Declaration Day

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” – C. JoyBell C.

NOTICE: On my blog’s “About” page I state that while I may be documenting my personal experiences and discoveries as a new runner that “a lot of my motivation [for this blog] is to simply get some of these things out of my head to make room for new thoughts.” This is one of those times. You’ve been warned. Here’s the pitch.

“Hiding how you really feel and trying to make everyone happy doesn’t make you nice, it just makes you a liar.” – Jenny O’Connell

I’d like to start by saying that I’ve been in a pretty nasty funk for the last three or four days. But I can’t, because it’s probably been closer to two weeks. I reread my last couple of blogs today and it’s there. I was fighting it, or maybe just trying to hide it. But I can still see it in there.

It’s hard to explain how much more annoying it is to write a blog touting the importance of keeping a positive perspective and sharing the thrill of discovering a new self confidence in the belief I can truly accomplish anything if I’m willing to work hard AND at the exact same time being damn near miserable most days because of my own negative attitude towards life and its challenges. It’s a steep, dishonest stairway to the pinnacle of Mount Hypocrisy. And I seem to have built a small cottage up there recently. I apologize for being such a fucking liar…to myself first and in effect to everyone else.

I’ve spent months typing about all of the exciting changes I’ve undergone and how many more things I still want to change. Those things are true. I have. And I do. But I think I may have started to pridefully stumble into the arrogant pitfalls of believing that I had already completed some journey when I had not; and will not. I have merely discovered a path. And in that I found the direction I needed to start taking the earliest and smallest of many steps on a never-ending journey. After a seed sprouts and stretches into a tree, it’s not done. Barring catastrophe, the act of growing is never complete. I’m proud of what progress I’ve made, but there is so much more work to do. And now is not a time to get lazy, and certainly no time to be poisoned by a discouraging mindset.

“The most common and harmful addiction in the world is the draw of comfort.” – Angel Chernoff

I’ve mentioned before that I am a creature of habit; some good ones; more than a few bad ones. And some habits are incredibly hard to break. I’m a procrastinator and an excuse maker. I always have been. And in the same way that some recovering alcoholics will forever refer to themselves as alcoholics, I will always be a procrastinator and an excuse maker. They are the hardest habits for me to break. Ridding myself of those short-comings requires continuous awareness of them and living with the discomfort that comes with that kind of consciousness.

I’m not yet in the place I want to be. And the comfort I seek may not be easily achieved. There was a time when, upon identifying a goal out of reach (even if only by inches), I would promptly make an excuse for why I have to wait to reach out for that place. And with a solid excuse in hand, I could then create the illusion of comfort in the place where I stood idle.

It’s so easy to do. Maybe it’s really expensive to gain access to this utopian dream world, so I’ll have to accept that saving the money will take time. No biggie, I’m not starving where I am now. Or maybe the path to my nirvana is too steep and difficult to climb, so I’ll have to wait until I’m stronger. Hell, maybe there are just spiders and a rickety ladder between me and what I want. I hate spiders and I’m not a fan of heights either. I’ll just chill down here for a while. If it’s meant to be, it will be.

“Our destiny changes with our thought; we shall become what we wish to become, do what we wish to do, when our habitual thought corresponds with our desire.” – Orison Swett Marden

when a door shutsTo suggest that something is meant to be is to imply that it would simply occur on its own if we’d stay out of the way; even if we did nothing. I don’t believe that. Nothing is “meant” to be. And if I was to sit around waiting for my dreams to come true, “nothing” is exactly what would happen. I’ve proven this through multiple experiments. Our destinies are entirely up to us to create. Death is the only unavoidable truth in life. It doesn’t care about us at all and should be given equal consideration in return. And it certainly should not be feared.

I believe my future is mine to control. And I don’t want to create some illusion of a preordained path that I’m merely stumbling down unwittingly. If I want to do something, I can do it. If I want to go somewhere, I can go. If I want to become something new, I can do that too. My life is up to me. I’m not giving up any of that control to superstition or fantasy. The blame for failure lies with me, and I’ll be taking the credit for the successes too.

That is not to pretend that I’m some rock in the vacuum of space and above the influence of my surroundings, both positive and negative. I have enjoyed a lifetime of support and encouragement from family, friends, and the world around me. I’ve also encountered those that have slowed my progress and held me back by enabling my draw to “comfort” with negative attitudes and behaviors. I’m not angry about any of the latter; as I’m sure they were well intentioned and believed themselves to be in coalition with the former.

If I’m doing something that is counterproductive to my goals, I have to stop. If someone or something is standing in my way, I have to eliminate that obstacle. It is up to me alone to determine my destiny. There can be all kinds of influences. But ultimately, it has always been up to me to take the good, leave the bad, and move towards greater things. That will always be my responsibility.

“People tend to complicate their own lives, as if living weren’t already complicated enough.” – Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Becoming a runner is what taught me that I can do anything. But I think I somehow missed the real lesson on how I can do anything. When I started running, I wasn’t thinking about running a half marathon, a 5K, or even to that next street light. I just wanted to get out of my house, out of my head, and into some fresh air and sunshine. I couldn’t run around the block. It took me almost two months before I could run a mile continuously. But I just kept lacing up and heading out. I didn’t have any long term goals at first. I did it because it made me feel good in the moment.

