Saturday, February 1, 2014

Run Bloggers

I had decided that I wasn't going to blog any more, but I think this is important enough that it needs to be said.

In my (admittedly short) time reading running blogs I've come across several different types of blogs.  Some of them are cool, some are awesome, and some are...I don't know what to call it. 

First we have the personal bloggers.  This includes people like The Emerging Runner and She Is Out Running.  These blogs are chock full of run reports, race reports, with the occasional personal vignette thrown in.  They are written by runners who love to run, and write their blogs because running is their passion.  They've made some good friends through blogging, but mostly it's about their experience as runners.  I really enjoy reading blogs like these.  The two examples here are quite friendly people, and offer advice if asked, in helpful, useful ways.  What you won't find here is an agenda.  There are no aspirations to be ambassadors of running, or attempts to change the running world as we know it.  And that's awesome--I can dig it.

The second type I've noticed are the blogs that exist to serve as a resource for other runners.  I'll call them resource bloggers.  Great examples here are The Running Shoes Guru and The Lyons' Share Wellness.  The Running Shoes Guru provides a great resource for researching shoes.  Megan Lyons' passion is to help others improve themselves via diet, running, etc.  She relates personal stories and writes in a way to engage the reader.  She cares about those that read her blog.  She cares about what her blog says to those that read.  I have yet to make a serious comment on one of her posts that didn't get a reply.  These blogs too are awesome. 

The third type of blogger I've seen is the ambassador blogger.  These people have that strong personality, or that "it factor" that seems to attract readers to them.  People like Jill, Emz, and Beth.  They don't try to drive readers to their page, the content is just there--real "If you build it, they will come" stuff.  There's no possible way these bloggers could keep up with all the traffic that travels through their pages.  (But they do make a game attempt.)  I really like these blogs too--because who doesn't gravitate to these kind of peeps?  And furthermore, consciously or not, these bloggers are respectful of what running can mean to people.  They get that running is bigger than them, and they wield their influence and forum with care.

The final type of blogger I won't be giving examples of, but unfortunately in my experience they are far too common.  These blogs are written by people who are runners--and most often are talented runners at that.  But they've appointed (or anointed) themselves as figureheads, challenging themselves to become "beacons" for others in their running exploits.  They beg of you to follow them on Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter, but then they refuse to engage with the average ordinary reader/runner.  Faithful commenting and questions are met with silence--unless you're someone of equal or greater running social clout.  While the other types of bloggers either don't care about your status, or actually seek out the little people, these self centered bloggers are constantly gauging whether replying to you advances their vision as a blogger.  And the golden rule above all others, is to make certain their posts illustrate how awesome they are.

I get it.  There are self centered, selfish, ego-driven people in all avenues of life.  It's not a new thing and far from uncommon.

So why does it bother me so much when I run across these type of bloggers?

Because of the power of running itself.  There are all kinds of blogs on all manners of topic out there.  But we aren't talking about fashion blogging here.  Or hobby racecars.  Certainly these are topics that people can be passionate about.  But I don't see them as having the ability to universally transcend and effect an absolute paradigm shift within people.  And when I say people, I mean anyone

Running has the ability to (and routinely does) completely transform people.

As a runner I'm sure you get that.

And so when someone takes that, and uses it to feed their own ego, (and through their natural talent lend a sense of legitimacy to their actions and words), and actively exclude those that don't fit their brand of socially elite runner, it rankles me. 

I am 100% positive that I'm being over-sensitive about this.  But I guarantee you there are others that have felt the sting of that exclusion as well.

And that just sucks.

So, if you happen to read this, do me a favor and for the briefest of moments think about what you're putting out there, and how it might affect those who may read it.

With that I'll be taking a hiatus from blogging.  I don't know how long I'll be gone, clearly I have some serious issues to deal with of my own. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Rubber Meets The Road

I never thought I'd almost be 40 years old and still struggling to figure out who I am.  It seems so simple, to know one's self--to understand the fabric from which one is made. 

But I've never known.

I thought, after reading some books, that perhaps my being lost had to do with the fact that I'm adopted.  The authors of these books say that the initial rejection by the birth mother will emotionally scar a child for life.  And that may well be true, but I've gone through that search as well.  I found my birth mother, and it seemed like an emotional experience for me.  But in retrospect, I was more unsettled by the lack of emotion.  I wasn't angry with her.  And I wasn't suddenly made whole as a person by meeting her.  Mostly I was indifferent.  So much for life changing.

