Monthly Archives: October 2012

End Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism as a THOUGHT, as an INTENT, is a positive thing. It is a hope for personal progression and an awareness regarding the suffering of animals. Vegetarianism as an ACTION is WORTHLESS. It is no different than putting a bolt pistol to a pig’s forehead and pulling the trigger, for the victims of vegetarianism suffer the same fate as the victims of omnivorous eating habits. The dairy cows imprisoned in crates, whose babies have been stolen from them, who have been milked dry, literally, do not benefit from vegetarianism. The chickens equally imprisoned in crates with no room to turn around, growing festering sores on their bodies as they rub up against the cages, held until they can produce eggs no more, also benefit nothing from the value of vegetarianism. It is a morally bankrupt position and should be treated as such, for the benefit to the animals is the measure of all our actions and vegetarianism is nowhere near a less-harmful position to take.

My personal transition from vegetarianism to veganism didn’t last long, because the glaring inconsistencies weighed on me continuously. I was often pressed to justify my vegetarianism and could never comfortably offer a response that was consistent with my attempt to do no harm. I fell back on the stupid societal perceptions of alternative ways of eating to explain away my half-measures.

“Look at me, I’m so skinny. If I go vegan I’ll get sick and probably die!”, I’d exaggeratedly exclaim.

That, of course, was just immaturity and a lazy consideration of the issue. It was only when I WANTED to be consistent in my approach did I actually start considering whether I could go vegan or not. Then it all fell into place and the idea of vegetarianism just became laughable. Mind you, this was back in ’94 when I was in college and sometimes subsisted on plates of peas to get me by. This was before health food sections in grocery stores and a plethora of alternative meat and cheese options. It was legitimately more difficult to eat a packaged food vegan diet back then. We would praise Keebler Soft Batch cookies like they were dropped from heaven, excitedly inform all our friends when we stumbled upon accidentely vegan candies, and stuff our pockets full of samosas from all you can eat Indian buffets to save for later. Things were different back then.

So forgive me if I’m a little hard on vegetarianism, but it’s time has come to be scorned. We, as a culture, have come so far in terms of nutrition education, meat and dairy “transition foods”, and the general awareness of the vegan diet that I no longer see vegetarianism as a logical transition to veganism. If the goal is to stop harming animals, then we need to take the step from eating animals and their by-products to simply NOT eating animals and their by-products. We don’t need half-measures, we don’t need slow transitions. We’ve got the communities, cultures, and resources to make the switch from omnivorous eating to veganism immediately. Hell, the movie Forks Over Knives is converting people without a concern for animals to veganism overnight, and they even advocate cutting out MORE than what basic veganism asks.

The long accepted slow transition from eating animals to not eating animals is really just a matter of cultural perception and personal comfort that should be negated when we’re talking about the lives of animals. If we accept vegetarianism in this cultural climate as an acceptable transition to veganism, then it follows we should slow the transition even further to pescatarianism, red meat vegetarianism, etc. etc. Aren’t we at the point that all these half-measures (and quarter-measures, one-eight measures) can be viewed as just selfish and lazy? The bottom line is we have the infrastructure and knowledge in place to EASILY remove ourselves from eating animals and therefore should do so. I’m all about helping people make that transition and making it as easy as possible, but the continued enslavement, torture and killing of animals should no longer be a part of it. We are beyond that.

Thoughts and intents to do no harm are great, but it’s the actions that truly matter. End vegetarianism…go vegan.

The Great Peanut Butter & Pickle Debate

The progression of my mental state kinda cracked me up today.

Yesterday, I did not run. I did not run because it was raining, which doesn’t keep me from running usually, but also because my left hamstring was tight (that’s new) and my right leg was feeling “nervy”. I was just feeling sick of dealing with it all and didn’t feel like doing a speed workout on bum legs in the rain. And then, of course, there is the rest of my personal issues that are really getting me down and of which I won’t rehash in this post. So for all that, I didn’t run. And, of course, I didn’t feel good about it.

Then today I packed my bags to run, but I wasn’t even sure what sort of running I would do today. A long run to make up for yesterday? A normal run to just maintain? The speed workout I was supposed to do the day before? I trudged through work as usual and at some point I realized, I wasn’t going to run….again. I just wasn’t. I was feeling depressed and the idea of running, whatever sort, just didn’t motivate me, nor did I feel I could muster the motivation to not only run, but enjoy it if I did. So I decided not to run….again. Riding home and just holing up in my house in front of my computer sounded more appealing than anything else. Then something funny happened.

