Hopes or Goals

The other day while listening to some talking head “analyze” the president’s inauguration speech, I heard a sentence that rang true, at least until I started thinking about it. The analysis seemed to be more of a word count than any actual discussion of the topical content. And apparently the president used the word “hope” X number of times as compared to Y number of times in 2009. I guess there was some significance to that.

Whatever. 100_6418

During the discussion, the gentleman said something along the lines of “Hope is not merely wishful thinking. It comes with all kinds of requirements.” I liked the way that sounded at the time and it made me start to think about what it really meant.

People hope for all kinds of things. Some hope they’ll get that dream job, or that their band will become famous, or that the man/woman of their dreams will reciprocate that feeling. But none of that shit will ever happen if the hoper just sits around waiting. Waiting is a surefire way to accomplish nothing. Trust me. I’ve tried waiting and hoping for all sorts of things. It doesn’t work…EVER.

If you want that dream job, you’ll have to take it off of your “Hope” list and add it to your “Goals” list. Then lay out some kind of plan to achieve that goal.

Hope is just wishful thinking until you turn that hope into an actual goal. Then you can begin to build a plan to achieve that goal. Then it is not wishful thinking anymore. It’s a target and all you have to do is work your ass off until you hit it.

As I watch the resolution rush of new members at my gym slowly start to wane, it makes me wonder how many of those people are “hoping” to get healthier/thinner/faster/stronger, and how many of them have instead decided that they ARE GOING to get healthier/thinner/faster/stronger and have laid out a plan of attack on how to achieve that goal.

I’m guessing that the people “hoping” for change are the ones that think that if they hit the treadmill a few times a week and do some crunches, then they will eventually be able to continue eating a horrible diet while living an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. And the ones that have a goal have already rid their homes of negative diet temptations and found an exercise activity that they actually enjoy. And more importantly, realized that long term success means long term adjustment. There is no end. There isn’t a point where you get to go back to doing everything that you were before without also getting the same unwanted results that motivated all of those healthier New Year’s resolution in the first place.

100_6409While chatting with some friends recently (about nothing at all related to running or exercising), it occurred to me that because I was maybe too expressive about the dark origins of my healthier changes, that some people may view those changes as simply part of a “recovery” plan; a plan with an eventual end point when the person from a year ago will reappear ready to get back to where he was before being interrupted.

It would be understandable. During the last several months, I probably explained in too much detail that avoiding self destructive behavior during a personal hardship was my initial motivation to make adjustments to the way I live.

But there is no light at the end of this tunnel. There isn’t even a tunnel at all. Choosing to live a healthier, more active life is not a path out of a dark place back to the well lighted place that I thought I was before. If I had to call it anything, it was a much appreciated bridge over a dark place. And it has already helped deliver me to a new and brighter place within myself; a place that I don’t want to let go of.

And the endorphins rush of my very first run was all I needed to know that it was going to be a welcomed new part of my life going forward.

In short: I’m not going back to who I was. I don’t want to. I don’t know how I may change as I continue to evolve as a person, but this is who I am. And that guy from a year ago is gone forever. I don’t miss him. I don’t even like what I see when I look back at that person.

These statements are not intended as some snarky rectification toward anyone in particular, as I have received nothing but support in my decisions. These statements are instead a clear and public declaration to myself that positive changes only get to reveal their full benefits if they are allowed to continue indefinitely and I intend to keep moving forward, not backwards. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Today, I was supposed to run the second scheduled step-up race towards my goal of running the Shamrock Half Marathon in March. It was to be my first 15K and my scheduled “long run” for this week on my training schedule. But instead, it snowed yesterday (like it almost never does) and the event organizers were forced to cancel the race.

Can you believe they cancelled this run?  pshh.

Can you believe they cancelled this run? pshh.

But I still needed to run those miles to fulfill my training requirements. I’ve got a plan damn it.

I put some chili in the slow cooker and decided to go see what the conditions were like. If they were too sketchy, I’d just bite the bullet and hit the treadmill. I’m so glad that I went.

