Part 2: I Had a Point

From Ridiculoussunglasses to Running Doctor, in response to Part 1: Marathon Self Doubt

I had a point before.  I had several, actually. I had the point that I was reinventing myself and that this was going to solve all of my longstanding internal problems.  I had the point that I was going to do something I thought was impossible, and that would mean I could do ANYTHING I think is impossible, including being okay with myself.  I was going to write about it and document it and have this story journal that showed my transformation, too (which is part of why I got this computer… to write). I had a point before.

I completely failed to accomplish that point. I DID do something that I thought was impossible for me, and also watched everything else remain just as impossible as ever. The main thing I ‘reinvented’ was some bone tissue in my right tibia after I broke it.  And more than half of what I write for my blog ends up being unreadable whining.  Sure, I learned a lot and am healthier, which was also part of the point, but let’s be real here… those are the equivalent of the finisher’s medal… “Thanks for showing up!… Great Try!” The point was to get a spot on the podium (reinvention), hardware (being okay with myself) and a prize check (journal documenting triumph).  LOLFail. Fail SO SO hard. Fail again.

Having my parents there for the Pig last year was kinda cool.  It did feel good to have them out there, and it gave me a boost on the course, for sure.  It felt sort of pointless at the end, though.  They had no real concept of what it was like for me. I actually would have preferred them not to be there [at the end].  It was also pointless and felt stupid to have them at my triathlon other than the fact that I needed someone to drive me home.  And really, any of the pride I took in having them there or the good feelings I had about it all was more because I thought it was this process of change and reinvention and blah blah blah blah blah (see every post ever…)

So why the hell am I back here, lining up for a full marathon?  I had a point before with the half, but realized that point wasn’t achievable or even actually related in any way to running or even triathlon.  I don’t even really honestly love running.  Not like I like swimming and definitely not like I like biking.  Sure, I like certain moments in most runs, but on the whole, I’d still choose biking every time, especially if Ihad as good a group of people with me for it.  SO WHY AM I HERE?
I don’t really know.

I keep telling people it’s because it’ll be a good base for the rest of the year, and that I want to get a marathon under my belt for doing a full ironman someday.  These aren’t false statements.  But I also know when I’m bullshitting someone, and I feel like I’m bullshitting whenever I am saying that.  It’s not that I don’t want to do other races, or a full IM some day. I do. But take a step back… the question is “Why?”

What am I trying to prove? What am I getting out of racing? And especially out of such a brutally long distance? I already know could condition myself enough to get to the finish. I’d just become a training robot for a while, and I have shut myself into robot mode enough times in my life that it isn’t hard for me.  If I decided that’s what I’m doing, the ‘accomplishment’ wouldn’t be that crazy in my mind. So why do it?  I already proved that what I WANT to get from racing isn’t possible. I already proved that my body isn’t really suited for this kind of workload or pounding. I lost the romance of “doing the impossible” after I realized that anyone who does a decent amount of training can do a half distance tri, and a full is just more of the same. It’s like a PhD, or a master trade certification, or digging a really big hole.  You don’t have to actually be good at anything or smart or special in any way. You just have to put in the time. And pretty much anyone who puts in the time will eventually get there.  Now, this isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of brilliant doctors, master technicians, mining engineers, and amateur triathletes too. There are obviously people who excel more than others in these time-intensive fields.  But I’m not going to excel more than others at a marathon, or a triathlon… I’m just the guy who put in the time.  The one at the back of the class that annoys the piss out of you because he gets the same degree (finisher medal?) even though he’s not actually good at it.

And anyway… why marathon? A marathon isn’t cooler or more badass to me than a half ironman.  And I think triathlons are more fun. I could potentially be kind of good at triathlons… Maybe…. Someday…. If I somehow accomplish those first two original points.  LOLJK… that’ll never happen.

