I Will Not Stop

“To me, a running-healthy program is more important than a training plan geared toward improving performance. That’s because I’m more interested in increasing my years of running than in decreasing my race times.” Amby Burfoot.

I was talking with some people after the race last Saturday about how I was actually looking forward to the taper. The “taper” is the scheduled reduction in mileage at the end of most distance running training plans. The idea is that in the last two to three weeks of training, you benefit more from running less and letting your body fully recover than you do from continuing to pound out long runs and piling on more miles. It makes sense to me. I’ve experienced minor soreness after long runs and the consistency of training is definitely wearing on the body. Not to mention the benefits of being able to mentally prepare and get your game face on.

If you look up any number of articles/blogs/forums on tapering though, you’ll see how so many runners don’t enjoy it, don’t follow it, or both. I’ve read and heard about the mental struggles tapering runners experience as they worry that running fewer miles will allow their endurance and strength to wane leading up to their race day, or just anxiety caused by all of the free time making them feel like they’re overall fitness will suffer. Training can be a hard habit to break I guess.

From what I’ve read, many of those concerns can actually present themselves. Statistically, runners get sick more often during the taper, experience muscle aches and pains, have trouble sleeping, and often generally just don’t feel good. Now I’m not a very experienced runner or a psychologist, so I can’t speak to how much of those effects are actually physical or mental manifestations. But I do believe the mind can play some funny tricks on the body, which is also why there are no shortage or stories about runners refusing to taper their training and ending up injured or underperforming on the big day.

I’m look forward to tapering for two reasons.

1) It does make sense to me. I’ve done the majority of my training runs in the evenings after work and usually after being awake for nearly 12 hours. It’s hard for me to properly fuel for a long run in the evening. I like running in the a.m. when I’m rested and energetic. And after months of training, I like the idea of a taking it down a notch for a couple of weeks so my body can be fully recovered, strong, and 100% healthy for race day. It makes sense to me.

2) I have so many things that I have put off and neglected over the last several weeks, that I’m looking forward to trying to catch up during those last couple of weeks before my race. Shit, my apartment is almost embarrassingly messy right now. My “to do” list is currently being printed as a six volume serial for ease of transport. I’ve got lots of books that I want to read or finish reading. I’d like to continue working on some recording projects with my songwriter friends. And I’ve got some artwork to get done (read as: artwork to start) for a disc golf tournament I’m supposed to be helping to organize. I’ve got plenty to do.

But first, I’ve got a Half Marathon to train for and run.

I was excited to run the final Tidewater Striders Distance Series race on Saturday because I knew it was going to be the last and most representative test I needed in order to judge my readiness for the Shamrock Half Marathon. And it was every bit of the test that I anticipated. I just didn’t score as highly as I wanted to. I gave myself a B-minus.

I felt pretty good before the race. I was fairly well rested for a guy that never sleeps enough, and my body felt good. It was yet another rainy day run, but I’ve almost gotten to point where I don’t even care about rain anymore. And I finished the race in a good time.

I started the race a few seconds slower than my pace just like I wanted to, and settled into something close to it by the end of the second mile. I was running right behind a small group of more experienced runners who were all pacing better than I sometimes do. And I was running at a comfortable enough pace that I was able to speak with relative ease when I felt the urge. But I don’t generally talk very much when I’m running.

In the previous weeks’ long runs, I was starting to really take note of how much energy I was spending and how weak I was after those runs. I had trained up to nine mile distances without carrying any water or food with me, but after noting just how gritty my skin was with salt following eight and nine mile runs I started taking some water with me on all runs longer than that. Actually I carry coconut water, because I want the electrolytes, but I don’t really care for Gatorade’s taste. And after running eleven miles a couple of weeks ago and being so tapped afterwards that simply turning the key in my apartment door was difficult, I thought it was definitely time to start figuring out how I was going to take in some kind of carbohydrates and food calories during my long runs. It is something that I had researched well in advance, but let the last couple of weeks’ crazy ass schedule push it from my mind. Staying busy is not always a good thing.

I grabbed some little gummy candies at the running store when I picked up my bib on Friday and put them in a resealable bag for the race. They tasted alright and I could tell that they did help, but because I wasn’t sure at all how I would stomach them, I didn’t eat enough of them and I’m pretty sure I hesitated too long before starting to take in calories during my run as well. There’s a reason why they tell you not to try anything for the first time on race day. But these races are very much designed as training runs and I was running out of time.

That hesitation to eat combined with less diligence in drinking the fluids I had strapped to my left hand led to me being almost completely wiped out a mile and a half before the end of the race. And even though I finished with a respectable time and pace (1:56:41 with a 9:23 pace) for a newbie, I hated feeling that spent. And I wasn’t totally sure that I could’ve eeked out the 0.7 mile extra I would’ve needed to complete a half marathon.

I felt good. But I didn’t feel ready. I wanted to feel ready.

Later that night and the following day, I experienced the usual tightness and soreness that I always do after pushing myself through each week’s long run. My hips and calves were a bit tight, and my ankles were both a little sore…partially from having to run with rain soaked, heavy feet and partially from what I’m sure was a pretty shitty degrading running form as my body ran out of nutrients towards the finish.

On Monday afternoon, I went for a simple 4 mile “speed of comfort” run. It was so well intentioned. Work is a little crazy right now, I’m not getting nearly as much done as I’d like, and I wanted a relaxing therapy run. And I thought running a low intensity fun-run would be a perfect chance to test my slightly iffy ankle. It was a good run. And as always, I felt better afterwards.

Then BOOM! My worst nightmare. As the night went on my right ankle got tighter and more painful until eventually I was gimping around my apartment like a person with an (gasp!) injury. I iced my ankle, smoked a cigarette, and went to bed scared and annoyed. The following day, it wasn’t any better and after limping around on it at work all day with the pain and swelling getting worse, I was starting to convince myself that I might have a small stress fracture in my ankle.

I’ve mentioned probably too many times that avoiding an injury is my number one goal, and the idea that I had somehow fucked that up had me way more than a little anxious, scared, and angry. Not only because being hurt sucks, or because I sometimes need the therapy of running in my life, but because I hated the idea that after living a life of spectacularly unmotivated underachievement I was going to get this close to a goal that I’ve worked hard to achieve in an activity that I truly love, and then let it slip away because I pushed too hard and/or didn’t properly prepare. I was pissed…at myself.

I revised my earlier grade for Saturday’s race. The time and the pace are fine, but my weakness and the resulting poor form towards the finish had likely resulted in excessive foot pounding that led to my sore ankle. And if you get so banged up that days later you can’t run a leisurely four mile run without getting injured, then there is a lot room for improvement. C-minus. Or maybe even a D-plus?

hospital signI cannot recall a single instance in my life when worrying about something did anything at all to improve the situation, so after going to the gym and eating dinner I finally relented and took my ankle in for an x-ray. Knowing has to be better than wondering, right?