I got to the trail just a little after the cancelled race was scheduled to start, and everything was nice and white: the trees, the road, the fields, the few other cars there. As I got out of the car, I saw another person there clearly dressed to run and asked her what the conditions looked like. She said they were good and I began to get ready. I love running outside, even when its 28 degrees.

As I was getting ready, another gentleman, the woman I spoke to earlier, and another runner approached and asked if I would be interested in running with them. They were also signed up to run the cancelled race and, like me, decided to run it anyway. I said “sure.” It was the first time that I’ve ever run with anyone.

100_6420It was a really beautiful day for a run. And except for leaving my gloves at home, I was so ready to get out there. They were all experienced and faster runners but because of the snow they kept a modest pace (for them) which happened to be just a bit faster than my normal pace. But I felt good and was still able to maintain conversation so I just forgot about the garmin and ran along.

The one thing that I like about snow (yes, there is only one thing) is that it makes everything seem so much quieter. The whole world is just silent.

After five miles, I turned around to head back. They were going to the end to get in a 16 mile run. But as I said, I had a 15K on my training schedule and I try to stick to that plan pretty strictly. I felt good, but I knew I was running a little faster than normal and to then add miles that I know I’m not quite ready for seemed like a poor decision. Stick to the plan Greg.

I ended up finishing my unofficial first 15K in 1:27:27 with an average pace of 9:23 min/mile. I felt really good afterwards. And with only a bagel for breakfast, I was really glad that the organizers did not cancel the already paid for post-race lunch. Warm soup and a cold beer seemed a perfect chaser to my snow run. And It was fun chatting with some of the other runners who had all still gone out somewhere today and put in some miles before heading over for the “free” food. I met some good people today, had some laughs, and a really great run. I might be getting the hang of this.

The organizers can cancel a race, but it’s ultimately up to me whether or not the run is cancelled. Today it wasn’t.

100_6415

Oh, and I was listening to my favorite album of all time while running today. The Conan the Barbarian soundtrack on a snowy day outside was perfect. Tell me I’m wrong.

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Holy Roller

Well, it’s been a pretty quiet week here in Lake Whoa-my-leg. After running my first 10K last weekend and feeling really good about my time and my body afterwards, I progressed into a shitty week of rushing myself and what I was afraid would be my first skipped run or maybe even the “I” word. And as I’ve probably said way too many times already, Injury is not an option.

I really don’t want to have to think about not being able to run. Times, paces, and races are all important to record in order to track progress and work towards new goals. Sometimes I’ll even pretend that they’re fun to talk about, but those things still have very little to do with WHY I run or why I love it. It just makes me feel good. It’s all about the calming release of being out there.

running therapyAs I’m sure you’ve noticed while driving around, everything written on bumper stickers is always true. And they do make that “Running is Cheaper than Therapy” sticker for a reason. Skipping a run would have upset me, but I would’ve done it if I thought forcing it would end up injuring me and leaving me sidelined for an extended amount of time.

I’m often balancing that line between listening to my body and battling my mind. Is this discomfort something that exercise will relieve or will it only aggravate the problem? Do I try to stretch out this tension or is rest the answer? I’m not a doctor, but stretching an overworking/pulled muscle or strained tendon seems like a pretty bad idea. But using a little soreness as an excuse to skip a workout just seems lazy.

I’ve tried lazy. I didn’t care for the results.

On Monday, my right knee was pretty sore for the first time in a long time. I’d increased the length of my bike workouts during the previous week, so I thought maybe I had overdone it at the gym somehow. But it felt fine after Saturday’s 10K so maybe I tweeked it playing disc golf on Sunday. I ran anyway. I’ve had sporadic minor knee issues for most of my life (I grew really tall, really young), but they usually go away when I exercise regularly. It was pretty quick three mile run and I felt fine afterwards, especially after stretching. One day I will realize how truly important it is to take the time to stretch properly. That day might have come two days later.

Wednesday was wrong from the start. My Wednesday routine is way too full, and I can tell that I’m going to have to change something. I’ve been meeting friends for tacos and beers every Wednesday for a few years now and even after cutting out the pre-taco disc golf rounds and pushing my arrival time back an hour, I’m still rushing non-stop on Wednesdays in order to fit in my run and the gym before heading out.