So, I don’t know what I’m doing.  But I think NOT doing it might be worse. I’m more scared of having to tangle with whatever beast would take the place of the marathon than I am of tangling with the beasts: training, potential injury, and potential failure.  Also, it’s just what seems to be the thing for me to do right now.  Like there’s an inexplicable force pulling me into doing this marathon…  Some sort of cosmic pull… I dunno… Maybe I just have a weird thing that I need to follow through  even though I’m usually high as shit when I sign up for races. I don’t know.  But whatever dumbass psycho-spiritual bullshit is going on in my head, I’m doing it.

And I know if I’m going to run a marathon, I’m going to need help. I can’t do it alone.  And…

And I know part of that is going to be that I’m going to need to be there for you, and for the rest of our running family.  I know I depend on you guys, especially you [Running Doctor], so I also know you all depend on me, which gives me some strength, in a weird way.  So I know if I’m doing it, I’m going to be helping you (plus, if I don’t have that to focus on, I’ll think about myself too much and implode.  It could be a literal implosion too… it could get very messy).

I don’t have any answers for you about marathons.  But you already knew that.

I don’t really have any answers about most aspects of my life (which you also knew).  But… Like the marathon, it’s all still real, and still happening, and that’s that.

[I like these.  I might use them.  I’m pretty drunk right now, though, so we’ll have to see how they look in the morning.]

Part 1: Marathon Self Doubt (from Running Doctor)

From Running Doctor to Ridiculoussunglasses:

I’m searching for a pen.  Blue ran out.  Red seems too angry.  I always write in purple.  The orange is too hard to read.  That’s how this ended up green.  And I’m drinking wine.  Still.  One glass somehow turns into one bottle.  Every damn time.  Overachiever?  Finish what I started? Does this count as a super power?  My handwriting is deteriorating with the wine.  All that time spent finding a pen and I need a keyboard.  When my computer died I decided to get a new one.  People questioned why I needed one.  Get an iPad.  Use your phone. “I need to write,” I tell them.  I hardly write anymore.  But, I need that option.  I need that chance.  Even if it’s with a red pen drowning in white wine.

I’ve signed up for my third full marathon and I’m already having buyer’s remorse.  It’s in 3 months.  That’s a lot of time to think about what I’ve done. “You’ve already finished two,” people say.  But, I didn’t finish them well.  And I definitely didn’t have fun.  Each time I crossed the finish line my first thought was, “Never again.”  And here we are – again.  My family doesn’t get it.  Most of my friends don’t get it.  Some days I don’t even get it. 

Last Saturday’s long run wasn’t easy.  That’s when I start losing faith in myself.  There seem to be more hard runs than easy runs lately.  Maybe it’s the cold.  Maybe it’s all in my head.  Or maybe it’s my heavy legs.  Stop eating lead for breakfast, it goes right to your ankles. 

I asked my mom if she would consider going to my race.  I mean, she went to all my sister’s boyfriend’s band’s gigs. “Your races are too early and I’m a night person,” she said.  But, like I won’t be done till noon and you don’t have to be there the WHOLE time.  Just like the end.  That would be cool.  She wrinkled her nose and shook her head.  I could hear all the excuses about not wanting to go downtown and I could feel a visceral reaction bubbling up from the depths of my own self-doubt.  And I knew I had to get out of there before I completely fell apart.  Melt down in three, two, one… So, my parents don’t get it.  My siblings are busy with their own families and lives.  Although, I have no doubt they would love to stand on a course for hours just to tell me to eat shit (in the most loving way possible) and that I was complete idiot for doing this multiple times (also in the nicest way possible).  My friends don’t get it.  Especially when I say I can’t hang out long on Fridays because I have to be up corn-picking early to run a ridiculous number of miles in the dark winter weather.  I mean, that does sound fairly insane.  I don’t blame them.  But my parents…?  They sat through lollipop soccer for years.  A marathon finish line has got to be better than that. 

That visceral reaction my mom triggered?  I feel it every now and again on long runs.  I have no idea when it’s coming. But, when it does, I just want to crawl out of my own skin.  Somehow distance myself from distance running and my own choices.  And what is with this self-doubt?  Is there some core value not aligning with short term goals?  What is happening here?  Is it because this probably will be my last marathon?  Is it because I want to do marginally better in case it is?  Is this going to be three strikes and I’m out or is it going to be third time is a charm? 