The Runner’s World Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training is one of the books I’ve been reading recently and sitting in the hospital reading about injury prevention seemed kind of funny to me. Maybe I should’ve been reading this book a little more regularly since just three pages from where I last put it down was the section on stress fractures. I found that somewhat amusing as I sat listening to people hacking and coughing over whatever crime drama was blaring out of the TV behind me.

Researching stress fractures earlier in the day had revealed horrible things like the potential of a 6-8 week recovery period depending on severity. And the idea of missing my race and not being able to run for such a long time were the largest sources of my anger and anxiety. But sitting there in the waiting room with so many people in much worse shape than I was, I started to calm down, recalculate, and devise a contingency plan.

At that point, the foot was out of my control. But how I reacted to the foot was totally up to me. I decided that if I couldn’t run, I’d see if the Shamrock organizers would just roll my registration fee into next year’s race. I’d wait for the doctor’s diagnosis, and choose the next available half marathon to run depending on how long I’d be out of commission. And I decided that until I could run again, maybe I’d volunteer at other races while I waited. Having no way of controlling the diagnosis, I fell into the “hope for the best, plan for the worst” mentality, and I immediately started to feel better.

The doctor poked and prodded my foot and ankle. Took a look at the x-ray and informed me that…drum roll please…No break. She said it was just a slight sprain with a deep bruise chaser, but there were no broken bones. I was told to ice it, elevate it, rest it, and don’t run until it’s better. I swear it felt better almost immediately. The mind has weird power over the body, and simply lifting the uncertainty was a pretty effective pain reliever.

I wrapped it all day at work today, removed the wrap before going to gym, and it feels a lot better. I might be able to go for a light run on Friday…but I might not. I will not run again until it’s ready. I will channel that effort into the gym and cross training. But I will not stop running. If I have to, I’ll pause for injury. But I will not stop. I am more than excited to report that I should still be able to run the Shamrock, but it looks like I’ll be starting my taper a little bit early. I’m okay with that.

I’ve got plenty to do.

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I’m a Winner!

Well, it’s official. This is now an award winning blog. A fellow runner and blogger has awarded me the Liebster Award. What? You’ve never heard of it. Neither had I. And even doing a quick Google search didn’t produce too much of a clear history or explanation on the “award.” So I’m going to trust the information provided by the kind writer that honored me with it.

The Leibster was awarded to me by Kathryn who writes the blog Run Eat Play RVA. It is a fun blog about Kathryn’s experiences…you guessed it…running, and eating, and playing in her relatively new home of Richmond VA. She, like me, is currently training for the Shamrock Half Marathon and I’ve enjoyed reading about her training, coming back from a past injury, rediscovering her running strength, and continually growing love of the run and life in general. It’s a good read. Check it out.

According to Kathryn, the Leibster Award is given to newer or at least smaller bloggers that have fewer than 200 followers. I just realized that I have 18 and was pleasantly surprised to see that I don’t actually know all of them. The award is then supposed to be passed along to other bloggers in that same boat in order to help spread each others’ readers around a little bit and maybe get some new eyes on each others’ blogs. It’s kind of like a chain-award I guess. Or as Kathryn put it in her Leibster post, “Basically it’s a nice way to say, ‘Hey I like your blog! Let me help you promote it!’” And I really appreciate that. Thank you Kathryn.

The receiver of the award is allegedly supposed to follow these few rules.

-Each blogger nominated must post 11 random things about themselves.

-Then answer the 11 questions the tagger has asked.

-The blogger must then create 11 questions of their own to ask the bloggers they decide to nominate.

-Bloggers must be notified of their award. No tag backs.

Okay, this admittedly feels a little bit too much like one of those old myspace surveys than I’d normally be comfort with. But I guess reaching out of my comfort zone is part of what my blog has become about. And I do genuinely appreciate Kathryn’s gesture, so I’m at least going to follow the first two rules the best I can. We’ll see about the other two a little bit later.

So first, here’s 11 random things about me:

1. The Conan the Barbarian movie soundtrack/score might be my favorite record of all time. I’m a huge music nerd so it’s really impossible to pick a single record as my favorite, but Conan is definitely up there.

I used to work in an independent record store that sold used CDs and tapes. That’s right, cassette tapes. I’m that old. One day somebody brought in a huge box of old cassettes they didn’t want any more and the Conan soundtrack was in there. I took it as something silly to listen to in the car the way home. That damn thing was in my tape deck for at least four days.

I, like nearly everyone else on the planet, have seen the movie. But it was when I was still pretty young and I don’t remember much of it. Now I refuse to ever watch it again, because I like to create my own imagery to go along with the score each time I listen to it. And I’ve recently discovered that it’s also a pretty nice record to listen to while I run.

2. You remember that saying “Act your age, not your shoe size?” My shoe size and my age were the same number from somewhere around nine years old to 15.

Is that an interesting fact about me? Maybe not.

Is it a random fact about me? Damn right.

100_64323. I make a pretty mean sandwich. I like to cook and feel pretty comfortable in the kitchen, but on rare occasions, I just want a sandwich. My favorite sandwich is probably a BEATL (pronounced “beetle”). It’s my version of a BLT with a fried Egg and sliced Avocado on it. It can get a little messy, but it is soooooo good.

I actually made a sandwich as part of my dinner last night. It was sliced avocado, sautéed onions, fried egg, Swiss cheese, tomato, lettuce, and mayo on 100% whole grain toast. It was DELICIOUS and tasted great with leftover beet soup I’ve been enjoying.

4. I don’t watch television. I have one, and I’m pretty sure that it still works. But I have no television service (cable, satellite, antenna, etc.) in my home. Every couple of weeks, I’ll go to HULU and watch any Modern Family episodes that I haven’t seen, but that’s about it. I haven’t had television in years and I don’t miss it.

If it wasn’t for the line of muted televisions at the gym, I wouldn’t even know how awful and ashamed I should feel about the type of entertainment my country supports. It hurts my head to see so much “reality” TV out there. And Jerry Springer is still on TV! Ugh. Who is watching this stupid shit? And why?

5. I don’t really watch movies either. On average, I go to the movies less than twice a year, and probably watch less than six movies total in any format (DVD, theater, Online) throughout the year. No grandiose reasons. I just don’t see a lot of advertisements for them. And when I do, they don’t appeal to me.

As you might’ve guessed by now, I don’t always pick up on it when people make current pop culture references. But I still seem to be doing fine.

6. I am a proud supporting member of my local NPR radio station. I made my donation last night in fact. I am by no stretch of the definition financially wealthy, but I do listen to NPR every day. And since one of the many things that I don’t miss about television is the commercials, I try to pay for that service so they don’t have to beg for money from Pepsi or McDonalds.

