Saturday, September 23, 2017

This post is not about Bananas

I don't know what to write. I have no clue. I asked Geoffrey what I should write about and he said, "bananas."


We were talking in the kitchen. I was whining about the awful ride I had today and he was telling me about his super hard run. We've both been suffering in our own ways. So sometimes we just have a whine-fest and we.... feel better? It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one who struggles.

I was in my underwear. I had sneaked down to steal a diet soda. He doesn't care. But I always feel like I'm sneaking. I'm the Russian uncle in the attic who occasionally stumbles out in the dark, unshaven beard bushy, underwear torn nearly to the point of indecency. When someone witnesses my wooly-chinned criminality, I stop with a deer-in-headlights look.

His back was turned to me. I debated heading back upstairs. Then I realized what a ludicrous impulse that was. So I just said, "hey stud." That may sound like an awkward way to start a conversation between two nearly naked men. But I guess it's our thing. I don't remember what he was doing. He was in front of the cutting board. But anytime I see Geoffrey, my eyes are invariably drawn to his massive calves, and I just zone out.

OK, that last paragraph made it sound extra awkward. I'm pretty sure this is how every bit of erotica starts. "Then he turned around and our eyes locked and there was this moment...."

Avoid eye contact, avoid eye contact, avoid eye contact....

Nothing happened. I'm sorry to disappoint you. Actually, far more likely you're relieved. I eventually took the diet soda from the fridge. My stomach's been bothering me, which is part of the reason the bike ride was awful. I ate way too much fiber this past week. Last night I ate an absurd amount of almonds. That was a bad idea. I can't eat any more food, even though my body definitely needs it. Also, the only food I have available is.... almonds.

So I grabbed a soda.

I'm drinking it now, listening to Amanda Palmer. Fun fact, I like "angry chick music". I put that in quotes, because that's what I've heard somewhere. I just think it's good music. I like Ani DiFranco too. I used to listen to a lot of Alanis Morissete, Hole, No Doubt, and so on. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because they don't give a sh*t and sing what they want. I used to listen to the Police. Then one day I actually looked at the lyrics and realized they're creepy as f*ck, so I stopped listening to them.

I've been living in Geoffrey's house for ... 21 months I think. I didn't think I'd be here that long, but it's worked out. We've had our ups and down. But we're both deeply introspective, and when we get to talking, just everything comes out. It's hard to be mad at someone when you understand the utter depths of their personal demons. The reasons why they do whatever they do that they're not happy about.

That's why he's one of my best friends. People aren't honest with each other these days. Not even couples. With this generation of rampant social media, everything we put out to the world is a facade. Two women I've known have committed suicide.


When I knew them, they seemed full of life. I had no clue. And what happened wasn't my fault. But I still felt a massive amount of guilt. I think that's how a lot of people react. They should have known. They should have done something.

There was one person, and exactly one person I could cry with. Other than the Lion King, nothing ever makes me cry. But when I told Geoffrey about how I felt, I did. He knew one of the women, and her death hit him just as hard. We men, we tend to swallow that sort of thing down, hold it inside ourselves. With Geoffrey I don't have to.

I've known him for over ten years. I don't know exactly. I looked back through my Facebook pics and this is the earliest pic I have of him from November 2007 (almost ten years ago).

Not exactly flattering, but I have some much worse pics of him, so be glad I'm not sharing those!

Many times friends - even best friends - drift apart. Their lives change and they can't relate to one another anymore. But my life and Geoffrey's life (since I've known him) have followed almost the same trajectory. That's super rare, by the way.

When I met him, we were both drunken party animals. He would play music at dingy house parties and I would feed him 40's of OE. By the end of the night he could barely stand. Our peals of laughter would reverberate off the walls. We didn't give a f*ck what other people thought. We had obscene amounts of fun.

We both had stupid dating lives. Because we were both damaged. At one point I even judged him for his choices, but really I was judging myself, and I feel embarrassed that I didn't recognize that at the time and took it out on him. But even then we were honest with each other, and over many beers and glasses of whisky, we would spill out all of our hurts and weaknesses.