I’m doing almost everything I should this time around.  Cutting back on contact soccer.  Going to the gym.  Running.  A lot.  Cross training.  Some.  Thinking about eating better.  Am I scared because – what if I do everything right and still fall apart at Frisch’s Mainliner?  Right where the course becomes boring and the crowd support thins.  I remember my last full marathon.  It was shortly after my Papa passed away.  I was hitting the wall hard and I gave myself a pep talk about how I needed to do this for Papa.  Clear as day I could hear his laugh, insinuating he had nothing to do with this and would love me the same either way.  Fuck, I can’t even pep talk right.

What I do have going for me this time is an anniversary race in my hometown surrounded by my running family. They get it.  They don’t completely understand it all the time. They definitely don’t understand me all the time.  But, they get it.  By “get it” I mean we clearly run for the beer and pizza.  That’s probably the clearest goal I can peg down.  But, really.  I feel like I’ll know enough people at any point along the course (runners and spectators) and if I carry an extra phone battery to Pinterest motivational memes at will, and my broken legs hold together, I can get through this one more time.  Mostly to remind myself that it is, in fact, this bad every damn time, and to race shorter distances which I’m able to run effectively.

People keep asking me about a time.  Finish line, not finish time.  And uninjured please.  I’m also worried about how long it will take my legs to come back.  I raced two halves in 6 days in the fall and posted a PR and my third fastest time.  The first marathon it took a month for my legs to come back.  I remember setting out to run 9 miles two weeks after the marathon.  I was at a sluggish pace and just kept slowing down until I crumpled into a ball of self-loathing 4 miles from the car.  Phone a friend for a ride.  The second one I felt normal within a couple weeks and even cranked out my fastest 5K time to that point three weeks later.  So, maybe this one will go better?  Or maybe it won’t. 

Some days I think I’ll run forever, other days I think I’m ready to retire.  That may say more about my personality than my running.  Speaking of running.  I’ve run out of wine again.  I don’t want to open another bottle.  750ml single serving.  I’ve got a belly full of wine, a desk full of colored pens and no answers about marathons. Marathon?  26.2 miles? Overachiever? Finish what I started?  Does this count as a super power?  This uncertainty is the worst. 


Tomorrow: “Part 2: I Had A Point (from Ridiculoussunglasses)”

Steady State (from October 2017)

I step out the door onto wet pavement. I adjust my visor, press the headphones into my ears a little more and hit the button on my watch. As I make my way up the street I feel my muscles begin to tighten, then to slowly loosen up. The damp air feels thick and heavy, yet cool and fresh. With each turn on these old streets, I take in the brilliant fall colors offered up by mother nature. Reds as bright as any fire truck, oranges that are almost neon and leaves so intensely yellow that I squint against their brightness as I run over a fallen carpet of them.

Beads of moisture begin to collect on my brow and run down the back of my neck. My route isn’t predetermined, but rather charted ad-lib, based partly on some subconscious internal cosmic gravity, and mostly on which crosswalks end up being conveniently timed. My breathing and cadence settle into a rhythm as I begin to reach Steady State Running. My eyes start to unfocus and the meditation begins.

Songs tick past as miles tick by, and my legs begin to tire, but my gait is steady and my stride is smooth. I feel strong. Thoughts meander into and out of my mind, like the water of a stream round a bend. My chest rises and falls. Leaves crunch under my feet and the rich smells of fall fill my head. Sweat drips at a steady interval from my visor now, returning the life that I have borrowed to the earth from whence it came.

People That Hurt – Part 2: Hurt – (adj.)

Hurt (adj.)
1. injured, or feeling physical pain

2. feeling emotional pain, usually because of someone’s behavior

Hurt is like a disease. There are dozens of different kinds of hurt, though they’re all similar, like different strains of the same virus.  Someone can give it to you, which is what Part One is about, but you can also just pick it up somewhere.  It can come as the consequence of life circumstances.  You can just be predisposed to it.  No matter how it starts, the hurt virus gets inside you and lives and grows; and if it’s bad, sometimes it changes and evolves until it is no longer an action. It’s no longer hurtING… Hurt goes from being a verb, to being an adjective.  Hurt becomes a characteristic, like blonde hair, or broad shoulders.