I was avoiding work and browsing the internet when I came across this article on The New York Times site.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/dining/making-a-meal-out-of-peanut-butter-and-pickles.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

The short of it is, the author discovered peanut butter and pickles as a complementary meal, was shocked to find that not many others have tried this combination and sought out fellow PB and pickles lovers. Now, if you don’t already know this about me, I LOVE peanut butter…to a dangerous, maybe, degree. I eat it every day. I put it in my oatmeal in the morning. I mash it up with bananas as  a snack. I mash it up with avocado and soy sauce to spread on toast. I make peanut sauces for my pasta and thai noodles. I eat it straight from the jar with raisins. I eat it straight from the jar all by itself, when I’m depressed and when I’m ecstatic. No matter.

So when I read this article I suddenly got really excited. Just the night before I had posted a photo of Peanut Butter and Co’s White Chocolate Wonderful on my facebook page, which started a thread of excitement by my many friends who also share my PB affinity and from those who had no idea this existed and is vegan. The owner of Peanut Butter & Co. was interviewed in the NY Times article. Anyways, I got excited because of all the other foods I’ve mixed peanut butter with, I’ve NEVER tried pickles…and pickles and peanut butter is one of those old recipes people often reference, though I had yet to try. So I thought I’d take the peanut butter and pickles combination one step further and mix it with the Peanut Butter & Co. flavors, to not only see how I liked the combination, but how I liked it with a little something extra.

And here’s the funny thing. I got so excited about conducting this taste test that my entire mental state did a 180 on the spot and suddenly I was excited to run! Admittedly, I told myself that if I was going to stuff my body with bread and peanut butter that I should probably do a run first and go into a little caloric deficit. So, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to experiment unless I completed yesterday’s speed workout I did not do. And so I did it!

I excitedly bounded down to the track, knocked out 6 x 800’s w/ 200 recovery all around 2:30 and then finished off the 12 miles with a run around the city. It was awesome. Then on the way home I stopped at the grocery store and picked up Peanut Butter & Co.’s (I should get sponsored for name dropping them don’t you think?) White Chocolate Wonderful and Dark Chocolate Dreams, a loaf of bread and a Clif Builder Bar because I was already dying of hunger after the run. Then I got down to business…what follows is my official taste test. I would say, “Don’t take my word for it”, but yeah, “Take my word for it!!!” 🙂

White Chocolate WonderFAIL.

I started off with the best of all the peanut butters, White Chocolate Wonderful, which is so sugary and white chocolatey tasting that it’s almost hard to call it peanut butter. It’s more like some sort of peanut filling you’d find in a candy bar. It’s probably best eaten straight from the jar lest any other flavors take away from it’s pure awesomeness, which is exactly what happened with the pickles. These two flavors did NOT mesh well. At first bite the sweetness of the peanut butter overpowers the vinegary saltiness of the pickles and subsequently the two never complement each other or make something awesome as one. They just fight the whole time and the sweet chocolate always wins. The pickles end up more as an annoying distraction. These two flavors FAIL together.

Natural Creamy Perfection

Next up was the Kroger brand (local grocery store) Natural Creamy, which consists of nothing more than ground up peanuts and maybe a miniscule amount of salt. This is how peanut butter should be….just ground up peanuts. Period. This is also what I believe food connesieurs use when they couple peanut butter and pickles together, so I was very curious to see what might happen. I was VERY pleased. This was the winner, for sure. The first bite you taste the vinegary bite of the pickles, followed then by the descending flavors of salt to sweet in the peanut butter…and then something else happens. The two flavors embodied by the pickle and the peanut butter magically blend together and something else entirely comes out of them. THAT flavor is what sells everybody on this combination. It’s not the pickles and it’s not the peanut butter, it’s the flavor that comes from both of them together, as if an entirely other ingredient was added at the last second. This is the pairing that makes pregnant women go nuts over this stuff (and obsessive distance runners). Now, how to explain it. I’d say it’s an intense saltiness, but that sounds a little off putting and excessive. It’s a salty flavor for sure, but almost a simultaneously sweet flavor as well. It swims around at the back of your mouth and leaves an almost refreshing aftertaste. It’s just…well…awesome. That’s all. You MUST try it and that’s all I can say about that.