Nothing’s free.

7. I have a beard because A) I don’t like to shave B) I have sensitive skin that breaks out (and bleeds) if I try to shave on consecutive days, or even within 2-3 days C) Why not have a beard? In fact, I generally don’t trust clean shaven men. Men without facial hair remind me of politicians and used car salesmen. And they’re not to be trusted. (only half kidding)

8. My blog is only called “thatguywiththebeard” because “ThatGuy@wordpress(dot)com” was already taken.

In 2009, I participated in a month-long online celebration of the moustache called “Moustache May.” Basically, all participants agreed to wear a kick ass moustache for the month of May and post a picture of their top lip greatness on the website every day. I know it sounds silly, but it was actually more of a club of creative people often using that photo as a daily art project. Having a moustache was just the buy-in to join the club, and those photos were often only loosely connected to the facial hair that brought them together. The community that developed from sharing and commenting on those pictures is really hard to explain to anyone that didn’t experience it. Your loss.

When I registered, for a reason still completely oblivious to me, I chose “ThatGuy” as my moniker.

In November of that same year, the organizers of Moustache May launched their fourth and final Whiskerino. Whiskerino could be called the beard version of Moustache May, but that wouldn’t be totally fair to its greatness.

Whiskerino required all participants to shave on November 1, and then let their beards grow untouched and free until February 28. The daily posting of pictures and commenting on those pictures was very similar to the shorter moustache party held in May. But the longer time frame and the challenges that not shaving became to so many people (A lot of beards did not make it through. SHAME!) helped lead to such a more robust community of bearded brothers than you can imagine possible from an online facial hair challenge. I met some amazing people through that website and eventually in person, that I’m happy and proud to still call my friends today.

I used the same moniker, and after four months of trying to comment on every single picture posted by the hundreds of initial participants, the name stuck. And after a total of three Moustache Mays and one Whiskerino, I am ThatGuy. I’m ThatGuy when I have a beard. I’m ThatGuy when I don’t.

And between you and me, on Shamrock weekend when I run my first half marathon, I will likely look a lot more like Thatguywithsideburns. I do what I want.

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9. I’ve been taking the exact same water bottle to the gym with me five days a week since September. Why? Because it can take over 400 years for a plastic water bottle to biodegrade, my kitchen tap emits water at my will, and recycling is expensive. I recycle it every day for free when I refill it and put it back into the bottom of my refrigerator to chill until tomorrow’s trip back to the gym. Recycling is easier than ever. Woohoo!

10. Biographies are probably my favorite type of book to read. I’ve read bios about Johnny Cash, Angela Davis, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, Graham Parsons, Larry McMurtry, Doc Holiday, Phil Ochs, Waylon, Willie and others. People’s real lives just seem more interesting to me sometimes. But then again, I’ve also enjoyed reading the fantastical ramblings of Richard Brautigan too.

This little guy can't get enough of the gym.

This little guy can’t get enough of the gym.

11. There is a small but consistent concern in the back of my head that I might succumb to some temporary temptation and fuck up the progress that I’ve made over the last few months. I haven’t skipped a planned workout or a run without immediately making it up the next day. But exercising is absolutely the easiest habit in the world to break. It’s like the opposite of heroin. All you have to do is skip a couple of workouts and it will get easier and easier to do it again until you find yourself at happy hour, drinking with your friends in the afternoon talking about how you “used to go to the gym” and saying things like “I should really start running again. Excuse me ma’am, can we get another round? And I think I’ll have a double order of hot wings…”

“…with ranch AND blue cheese please.”

I don’t walk around racked with worry, but I stay aware of those risks and how important it is that I stay focused on my goals.

Okay. That was way harder than it should’ve been. Now to answer the questions that Kathryn asked me.

1. Admit it: What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Cigarettes. I know. I know. But yes, I still smoke. On most days it’s only one or two late at night with a cup of tea while I read or work on something I’m writing. I don’t even take them to work with me. But as a lot of smokers can attest, when I’m out with friends or having a drink, it can increase. I smoke just under two packs a week and really if I could cut out the binges when I’m out with friends and stick to the two a night “pleasure” smokes, I’d probably have no “guilt” at all. But they ARE awful for you and not at all a performance enhancing substance for runners, so I suspect that they will be exiting the program sooner or later. I’ll keep you posted.

2. Tell me all about the best meal that you ever had.

Hmmmm. My best meals are probably not as focused on the food as much as the company, but every now and then both of those things come together.

Two of the best meals I’ve ever had were on my friend Anne’s front porch. Anne is a local chef and a friend. A few years ago, my then girlfriend and I were invited to Anne’s house to have dinner with a few other friends. I unfortunately don’t remember everything on the menu (and I may be mixing some of both nights into one memory). But I remember being introduced to the incredibly simple but oh so tasty hors d’oeuvre of cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, and a delicious baked sea bass, with roasted asparagus or brussels sprouts. I can’t remember which, maybe both. But between the amazing food, some really good wine, and the six or so really great people talking, laughing, and listening around that table on her front porch, it really felt like we were in a wine commercial. It was a really amazing time, and a great meal with good people.

I have eaten at two different restaurants where Anne has worked since, and will gladly patron anywhere she works in the future. If you should find yourself in Virginia Beach, check out Pacifica. I’m not normally a tapas fan, but I have loved every meal I’ve had there and the bar tender’s no slouch either. As crazy as it sounds, the daily flavored butter is worth stopping in. Trust me.

3. If you won a $100 million jackpot, what would you do with it?

Pay my debts. Buy a modest home somewhere pretty; maybe in Colorado or New England. Buy a new car (mine is 12 years old). Travel to all the places I’ve never been and try to run races in every state in the union. Read more. Play more music. Maybe try to write a book.

4. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Laying on my back on the floor of my grandparents den with the lights off and my head under their ridiculously over-lighted Christmas tree and staring up through all of those multi-colored, mirrored, and twinkling lights while listening to their old Christmas records. Those records are still the only Christmas songs that I can really get into.

5. What is your every day super power? (mine, for instance, is being a super planny plannerston.)

I really don’t know. I’m a decent multi-tasker, but not because I want to be. It’s usually because I haven’t planned well enough and find myself having to do too many things at once just to get caught up again. Procrastination is a very hard habit to break.

6. What is the most rebellious/crazy/reckless thing you have ever done?

I’ve honestly never been terribly rebellious, crazy, or reckless. Most of the more reckless things I’ve done have been cliché mistakes resulting from excessive drinking and youthful stupidity (even if I wasn’t as young as I was acting).

But this MIGHT have happened. And we were all 100% sober, believe it or not.