Once I decided that I did want to set a goal, I laid out a plan, executed that plan one tiny step at a time, and accomplished each running goal that I set for myself. But I never wandered out of the moment. I ran each run for each run’s sake. It didn’t happen overnight. I started running very short distances at very slow speeds. And as I managed to meet small goals I set new larger ones, until eventually I found myself (or someone vaguely resembling me) running 13 miles on a cold gray Sunday morning; and actually having fun doing it. Who the hell was ThatGuy? I’m still not sure sometimes.

There is no reason why that system cannot work for any goal that I set. I recently spent hours laying out my running schedule for the next seven months. I know how to do this. I just don’t always remember that I know how. Stay in the moment. Focus on the small battles and before I know it, my war will be won. I know how to do this. It’s still new to me though, where making excuses is a habit well rehearsed and almost subconscious. That fact aggravates the hell out of me. But if I stay focused on each day as it comes and do each thing as well as I can, before I know it, I will again be crossing a finish line surprised by how easy it seemed in hindsight. I know it.

“A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” – John Burroughs

Hi, my name is Greg. And I’m a procrastinator and an excuse maker. I’m not proud of that. But if I let myself believe I’ve beaten it or to think that this tree is somehow finished growing, then I will let myself down and never get to where I want to be. There is so much fun to be had and exciting adventures to experience. I’ve just let myself be distracted and discouraged by things outside of the present, events that have already happened, or things that haven’t happened yet. Focusing on either is a total misuse of my time and energy.

So right now out of frustration, I wish to again declare to myself, this time from high atop Mt. Hipocrisy, that I will be burning that cottage to the ground later tonight, and using those flames to light my way back down the mountain. I don’t want to make myself comfortable in the wrong place. I want to battle through temporary discomfort to end up in the right place for my happiness and well being. I can’t do that from up here.

Thanks for letting me vent. I’m truly sorry to say it, but I really needed to.

Advertisements

Wish Magic

“There can be no failure to a man who has not lost his courage, his character, his self respect, or his self-confidence. He is still a King.” – Orison Swett Marden

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I had to break from my training plan over the weekend. I’ve done really well at sticking to the prescribed miles so far. Granted, I did go through and revise those numbers both up and down as I gleaned new information about good training practices and developed a little better understanding of my conditioning and abilities. For example, when I registered for the Tidewater Striders Distance Series (10, 15, and 20K races), I mapped those distances into my training calendar and adjusted all the lengths of my runs in the surrounding weeks to better follow the ten percent rule. Yes, I used a calculator. Yes, I rounded up. Yes, I can be a nerd about numbers sometimes. But I believe doing those races and adjusting those miles helped me structure a solid training plan for a beginning runner heading into a half marathon. Following it was relatively easy and markedly beneficial to my progress. That is why I studied, researched, and adjusted my plan so much in the beginning; so that I could follow it and do well. It makes no sense to lay out a plan and then not follow it.

BUT (isn’t there always a but?),

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” ― Mike Tyson

When I hurt my ankle two weeks ago, my mind was poisoned. What if it’s broken? What if I can’t run? What if I have to miss the Shamrock? I’ve been training for this race since before Christmas.

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” – Khalil Gibran

I’ve long believed that worrying is essentially the result of a lack of faith, whether it be faith in your plan, or faith in yourself. If you’re confident in your abilities and your preparation, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you’re worrying, you doubt something. And doubt seems a pretty useless component in any formula.

I didn’t want to doubt my ankle for three weeks, wondering if I could, should, or would run my next training run or if putting in those miles would aggravate the problem even more. I didn’t want to assume it was normal soreness and “battle through it” either. We already know what they say about assuming things. So I went to the hospital and got my ankle x-rayed. It wasn’t broken. Good. But I did have to rest it and stop running until it was better. Hmmph. Doctors. What do they know?

“I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it.” – Edgar Allan Poe

I might not be the smartest guy in the world, but I’m no fool either. I took a week off. No running for seven days. That was the longest I had gone without running since my very first “run” back in early September. And it was a very long week. But that week also made me realize just how much I truly love running.

I was never really tempted to push my luck and force a run. But I would catch myself practicing my upper body movements while standing over the stove or getting ready to brush my teeth. I don’t want to forget how to swing my arms, you know. I’d focus on maintaining an upright posture while walking around, riding a bike at the gym, or even just sitting at my desk. If I couldn’t run, I could at least try to instill some good habits into my fledgling core muscles. And while at work or the gym or even out with friends, I’d find my mind wandering off about when I could run again, what distance should I do, where should I pick up in my training schedule, would I be ready for the Shamro–

Oh, look! There’s someone running in that TV commercial!

“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.” – Buddha

After a week of transferring my pent up running energy into some really great gym workouts, it was time to stop daydreaming and wondering and doubting. I decided I was ready to run. My training plan had four miles scheduled for Monday; a good modest ankle-test back into my routine. Surely I can run four miles. And if I can’t, then I’m certainly not going to be ready to run 13 of them two weeks later.