We both made massive mistakes. We've both paid the price for those mistakes in different ways, and still do sometimes. I'm a better liar than he is, so people generally only perceive my flamboyant exterior. But he knows, he knows all my sh*t. Sometimes he smacks me in the face with my hypocrisy, and I'm deeply appreciative of that.

I got him into Running. He got me into Triathlons. We both quit drinking on the same day. These are changes that many many people try to make and almost always fail. Against all odds, we changed not only at the same time, but we both stuck with it. We both pursued a direction of growth and positivity at the same time.
Here's a more flattering pic I took
in October 2009

I don't think that's a coincidence.

I've hurt a lot of people, and have been hurt in return. So has he. I moved out of my ex's place in a rush, and he was amazing enough to let me live here. Since then I've stopped dating, using my training as an excuse. He's in a strong and healthy relationship with an amazing woman, Meghan. So I think he's farther ahead on the whole growth and self-forgiveness thing. Apparently I'm not ready to forgive myself yet, despite all the pretty words I write in this blog ("self absolving blog posts" as Geoffrey called them once).

Thank God for his honesty and directness, and his willingness to share the depths of his soul and allow me to share mine in return. And we inspire and motivate one another to push ourselves harder. I wouldn't have signed up for an Ironman if it wasn't for him and Meghan. Many people inspire me - and I them in return - but it's different when you share a space together. I'll come home from work and see that his bicycle is gone. Any thoughts I had of taking an evening off vanish in that moment.

This is what happens when I write a stream-of-consciousness post. I hope Geoffrey isn't too embarrassed by it. It's been a long time and we've shared a lot of stuff together, some of it very good and some of it very bad. I hope we continue to do so for a long time. The good stuff is that much better when you can share it with someone, and the bad stuff is easier to handle when you don't have to bottle it up.

Here's to you Geoffrey. Thank-you.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

It's Easy to get Stuck

It's easy to get stuck in your own head. Or maybe it's just me. Maybe everyone else lives moment to moment, rejoicing in the vast beauty of existence. At least their social media makes it seem that way. But then, everything I post makes it look like I'm an overflowing fountain of adventure and giggles.

In between those "look at me! Life is a never-ending fountain of unfiltered joy!" selfies, my brain is a churning cauldron of harsh self-awareness and judgment. The problem is that I'm always thinking, every minute, every hour, every day. But growth, success, and any goal you wish to achieve takes time.

A lot of time.
"I don't care how long it takes.
I'm going to eat all of this grass.
Then they'll have to feed me cookies."

And if you're analyzing and over-analyzing every minuscule step of the way, it's going to feel like you're making no progress, or even that you're getting worse. If my weight yesterday was 175 pounds, and my weight today is 180, I'm going to think, "holy sh*t! I just gained 5 pounds!" Nevermind that I weighed myself yesterday after a sweat-tastic workout. And I weighed myself today after I ate enough mac and cheese last night to fill a pool.

Yesterday I did the United Way for Cortland sprint tri. It was awesome! For the first time ever, my swim speed was under 2 minutes per 100yd (1:53). My bike was just shy of 20mph. Both those things were the fastest they've ever been! I've been doing tris for over a year now. And in that time I've had a thousand critical thoughts.

I compared my performance in the five sprint tris I've done since I started 15 months ago. My swim has gotten faster every time, starting at about 2:48 per 100 to yesterday's 1:53. My slowest bike was 16.8mph versus yesterday's 19.7. My run has been pretty flat.

I always smile after the swim, but this time I meant it!
Photo cr. Geoffrey

That's months in between each tri though. On a day to day basis, there's no measurable progress, and it's easy to get fixated on that. There were some periods when I thought I was getting consistently worse. I swam this morning and it was slow. The pool was super warm and I was still tired from yesterday. I had to force myself not to think, "oh no, yesterday was the highlight of my swimming and it's all gone now!"

I think a lot of athletes can get trapped in this. Sickness, injuries, and overtraining make it even worse. And if those athletes are anything like me, they push themselves too hard. They try to compensate for their perceived weakness with even more training, which only makes things worse. If you've followed my blog, you know how much I hate resting.

This past week though, I took 3 days off of cardio. Three!! That's unheard of for me. But I had fallen into my typical trap. After Ironman Mont Tremblant, I jumped right back into training. I wanted to - really wanted to - try to qualify for Boston at Wineglass. That was ridiculous. My marathon PR is a little under 3:15. Assuming my running fitness is the same, I'd have to shave 5 minutes off to qualify. Of course with my shift to triathlons, it's not the same.

