Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Runner I Am

I read a blog post today from RunLadyLike titled Be the Runner You Are, and it brought me back to some thought I had during my long run on Sunday. I haven't posted much about it here on my blog, but I'm in the final few weeks of my training for my upcoming half marathon. If you've followed me on other social media, you have seen some of the struggles and triumphs I've had over the last month or so. This is at once humbling and uplifting. I'm pushing my body to do things that I'd hardly imagined I could do, but at the same time being forced to accept my limitations.

Starting just before the new year I've been hitting distance records on most of my long runs. I did a 9 mile run and it felt magical, like I'd hit a sweet spot and really felt that the sky was the limit for my running. Then a week later when faced with my first 10 mile run, it was a disaster. After 7 miles I felt like I couldn't move another step. I walked and prodded my way to the end and instantly felt defeated. Then I thought more about what I'd done, posted about it on Twitter and got some tremendous encouragement from the community. My next 10 miler was a little better and last week's 11 miler felt even better. I can finally picture myself completing 13.1 and I finished that run really excited about crossing the finish line in just a few short weeks.

Here's the thing. I've always had a time goal in mind for my half. I know that the only goal should be finishing and all that talk, but I'd thought that I could keep a certain pace and make my goal of about 2:45. Its not a fast time by any means, but I would feel comfortable with it. While I was running my 11 miles on Sunday, I realized that the pace that makes it comfortable enough for me to go that distance without burning out is much slower than that. My pace will put me much closer to 3 hours. I struggled with that a bit when I first realized it. Man that's slow! But, its me. Its me moving my still quite heavy body 13.1 miles. Its me logging 88 miles for the month of January (after tomorrow's 5 miler). I'm a better runner than I was 18 months ago, 12 months ago, 6 months ago, 3 months ago. From the beginning of my running journey I've said I want to build distance and then worry about speed. So why am I worried about how fast I do the longest distance I'll ever try? Uh, I don't know! I'm not!

The runner I am is one who fuels himself with positive thoughts. I will run 13.1 miles because I'm putting in the work to get my body ready to do it. There is a lot more that I need to get my body to do, including be less body, but that will all come with time and more positivity. For now, I am the runner I am, and that runner is going to move his 270 pound body 13.1 miles along the Ft. Lauderdale beach 6 days after his 40th birthday.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Thoughts on Lance and Doping revisited

The first post of any significance on this blog was triggered by the first threads unravelling on the blanket surrounding Lance Armstrong's then alleged doping. Last night,  much of the sporting world watched as he sat down with Oprah for a "no holds barred" interview during which he confessed to having doped during every one of his 7 Tour de France victories. As I sit here organizing my thoughts about what I say, the overwhelming emotion is disappointment. However its not disappointment in the actions Lance took through his career, its disappointment in how he is behaving today.

Long ago I came to the conclusion that Lance and many others had cheated. In my last blog entry on this topic I urged Lance and others to come clean about what they had done and let the narrative move forward. I certainly can't take any credit for it, but it was heartwarming when I saw how many actually had. Last night I was hoping to hear Lance stand up before the world, give a sincere apology and recount how it all happened and why. I did not. Instead I heard a man who only seems to regret going too far and getting caught. The only regret I heard was about giving a lame speech on the podium of his last Tour and coming back to the sport after his first retirement because "we would not be having this conversation if I hadn't."

I'm finding it hard to find a word to describe Lance's actions, though the word sociopath has been repeatedly used by his critics. Its hard not to agree. He openly stated that he doesn't feel like he was doing anything wrong at the time. Doping was a part of their preparation like filling up his tires with air or filling his bottles with water. I can understand the elaborate lies and aggressive behavior towards critics as a method to protect his story and control the narrative about his life. I can't understand doing all of that when you don't even think you're doing anything wrong. How can he not feel badly about behaving like a jerk?

Lance worked too hard during this interview to downplay his role as the leader of a team that required doping. He said that he was doing it, and he can understand how others would feel like they needed to be doing it if he was, but that there was never a culture of that stated you had to be doing it to be a part of the team. Oprah made a good point in stating that it was merely a semantic argument, but it shows the psychology of this man who is still fails to understand his influence over people and the responsibility that comes with that influence. If Lance was careful to never explicitly tell riders "you dope or you are dropped," that doesn't change the fact that it was the message that was delivered. When you look at the methods he used against people like Emma O'reilly and Frankie and Betsy Andreau, using his bully pulpit to demolish their reputations when all they did was tell the truth, its hard not to believe that he hadn't used those same tactics on the team internally.

In watching deposition tape where he is vehemently denying doping under oath, Lance described himself as an "arrogant prick." Watching last night's interview, I came away with the same feeling today.

Lauren Fleshman wrote a fantastic piece on her blog yesterday asking Lance to move on. I don't think that he deserves to be a professional athlete any more. I hope that Lance can fully repent. He still has influence and can continue the fantastic work he's done in giving cancer patients hope, in helping raise awareness of the disease and raising money towards its research. I hope that he gets good advice and learns to let the "myth" of Lance die. Its a false story and can only be rescued by full contrition to all that were crushed in its building.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why Lie?

The news of Lance Armstrong's upcoming confession raises a lot of questions about the motivation of someone to deceive. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from Lance's actions and I'm sure we'll all be trying to unwind the various threads of the stories for years to come. Then late today the story of Manti Te'o broke and that got me thinking about deception and how deeply we can go to deceive others and to deceive ourselves. If you haven't heard the story yet, you can read the full article on Deadspin. In short, there were inspirational stories all through the football season about this player's girlfriend losing her fight to cancer and how devoted he was to her. A beautiful story about true love and perseverance. The problem is, the story is a lie.