About 10 years ago, my friend, his girlfriend, and I bought a car for 50 dollars from a guy about to leave the area. No title, no license plate. We gave him 50 dollars. He gave us the keys. We spray painted the whole car (including most of the windows) with paint found in the trunk. Then we drove it out into the country to tear around in a field and see if we could maybe get it up on two wheels (I said we were sober, not smart). At some point while switching drivers, I noted that the car was smoking a little bit and decided that we should probably leave the field before it died there and left us no way to get it out.

About a half hour or so after getting it back to my house, my cousin drove up and told me that the smoke I’d seen was not from the car but instead from the field. We had MAYBE accidentally set the field on fire with the catalytic converter and the fire department MIGHT HAVE had to come out to extinguish the then sizable open fire…not an easy task in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere.

Did I mention that the car had a Charlie Daniels Band tape stuck in the tape player when we bought it? What a perfect soundtrack for that total ridiculousness.

7. If you had it to do over, what is one thing that you would have done differently?

Oh, geez. I’ve unfortunately spent too much of my life stacking a pile of regrets so large that it’s probably visible from space. But in an effort to keep this a bit lighter in nature, I’ll stick with something simple. I wish I had taken piano lessons as a child.

I’m not totally sure, but I think I remember my mom asking me if I wanted to when I was around seven or eight years old and I said no. Apparently I’ve always defaulted to the negative. I love a lot of piano music, but really I just believe that had I built a music foundation on the piano and developed the ability to read music, that knowledge would have transferred well into other instruments and possibly made me a better guitar player. Not a huge issue now, but I would have done that differently if I could.

8. Your favorite adult beverage:

Dirty Kettle One Martini. Yes please. I VERY rarely drink shots, but I love these simple drinks so much that it is sometimes hard not to just take the first one right to the face and immediately order another. And so far I think I’ve had one the night before every race that I’ve run. I’m running a 20K tomorrow (in the effing rain of course), so I had one just about an hour ago. It was a little dirtier than I like, but still very tasty.

9. A movie that you can watch over and over again and never get sick of:

Wow. Tough one. Big Lebowski and True Romance immediately come to my mind. But I’m going to go with Almost Famous. I love the soundtrack and the story and the actors. It’s just a really great movie that I know I could just sit and chill through no matter when it came on.

I may have to blow the dust off of my TV this weekend and watch it again.

10. What is your favorite thing about yourself?

Probably my sense of humor. I’m usually pretty quiet when I meet new people or if I’m in any kind of crowd. And I happily and comfortably spend a lot of time alone. But being able to make people laugh has been a pretty decent ice breaker when I can finally open up a bit (beer helps). And I’m sure that the ability to be silly and not take myself so seriously all of the time has helped me through some rough days in the past.

11. Your house is on fire and you have time to rescue one thing. Assuming your family members and pets are already safe, what do you save?

100_6437100% honest: Probably nothing. It’s only stuff. I’d just leave.

But let’s see…my garmin? No. My running shoes? Yeah right. I guess I’d try to grab my Fender Old Growth Redwood Telecaster. There were only a limited number of them made as part of Fender Guitar’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Telecaster. It is made from reclaimed centuries-old redwood and sounds as amazing as it looks. I honestly don’t feel like I play well enough to deserve this guitar, but my dad gave it to me for my birthday a couple of years ago and I just couldn’t refuse it once I heard it. It’s awesome.

Well, that’s that. I spouted off random facts about myself. And I’ve answered 11 questions about myself. That’s a lot of “me” time. I might actually be a bit tired of myself right now. So I guess I should pick someone else to talk about.

I am going to pass the Leibster Award onto another Hampton Roads blogger. Justin is a husband, father, musician, bass instructor, and martial artist who writes a blog at lowquality.net. His blog ranges from shorter humorous anecdotes to fuller posts about self discoveries he experiences as he adjusts to fatherhood and continues his training in Filipino martial arts.

Justin and I met about four years ago (while I was taking a picture for moustache may), live in the same town, and have still probably only been in the same room together about four times. But we are kindred spirits in a lot of ways (we both possess a pretty solid aptitude for snark) and it’s been quite interesting and entertaining to read about his personal triumphs and self discoveries as I am experiencing similar things on an only slightly different path. I suspect that Justin probably writes his blog more for himself than for others, but I believe that his insights are often much more universal and relatable than he may realize. Check it out.

Because I don’t think Justin will be excited at all to come up with eleven random things about himself, and even less so to have to answer eleven questions that I pose, I’m only going to ask for five. He can rattle off as many as eleven if he wants. But I’m only asking for five random facts about Norfolk’s favorite ginger. And I’ll ask as many questions as I can come up with before I give up. And he can answer as many as he wants. I’ll live.

Congratulations Justin. You just won a Leibster Award. Now tell the world (or the tens of people that might see it) at least five random things about yourself. Keep it clean.

And when you’re done, I’d like to know the following:

1. What was the first band that you saw live? Where?

2. Why Kali?

3. If you could have a beer with anyone living or dead, who would it be?

4. Besides the obvious wedding day and child birth answers, what would you say is the proudest moment of your life so far?

5. Who was/is your favorite teacher or instructor in any capacity (school, music, etc.)?

6. I doubt you have a true bucket list, but what is, or would be, the farthest fetched thing on it?

And lucky number seven. If you died today what would you want on you tomb stone?

I’ll stop there. My apologies to Kathryn for soft balling my passing along the award. But I hope that keeping it shorter will make it easier for a busy guy to actually find the will to keep it going. Good luck and thanks.

And because I already know that he’s one of Justin’s favorite bass players (if not his definite favorite), here a clip of James Jamerson killing the bass. Happy Friday.

You Can Do Anything

“Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.” ― Ann Voskamp

Everyone should have a standing weekly taco date. On the way home from mine Wednesday night, a friend and I stopped by our favorite neighborhood pub where we happily ran into some familiar faces enjoying some quality local music talent.

During a break, an old friend of my buddy, and a new friend of mine, kindly told me that she had recently started reading my blog and how much she really liked it. That was pretty nice of her, right? She also mentioned that she had always wanted to run, but after a few unpleasant past experiences had accepted that some people love to run, and some people just don’t. And even though she wished that it wasn’t true, she was in the “some people just don’t” category.

I believe that is entirely possible. I really do. Just because I love something does not mean that it is intrinsically and undeniably lovable. All that it really means is that I love it. Me. I do. Luckily for us all, opinions vary.

She explained that she had tried running on a few different occasions and that she and a friend had even decided to run the Rock and Roll Half Marathon a few years ago. But after doing some training runs (I believe she mentioned getting up to at least a six mile run), it just wasn’t enjoyable. “I’ll stick to swimming,” she said.

Again, I can totally see that being the case. I love running. But I love Brussels sprouts and can’t stand marshmallows, so my opinions are probably pretty suspect.