The weather was unseasonably warm on Wednesday (high 60 degree temps in January), and it was really nice to be able to run in just shorts and a t-shirt. I raced home from work, changed clothes, warmed up, did some quick stretching, and hit the road. My pacing was a little sloppy and I’m still gearing myself up for the inevitable day when I’m finally going to have to quit smoking (it’s coming), but overall it was a pretty decent run. My legs were a little sore but nothing crazy and as always I felt good afterwards.

After my run, I did a very quick piss-poor stretching job and raced to the gym. Time was flying and I already knew I was going to be late again.

I was late. I knocked out my workout, stretched again (but equally as half-assed as earlier), showered, dressed, picked up a friend, and headed out. Those tacos aren’t going to eat themselves you know. And by then I was pretty hungry.

As the night went along, my legs became more and more stiff. And by Thursday morning, my left leg was so sore that it was becoming a little worrisome. After lunch on Thursday, my leg had gone from sore to painful and I was getting really worried that I would have to skip my Friday run. Friday is the day of the week that I’ve planned all of my “long” runs as I train for my first half marathon in March. And I really didn’t want to skip it, or push it back a day. And I definitely didn’t want to adjust my whole training plan to compensate for missing one of my step-up distances. I’m a newbie. I have to be careful, but I also can’t afford to miss/skip any steps towards my goal.

So to the wonderful internet I went. I looked into all of the usual suspects of running stresses and injuries and any associated remedies. And after a little research, I decided to try a massage roller. I refuse to take pain medication (or any pills at all for that matter), and I had already tried every stretching trick I could find. My leg was fucked. And I was pissed.

Meet my new roommate Citrus

Meet my new roommate Citrus

That foam cylinder was the best glorified pool toy that I have ever seen. I thought they seemed kind of silly and definitely didn’t look like much. But that thing rolled so much of the kinks out of my upper legs, from simple muscle tightness to the dreaded iliotibial band. Sure it hurt a little bit at first, but after just a few minutes on each leg, I was walking around pain free again. I wanted to buy that damn thing a drink.

I used it again in the morning and again that afternnon before my run. And I was able to have a really great Friday afternoon run. I stepped my longest distance to date up to seven miles. I ran those seven miles just a few seconds per mile slower than I did six miles the week before and I did it much more efficiently using some chi running techniques I read about during the week. And I felt AMAZING after my run.

I always know I’m in the right place when I catch myself smiling as I run. I so wish I had started years ago. But hindsight’s a bitch sometimes. Oh well.

After my run, I did a little cool-down jogging/walking around the neighborhood, and then…I stretched. I stretched slowly. I stretched for as long as I needed to. And I stretched everything. The chi running method that I mentioned engages your core muscles more actively than I was used to, and I could tell. I stretched everything.

Then I rolled my legs again. I love that orange noodle. And I don’t believe that its benefits are limited to runners, so keep it in mind if whatever activity you enjoy (Martial Arts, Cycling, Swimming, Kick Ball, Channel Surfing etc) leaves your muscles tight or sore.

CitrusI’ve decided to name my new foam roommate Citrus. I think we may be friends for a long time. And before you judge me, ask yourself if naming an inanimate foam object is really any sillier than naming a gold fish. I don’t think so.

I guess while I’ve obviously decided that I should be plugging “gear” that I’m using, I might as well share this one too. Last month, some ladies saw me putting on my flipbelt before a race and asked about it. It’s a no-buckle continuous hollow band of high elasticity material that you wear around your waste. It has four access holes around the belt that allow you to put anything from iPods, phones, credit cards, money, keys…whatever inside of it. I wear it every time I run so that I have a static place to hold my iPod and a quiet place to hold my keys. It’s not perfect, but I have enjoyed it way more than I could imagine enjoying having my iPod bouncing around on my upper arm. And I imagine it could be used in place of most fanny pack uses or money belts for travelers. I even gave a couple of these away as Christmas gifts. Check ‘em out here.flip belt

Pros: It’s not an armband. It doesn’t move around while running. You don’t have to, but if you think something might fall out of it, you can flip all or parts of the belt around so that the opening is secure against your body. It’s not an arm band. It can be easily hidden under a coat or shirt tail. It has multiple access holes and can store things all the way around your waist. It will hold most any size phone or mp3 player. It’s not an arm band.