I also used to think that I had a particularly hard childhood emotionally.  I felt like I was teased incessantly growing up, and bullied.  Through a combination of living outside city limits, and relatively strict parents, I was mostly a member of the "out" crowd rather than the "in" crowd.  I had no close friends.  I found some inclusion in church youth group, but even there if I wasn't in attendance, it mattered not--I was a participant by attendance, not a core member.  But looking back, I wonder if I really had it that badly.  Most likely I experienced what every child experiences growing up, and because I was so lost to myself, perhaps I simply didn't handle it very well.

Not knowing who one is is exhausting.  I'm so tired.

It's been diagnosed as clinical depression, and maybe it is.  Maybe that's all depression is, when one is just tired from fighting whatever battle is before us.

I'm on two different anti-depressants, and they helped.  Two "pretty good" drugs as my doctor says.  But she's tired too.  Tired of trying to help me, and so she says if the pretty good drugs don't make my life pretty good, then she's done trying to help, and will instead refer me to a psychiatrist.  And so the lie perpetuates itself.  Of course I'm doing pretty good when she asks, because I don't want to see a psychiatrist.  It was hard enough to admit I was too tired of trying to deal with my life and needed pharmaceutical help, but to admit I need psychiatric care?  I mean, they do things like commit people, and electro-shock people for being tired.  Seeing a psychiatrist makes it difficult to do things like get health insurance, life insurance, important jobs.  Because nobody likes to be around people that have to get electro-shocked.

Christmas Eve was a bad night.  A couple days previous to that, a man threw his 3 year old son off of a high building, and then jumped after.  That story haunted me.  How tired must this father have been?  To destroy something so beautiful as his own (by all accounts,) vivacious son?  To have that much despair?

I put myself in his shoes, and tried to understand how far my mind and heart would have to be pushed to be capable of such an act.  And in that moment, I'm pretty sure I felt his heaviness of soul as he offered his life to the foul-smelling, gaping maw of Death grinning back at him.  In fact I felt Death's hot breath on my neck, stalking me, and realized that despite my best efforts, it would one day discover me and gleefully accept my soul in exchange for silence and stillness. Knowing that I can juke and dodge and dance, but someday it'll catch up and I'll be too tired to resist.

So I laid there in the chill of our extra bedroom, listening to the tinkle of the ceiling fan as the tears flowed down the sides of my face.  Because I don't want things to end early.  All I've ever wanted to is to be happy with myself and who I am.  Happy enough to be happy with the wonderful blessings I've been entrusted with. 

Isn't that all anyone ever truly wants? 

To be able to enjoy their blessings?

It doesn't seem like too much to ask.

Like many times before, I thought I'd found my salvation.  I lost weight.  A lot of weight.  I started running.  I fancied myself a runner.  But even that became empty, because I was no less tired. 

But I persevered, and re-evaluated.  I was honest with myself about my goals, and my abilities.  And I decided that even though I was slow and fat, that I could still be a runner.  This seemed to be affirmed by the recent nationwide rallying of runners around Meg Menzies and her family.  It seemed that all runners are part of a big running family. 

Today I realized as I read through my blog roll, that Meg Menzies was indeed part of the runner family.  Even those that didn't know her, knew she was a fellow runner, and identified with her.  Add to the tragedy of her untimely death the fact that she was training for Boston (and all the tragedy that resonates with runners associated with Boston).  She is a ready made rallying point for all things running.  (Although I suspect that her family would chuck all of that just to have her back.)

And I realized that I'm just not a part of that family.  Again, I'm part of the "out" crowd, standing outside the "in" crowd--a crowd that neither changes, nor notices if I am there or not.  I have no hope of ever qualifying for Boston.  It's not even a realistic head-in-the-clouds goal for me.  It would be a farce to say I one day hoped to qualify. 

My bucket list races are a list of fabulous destination marathons, all recognized by all the in-crowd runners who run them and wear their badge of honor medals. ("I had such a rough day, I didn't think I'd finish, but I managed to drag myself across the finish line in like 3 hours and 2 minutes.")  But the truth is I've only ever run a little over 5 1/2 miles in one run.  20% of a marathon.  And that only after six months of training.

I suspect that's the reason that my comments (save a couple of truly exceptional bloggers) on running blogs go categorically ignored.  I'm a guy who runs, but for whatever reason, I'm still not part of the runner family.  Or maybe I'm the distant cousin that smells of earwax and whose eyeglasses are covered in greasy fingerprints that makes everyone uncomfortable.

I'm pretty sure I'll keep running.  It does make me feel better about myself most days.  If nothing else it quiets my head.  But I'm not going to be attempting to join the runner community anymore, blogging or otherwise.  It's obviously not a good fit, and I think it makes people uncomfortable.

And frankly, trying to fit in just makes me even more weary. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Secret Sauce

Picture source
What's that one thing that you put on most things you eat?  You know, that one thing that your grandparents would have said was "good for your constitution"?