Dark Chocolate Dreams Indeed

Admittedly, after the failure of the White Chocolate test, I was a little concerned the sugar in the Dark Chocolate Dreams would have the same disappointing result. I was pleasantly surprised. The first taste was interesting as the two flavors of dark chocolate and salty vinegar didn’t necessarily mesh together, but they also didn’t fight each other. It was like they WANTED to pair up, but had just enough subtle differences not to. It’s like an 800 runner dating a marathoner. They have their similarities, but there will always be a gap of understanding between the two (hah! Brilliant!). Further tastes had a similar effect where the sweetness of the chocolate peanut butter was quickly lost and I was left with the dark chocolate flavor mixing with the saltiness of the pickles. Elvis Presley was apparently an evangelist of the peanut butter, pickle and bacon sandwich, and I think the taste of this combination must somehow mimic the chocolate covered bacon fad (“bacon hype is stupid”) that is currently sweeping the nation. A more appropriate comparison would be chocolate sprinkled with sea salt. It’s not a terrible pairing and has it’s place, but it still doesn’t compare to the foundation of straight peanut butter and pickles.

And there you have it. Peanut butter has now taken an even stronger hold in my kitchen as I can see myself going to town on one of these combinations after a heavy sweating, sodium depleting long run on a hot and humid day, or after a brutal track workout of 800 repeats. Feel free to let me in on any peanut butter pairings I have not listed in this post…I’d love to experiment!

 

The Running Balloon

I’ve already stated I’m no longer running the Monumental Marathon as my goal race to lower my PR. The race is in two weeks and I’m nowhere near where I should be to run a marathon, let alone break my PR. My latest injury hit me at the worst possible time in training and took out such a huge chunk of fitness that I could never build back up and back off in time to race. It’s just not physically possible. It’s not physically possible, no matter how much I want it to be, because running is like a balloon. Hear me out.

When you first start building up your training it’s just like blowing air into a balloon. You start off slowly with minimal effort and the balloon slowly fills with air. A little more training and the balloon fills to the point that you start to see it grow and expand. A little more training and suddenly you have a large balloon filled with the effects of your efforts. You take a step back, look at the work you’ve done and feel pretty satisfied at the size of your balloon. Then you start blowing more air into it, but suddenly it’s much harder and the rewards aren’t as great. It’s only growing a little bit at a time. Still, you’re putting in the time and work and slowly pushing that balloon to it’s limits and then some. That, you can understand, if your PR and the work to surpass your PR. It’s hard, but if you keep pushing at your limits you can get there.

Then you get injured. Not INHERENTLY, of course, but for the sake of argument.

And your balloon starts to deflate as you’re no longer putting air into it to keep it’s shape. And this is the part that sucks.

You want to believe that all the time you put into inflating the balloon would be equal to the time it takes for the balloon to deflate, but you know that’s not the case and running fitness is the same way. You work and work and work, but as soon as you stop working, everything starts to deflate rapidly. That balloon doesn’t slowly let air out and gently flutter around the room for awhile. Oh no, it nearly collapses, pushing all the work you put into it back out as it rockets through the air, bouncing off all the walls and making that funny puttering noise before it lays dead on the ground.

That, unfortunately, is how running fitness works.

You can put 6 months of training to get yourself into PR shape, but get injured to the point that you can’t run AT ALL and it doesn’t take 6 months to get you back to where you started. Oh no, I’ve read articles that estimate fitness is lost completely within 3 WEEKS. Ugh. That hurts. Now, there are benefits we get from backing off and we never start from scratch once we take a break. Certain muscles and other systems are built to a certain baseline and basically stay there, ready to be activated once we start running again, but that level of fitness you achieved right before the balloon slipped from your hands is mostly lost. And again..

That sucks.

So, in my specific case, although I hoped the injury would correct itself and I could get back to training with only a minor setback, as if I was able to grab the balloon before all the air escaped, that just didn’t happen. I was completely down for, I think, 2 1/2 to 3 months. That’s complete fitness deflation.

I’m currently trying to reinflate the balloon at this point, but my leg is still pretty precarious, so I’m holding back, not pushing the balloon too big in fear it will slip from my hands again. I’m psyched to say my fitness has remained relatively strong, which I attribute to a lot of bike riding, but I’m still only just starting putting in a lot of work and ramping my miles back up slowly. I lost such a chunk of training time leading up to this race that I have no choice but to look towards the spring for another go at my PR. All the while I’ll keep inflating the balloon and hope I have the lung power to get it bigger than last time.