(Unfortunately, one of the things that kept running from being enjoyable was the breast discomfort of running. That is something that I cannot speak to as I am currently boobless. Any well intentioned sports bra or other remedy suggestions anyone might have would be gladly accepted and passed along. Thanks)

Now, I’m not always the best conversationalist, or I would probably know simple things like how long had she actively been training before that six mile run, or if she ever ended up running that half marathon at all. But I’m a little lacking in my people skills sometimes and I rarely ask what, to most people, would be obvious questions. So for the sake of my eventual point, I’m going to allude to small errors that I suspect others have made whether my friend actually made them or not.

What is my point? You CAN do anything you want to do. But you may have to start small, maybe even very small.

Many people will say that they “can’t” run, or can’t do any number of other things for that matter. And I believe that is because they either set unattainably high early goals and/or they start so aggressively that they exceed their physical limitations and get discouraged by pain, discomfort, or even injury. But in most cases, a slower and smaller initiation into a new challenge can make all the difference between enjoying success in that venture and suffering discouraging results that eventually lead to cessation. And why wouldn’t you quit doing something that makes you feel shitty? I would. I have.

“Forget perfect on the first try. In the face of frustration, your best tool is a few deep breaths, and remembering that you can do anything once you’ve practiced two hundred times.” ― Miriam Peskowitz

I’ve tried to learn new things on the guitar several hundred times in my life, but I’m impatient. When I’m trying to learn or write a song, I’ll mess with it for a little while, maybe get a rough version of it down, and then immediately move on without ever fully realizing the song. Or I’ll never even get close to getting it right…and move on. At times, I’ve displayed a pretty incredible will to quit when faced with a goal that isn’t easily achievable.

Instead of trying to learn whole songs, I’ve recently started making myself practice guitar scales for a whopping five minutes a day. Five minutes! That’s it. I’ve got that time, whether I always want to admit it or not. Shit, I make a cup of tea at some point almost every night. Just waiting for the water to boil is enough time to fit this fledgling habit into my schedule. So I do.

old pic, but I'm too tired to pose for another one right now.

old pic, but I’m too tired to pose for another one right now.

It’s an easy goal to achieve, and it benefits me in at least two ways.

1) I’m practicing scales. I’ve played guitar for almost 18 years, and on my really good days, I’m decent. I’m not going to change the world with the instrument, but I’ve enjoyed countless hours with it, so I’ve already bettered my world. But after so many years of playing, I still don’t know a single scale. And ignorance is always limiting, whether it’s pertaining to something important like my required job skills or more recreational things in my life like playing guitar. Now I can honestly say I’m working on that…for five minutes a day anyway.

2) I’m playing guitar more. Just starting is often the hardest part of any endeavor. I love playing, but between years of poorly prioritizing my life and a current schedule that I keep pretty well full, I’ve let it slip a little bit from my routine. Making myself practice scales for those few minutes means that I have to pick it up. And because I enjoy playing it, I very rarely find myself looking at the clock and waiting for those five minutes to run out so I can throw it from my hands and get back to all of that really important facebooking I have to do. Starting to practice leads to playing, maybe for 10 minutes, maybe for 30. But it’s all more than I might have played if I hadn’t committed myself to five minutes of practicing that C major scale that I didn’t even know two weeks ago.

Five minutes a day and I get to claim victory, because I set a goal that is so easily achievable that it’s hard to justify to myself why I wouldn’t do it. Baby steps.

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible” –Francis of Assisi

When I decided on a whim, four months ago, that I needed to go for a run, I took a few minutes on google maps and laid out a quick 0.7 mile route in my neighborhood. Then I laced up some old neglected running shoes, put on some headphones, stepped out my front door, and started running away from my apartment. I probably made it about 0.1 miles before I was completely winded, and maybe 0.10001 miles before I was walking. But when I caught my breath, I started running again…until I had to walk again. And I did that stopping and starting, walking and running, over and over again for two laps, 1.4 miles, or as I was saying at the time “about a mile and half.” It felt more respectable to say it that way. I think it took me over 20 minutes.

And after that very first “run,” I felt AMAZING!!

I cannot emphasize that enough. I never try to sell anyone on the joys of running. If I had not felt that immediate buzz after my very first outing, there is absolutely no guaranty that I would have ever done it again. And so when someone tells me that they don’t like running, I just assume that they did not get that feeling. And without that rush, I wouldn’t like it either. It makes total sense to me.

It was probably a month and a half before I could run a mile continuously and I know it was almost 11 weeks before I could run two. Everything takes time. I ran my very first 5K on December 8 and finished it in less time than that first run in September. I’ve run three more races since. And after work this afternoon, I ran 11 miles in an hour and 45 minutes. In a month, I’m going to run my first half marathon.

Anything is possible. But it may take a little bit of time.

I also didn’t get to my heaviest lifetime weight last summer by swallowing one giant deep fried cheeseburger wrapped in a stuffed crust pizza. I did it by taking several trillion bites of extra tacos, sausage biscuits, and hot wings on top of what healthier foods I was also eating to support the denial of my poor food habits. And the only regular exercise I was getting was a steady regiment of diminishing 12 and 16 ounce right arm curls as I washed so much of my diet down with too many beers.

I didn’t lose that weight with one lap around the block either. I cleaned up my diet. I used better portion control to eliminate excess empty calories. Then I started running and exercising regularly. The weight fell off. I don’t miss it.

I’m NEVER giving up my tacos though. Tacos are delicious…just can’t eat six of those wonderful treats anymore. I can live with that.

Very few things, good or bad, positive or negative, happen overnight. And you can baby-step your way into just about anything. You might as well try and make those baby steps towards a positive direction. If you don’t make it all the way, you tried. Even in coming up short, you’re that much closer to something greater than where you started. And the learning experienced even in what may be considered “failed” attempts can’t be taken away. All learning improves the chances of success the next time you try. And you will try again.

“Mere philosophy will not satisfy us. We cannot reach the goal by mere words alone. Without practice, nothing can be achieved.” ― Swami Satchidananda

During our conversation, the friend I mentioned earlier expressed a love of the trails at a park near her home. She even suggested that I might enjoy running there; telling me how beautiful and peaceful it is and how it’s roughly four miles long, but laid out in such a manner that with different crisscrosses could be stretched to any distance I desired.

She mentioned how much she loves walking that trail with her dog a couple of times a week. It later occurred to me that if she is already there two or three times a week, and she’s walking the trail, then she’s already crossed two of the biggest hurdles to becoming the runner that she’s wanted to be. Hell, if she’s hitting the trail a couple of times a week, running or walking, she’s already a runner in my book. She just doesn’t know it yet.

All she has to do now is find more comfortable workout attire (again, I’m counting on some help from any ladies out there), and start running. But start running knowing that she can stop any time she wants for as long as she wants, and start again whenever she wants for as long as she wants. And no matter how long those distances are, she’s a runner.