That might not be true. I’m new. I don’t know shit. And my confidence was probably sprained worse than my ankle.

I ran those four miles at the speed of comfort and felt really good afterwards. It felt good just to be out there again. I missed it and was pleasantly surprised to be welcomed back by a beautiful sunny day. It’s the small things. My next run was even shorter. And because the weather was crap, I was in a time-crunch that day, and I wanted to be super-cautious, I ran it on a treadmill. That short, mentally suffocating treadmill jog did little to help my confidence heading into a 13 mile run. “What am I supposed to do for my final long run?” I’m supposed to be tapering. I can’t go run 13 “test” miles, right? Would that be smart? Is all of this self-doubt just the mind games I’ve read about plaguing runners during the taper?

My mind was poisoned with doubt. Damn ankle! (shakes fist in the air)

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” – Arthur Ashe

On Saturday morning after staying up too late on Friday and not exactly “fueling” properly for a long morning run, I decided to take it slow and see what happens. My training plan was tapering and had eight miles scheduled as my long run for the last week before the race. I was pretty sure that I could run eight miles without any major issues. But losing that previous week’s training so close to the race meant that I missed my last opportunity to experiment with in-race food and drink.

My diet during this entire journey has been the hardest thing for me figure out. My metabolism still seems to be adjusting to my higher activity levels and I am not always very good at keeping up with it. And fueling during a race is something that I just did not practice enough during my training. Properly refueling afterwards isn’t something I’m terribly good at either. I’m just not a big eater. I needed an actual long run to practice these things one last time. And without some actual test of my endurance, my confidence would never be ready for race day.

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” – Norman Vincent Peale

While making breakfast and getting dressed, I decided that I’d run at least eight and no more than 11 miles. And that I’d ultimately base that decision on how I felt during the run. I’ve become pretty fond of the Dismal Swamp Trail and chose to head that way for my last run.

As I’ve mentioned before, I like the out-and-back format because it makes you commit to double the distance of where you are at any point. If you’ve run four miles down that road, you’re going to have to run a total of eight just to get back to the car. That requirement also means that you have to pay attention to your body. If you push past warning signs and find out at five miles that you literally cannot run anymore, you’re still going to have to hobble your broken ass the five miles back. I like how that simple course makes me think of these things. It helps me focus.

“So, let’s do the numbers.” – Kai Ryssdal

It was a beautiful 44 degree sunny morning with a 14 mph north wind. I was four miles in before I knew it and thinking I’d do ten. At five, I decided to do eleven. At five and a half, I decided to do 11.11 just so I could make a wish. I told you I’m weird about numbers sometimes. 5.57 miles away from my car, I turned around. I finished in one hour, 43 minutes, and 42 seconds with an average pace of nine minutes and 20 seconds per mile. And I burned 1912 calories.

Thirty minutes into my run I started eating Jelly Belly Extreme Beans with 50 mg of caffeine per 100 calorie serving (and you could totally tell from my heart rate monitor). I ate them again about every 20 minutes after that. They’re not the ideal food for me, as the package was kind of a bitch to deal with (might be better without gloves), and chewing anything kind of messes with my breathing. But I got the hang of it after the second try. And with only eight days until the race, there was no time to experiment with something new. I will have to put that lesson off until next time.

Both ankles were sore by the end and I was getting pretty tired. I was drinking coconut water throughout the run, but probably need to hydrate a little better on Sunday. I stretched and put compression wraps on both ankles immediately after my run. I went home, and hit the foam roller even though my legs weren’t sore. Then I iced both ankles as preventative maintenance. I even took an Epson salt bath (not an easy task for someone my height). I will be ready on Sunday. I will.

“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.” – Dalai Lama

I ran a short three mile run this afternoon, and have a whopping three miles left to run on Thursday to complete my training for the Shamrock. I feel good. I’m going to be fine. On Sunday, March 17th 2013, just six months after discovering the joy of running, I will join thousands of other runners when I cross the starting line into my first half marathon. And I’m going to have fun doing it too.

“I believe in wishes and in a person’s ability to make a wish come true, I really do. And a wish is more than a wish… it’s a goal that your conscious and subconscious can help make reality” – Michael Jackson

I’m wishing for healthy ankles, calm winds, and dry skies. But I’m ready for whatever.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

ONE MORE THING. I know a lot of people will be running in Virginia Beach this weekend. But in Cary, North Carolina on Saturday March 16, there is a 5K and accompanying virtual 5K to support Buddy Up Against Bullying. It is a joint effort between a school assistant principle and a police officer to raise awareness against bullying. All you have to do is click the link, print out your bib, and wear it when you run on Saturday…or any other day really. Will it ever end bullying? No. But if it gets one person (teacher, parent, bus driver, YOU) to take notice of what may be happening right in front of them and to realize that is not just a normal, harmless part of growing up, then it’s worth it. The world has already got enough assholes in it. We don’t need to keep ignoring the next generation of jerk-offs. It’s not funny. It’s not harmless. And it’s not okay. I will be wearing two bibs on Sunday.