The Great Disconnect

Tbat link is to a Youtube video of comedian Louis C.K. delivering a routine about the immorality of eating meat, all the while admitting that he eats meat on a daily basis. (Go watch it…I’ll wait). I know many people might be repulsed by his acknowledgement of the immorality of eating animals and yet his comfort with still eating them, and that repulsion is justified, but I think this acknowledgement and expression also lays bare the obstacle we as vegan activists (if you associate with that identifier) need to overcome in order to be more effective in convincing people of the “rightness” of veganism and in convincing them to stop taking animals lives.

That obstacle, if we must simplify it, is DISCONNECTEDNESS. For someone to be able to think about eating animals, come to the conclusion that doing so is essentially wrong and harmful, but still continue to consume them speaks of a terrible disconnect between the acknowledgement of the issue and the actual life of the animal. It speaks of an understanding between cause and effect, but a disconnect between being part of the cause and not seeing the effect. It is, again, a tragic disconnect.

This awareness is nothing new in the vegan arsenal. We’ve constantly pointed out the disconnect at the grocery store when we see refrigerated cases full of packaged substances that look nothing like the animals those substances once were. It’s a true argument and is part of the overall disconnect our culture has produced between animals and our plates. Most, if not all, vegans have bridged that gap of awareness between food and animal, but for most of society, it’s simply not a consideration. The disconnect is so great that it’s just not a topic of discussion, despite it being a part of everyone’s lives a few times a day.

Even as aware vegans the disconnect becomes a part of our lives in ways we sometimes don’t recognize. We are so removed from the horror that is factory farming and the individual lives of the animals trapped within that system that we become, not desensitized, but disconnected from a sense of empathy we would have if we were exposed and connected to their lives on a daily basis. Commercials on TV that show hyper detailed images of an animals body sold as a commodity have no effect on us. Jokes about animals being killed or tortured don’t offend us, and cause some of us to laugh. Any sense of urgency to remove these animals from such horrible conditions is negated by the size of the task, other daily responsibilities, and a lack of connection to each individual animal. We all succumb to the disconnect that conveniently protects the oppressors bank accounts and allows them to continue doing what they will with the animals.

But there is hope in understanding that one, like Louis CK, can make a stand-up routine about the immorality of eating animals, but continue to eat them. There is hope because, I believe, it lends importance to the strategy of focusing on that disconnect and bringing the terrible reality of animals lives to those that contribute to that terrible reality. There is a place for debate and there is a place for philosophy and there is a place for statistics, but I know of no more convincing argument than truly showing others the reality of factory farming conditions. If I could, I’d bring people on tours to the farms so they can see the suffering and filth first hand. I’d take them to the fur farms so they could see the animals swinging their heads back and forth trying to fend off mental insanity from the confined conditions. I’d take them to the farms so they could feel the burn in their nostrils from the build up of manure, ammonia and stink. I’d connect them as directly as possible. Of course, the oppressors have safeguarded against such actions so as to deliberately disconnect us as widely as possible.

They deliberately separate us from the reality by walling off their farms. They do it by packaging their foods with idyllic scenes of smiling animals in open pastures. They do it by releasing manipulated and false information about the reality of factory farms. They do it by pressuring lawmakers to make it illegal to film the conditions of their farms. They do it in so many ways because they KNOW if we are connected to the lives of these animals that we would see part of ourselves in them and part of them in us…and then the interests of the farmers would be in jeapordy. And they are not immune to the connection, despite their reliance on the animals for financial gain. Farmers see what they do to the animals first hand and it keeps them up at night. Some have abandoned the business when the connections overwhelmed their desire for a livelihood.

So for us, the goal is to bring back the connection. We can have the discussions and debates and philosophical masturbation, but most importantly we need to bring the lives of these animals to everyone else. We need to bring the photos, the videos and the experiences of these animals into the public realm and engage people until they are connected again and again, keeping it in the open and not letting the food corporations continue to widen the disconnect between us and our effect on these animals.

Let us take these actions with respect and consideration towards our audience, but with an equal respect and consideration for the victims of our culture’s selective morality and disconnect. With that in mind, if you are new to the discussion of veganism and consideration of animals lives, please watch the following video. It’s not pretty, but it is real….

Just Run, Damnit.