People who hurt mostly suffer the consequences in silence and alone. Mostly we pretend like the pain doesn’t exist and try to maintain who we were before. We don’t usually talk about it, not out loud, at least. We put on a show for the rest of the world when really we are just a few pieces taped together roughly in the shape of a person. We pay our bills. We do our work. We occupy the space we are supposed to… our seats at a concert… place at the table… role in the team… But we aren’t really there. Not completely.

We wonder if we’ll ever be NOT broken again.  There is a constant search for some way past the hurt.  We question if we’ve forever lost the ability to trust, to really enjoy life, to love and BE loved… to thrive.  The hurt ones wonder if we’ll ever have value to ourselves, let alone anyone else.  Who could care about someone who is so damaged and dirty?(even though we know consciously that we aren’t)  We grasp at the notion that it could all be okay someday and try to force ourselves to believe it and hope for the day when we wake up and the darkness is gone.

That’s not to say there is necessarily resignation.  We go on in whatever way we can. We still do things. People talk to us and we give advice. We honestly really do still really do care about things. It’s not like we suddenly become zombies incapable of feeling anything other than anguish, disgrace and languor, though there is a lot of that. We keep most of our hobbies. We just hurt while we do it. So, we distract ourselves from the hurt. Sometimes by running away. We write about riding, drinking, running. We try to convince ourselves that it’ll be okay if we just are patient. We try to define ways of looking at our world that make it brighter, and rules to help us avoid making future mistakes. We don’t enjoy things the way we once could; we hurt, but we still try. Like Running Doctor says, If we stop trying, what do we have left??

So what’s the point? What’s the solution? What’s the message?

First off… I don’t know what. If you want a flowery, optimistic message, look here. This is not that.  These are observations.

Yeah, some people eventually succumb to the hurt. Marco Pantani, Ernest Hemingway, Junior Seau, Robin Williams, Dave Mirra, David Foster Wallace, Ryan Freel. There are plenty of examples of people whose greatness and ultimately death alike, were clearly driven by their hurt. Look them up.  It’s worth learning their stories.

Untimely demise isn’t the only outcome though… let’s not be dramatic and fatalistic…

This whole project is about coping and talking about it.  I guess I think that’s the best we can hope for.  It means we are still trying; we’re still fighting the fight.  It helps to hear that even some of the highest achievers… Michael Phelps, Jerry West, Brandon Marshall… are fighting the same fight.  The last 6 weeks and HSV have taught me a lot about stigma, and there’s just as much stigma about mental health.  Having some high profile people open up about it helps out the rest of us.

People not being assholes also helps.

I don’t have the answer to what the meaning of hurt is or how to ultimately live with it. If I did, I wouldn’t be writing this. Furthermore, there aren’t just two categories; perpetrators and victims. I’ve hurt people too, and the fact that I have BEEN hurt doesn’t make it okay.  We’re pretty much all guilty on some level. Hurt is a mess. I don’t know what the point, the solution or the message is.  Like said, these are observations.

I’m observing that I’m hungry.  And I want to ride my bike.

People That Hurt – Part 1: Hurt – (verb. tr.)

Hurt – (verb) tr.

1a. too inflict with physical pain ; wound   1b.  to do substantial or material harm to : damage

2a to cause emotional pain or anguish to : offend  2b : to be detrimental to : to hamper

They never really have to deal with the consequences.  They get to go on with their lives so easily. It’s at once, enraging and completely deflating. If only they could be made to see the damage they have done with their carelessness. But they can’t… If only they had to understand what a single day is like; one day of waking up wishing that when I open my eyes there would be a different world… ANY different world… just so long as it’s a world where I have value to someone… where my feelings matter more than someone’s impulses. Where ‘fair’ could somehow apply to life. But they can’t… If only they could be made to know how much is gone and will never come back or to experience some small piece the pain they cause, just so they could be aware. But they can’t. They couldn’t be bothered to care before, when they were doing the hurtful things, so why would they possibly care now?

