later in the day.

Not like those 4 easy months are that easy....

If you lounge around and eat all the time without doing anything to earn it, there's no joy in it. If I'm resting or I'm eating, and I haven't exercised, I hate myself. And maybe that's what it is that works for me: Being super hard on myself when I slack off, but also feeling super good when I don't. And that just keeps me going.

As I mentioned, that Runner's World article popped up in my feed. Anything that encourages folks to run in the winter is great. Buuuut, I don't agree with the points it makes. Below I'll enumerate the ten points and my feelings about them. I know you love lists.

  1. Consider using a three-day-a-week training plan to minimize time outdoors. This is terrible. If you're already having trouble staying honest, cutting down how much you train will only make it that much harder. If you take off even one of those three days because you're sick or because, like, there's a lot of snow and look at all this hot cocoa I made! That's pretty much a whole week of couch time. I exercise every day. Twice a day on average. I don't let winter mess with my routine.
  2. Register for races. What? This was on the list? This is actually great. Maybe I should have read the article first before slamming it. But yes, sign up for all the races. Don't wait either. I'm signed up for not one but two gnarly winter half marathons. I'm hoping for sub zero temperatures and blizzard conditions.
  3. Recruit a running partner, whether a friend or your dog. I have a friend who lives just a few blocks for me. For a few weeks, he was coming over every morning and lifting with me while I did my deadlift challenge. And then he stopped coming. I haven't seen him in two weeks. It was nice having him over, but him not showing up made no difference in me getting up early and lifting. Running with a friend or dog is nice, but you can't depend on it. Having a friend bail on you abruptly can ruin a workout. I've seen it happen.
  4. Remind yourself daily of your goal. This just sounds exhausting. I mean, if it helps, cool. But the reason I exercise every day is because I have to. That's my thinking. Yes, I signed up for an Ironman next August. I do remind myself of this in order to get myself swimming, because I'm terrible at swimming. But otherwise my "goals" don't make me exercise any more (and if I didn't swim I'd just run more).
  5. Commit to be Fit. Well, the article's explanation for this one made sense, about reinforcing good behaviors (and not reinforcing bad ones). So in that regard I agree. And sticking to a routine definitely helps form powerful lasting behaviors.
  6. Make a "Bad Weather Plan". This one makes me laugh. I love bad weather! The worse it is, the more excited I am to go out in it. I feel like a viking warrior when I run through sleet and hail. Most of winter is "bad weather". It's too easy to get in the pattern of flaking out. I personally much prefer embracing bad weather and appreciating it for the adventure it is.

    Bad weather is my bad weather plan
  7. Always prepare your clothing and workout bag the night before. I mean, this is probably a good idea. But I've literally never done this. I'm totally haphazard and I just throw all my $hit on 2 minutes before I go out. I don't even pack the night before a marathon. So I guess do this if it's important to you? But if you forget to pack your "workout bag" (so cute; I imagine that it's neon pink), don't skip your workout for that reason alone.
  8. Run in the morning. I exercise in the morning and after work. Getting up early is great, but I pretty much work out at any and every free moment I have. But yes, if you have a pile of screaming children you have to jam food into every night, then get your workout out of the way early.
  9. Plan Rewards. I count calories, so I get an automatic reward after every run of eating more food. Because deep down inside (actually, not that deep at all) I'm a big fat pig. Having to come up with different and unique rewards sounds like a huge pain in the a$$. So whatever you do, it should be a regular treat (but only if you exercise). If I don't exercise, I starve.
  10. Invest in the right running clothes for your running weather. Yeah I suppose so. Although battling the elements ill-prepared is an exciting adventure in itself! But, yeah, hats, whatever.
Alright, so maybe I was exaggerating. I only disagreed with about half the points. Whatever it takes to lure you to stay with me this long! AmIright? In any event, my biggest tip for you is to find reasons to love winter training, not just tolerate it.
"Really? Love this? You've really gone off the deep end."

This has been your annual winter running post. Back to standard programming after this.