I believe in the integrity of running. I believe there is an honesty to the act, the culture, the sport. I know that sounds a little romantic and lofty, but it’s true. I’ve put so much time and effort into doing it that I guess I feel defensive about the culture and hold it to certain standards. I don’t want to believe there is doping among the elites because I want running to continue standing out as the truest of the sports, a beacon of honesty in a culture owned by advertising dollars. I want running to retain it’s purity, it’s simplistic essence that is going out and just running.

There is, again, some romanticism in that desire, because I know we are still part of the marketing machine. We’re a huge demographic and running companies capitalize on that, but, we get that. We recognize this and understand it’s just part of the game. We know shoe companies are going to try and put a new spin on any product that comes out so we think we NEED to buy it, which is kind of funny since we have to buy new shoes so often that they don’t need to use gimmicks to do so. But…they do. We know this.

There is a line, however. There is a DEGREE of this marketing absurdity that I can take and then, well, there’s crossing that line. There’s making such absurd claims of a product’s “benefits”, wrapped up in either good design or good marketing, that I feel compelled to point out the emporer’s new shoes.

Let me elaborate. I came across a Kickstarter project a couple months ago that had me laughing out loud and so annoyed that I felt moved to share it with my running teammates and include them in on the fun. You see, I run for the fastest team in Indianapolis and the surrounding area, and amongst my teammates are some opinionated individuals. Of all the differences we may share, there is one thing that unites us – a strong contempt for Vibram Five Fingers and the minimalist shoe movement as a whole. Believe me, we can go on about this sort of absurdity forever.

Granted, we aren’t necessarily opposed to shoes that aren’t padded with pillows, hell, we run in racing flats and minimal trainers often, but rather the notion that wearing nothing more than socks is not only a bad idea, but is insulting and dangerous for so many new runners who are getting sucked into the hype that the book Born To Run has generated. Now, I’ve read the book and enjoyed it greatly. It does a wonderful job positioning shoe companies as evil greedy corporations, which they probably are, and setting up the resistance as bare-footed running purists. It’s a great narrative, but pretty absurd. I won’t go into my thoughts on the details about that issue here, but I mention it because Born To Run established a way of thinking about running that is difficult to apply to the context of running most of us are a part of, and it’s getting worse, often ending with people having to see a podiatrist for pains and fractures. It sucks, because people are getting swindled.

SO! Back to that Kickstarter. The individual who is putting this fundraiser together was moved by a “primal” (the second I heard that term I had to hold back vomit) running experience where he felt connected to the earth in his barefoot running and decided he needed to make shoes for other people to wear. Ok, first problem, why make shoes for other people to buy if they can just go barefoot? Do they NEED something on their feet? I guess so, but apparently regular running shoes just WON’T CUT IT. I mean, run in foot coverings that everyone else runs in, that are available RIGHT NOW at your local shoe store? Oh no, we need to make NEW products, but not just because newness is the name of the game, but because these shoes have something NO OTHER SHOE HAS….energy.

You heard me, energy.

Oh hell, the absurdity of this wool over your eyes approach is too much for politeness, so I’m just going to link to this stupid project. Here…

Earth Runners.

Yes, they are called “Earth Runners”. And here’s the gist. Apparently, according to the video, the copper insets have “conductive properties” that pull energy from the earth, creating a sense of “balance” (not the physical kind, mind you) and has all sorts of other benefits (which they don’t tell you about). This is one of those approaches where everything just SOUNDS good. Wow, they used a Fibonacci spiral to make these? The copper is conductive? Some ancient tribe runs in sandals too? You use images that look both scientific and new-age all at once?

SOLD!

Let me just lay this bare…I HATE new age crap. I hate fundamentalist religious CRAP. And I’ll tell you why. I hate them, because they come from the same line of thinking, which is NOT thinking. They come from a way of seeing the world that is rooted entirely in confusion and so instead of using intense reason and logic to either discover the workings around us or simply becoming content with not understanding, they instead just MAKE SHIT UP and expect you to believe it. They make statements that are entirely anti-intellectual no matter how good they SOUND and follow that up with demanding that you just believe them, period. Personally, I take it as an offense to the human experience and our capacity for reason. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

So pardon me, but when you couple this anti-intellectual new age perspective with running culture and marketing….well, then you’ve REALLY hit a sensitive spot for me. I’m just gonna call this romanticized barefoot conductive energy crap for what it is…BULLSHIT (as Penn and Teller would also say). We deal with enough marketing crap from shoe companies and we don’t need anymore.