Anyone can do it. If running is intimidating, walk. Try walking faster than you normally do. How fast do you think you can walk? There are walking divisions in some races, and the pace that people are WALKING those distances is insane.

Go to your favorite park or even the street in front of your house and start walking. Walk fast. Then when you’re feeling sassy, just run to that tree up there. Not that one. The other one. Yeah, that one. And when you get to that tree, start walking again for as long as you want to; whether it be a few hundred feet or a few days. You already accomplished your goal. You ran to that tree. Congratulations. When you’re comfortable again, run to that other tree; that one just a few feet further away. And then start walking again. Do that for as long as you want, as many days as you want (providing you allow for recovery days when you know you know you’ve exerted yourself). And when you don’t want to walk/run anymore, don’t. You’re your only coach. Tell yourself to hit the showers. You’ve earned it.

If you want to run, stark walking. If you want to play guitar, practice. If you want to change your diet, start by changing the smallest part imaginable (e.g. eat the ice cream, but skip the chocolate syrup). If you want to swallow swords,…uh…start with knives? I don’t know about that last one. But you can baby step your way towards any goal. Everything takes time and trying to do too much all at once can seriously sabotage your success.

Do whatever you want. Do it at the speed of comfort. And if you don’t like it, stop. But don’t say that you can’t. You can do anything.

Bright side-note of running: Once you’ve burned 1500 calories in less than two hours, you will experience zero guilt in eating a mound of food like this for dinner. Baked sweet potato, quinoa, smothered in veggie chili, and a little avocado on the side. It was delicious. Happy Friday.

post run pile

Hurdles Into a Wall

Last Friday, just two weeks after experiencing my most enjoyable run to date, I managed to suffer through my least pleasurable run thus far. I did it to myself. I knew it had that potential. And I did it anyway. I’m really smart.

You don’t have to search very hard to find running blogs and/or forums that address the mental hurdles that some people have to traverse just to stick to their training or exercise routines and some of the tools that they use to get over those obstacles. I feel fortunate that so far I have not had a lot of trouble staying motivated to run.

As for finding that motivation in other important areas of my life? Still a work in progress.

Recently, my favorite running blog posted a piece partially about running “mantras,” referring to those sayings that runners say to themselves to help stay resolute and running strong when some other inner voice or outside stressor may be working against them and suggesting that they quit, or even worse…skip their work out altogether. The list included all sorts of phrases, ranging from simple affirmations like “I can do this” to statements of unwavering acceptance of circumstance like “Embrace the suck.”

When the author ended the post with an open query about what other phrases her readers have found useful, I realized that I didn’t have a run mantra. And that was somewhat comforting in the fact that I didn’t have one because I had not yet run up against a mental or physical “wall” so great that it required me to forcefully psyche myself up and over it…or through it.

On Friday morning, I managed to successfully hurl myself right into that wall one hurdle at a time. Woohoo! I’m awesome!

Hurdle #1: Just getting out there at all. This is not a problem that I’ve had a problem with in my short time running. I enjoy getting out there. I usually only run three days a week so I’m rarely suffering any discouraging physical issues from my previous run. And I still get an incredible therapeutic release from running outside alone with my thoughts, or maybe no thoughts at all depending on the day. Hell, I “write” rough drafts of a lot of my blogs while running around by myself. I love being out there.

But last week’s weather forecast predicted a 100% chance of rain for Friday morning and because my weather fortunes throughout my training have sucked, that seemed totally believable. I was going to have to do another rainy day run. Ugh. Honestly, I don’t mind a soft rain. I’m going to sweat through my clothes anyway. What difference does it make? But Friday morning’s weather was 40 degrees with steady showers and gusting winds in the neighborhood of 20 mph. It sucked outside. SUCKED!

I woke early that morning with hopes that I’d find the storm front had passed through the area faster than predicted. It hadn’t. I still started my routine: drank my vitamin and fruit smoothie, toasted a bagel, and started getting my running clothes together, all while continually checking the radar for any sign that the weather might at least lighten up a bit.

No dice! It was going to rain ALL morning. And because I was heading out of town at noon and not returning until the following day, pushing back my run wasn’t an option.

Obviously, I could’ve given in and headed for the treadmill. I wanted to go to the gym after my run anyway. And if my scheduled run had only been a few miles, I might have considered it more seriously. I’m not a treadmill fan, but I did look up the conversion I would need to correctly set my pace on the machine, just in case I came to my senses and decided to run inside like a sane person. But because this was going to be my first double digit distance (10 miles), I just couldn’t see crossing that milestone while staring blankly at a muted morning “news” show or worse…some talk show (TV = brain poison). And because of the one hour time limit on gym treadmills and the sad fact that I can’t run a 10 consecutive six minute miles, I would’ve had to stop and start again too. Fuck that. I wanted my first double-D distance to be outside and continuous like it’s supposed to be.

Hurdle #2: Committing to that planned distance. Once I had made the bone-headed decision that I was going to run my scheduled run in the rain, it was time to make sure that I would actually commit to the whole 10 miles required in my training plan. It would make no sense to use the 10 mile distance as excuse for avoiding the treadmill, and then turn around and quit after six miles.

To ensure that commitment, I decided that I’d better get away from the comfort of my home. I’ve run distances as long as nine miles without ever leaving my greater neighborhood. But after battling about whether to get outside in the first place, and realizing that the probability of “enjoying” a soggy 10 mile run was very small, I couldn’t be sure that I wouldn’t give in to the temptation to cut my run short if I stayed too close to my warm and dry apartment. So I didn’t.

I basically try to treat my laziness the way alcoholics treat their drinking. Just because I’ve made it a few months working harder, living cleaner, staying busier, and enjoying the benefits of those changes does not mean that I can pretend that the root causes of my past shortcomings are not still laying in wait for the opportunity to make me fail. That couch crushing waste of flesh is still in here somewhere just looking for a moment of weakness that will allow his resurgence. I don’t want to forget that.

I opted for the nearby Dismal Swamp Canal Trail. It’s a simple out-and-back paved course that was repurposed from the old US Highway 17 when Virginia and North Carolina put in a newer four lane bypass several years ago. A lot of people consider out-and-backs pretty boring and I guess they can be. But I like the Dismal because it’s flat and straight and actually kind of a pretty tree-lined path running along side of a small creek. I also liked the idea of running a turnaround route for Friday’s run, because I would really only have to commit to half of my goal at a time. Once I ran the first five miles, I’d be five miles away from my car and have to run back. So I’d essentially be forced to get my 10. It’s silly thinking, but it helped me mentally chew up what I was biting off.

The Wall: Not quitting/walking when the going gets tough. After getting to the trail, it was easy to get out of the car and get moving. Just getting there was the challenge. Now all I had to do was run. Piece of cake, right?