Awesome, sure, but not helping my running any!

I rode the edge of injury and exhaustion for the past few weeks. I finally realized that I was being stupid and that my goal was obscene. All that would happen is that I would blow up at Wineglass and end up super disappointment. I've had that happen a lot. Against all odds, I've learned my lesson! I took a much-needed break.

When you train, you have to look at the big picture. That's really hard to do. But progress happens over months and years, not days. When you lose sight of that, you do things that actually hamper your progress. I've seen people injure themselves so badly from overtraining that they've essentially had to quit altogether.

That would kill me.

I have to remember that. My training is my identity. If I lost it, I would lose myself. And the fact that I'm able to do it is truly a gift. Some of my best workouts weren't fast. But they were joyful. They were workouts were I didn't look at the watch and just enjoyed the breeze. Enjoyed the cool rush of the water. Enjoyed coasting down a big hill. Workouts were I could close my eyes (for a couple seconds) and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and the wind in my face. Workouts were I just felt alive.

Also, this happened:

I really shouldn't put this in a place
where it's publicly accessible...

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Don't Quit

I'm training for Wineglass marathon. After I finished Ironman Mont Tremblant, I had about six weeks. I gave myself one rest day, and then started running. With the taper before Wineglass, I only really had 4 weeks to build up some speed. I hoped to qualify for Boston at Wineglass. That means I'd have to run it in under 3:10.

It's not going to happen.

I should have rested after the Ironman. I pushed myself to the brink of injury by running right afterward. And even though I had some decent runs, they mostly told me that I wasn't fast enough to meet my goal. Today (as I write this), I ran 17 miles. I had originally planned to do a hard workout. But my legs have been trash and I decided to just do a long run.

I ran Boston earlier this year, as a guide for a blind runner. I'd still like to be able to qualify for it though. That just seems like the hallmark of any "real runner." I put that in quotes on purpose. I've often beat myself up, telling myself I'm not a real runner, that I'm just faking it. But I am. I'm a runner. But I'm also a lifter, and now a triathlete.


I realized a while ago that being "well rounded" meant I was never going to be super great at any one thing. I was never too concerned with qualifying, but two years ago at Wineglass, I ran under 3:15. I thought, that's really close! I could get it with just a little more work! When I tried at Run for the Red the following spring though, I only beat my PR by 3 seconds. And my running went downhill after that. Yes that's a pun; deal with it.

So while I was running today, I had a lot on my mind. And I had plenty of time to think about it.

When I got home, I saw that I had a text from a friend. She signed up for Wineglass too. She's messaged me before, asking for running advice and the like. This text said that she wasn't sure if she should still run it, that her training hasn't been where it should be. She said she doesn't want to make a fool of herself.

I get that. I really do. I often - very often - tell myself I'm just making a fool of myself. I was telling that to myself during the 15+ hours of the Ironman. Telling myself that I'm just embarrassing myself. That I should quit. That I'm stupid for even trying. I've very familiar with those doubts. This is what I told her.

"You won't make a fool of yourself. Just crossing the finish line is an amazing achievement. I was brutally unprepared for my first marathon. It took me and Alex almost 6 hours to finish. And I was underprepared for my first Ironman, and that was brutally hard. The first time often sucks. Be ok with that and be ok with sucking. Get that first one out of the way. Learn from it. HAVE FUN. And then you'll know exactly what you need to do for next time. This is a lifelong journey. The first few steps are hard. But you will get stronger. And you will discover things within yourself that will amaze you."

That first marathon was definitely slow

She appreciated what I said, but was still worried about finishing before the cut-off and having everyone "scoff" at her. I said,

"Last year at Baltimore, I paced my friend with stage 4 lung disease. It took us 6.5 hours to finish, but we did, and we got our medals. You will finish with time to spare, and in the extremely unlikely event you don't, I will talk to the race director and get you a medal. You WILL have it around your neck.