Here’s the funny part (oh yeah, there is humor in this). Apparently this kickstarter had a contest where if you linked to their fundraiser and contributed at least a dollar to the project, you were eligible to win a pair of their shoes (not vegan mind you) and a backpack (which looks like a scratchy burlap potato sack to me). The gist was this, whoever received the most responses on facebook to the link would win. And, yup, you guessed it….I won. I guess posting this Kickstarter to my team page where all my teammates had a good laugh at it and commented heavily on it’s absurdity put us at the top of social media noise meter. At this point I still don’t know if they realize what we were actually saying or not, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because I never chipped in the dollar for the shoes anyways. Technically, I still have time to send money to them and take home the prize, but 1. I don’t want animal flesh on my feet and 2. I don’t want to even hint at the notion that I think this is a legitimate shoe or even perspective to be building shoes upon. There is no benefit to your health or running by sticking copper nodules on your feet and “absorbing the energy of the earth”. It’s quackery bullshit and no one who sells this shit should make a single dollar off it.

Period.

Some of you might be like, “Dude, chill out, he’s probably got good intentions.” Maybe, or maybe he’s just trying to extend his new-age identity and make a buck at the same time. I don’t know, but like I said, I feel compelled to defend the purity and essence of running when I have the chance. Running is about simply running, in minimal shoes, in medium shoes, in padded shoes, buck-naked, in shorts, with a suit on, etc. etc. etc. I don’t care, just as long as you are running for the sake of running and buying the things you need to run not because you were compelled by some marketing scheme, but because you need something on the bottom of your feet to protect yourself from the stresses of the act, whether that is the road, trail, repetitious pounding, etc. etc.

In summary, just run. Use your capacity for logic and reason and don’t fall prey to “magic bullets”, cultural appropriation, and claims that although may SOUND good are completely unverifiable. Let’s keep the truth and purity of running intact.

Rant. Over.

Running Changes Us

If you are too young or not refined enough to have seen Over The Top starring Sylvester Stallone, some of the references in this post might be lost on you. Too bad. Go rent a movie.

Running changes me. Now, when most people make statements like this, they are referring to a change that takes place over the long-term, a slow gradual transition that takes them from an overweight sap to a cut and fit superhero. There is truth to that, yes, but when I say running changes me, I mean in the very short term, from day to day, hour to hour. Everyday the person I am shifts depending on my environment and stresses, but the greatest shift takes place the moment I lace up my shoes and step out the door to put in work.

It is very much like the change that takes place in Over The Top when Stallone does nothing more than turn his hat to the back, effectively going from a soft-spoken father figure to, *taps on the truck behind him*….a machine. Running does the same to me. In just the act of stepping from inside my house to outside my house, I am transformed. I become a different person, except not. I become a different me. A different version of me.

My daily transformations go like this.

I wake up unnaturally early and groggily rise from my bed, anticipating my music, oatmeal and coffee way more than is probably normal. I am hopeful and happily anticipating the brisk bike ride into work. Then slowly the weight of a job I hate weighs upon me. I trudge through the day trying to figure out the most sensible way to quit the job and head down the path of life I know is more suited to my happiness, but often come up short (long story). At work I am a surly, snarky (more so), incredibly UNmotivated individual. When I am at work, I am the LEAST my true self than I ever am. But then…then the day ends and it’s just a quick bike ride downtown to drop my stuff off at the gym and begin my routine. And the second I throw my leg over my bike, I’m already on my way to being a different person. But sometimes it’s not that simple. Some days I am bag of sand, slumped over wherever I go and with a level of energy barely rivaling ketchup pouring from the bottle. “A machine” I am certainly not. I take the elevator, leaning against the wall like a stiff broom, unwilling to do anything that requires something as simple as climbing a set of stairs. And this feeling comes with me all the way to the gym. I think about the speed work I’m about to do and can’t even fathom how I will ever muster the energy, mental and physical, to even get out the door, let alone throw down some 5 minute miles. Running feels IMPOSSIBLE. But I get to the gym and put my shoes on, though even then I want to just put my head up against the lockers, close my eyes and take a long, long, looong rest. But I don’t. I walk up the stairs, head out the front door and begin the weakest jog across the street to start my work out.

And then it happens.