Cons: It’s not totally sweat proof, so while I have not any issues yet, any sensitive electronics may not like it when you sweat through the belt. The access holes are a little hard to find and/or access until you get used to them.

If you think you’d like one, make sure you pay close attention to the sizing chart. I’ve lost a little bit of weight since buying mine and have had to adjust where I wear it to keep it in place, but still no major problems.

That’s all I’ve got. Have a great weekend. And enjoy this clip from one of my favorite bands right now–Calexico. I’ve listened to them for a few years, and I really like their most recent record: Algiers. I could run, drive, or just chill while listening to just about any of their records. They sound like their name; a mix of California and Mexico desert music. Of course they’re from Arizona. I love everything that I’ve heard and the videos that I’ve seen are all really well made and wonderfully shot. Happy Saturday.

I Changed My Mind

I started drafting this blog at around mile 3.5 of a six mile run this morning. It was a simple out-and-back 10K, and I had just made the turn and started back towards the finish. I felt strong. I was maintaining my target pace pretty well. And I KNEW I was going to be able to finish, and finish it running.

At mile four, I started playing. My confidence was high (hell, it might have been “stoned”), but I was sober and at least a little cautious. I started trying to pick off the runners ahead of me. But only if I could do it without breaking a 9:15 pace (really 9:00-9:15 pace because, as I said, my confidence was getting a little silly). I had set out to keep a 9:30 pace throughout and I was doing a decent job of that, so I started moving up. It was fun.

At mile five, I could tell I had been pushing myself. Five miles was the longest I had ever run before starting the race, so I was in unfamiliar territory physically, but I felt good. I had passed a half dozen or so runners and was coming up on a few more.

At about 5.5ish miles, I was gaining on a couple running together that seemed to have been keeping a pretty solid 9:30ish pace and running very steady. But they were also starting to pick up their pace towards the last stretch. Instead of trying to pass them, I settled in right behind them and decided that following their push would be a strong enough finish for me as well.

Just before six miles, the gentleman ahead of me looked back at his friend/wife/girlfriend/running partner and asked “You got a sprint in you?” After a few seconds of silence from his companion, I answered “No.”

He smiled. 100_6401

She exhaled a “not yet.”

With so little distance left and the finish line in sight, I stepped up my pace and my knees and my stride and finished strong a few second before both of them. (crossing the finish line at an 8:36 pace for that very short duration)

Was I “racing” them? Nope. I was racing me. But it was fun to have a game to play during those last couple of miles. And we ALL “won” that game that no one else knew was being played. If it’s not fun, why do it?

I ran my longest distance ever today. EVER. I finished with an unofficial GPS time of 58:32 and an average overall pace of 9:24 minutes/mile. My pacing was a little sporadic starting off but I was able to find another runner that I could pace myself behind for a couple of miles and even after I lost her in the turn I was able to maintain it. I had a less than fantastic run on Wednesday that left me sore and with a slight pull in my groin, but a couple of days rest had relieved that and I felt fine today. It was a good run.

Five months ago, if you had asked me to run a 5K (or to the mailbox for that matter), I probably would’ve laughed the “no fucking way” out of my mouth. And there is a better than decent chance that I would have done it with a small amount of arrogant snark in my tone. “I only run if I’m being chased. And whatever it is had better be bigger than me.”

I was so enlightened. I was so wrong.

About a week ago, I met some friends to see a movie. It doesn’t happen very often, but I needed to get out of the house and a movie sounded like a great idea. I was running late (as always) and got to the theater at 6:30 for the 6:30 showing. I walking into the lobby and immediately got into the first line I saw for the concession stand.