"Your friends, your family... "everyone"... is wrong. Every. Single. One. Is wrong. They will NEVER understand why you punish yourself. None of them knows what it's like to push themselves beyond their limits. You are NOT satisfied with "good enough." You don't want to go through life wandering what you "could have" achieved. You are empowering your mind, body, and spirit to do something that - frankly - scares most people. But you do not succumb to fear. You want to live life knowing that you never surrendered, that you never gave up without trying. That is incredible. Everyone else may doubt you. But never, NEVER, doubt yourself. You are an inspiration."

And I meant it. I meant all of it. But more importantly, writing that made me realize the significance of it for myself. It's easy to get so focused on training that you forget to enjoy it. Today though I just ran. I accepted that I won't qualify, and that pushing my pace at Wineglass will just cause me to bomb out and get upset at myself. It's not worth it. I'm going to run Wineglass because I love Wineglass. And I'm going to be surrounded by the most amazing people in my life that whole weekend.

Surrounded by amazing.... people

And Sheila, if you're reading this, don't worry. I know you're awesome, but I'm not going to be pestering you to give my friend a medal if she has a bad day. I'll just give her my medal. I already have two. A pink one and a blue one. And that pink one is so nice.

I'm really blessed. I finished an IRONMAN. I was able to afford it. Life sucks for a lot of people and they don't even have that freedom. I had the time and opportunity to train. A lot of people struggle with that. Real life is a b*tch. I got to do it with Meghan and Geoffrey, and was supported the whole time by many truly amazing friends and athletes. And I crossed the finish line. I suffered for a long time. But I didn't quit. And I accomplished something I once thought impossible.

Most people will never know what that's like. Only 2% of Americans have run a marathon. Only .05% have finished an Ironman (that's 1 in 2000). Some simply don't have the opportunity, because real life. Some people can't stay motivated (although I've written my opinion on motivation a lot). And many many are just too afraid. They'd never admit that. They have lots of excuses for not pushing themselves. But it all comes down to fear.

Before you get cranky, running and triathlons aren't the only big things you can accomplish in life. That's not my point. Many folks though don't really try to accomplish anything great. I have a few friends who are amazingly successful businessmen. The hours and dedication they put into their businesses are unbelievable. It's a huge sacrifice. Still others are amazing musicians. In case you don't know, surviving as a musician is very hard. Talk about sacrifice.

A sacrifice.... of bricks.

Sacrifice. That's what it is. Nobody likes sacrifice. Humans are selfish creatures. We want all the good things in life without working for them. We want food, love, and success for free. I don't. I want food because I worked my a$$ off and earned those calories. I want love because I have so much love to give. I give love without expectation. When it's returned to me, it's a gift. I want success as recognition for something I've sacrificed myself for.

When I see someone taking those first few steps on that path, I want them to succeed. I want that more than anything. My friend doesn't know it, but I will give f@#king anything for her to make it. I would run 20 miles with her if she asked. I would hunt down someone who made her feel ashamed for what she's struggling to accomplish and hurt them. I would sit in a jail cell with a smile on my face. I would give her my medal and never let her know that it was mine.

I'm pretty crazy...

Judge me if you will. This world is full of anger and hatred and violence. If one person - ONE PERSON - rises above that to make themselves a better person, that amazes me. That f*#king amazes me. I love it. I take myself for granted. I'm crazy. Everyone knows I'm crazy. I'm not worried about losing my craziness. I may doubt myself, but that's not going to make me stop. It's only going to drive me further. But for many people, doubts can and do make them quit.

Don't quit.

No matter the challenge.

No matter the naysayers.

No matter the pain.

Don't quit.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Life is Weird

We know the good things in life. Doing things that fill us with joy and a feeling of accomplishment, surrounding ourselves with people we love, eating tasty things that fill us with profound delight. It seems simple, right?

But life is weird.

We nag ourselves over things we can't change. We argue with the people we love over trivialities. We know the things we want to do, or "should do", but don't, because of reasons. We want happiness, and we think we know what that means, but most of us claw at it blindly and never quite reach it.

What gives?

I don't know the answer for this. I do a lot of awesome things. And I've done still more that I don't do anymore. I shot photos for years, but I rarely pick up a camera anymore. I don't know why. I just don't. I studied languages for a long time. Japanese, Italian, Spanish. It was super cool. And I don't anymore. I don't know why. I spent a week in Quebec, and I tried to communicate in French once. I was.... ashamed. Because I didn't speak it well enough. Like I should be perfect at something I've literally never done.