A change takes place. My metaphorical hat gets turned to the back and I become “like this truck…a machine”. And I’m a different person, a different version of me. The version of me that feels more truthful than any of my other representations. And just like that I’m changed. I’m running, I’m moving, I’m positive and passionate, I’m energized, I’m hopeful, and I’m ready to kill some miles with an inner strength that was slumbering all the way up until that point I left the front doors. And it really is the honest me, of which I have such a difficulty describing.

I don’t know how to convey to others that running is “me”. It sounds so incredibly cliche, but when I’m running, it just “feels right”. Itt feels like the very thing I was born to do, like this has been my “purpose” (though, mind you, I don’t believe in those), like this is all I should ever do. There is just something about the act that surpasses any emotional obstacle I had harbored up until that point. Relationship stress, financial stress, employment stress, etc. etc. just disappear and seem so incredibly trivial when I am running. The utilization of my body and it’s continuous progression just FEELS like the most important aspect of my life to concentrate on. Now, don’t take that as an irresponsible rejection of life’s responsibilities, it’s not, but at the very least, in that moment when I’m running, nothing else matters. All those other versions of me, the versions people enjoy and the versions, well, people absolutely can’t stand (believe me, I know, and I totally respect that), they are washed away and my true self takes over. I am not surly, I am not hopeful, I am not dejected, I am not passionated. I am none of those descriptors, because none of them can aptly describe the person I become when I’m pounding out mile after mile after mile, running further and faster, my breaths in rhythm, my feet kicking the sounds of gravel like a metronome, my muscles plucked in unison. Everything just comes together and my mental and emotional state follow suit. Without the words to truly describe how I feel during a run, despite how I felt prior, all I can say is, “I just am”.

Running changes me. It turns me into “a machine”, but one with a heart (a powerful one, fortunately), a machine and self of complete honesty.

If you understand what I’m talking about here, share who you become.

Recovery to Release

Running, I’ve come to understand, is a crucial component to my overall happiness, for so many reasons, of course, but I think primarily because it is a catharsis for me. The act itself, whether for training, injury maintenance, automatic routine, etc., is a physical act and in that physical act is an important release for me. It is an emotional release that is brought out simply by moving. Granted, it’s not that running is the ONLY way to experience this catharsis, but I’ve yet to find an equivalent of intensity. There is just something about being on the edge of physical exhaustion that pulls something out of you. Or maybe the act involves so much effort that any concerns or worries take a back seat to the concentration that is necessary to run well. Honestly, I don’t know, but I do know when I CAN’T run, a buildup of tension takes place that I haven’t found a better way to deal with that isn’t running.

Right now I’m still nursing an injury, but fortunately I’ve been able to begin running in small, but increasing increments, affording me an emotional release that is incredibly important to me right now. Just today I managed to run a full 10 miles, which is what I consider my base mileage per day, after 2 (?) months of not running. Just before I was able to get consistent again I found myself on the verge of frustration that comes with not being able to do what I love. Add to this a marriage that abruptly ended, a period of limbo as I re-establish a visitation schedule with my son, a severe lack of passion for my job, and increasing financial stress and…well…right now I could use that daily catharsis more than I’ve ever needed it in the past.

Last week my injury suddenly started to subside and I built enough confidence to do some short runs. I started at 15 minutes, increased to 30, then added 5 minutes each day as I was able to continue on without issue. Today I managed to run the full 10 miles and I’m currently gauging the sensations in my leg to see if they are going to stick around and cause me issues tomorrow. But I’ll tell you what, despite running not being anywhere near my recent race fitness, I’m still able to experience the emotional release that had been building over the past couple of months. It came crawling back to me just when I needed it most, when I was feeling dejected and hopeless.

For some I realize this may sound relatively pathetic. As if the only way I know to deal with stress is to run. Of course, this isn’t true, but I can admit it’s the most effective way for me to deal with stress. It lifts my spirits, centers my concentration, enhances my health, and just reminds me that I’ve discovered something I’m good at and am taking advantage of that part of my life. Sometimes life just really comes down on you hard and I feel incredibly fortunate that I have a way of dealing with all that, which requires no special access, equipment, or qualifications. All I have to do is run and I’m good. It’s important we all discover some way to experience cathartic release and I hope you’ve found yours.

Now we go forward. If my leg is truly in recovery mode, it shouldn’t be long before the base increases and training begins again. I hope to see you on the streets and trails soon.