It was a near three hour movie. I was going to need a drink. My friends and I stood there chatting for a minute at about fifth in the slow moving line before my buddy said “I think that register is open” nodding to an adjacent register with no one being served.

I seldom go to the movies, but I can never really tell how the concession line works. The employees always seem to be moving around slowly and haphazardly enough that I can’t tell who is doing what or whether they even know where the line is.

I was in no real hurry. I didn’t move.

After more than a few seconds, we saw someone approach the register and place their order. Then another, and another. Sure enough, that register was open. I didn’t care. I’m patient. We wasted more than a few minutes standing there waiting to pay five dollars for a bottle of water and missed at least some of the MANY previews. But then, the umpteen previews that we did have to endure were maybe the worst things that I had ever seen.

WOW! Another Scary Movie? Are you serious? How many times can you drop a bucket into a dry well?

Life is not a race. Time is without question the most valuable commodity any of us will ever have. And I don’t want to waste a minute of it. But if you rush around looking for the “shortest line” all of the time, you risk missing some pretty wonderful things along the way. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

I didn’t move.

fat and sugar

Did my concession line decision make any sense at all? Nope. I should’ve gone to the other register once I realized it was open. But you have to admit. I sold it pretty well.

All decisions are permanent. But they’re only permanent in the context of the singular time-line of life that we all get. So we can always make another one. Sometimes that means catching the first of eight movie previews that will further destroy your already waning faith in the movie industry. Sometimes that means finding something in yourself that might possibly change you forever, help you discover parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed, and maybe move you one step closer to becoming the best you that you can be.

Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you’re wrong. Sometimes it matters. Sometimes it doesn’t. But don’t forget that changing your mind can sometimes change your life. It changed mine.

I’m glad that I started running.

Oh! And I’m still totally loving this band. Happy Saturday.

No Resolutions

“It’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

Well, 2012 is finally over. And I’d like to offer it the most sincere “Good riddance and fuck off!”

I have to admit that I had a pretty solid streak of wins coming into the year, but there was no way to keep 2012 out of the “L” column. It’s not that there were no bright moments or that I’m totally discouraged with the prospects of the coming year. During this past year, I witnessed maybe the most beautiful single moment I’ve ever seen in my life, and in the context of a funeral of all places. And I enter the coming year with that bittersweet liberty that comes with having very little left to lose. I just lost way too much of what was right in my life to salvage the win with a little bit of running success so late in the year. And the permanence of those losses still literally makes my skin prickly and warm when I allow myself to think about it.

Overall, I feel alright heading into the new year. Yeah. “Alright” is probably the best I can muster for now. I’m physically healthier than I’ve ever been, but I don’t think anyone that knows me can deny that the fire inside has dimmed. I can feel it. I know people can see it, even through my incredible skills in the charade. And I honestly don’t know if it’s coming back. Some shit just can’t be helped. It wouldn’t be called change if everything came out the same. So we’ll all just have to adjust to a little bit softer light going forward.

I do have candles if anyone needs them.

One streak that I am able to maintain this year is my 37 consecutive years with the same New Year’s resolution: Not to make a New Year’s resolution.

Nailed it again this year. YES!

It’s not that I’m really against the tradition of starting the New Year off with a promise to oneself to make improvements or grow in some way. Whatever different people want to do to initiate or motivate positive change in their lives, I support it. I’m just a snarky asshole sometimes and I don’t make them.

“One less promise to break” I often figured. Some years I’m sure I decided that I was so content with myself that there was no reason to change a thing (the perfect lazy man’s excuse for inaction). But most of those years, it was simple indifference. I just didn’t make one. No philosophical reasoning for or against a resolution at all. It didn’t even occur to me.

“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream” C.S. Lewis.

Not making a resolution does not mean that I do not have any goals for this year. I want to keep running. I want to keep working out. I need to keep eating better. I hope I can stay positive. I intend to keep improving myself in any way I discover that I’m able. I intend to grow a full head of hair…

SCRREEEECHH!

That last one is not very likely to happen. But hey, you probably aren’t going to keep all of your resolutions either.