I may have mentioned before that I grew up in the alfalfa fields of northern New Mexico.  And the secret sauce up there is definitely green chile.  We put it on everything.  On our eggs, our hamburgers, in stews, casseroles and dips.  Even jelly and ice cream.  Imagine a green chile world where the celebrated Hatch green chile that Whole Foods romanticizes each Fall is only so-so in quality comparatively. 

It is amazing food.  Got a stuffy nose or a cold?  Spicy green chile clears the sinuses in a hurry.  Cold winter's eve?  Nothing warms the belly quite like green chile stew.  Warm summer's night?  Chile rellenos with sour cream.  It's the universal truth food.

Picture source
But alas, these days I live far from the green chile high country.  And aside from a few token bags of frozen green chile fillets my parents bring me when they visit, and the Hatch green chile week at Whole Foods, I just don't get enough to generously incorporate it into my diet.  There are substitutes (like poblanos) which are readily available in my local grocery store, but it's no, well, substitute.

So what do I use these days when I want to fortify my constitution?  I've actually fallen into the habit of using horseradish.  I put in on my sandwiches, salads, meats.  And the good stuff will definitely clear the sinuses in a rush.  Lucky for me, well prepared sauce is low calorie, and a little bit goes a long, long way.

I'm just waiting for the ice cream...

What's your secret sauce?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Oops, I Ran Through Shower Time

 It seems Texas weather pulled a fast one on us Texans again.  While I was running in 70* weather a few days ago, this greeted us today.  It isn't really all that cold, but the wind has a way of cutting to the bone and making it feel so much colder than even the wind chill claims.

I actually briefly thought about doing a run outside, heading due north into the wind, and then turning around and letting the wind blow me home.  Ultimately, heading to the gym and the treadmill won out.  It was time to mix things up with the hill function anyway.

I didn't get much sleep last night, an occurrence that's becoming all too frequent lately.  I really wasn't feeling all that inspired today, but I forced myself to go.  Lately my days at work have been so incredibly busy that running after a 12 hour shift of chaos hasn't really been an option.  Since I work 3 days a week, every day off has to have a run or I just don't get enough runs in.

When I started my workout, I started at a walking pace.  It's something I rarely do, but my legs were so cold that I was worried I'd hurt myself.  And since I was running for time rather than distance it felt amenable.

What I didn't expect was how utterly fantastic I felt.  I had planned on a 3-3.5 mile run using the hill program on the treadmill.  When 3 miles passed, and 3.5 miles approached I didn't want to stop.  I felt so, so good.  So I extended the workout to an hour, and let things roll.

As you can see, I went just a bit further than intended.  This is either the farthest I've ever run, or nearly so.  The crazy thing is that I felt like I could keep going indefinitely.  The stupid treadmills at my gym will only allow 1 hour workouts, after which you have to reprogram the thing all over to get started again.

It's probably a good thing though, because what I hadn't thought about was the fact that I had calculated out enough time to get my run in, return home, shower, and have time to go pick my son up from pre-K.  Except I ran straight through shower time.  So I ended up going directly from the gym to get my son.

You should have seen all the wrinkled noses and sideways glances I got from the Mommy Mafia.  Like I didn't already know that I was on the damp and smelly side of things.

I know that today's run was a reward for all the runs that I've struggled through, and bad days where I felt like I was dragging around a boat anchor.  We all get these amazing runs from time to time.  But I sincerely hope that maybe this is a sign of things to come as a result in my new direction in diet and attitude.  I mean I've had really great runs in the past, but I haven't ever run an extra 2.5 miles...

When was the last time you had a inexplicably fantastic run?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Debut: Garmin

As you can see, considering the temperature today here in Texas, (need I remind you it's January!) I couldn't find any excuse not to finally get out and run with the Garmin Forerunner 220 my wife got me for Christmas.  After dropping a few subtle hints (a text message with a link may or may not have been sent) she managed to find me one.  And even though these were apparently hot items and hard to find, she managed to find me a red and black one, (for which I'm thankful since the other choice was white and purple).

Anyway, today was the day, and I happily planned out my route.  I got dressed in running clothes, and laced up.  I grabbed my Garmin and when I started to strap it on, it wouldn't turn on.


I traced to cord back to the computer, and of course it was unplugged.

Now I'm not blaming anyone in particular, but there are two little monsters under 5' tall, that have in the past week hidden my glasses, my everyday watch (under the bed of course, because it glows in the dark!), and the remote shutter release for my dSLR.  But I'm not one to point fingers.

So I did what any self-respecting runner would do.  I started cussing.


A lot.