It makes you want to scream at them and throw things on the floor and jump up and down.


They can be told what they did and why it was wrong, but it won’t matter.  It’s futile. The moment of feeling good for speaking your mind and standing up for yourself is immediately shut down when met with the token apology, that isn’t even really an apology… “I’m sorry you feel that way,”….  ‘I’m sorry YOU feel that way’… not sorry for what THEY DID, and not even taking responsibility for making you feel that way…. As if you needed another reminder of how little you matter.  You can tell them, but they will never really HAVE think about, let alone deal with, the consequences.

After the hurt comes soul-crushing self-loathing… the realization that I never really mattered, and the embarrassment of not having realized it. That for all the time, the caring, the effort, the concern… anything invested or hoped for or believed… none of it mattered to them… never did, never will. Not in the way it was supposed to. This fact stares you in the face, “heh heh… so pathetic. All your kicking and screaming about how wrong this is means nothing. All your frustration means nothing. However much you don’t deserve this doesn’t matter at all. YOU don’t matter at all.” It’s the insult after the injury; it paints me with humiliation. How on earth could I be such an imbecile? I already feel repulsive an disgusting, and now I have to feel like an idiot on top of it.

The people who do the hurting never deal with the rest of the consequences either… Little haymakers that will hit me from time to time for the rest of my life. A punch when I hear a particular song. A jab when I hear certain jokes or when have certain meals. There’ll be a sting every time getting on my bike or doing some yoga pose hurts and reminds me of the virus I now have. I’ll take a right hook of shame and embarrassment to the jaw every time I have to deal with consequences they’ll never even think of. Every day. Forever.

Mike Tyson said “everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth,” which I wrote about HERE. Well, the irrational loneliness which wages war inside me has a biological weapon now to keep me alone. I didn’t know how to deal with the failure to fix my problems then, and now I’ve just added a problem for which there IS no fix.

And what of the people that hurt? They still go to sleep at night, watch television, shower, go to their jobs, fuck their partners, compare prices at the grocery store, and eat their dinners completely unaware of the reality of the consequences.

Life and Loss and What’s Next

You’re going to make friends. You’re going to skin your knees. You’re going to go on adventures with new people and solo. You’re really at an awesome junction. Sure, it’s scary to let go of the past… to accept that new things are and MUST be part of life… It’s super scary, and can feel like all of the sudden you have no purpose. It’s almost impossible to avoid wondering what life should be now, when you’ve held on to one approach to it for so long and begin to move on. What path am I taking? What’s my purpose? What’s the point?… That’s how I felt when Buddy died, and how I still feel a lot. Buddy was depending on me. He needed me to get the foods and take him for throws and walks. He needed the pets from me and the needed me to tell him no. And when it was his time, and I had to make that decision,

he needed that from me too.

It was hard because it felt like I was deciding to go into a future where I had no purpose. He had been my only true best friend for 8 years. In the darkest places, he had been my guide, even though I was his master.
Yes, I was completely wrecked. And I had no idea what to do. I ended up bridging the gap by making my triathlon training my purpose in life. But in working through all of that I also realized that what he had really taught me was that every new thing can be the greatest. He was never sad to go to sleep even after our best adventures. And he was never afraid to embark on a new adventure. What he knew, that I am still only learning, is that each next day could be even more grand than the last. There might be new smells, new sticks to fetch, new food to steal, new people to meet. He had taught me what the real purpose of life is. And it’s to be happy. To thrive. To forgive. To trust others. To love despite the danger. To make others smile. To be open to life. Every day he did that for me without fail. (It’s safe to say that he rescued me as much or more than I rescued him.) That was his job. Just…

To be.

And it turns out that in simplest terms, that is all of our job. Or at least that’s what I believe.

So I’m going on, and finding new trails to hike. New places to camp. New smells. New sticks… I’m growing. I’m learning. I’m letting myself be open to what’s next. And yes, I’m still trying to get the hang of the fact that the joys of one day or one period… of one adventure… they can’t all come into the future, but I’m seeing that they should be an inspiration for the future.