What is this weird thing??

It's self-judgment. Just constant, unabating, self-judgment. I just recently finished an Ironman. An Ironman. I crossed the finish line. If I write a list of things I've done, I can put "Ironman" on that list, fair and square. So why don't I feel, just... epic? I'm wearing the shirts - pretty much every day - but I don't feel any different. I don't feel any better. My main thought, really, is, "why didn't I do better?"

And I didn't rest. At all. Well, one day. And then I ran. With my broken legs. I ran the next day after that. And the next. And the next. I'm training now for Wineglass Marathon. I have maybe 5 weeks between the Ironman and Wineglass. And I committed myself to beating the sh*t out of my body during that time. I pushed my body to the very limit that my injured muscles and tendons could handle.

And despite all that, my main thought in the past few days is, "I'm too slow. Why am I so slow? I need to be faster. I'm going to bomb at Wineglass. I suck."

Why is this so weird?!

You're reading this, dear delightful reader. Does this seem incredibly stupid to you? Like, this guy did something awesome. Why isn't he basking in a sense of profound satisfaction? I honestly don't know. There's some evolutionary reason for it, no doubt. Something that makes us always push to be better, to never be satisfied with what we have. I get that part.

But it's so d@mn frustrating.

For once I want to do something and feel good about it for more than five minutes. For once I want to spend time with people I love and not immediately think, "f%ck, I'm so alone." For once I want to actually acknowledge what I've accomplished, rather than thinking that I didn't accomplish it well enough.

But you know what the weirdest thing is? I don't want to change all that.

I'm defined by all the crazy stupid sh*t I do. Training every day. Breaking myself. Never being satisfied with what I have. Fighting, fighting, fighting for more. Whatever evolutionary goo is hardwired into my cells that makes me crazy, I'm glad for it. Because as nice as it would be to sit back and say, "whelp, I'm good, I've done enough awesome. it's time to chill out," that sounds just.... awful.

Why is it so weird out here?

Because my life isn't about pursuing one thing, and doing that thing, and then being done. My life is ABOUT the pursuit. That drive. There's never one thing. Because if I do something, then that must mean that there's something else that's even harder to do. And suddenly that becomes a thing I have to do. And I'm glad I'm insane. I want that drive.

This applies to love. No, not that there are "better" people to love. Not at all. The people in my life are freakin' amazing. But that I can be better at it. More loving. Less obsessed with myself (except for in the recesses of my mind that I keep to myself). I used to be very selfish. And the time I spent with the beautiful people I encountered were superficial. I squandered a lot of love and joy. And I don't want to do that anymore.

The stuff I do - all of that crazy stuff - isn't just about me. It makes me a better person. But being a good person in a vacuum is meaningless. It makes me a better person.... towards the people I give a sh*t about. To be an inspiration. To be more patient. To be more understanding. More compassionate. More full of love.

This is cute.... but also weird

Because the more I hurt myself, the less others are capable of hurting me. The less I take accidental hurts personally. The more hours I spend by myself, on the pavement, the more patient I am when a friend wants to tell me about whatever it is that's important to them. The harder I train, and the more suffering I go through, the more I can appreciate the pains and difficulties that everyone goes through.

I don't want life to be easy. Easy is boring. I don't want to take anything for granted. I don't want to be given something I don't deserve. I don't want people to love me for a facade. Everything I have, I have it because I deserve it. The people I love, I love selflessly. I have nothing to prove, nothing to gain.

I want to make what I am more - infinitely more - and then take all of that and put it out into the world. And make the world better for it. I want to take all of that pain, suffering, anger, self-judgment... put it through a furnace of focused determination.... and take that sword, that diamond, that gleaming product, and have it shine upon, protect, embolden those around me.

So bring it, life. Do your worst. You think you're weird? I'M WEIRD. I like your weird sh*t.  You want to beat me up? Stomp all over my thoughts and emotions? Throw a bizarre surprise at when everything seems to be going well? I'M INTO IT. I'm here to fight. So bring your A-game, life, because I ain't going down easy.

What's your problem with weird anyway?