Then grabbed my phone, and went for a run anyway using my trusty iPhone and RunKeeper app.

It was a good run, and I enjoyed it.  The temperature was balmy, the breeze was perfect.  And a 5k slipped past under my feet.

And now here I sit blogging about it, and the Garmin lies next to me.  Mocking me with its 100% charge plastered boldly across its face.  I've seen less smirk on my 14 year old daughter's face.

Mr. Garmin, we are not off on the best foot here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Clothing for the Budget Runner

I wish I could afford the elite clothing that's out there.  It looks cool and I'm sure it's awesome, but right now I spend my money where the rubber meets the road--on shoes.  Paying a premium for the right shoes leaves precious little in the budget for clothing.

Having rubbed all the skin off my nipples on countless occasions running in cotton t-shirts, and worn Swiss cheese holes in my thighs from chafing, running specific garments are clearly in order.

So what's a money strapped Clydesdale to do?

Enter C9 by Champion.

If you want basic running clothes that hold up well, perform well, and don't get in the way when you're running--but you're on a budget like I am, then you're probably already familiar with C9 by Champion.  So likely I'm preaching to the choir out there.

That being said, today Sunday 1/19/14, is offering 40% off C9 clothing.  Just use the promo code "GETFIT" at check out.

By using that code, (and my wife's RedCard debit card discounts) I got 2 t-shirts, 2 long sleeve t-shirts, and 2 pair of running shorts for just over $50.  That's less than $10 a piece, and 6 pieces for the cost of a single elite garment by the most popular brands.

Anyway, thought I'd pass on the good fortune.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A New Day

A new day.  A new blog, with a new address.

Maybe a new me?

Well, maybe not a new me, but a new frame of mind, and a new attitude.

I've not blogged in a couple of months and as I last wrote, life was swirling about in crazy ups and downs that were frankly making me a little airsick.  I think I'm in a better place now--I certainly feel better.

I went ahead a imported my previous blog posts from Running Without Fear because as I read through them, there was some truth there.  And to delete them was to say they hadn't happened, and I didn't feel very good about that.

So, I think an update is in order.

In my weight loss journey, I was living from daily weigh in to daily weigh in, from calorie to calorie.  I was trying to eat the absolute least amount possible to not send my body into starvation mode, but wring out every last tenth of a pound on the scale.  Predictably, I often didn't eat (or drink) enough and my run recovery was compromised on a pretty regular basis.  But no matter, if I just pushed harder, worked harder I could push through and keep posting these mercurial gains time and distance.

So not healthy. 

I didn't really run in December.  And my eating went straight indulgent binge from Thanksgiving until New Years.  I gained back 14 lbs. 

In 6 weeks.

Throw in equal parts clinical depression, household stress, and that whole, "What am I going to be when I grow up?" question that unexpectedly arose from a colossal failure...and well...things weren't pretty.

I wish I knew what pulled me out of my funk.  I'd bottle it and save it for later.

But, things are different now.

First, I've gotten back into running regularly now, and life is always just a little bit better when I'm putting in some miles each week.  I went ahead and set a mileage goal for the year.  Following advice from an excellent e-friend and mentor, Megan, I set a fairly conservative goal.  I'm hoping I blow it out of the water completely, but even if I barely eke it out, I like the feeling of commitment and purpose.  (I'm not going to lie, I also like watching the little updates in RunKeeper as I log my miles. #rungeek)  Having a long term goal like that really fits in with my whole shift in thinking.

I've changed my calorie goals to consistently lose about 2 lbs a week, and making sure I eat enough to cover my exercise expenditures as well.  I no longer weigh myself daily--now I weigh in weekly.  This means I can eat and drink properly to fuel and recover from my runs.  This puts my weight loss goal almost a year away, but frankly I'm good with that.

Race-wise, I don't see how I can possibly be ready for the RnR Dallas Half in March that I've signed myself up for last year.  But I'm going to keep at my training steadily and true--resting when I need to, and pushing myself safely.  If I'm ready, I'll run (or more likely run/walk/run).  If not, I really don't care.

Today I ran 4 miles for Meg Menzies and #megsmiles.  They were a slow 4 miles.  But I realized, "That's ok."  Meg was training for Boston, and I'll likely never be fast enough to qualify, but that's ok.  I didn't know Meg, but she was just like so many of us runners.  Likely she represented the best of most of us.  So today, my miles counted.  They counted for her, her family, and for every runner out there that feels the tremendously tragic loss of her death.

And in that vein, I have a new blog, with a new title and web address.

Clydesdale Runner.

Because that's who I am.  I am big.  And I am slow.

But I am a runner.

And for the first time in a very long time, I'm content to be who I am.

It's a new day.