There was absolutely no one around. I stretched quickly and took off into the grey soggy goodness of my first ten miler. After the first mile, I peeled off my rain coat and hung it on the “1.25” mile-marker post as I passed by. I was running fine and at a decent pace. At just under four miles, my feet were starting to get wet and a little heavier, but I wasn’t having a terrible time. I was wet, but I’d normally be pretty damp after four miles anyway.

As my watch vibrated the five mile reminder, I turned around just in time to see a couple of wild turkeys enjoying the weather as they pranced across an empty field and into the woods. They were the only other signs of animal life I’d seen. So if even a dog is said to have the common sense to come in out of the rain, I must have been closer to the intelligence level of a large non-flying bird. I’m not sure if that is a good thing.

In less than two miles I’d be able to see that wall I was hoping I’d never find.

My clothes had been pretty well soaked since mile two, but my feet and shoes put up a slow weakening fight until just under six miles. And before I got to seven, each foot was completed saturated and weighed approximately one hundred pounds each (give or take a pound). And my legs were really getting tired of dragging them back up off of the ground over and over again. My ankles weren’t in love with the degradation of my form, and my knees weren’t going to let them suffer alone. The suck was getting strong and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to embrace it.

It was hard not to start thinking about that mantra blog that I had just read. I commented on that blog that I had not yet needed a running mantra, but because the phrase had showed up in facebook statuses, my run journal, and my blog in recent weeks, that maybe “I. Can. Do. Anything.” could end up serving that purpose should I find the need. I found the need.

As the temptation to stop and walk began to really raise its voice, I found myself thinking “I can do anything,” and eventually even ridiculously saying it aloud to myself to drown out the voices telling me to stop and walk. “I. Can. Do. Anything. “ I felt a little foolish but I’ve felt that way many times before for far lesser reasons. I just didn’t want to stop.

Stopping didn’t make any sense. It was raining. I was miserable. And walking would just get me back to the car and out of the rain even slower and probably much colder. If anything, I should’ve been trying to run faster, not start walking. I was ready to be out of the damn rain more than I was ready to be free of the pain.

I managed to maintain a semi-consistent pace through those last three miles, except for fumbling the pickup of my rain coat. I almost pulled myself off of my feet when it got hung on the post as I tried to grab it running by. And as I finally saw the head of the trail coming into view and the glorious image of my beat up old car, I couldn’t have felt better. Even in those shitty conditions I still got that rush that I get when I approach a finish. And I did finish.

When I was done, I walked back to by car opened the rear hatch and just sat there, curled up, holding my sore knees to my chest and quietly watching the rain fall. It was so quiet and peaceful both outside and in my head. The voices had been defeated. Did I feel a sense of accomplishment? Certainly. Was it worth it? Damn right. Do I want to do it again? Nope.

But tomorrow is another run day. Forecast: Rain. Luckily, I know I can do anything.

If I were granted one wish for the Shamrock Half Marathon, it would be that if I find myself struggling against an inner voice telling me to quit, that I will at least be able to look up at a beautifully clear blue sky and honestly be able to say to myself “Hey, at least it’s not raining.”

I. Can. Do. Anything.

I love Jeremy's style of painting and the record is good too.

I love Jeremy’s style of painting and the record is good too.

After getting home, rolling around with Citrus a little bit, and getting cleaned up and fed, I piled my sore bones into the backseat of a friend’s car and headed out to Charlottesville to see talented Oklahoma singer/songwriter Samantha Crain (who I was delighted to see had her album art done by a whiskerino brother, Jeremy Okai) open up for Bloomington, Indiana’s Murder By Death.

I know that their name sounds metal, but Murder By Death is an indie rock band that I was just recently introduced to, despite their six studio albums. Their sound ranges from a textural western desert sound to an almost punk rock quality in their faster songs. They played an awesome show and seeing them with good friends in a nice small venue was a really great way to end a day that started with a suck-embracing rain-run.

And I’m a sucker for a band with a cello player.

The Excitement Plan

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

The other day while entering data into my run-journal and training record, I started reviewing some of the past weeks’ numbers and looking at the short number of weeks left before my first half marathon. And without any warning at all I experienced a weird sensation that I wasn’t terribly familiar with. I’m not sure, but I think it was excitement. It was very subtle and only lasted a second. But I think that’s what I felt.

Of course with all of the raw fruits and vegetables I’ve been eating lately, it could’ve just been gas.

On several occasions in the past, different people have commented, either in curious observation or good-natured mocking, that I’m generally not very excitable. And it’s true. I’m not sure why exactly, but I rarely get markedly excited about much of anything. I don’t mean that I’m some morose sod who lacks the ability to have fun or enjoy life. That’s certainly not true. I’m the ambassador of fun dammit. I just don’t find myself acting “giddy” very often.

“You excited to start your new job Greg?” “Yeah. It’ll be good.”

“Hey Greg, you stoked about the concert tonight?” “Sure. Sounds fun.”

“Hey man. Are you excited about your trip to the moon?” “Yep. Should be cool.”

What can I say? I’m not a very boisterous person (most of the time). But I’m starting to get excited about running my first half marathon. And it feels pretty good.

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” — William Shakespeare

In the past, I believe that I may have occasionally fallen victim to a bit of a fatalist philosophy. We’ve all heard some version of the sayings, “Plan for the worst and hope for the best” or “Hope for the best, but expect the worst.” These are not awful attitudes to adopt temporarily in order to help control the anxiety of facing truly uncertain situations of which we have limited or no control. But I’m not sure there is any benefit to adopting that type of philosophy in the long term.

Sure, in the most literal and basest of senses, anything could happen at any time and technically we can never be 100% certain about what may or may not happen in the future. But that doesn’t mean that we have no control over anything at all, especially how we react to and experience the present; or more importantly, how we directly affect that present. To pretend that the existence of inherent uncertainty on the universal level should somehow excuse us from affecting our individual worlds in the most positive way possible seems silly, and kind of lazy.

I am really good at being lazy. And at times, I’m sure I’ve allowed an inadvertent fatalistic attitude to hinder my full engagement in some of life’s important moments; moments that I’ll never get back and never be allowed to experience again. That’s my loss. But it’s not my destiny. I don’t even know if I believe in destiny.

I do believe in goals.

“Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.” — J.K. Rowling

I set a goal back in November to run a half marathon. At the time that I registered and paid for that event, I had not yet run a single race. I had very little knowledge of what I was getting into. All I knew was that I really liked running, it made me feel good, I wanted to keep doing it, and I felt a desire to challenge myself more. I needed to challenge myself more, both physically and mentally. On the whole, I simply felt that I needed to become a stronger person.

Why? Because I deserved to be a stronger person. I needed to set a goal that would allow me reach outside of my comfort zone and discover that better person trapped within.

My Lethargy Plan had proven itself utterly unfulfilling and wildly expensive emotionally. So I decided that I wasn’t going to do it anymore. I owed it to myself to be the strongest healthiest person I could be. I still do. I deserve to see what my full potential looks like. We all do.