You have a whole world out there to make your own. You can become anything you want. The beauty of losing is that it’s the beginning of the process of gaining. Of growing. Of reinventing. Ends are difficult to handle, no doubt. But it’s important to remember that they are also beginnings.
You’re at a crossroad right now. Yes, the road behind you is familiar and that is comforting. But the road behind you has prepared you for whatever lies ahead. And it’s really pretty exciting once you get over the grief and the fear (both of which are normal). You exist in this huge, incredible world with all these amazing things. You have the opportunity to grab life by the scruff and shake it into whatever form you want. You can keep almost all of the person you have been or ditch a lot of it forever. You can, and you WILL thrive! No matter what! The sun will come up tomorrow, and the day after and the day after. The water will run. And every next day has the potential to be the best one yet.

Drinking in the Stillness

With each exhalation, vapor sparkles and swirls around my face before disappearing into nothingness. It’s quiet. A quiet so deep that it becomes a a physical object; it surrounds me completely; presses against me, and compels me to tiptoe and breathe as softly as possible. It’s nighttime. I can feel the dampness from recent rain making the cold penetrate just a little more. Fall rain means that for the next few months the soil will be perpetually damp when not frozen. The perfectly still air doesn’t knife me with chill so much as it pricks and drains heat away in a slow, covert and sinister process, like an unseen needle draining the body of blood.

I settle as silently as possible on a stump surrounded by old growth trees, branches naked in the waning crescent moon. I slip my hand into my coat pocket and produce a small metal flask. Moonlight glints off the polished surfaces as I unscrew the cap. The dead silence is shattered by the small clank of the hinged lid as it hits the vessel of the flask. In an instant, the quiet reassembles as rapidly as it disintegrated and surrounds me once again. The smoky, sweet flavor of the liquor slides across my taste buds and is quickly cut by the harshness of the alcohol. My swallow sounds like a freight train in the hushed darkness that envelopes me. A slight grimace steals across my face for an instant as I take a breath, processing the burn of the whiskey. It trickles down my throat and into my stomach, warming me from the inside. I exhale and watch the wisps of vapor again swirl and dance before disappearing. The warmth from the whiskey seeps outward from my stomach, working it’s way down my limbs and slowly percolating up into my head. I take another small sip, and grimace a bit less this time. It fortifies me against the damp cold seeping through my jeans from the mossy, aged stump on which I reside. I exhale. Sparkles drift in the moonlight once more and disappear. Silence and stillness presses back in.

I take another long pull from the flask and replace the cap as quietly as possible. I dare not disturb the stillness more than I already have. My face begins to feel warm. Frost twinkles on every surface around me, as if some unseen hand has sprinkled diamond dust throughout the woods. I survey the patterns of swirls in my breath as time slides silently forward. Minutes pass by in an instant, and seconds seem to take hours. My mind is now occupied only by the rhythmic appearance of my breath and the dull warmth afforded by the brown liquid within the flask. I begin to absorb the calm stillness that surrounds me. I begin to disappear.

After a time, I reemerge from the stillness and pull the bottle from my pocket again, careful this time not to let metal strike metal. A last, slow sip stokes the warmth within me before I return the flask to my coat pocket. I stand, noiselessly surveying the trees around me. I ponder the many years these trees have stood. I wonder how many times have they dropped their leaves? How many times have they been dressed in sparkling blankets of frost? What all have they seen, standing by, stoically observing? Has someone come here, and been through this same ritual before me?

Days ago?

Decades ago?

I wonder who would I be now if I had seen what these trees have seen; if I knew what they know?……

I know that answers to these questions don’t exist, and I give a nod to the ancient woody giants which stand over me. In my head, I whisper “Thank you for keeping me these few minutes.”

The warmth emanating from my belly has turned into a pleasant humor that fills me. A tipsy grin creeps from my heart to my face as I gingerly retrace my steps, careful to tiptoe in the footprints I’ve already made in the stillness.