Saturday, December 29, 2012

Framing the Mind: addicted runner goes through detox

This is either useless drivel, or a turning point in my life. I haven't a fuckin' clue which one though. Maybe they're not even mutually exclusive.
I sit here in my home, at the kitchen table, watching snow come down onto the horse pasture. Sipping coffee as I nurse this week’s second hangover.

I decided I wanted to take a break from running. Not because I felt burned out, or was suffering an injury, but because it was partially consuming me. I hadn’t totally immersed myself in my running, but rather used it as a distraction from the notion that my life had yet again coasted to a standstill. Somehow, I want to assure you that I’m not depressed by this. I smiled as I thought to myself, “Hey, at least you’re aware of it. Many people aren’t so lucky.” Of all the places to do so, this point is as good as any as I pause in my dawdling through life. I had this idea. I’d remove the quiet hum of running that filled this otherwise quiet period in my life. My ears needed to ring with silence. I needed to eliminate the only distraction so that I can hear what my heart is saying.

It was also a challenge- a real challenge. Since getting the “running bug” about 4 years ago, I’ve never truly taken time off. I’ve done “easy” weeks of 20 miles, or done long bike rides or hikes to replace runs. I’ve heard fellow endurance athletes talking about doing things out of their comfort zone to spice things up. Usually, this involves some other form of endurance training. How creative. That seems akin to an alcoholic switching from beer to liquor(which I wouldn’t recommend. Better pop another aspirin), or a smoker switching from cigarettes to cigars. Let’s not kid ourselves. Many of us think that simply running far makes you a valuable person. It doesn’t hurt, but I wouldn’t say it helps much either. Running, for me, is seldom filled with hardship because I love it. We've all heard stories of addicts turning to endurance sports as a healthy, legal alternative to whatever scumbaggery they've involved themselves in. If I don't keep running, perhaps I'll do it in reverse. It's both a good and bad thing that I seem to have a low tolerance for most stimuli.

I ended 2011 with a last-ditch effort to crack the elusive 100-mile week. I ran 120 miles in the final 6 days of the year. Essentially, I decided to try the opposite this time. Sloth-a-thon. Running 20 miles a day for 6 days was my way of proving to myself that I can do something if I set my mind to it. I took time out of my life to do what I like doing. Not all that creative, is it?

There’s also the training factor. I firmly believe that a 16 week training plan is going to prep me for Umstead. I seem to be able to get into shape relatively quickly. I’ve always been a procrastinator, and maybe my body is as well. I run high mileage for too long, and I get burned out. I take care of myself and focus on quality for short-term, and I reach my typical upper end of my abilities. Last Summer, I felt better about my fitness 6 weeks before the Tahoe 100, and feel as though I was back near base fitness when the big day came.

Now that I’ve babbled about the “why,” I’ll tell you how it went. The first few days were actually kind of nice. I thought, “I should get out for a run,” then I remembered that had I let myself off the hook. So I kicked back, read a book, went for a walk, or whatever. I then started to get bored. I’d see my flashy New Balance 1600s and want to get out for a road run. I’d trip over my inov-8 trailrocs and want to find a hilly trail. I found something else to do. Split wood. Give my car a long-overdue cleaning out and oil change. Go Christmas shopping. Drink Beer. After 10 days of not running, what I was hoping for finally happened. The noise stopped, and I was able to think a bit more clearly about my life.

I realized that my work situation wasn’t going to change on it’s own. Nobody was going to stroll by the pool, notice me, the odd-looking exercise instructor, and know right then and there that I was the next big thing in the lucrative and satisfying field of…whatever, I don’t know. We are the result of our actions, not our intentions. This dude explains it well.

Something turned on inside my mind. I picked up my phone and made calls. I got online and did research. I called friends from college to pick their brains. As I write this, I’m in the process of dropping back into school. I’ve got a couple semesters of prerequisite classes to do, some observation hours to complete, and a GRE test to study for. Enough wishing for things to fix themselves. I’ve been afraid to admit what I really want to do, because of a fear of failure. It’s easy to shrug things off and say we never really wanted them when we don’t fully commit. I’m usually pretty relaxed and let the little things slide. My life is not a little thing to me anymore.

A few phone calls. A couple forms. Yet another financial aid paper filled out. Small steps to build up steam. The goal: A doctorate in Physical Therapy.  Would this have happened, had I not broken the trance I was in? Maybe. Maybe not. Many of my friends have simply transitioned from undergrad to graduate(or from undergrad to career) in a seemingly seemless way, keeping on the grind and going after what they want. My hat is certainly tipped to them, especially since I seem to struggle. I imagine it’s my tendency to over think. If I can clear out the clutter in my mind and get things done, I’d bet that anyone else can too.

This took me several days to write. I started with negative thoughts: Underemployed, Barely utilizing my education, too much free time with only my hobbyjogging to focus on.

I ended with positive thoughts: I work in a rehab hospital(a perfect place to learn before grad school), I have time to go to school, and I'm more inspired than ever. Spending some time in the working world and a clinical setting has made me value education.

ISU, Pocatello Idaho
Will this be my home next year?


  1. Fear of failure is a paralyzing force. But as Wayne Gretzky once said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take".

    (Us Canadians can never pass up a chance to quote the Great One)

    Sounds like you had an epiphany. Good stuff! See it through and see what happens.

    So I'm totally missing the point of the post by asking this, but what do you think of the Trailrocs? I love the fit of the Merrell Trail Glove, and am wondering if the Trailrocs are a good proxy with more protection and grip?

  2. How much longer must we wait for this week´s follow-up? I´m hoping for something like "Foosball Training Week #1: Wrist-Strengthening Routine Video" ...leave us hanging not!

  3. Jesse, I've been reading your blog since early last year when I got re-inspired about minimalist running and wanted a review of shoes for my Ironlady training.

    I really enjoy your writing, your thoughtfulness, your commitment to the big, difficult human questions.

    Keep it up. This blog deserves a shout out in the 5-things-you-are-impressive-at list.

  4. Way late on the reply, bit thank you! It glad people csn identify with it.

    1. But* and can*. I lack smartphone skills.