If I had to declare my number one goal right now, it would be to run the Shamrock Half Marathon in March. I know. I know. I’ve only been running a few months. But it has been a true life-saver and I want (or need) to keep doing it. And I thought that if I kept registering for running events during the holidays, it would help me curb any temptations to over-indulge in all unhealthy celebration trappings.

I signed up for it back in November when I was worried that it would fill up, but I didn’t really tell anyone in case I hated the organized races I had scheduled in December and decided to cut my losses and skip it. I didn’t hate those races. And I’m not skipping it.

Since signing up, I found a 12 week half marathon training schedule that I extended to 13 weeks and adjusted it to fit my work/life schedule a little better. I started that training schedule two weeks ago, and so far I feel really good about my progress. I’ve also registered for four other races between now and then. Three of them are step-up races (10K, 15K, & 20K) specifically designed and scheduled to lead right into the Shamrock. And I threw in the Polar Plunge 5K in February because a friend asked me if I’d be interested in running it with her and some friends, and it sounded fun.

What else was I going to do, make valentines? Click here if you’re rich.

I know that I am rushing myself a little into a half marathon. If you’re familiar with my blog you know that I’ll research the life out of just about anything that interests me. And running has been no different. Many of the resources I found indicated that I would probably want to have a solid year of running experience before trying to complete a half. But anyone that really knows me at all knows that I’m hardheaded and half stupid, so I’m doing it anyway.

“Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.” Flannery O’Connor.

I’ve been working out regularly for the last four months, running with a much better training focus for the last three (initially in an effort to prevent injury from overdoing it), and upping my cross training exercises too in an effort to improve my cardio levels a little faster. I’ve also been continually adjusting my diet to better fuel my body. It’s by far the hardest thing for me to figure out. But if I’m going to achieve this goal, I’m going to have to find a way to eat more carbohydrates and better balance my diet overall. I believe that if I continue to train smart and figure out my diet, I’ll be fine. And by fine, I mean that I will finish the race under my own power. I have not set any kind of time goal for it, and probably won’t until after I see how I do in a few of the training runs.

So for the next two and half months, I will not be “running” or “exercising” or “working out.” I’ll be training.

Wish me luck (because I’m totally known for my good luck. psshh)

That’s pretty much all I’ve got heading into the New Year. I’m cautiously optimistic for what 2013 holds for me, and a little apprehensive to find out at the same time. But it’s coming whether I’m ready or not, so I might as well get some rest and run head long right into it.

I’m curious about what resolutions you guys have made. Feel free to share them.

I doing this.  I don't totally know why, but it can't hurt to remind myself that good things happen.

I doing this. I don’t totally know why, but it can’t hurt to remind myself that good things happen.

As 2012 finally enters into my review mirror, I would like to throw some quick shout-outs to a few people. I started this blog as a place to voice my political opinions about whatever was bothering me, and I was immediately supported by my friends. It has changed focus drastically as my life radically changed, but the support has not waned at all. In fact, the support seems to have grown. I appreciate that more than I can say.

I would like to specifically thank my friends Spencer A., Kendra L. M. T., and Justin D. for consistently commenting and sharing my blog throughout the year. I really appreciate the support of something that has become more of a needed mental release for me than any kind of valued product for others.

I also want to thank those immediate friends who have directly supported me in the personal changes that I’ve made in these last few months. My friends have all been amazingly encouraging and respectful of my choices during a time of transition. And it has been particularly enjoyable to see a few of them making healthier choices of their own and joyously celebrating the benefits of those choices. I’m talking to you Mellisa.

And finally, I must give thanks to that special lady that taught me so much and introduced me to so many new things during our years together, that I’ve ended up using in my efforts to cope with her leaving. To deny her influence in these positive changes that I’ve made over the last few months would be dishonest with myself and disrespectful to her. So I send a special thank you to J.E.M. She’ll never fully know.

And with that, I fully release the black cloud of 2012 to the wind, and hope to never be forced to endure such a year of loss like it again. I’m really not sure I could handle another one.

Happy New Year to EVERYBODY. Do something great with it. You’re not guaranteed another one.

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” Karen Lamb.