So it was time for a new plan. And since no one was going to do it for me no matter how much I hoped or wished or wanted. I made my own. Waiting will get me nowhere. The future starts now.

Or maybe it started then?

Am I time traveling?

What’s going on?

You know what I mean.

“Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.” — William Jennings Bryan

So, like I said, in November I set a goal to run a half marathon. I started reading everything that I could on healthier eating, exercise tips, running technique, and training plans. I’ve adopted a much cleaner diet and absolutely love how much better I feel as a result. I joined a gym and go at least five times a week. I focused my energy on learning how to run more efficiently and without injury (a task that may be never-ending) and I practice three or four times a week. I built a training plan to get me to my goal; my goal of reaching the starting line of my first half marathon physically healthy and mentally ready to run 13.1 miles.

I’ve followed that plan rigorously, and I’m very happy with the results thus far. I’m healthier. I feel good. My running continues to improve. I’m getting stronger. And to my pleasant surprise, I’m excited. I’m excited to do something that just six months ago I would have scoffed at and pretended wasn’t possible.

But (isn’t there always a “but”?) I can’t let this new feeling of excitement allow me to get overconfident and do something stupid. The race may only be five and half weeks away. But it is also still a whole FIVE AND A HALF WEEKS away. That’s roughly 38 days, 26 workouts, 14 training runs, and 86 scheduled running miles away. That is more than enough opportunities to fuck up if I lose focus of my goal and veer from the plan I have to achieve it. I can’t let that happen just because I’m excited.

If being excited about something was all it took to accomplish a goal, this would be a fantastically different world. Instead I’m learning that it takes focus and determination and occasionally a little sacrifice. I think the excitement just means that I’m seeing real progress towards my goal, it’s starting to come into focus, and that I might already be feeling greater personal rewards that I didn’t necessarily expect. So far, I think I like this Excitement Plan.

We’ll see what happens.

“We are all of us born with a letter inside us, and that only if we are true to ourselves, may we be allowed to read it before we die.” — Douglas Coupland

It’s time to shine.

Simple Pleasures & Small Victories (J.O.G.T. 1)

“The days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, those are really good days.” Ray Willey Hubbard.

In my first post of the year, I included an image that explained the “Jar of Good Things.” It is basically an idea that was circulating around the New Year where you start the year off with an empty jar. And then you fill it with notes of good things that happen through the year. The theory being that at the end of the year, you can go through those notes and remind yourself of all the good days that you experienced during the last 12 months. I’m not waiting that long.

It’s borderline hippy bullshit, but I thought it might not be a bad idea to try to find something positive in the world every day, so I do. I don’t actually have a jar, but I do record something into my “J.O.G.T” word-file every day. Some days it’s easier than others.

Now, I don’t buy lottery tickets or otherwise gamble, so I don’t expect to share any monumental financial announcements. I have absolutely no “game,” so I suspect exciting romantic news will be unlikely as well. But I do have a pretty good life and a modest lifestyle which allows me to enjoy small victories and simple pleasures that I’ll share around the end of each month as a semi-interesting reminder to myself that life really aint that shitty. Here are a few of the highlights from January.

(The only editing that was done was to change/omit the names of the innocent. Please forgive any syntax errors and the like.)

Jan 1. Today my first blog of the year, “No Resolutions,” prompted the highest ever number of views of my site for a single day.

It was the highest traffic day on my blog BY A LOT, and it felt like a really great start to the year. Thanks everybody.

Jan 9. I think I finally let my heart say “goodbye” to [her] today. It sucked to have to do it, but there was a feeling of release that I think is a positive thing.

Pretty self explanatory. Life’s a bitch. Those years were an indescribably amazing time that have given me some of the best memories anyone could ever ask for. But you can’t move on if you’re holding on. I’m ready to see what the day brings.

Jan 18. Recorded with Jenn and Ray again for the first time in a long time. We recorded two covers but Jenn sounded awesome and I loved being able to record it.

Over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to regularly record two local singer/songwriter friends of mine. I’ve got a pretty simple recording set-up but it seems to suit us pretty well and we always have a good time working together. And occasionally the recordings are actually worthy of the talent I’m so lucky to be allowed to witness.

Life’s schedule has resulted in longer breaks between sessions in recent months. It was nice to just get together, enjoy each others’ company, and goof off with some covers. It was definitely a good thing.

Jan 28. Payroll got my pay straight and put the money back into my account today. I realized that my pace has been the same for my 6, 8, and 9 mile runs. And I smoked zero cigarettes today.

Looking at my training schedule (where I record times/paces as I complete each step), I realized that my pace was the same for all of my “long” runs as I was progressing through my plan. And after running my snowy 15K at a faster than intended pace and feeling so comfortable afterwards, it made me wonder if I was maybe not running at my full potential. Maybe I could run faster than I thought.

Oh, and I apparently didn’t smoke any cigarettes that day either. Good thing.

Jan 31. I left work early because the computers were down, and had a really nice 9 mile run around the entire neighborhood. Averaged a pace that could make a 2 hr Half Marathon possible. Felt really good.

After several hours dealing with recurring computer related hurdles and getting totally frustrated with wasting so much of my time getting so little accomplished, the system went down completely. I left, and spent the rest of my afternoon doing something productive and enjoyable; running in the sun.

I still don’t have a set time-goal for the Shamrock Half Marathon because I do not want to let a finish line goal get in the way of my starting line goal. But it would be awesome to finish my first half marathon in two hours. I will not let that idea sabotage my training though. Just because it would be awesome does not mean that I’m not going to party just as much after a three hour finish. Any finish is a good finish, and I can’t finish if I don’t start.

Starting line goal: To get to the starting line healthy. That is goal number one. I don’t have a goal number two.

That’s it. Not a bad start to the year. Like I said, it’s nothing crazy or exciting. Just simple happenings that seemed like “good things” on the days I wrote them down. Training is going well. Work is steady. Life is good.

How has your new year been so far? Any of those resolutions complete yet? Given up on any of them yet?

January’s J.O.G.T. Honorable mentions:

Jan 11. Got pulled over for running a stop-sign on the way to work and only got a warning. Had an awesome 7 mile run trying “chi running” techniques for the first time.

Jan 16. First attempt at speed intervals during 3.5 mile run. I may actually be able to run fast some day.

Jan 20. The New England Patriots were eliminated from the playoffs by the Baltimore Ravens. That’s a good thing.

Jan 23. Went for my 4 mile run, all but ignoring my pace or pacing. Just a good therapy run. Just as I made it to 4 miles and stopped running…I found a dollar. Good thing.

Jan 24. I got my first copy of Tape Op magazine today.

Jan 29. Went to the doctor and got my very first complete check-up as an adult. I waited way too long. We’ll see what happens.