Now I don't know whether Mr. Te'o was the victim of a cruel hoax or using this story to increase his fame. In the end though, both of these stories are examples of the distance to which men will travel to propagate deceit. There's no denying that Lance Armstrong did a lot of good things for a lot of people. He became a symbol of hope for those stricken with cancer. His story was inspirational and I can easily understand his justification in preventing that image from being darkened. What would happen to his foundation? What would happen to all of those people who were personally affected by his struggle? Would someone fighting the terrible disease give up their hope if Lance's image was shattered? Being faced with questions, its not a large leap to see that Lance would want to keep his image. 

But how do you resolve his deceit with the vehemence of his denials. He shouted to the world about the "witch hunt" of his accusers. He sued his critics in court, won and collected millions of dollars while insisting on his own trustworthiness. All the while, he knew he was lying and many of his closest advisors knew he was lying as well. Why?  I think George Costanza said it best.

There comes a point where you need to completely deceive yourself in order to deceive the world. How can a man knowingly lie to the world? Its easy once you've knowingly lied to yourself. We've all had those moments in our life where we've worked hard to persuade ourselves against the truth, and once that's done, we turn to persuading those around us. We convince ourselves that we're happy in a dead end job, or we accept failure as a rule of existence and then live our public life with that acceptance.

So where is the lesson that we can take from these men. Personally, its one that I have found has been the key to the happiness I've found in my life in the last few years. Don't lie to yourself. Accept yourself for who you are and what you can do. Build from that base, and only then can you improve yourself. When you live on a base of lies, eventually that will crumble.  

Looking at Manti Te'o's story, it becomes hard to believe he didn't know his "girlfriend" wasn't real. But, its a slippery slope when we start to lie to ourselves, ignoring the glaring truths. I started this blog as a tool to help myself be accountable. As a younger man, I would have just written what I thought would make me look good. If I skipped a run, I'd make up a story about having done a few miles. But all lies crumble in the end. You can't run a half marathon on a training log full of lies. Just like Lance Armstrong couldn't build a legacy as a great man on a pile of lies. It negates much of the good will he's built.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Go Big or Go Home!

A sane person would look at their life, decide what changes they want to make in it and then plan those changes so that they build on each other to ensure success. I've never claimed sanity. Instead, I've recently piled on a bunch of things that are all hitting at the same time. The upside ... by next summer they'll all be complete (mostly) and life will return to normal (somewhat). Downside ... I'm exhausting myself for the next couple of months and building some nice potential stress levels at the same time.

Look at that face!!
As most of you know, I'm training for my first half marathon which is 6 weeks from today. I'm running more than ever and having to get up pretty early on the weekdays that I do run. Now, a sane person would make sure that they are getting to sleep early each night to ensure enough sleep time. But in a completely unrelated life decision, my wife and I brought home a new puppy 3 weeks ago. Now, I love this puppy. She's adorable and super smart already. On top of that, she's giving our 3 yr old dog a run for his money and I swear he's behaving better with the little one around. But, if you know anything about puppies, you know that they require constant attention, including walks in the middle of the night. So now instead of getting a full night sleep each night, I'm up every 3 - 4 hours with our sweet little newcomer.

This has all made it that much more difficult for me to pop out of bed and hit my training hard in the mornings. So far, I've only missed one run and that was on New Years after a bit too much partying NYE. I made myself late for work one day too, but next week as the girls go back to school, I'm going to have to get up far earlier to get everything out of the way and get to work on time. At least its only 6 weeks until the race.

Of course, that is only really impacting me. On top of this stuff, my wife and I just signed a contract to build a new home for our family. So I get to spend the next 5 months stressing over design decisions, and the weather, and financing and packing and moving and... well you get the picture. I can't complain as I'm super excited to have the chance to get a home like this, where I'll have a basement and one day finally build my man cave. But it comes at a cost, for sure. That cost could be what remains of my sanity, if any remains.
Someday I'll own this dirt
On top of all this, I have a couple of non work projects that I've been mulling around in my brain for a while now. Its always been hard for me to keep an idea for a long time. If I don't pull the trigger when I'm ready, then they tend to fade away. So I'm trying to keep them simmering while I get through the first half of this year. I might bring in some partners or just delay and let Evernote hold the thoughts for me for a while.

So, if I seem a little nutty over the next few months, please understand why.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 In Review

Once again, its time for a look back and a look forward post. Since today just happens to be 1/1/13, seems like a good time for it. This year has been a pretty good one for my family and I. While I didn't hit all of the goals I set out for myself for the year, I did continue to make progress in most aspects of my life and feel that I've set myself up nicely for what is to come.

My two major goals for the year were to lose 50 more pounds and to increase my running. I wanted to run 500 miles, with a stretch goal of 700. I went .500 on these. Fitness wise I feel that I've come a very long way this year and I'm really happy with what I've accomplished. On 12/31/11, I ran my very first 5 mile run. I was ecstatic at the time but I also knew that it was something that I wanted to make a normal occurrence. I set a goal for the first half of they ear to get up to 15 miles a week and to run the Peachtree Road Race.

Our Victorious Relay Team!
I ran 5 miles or more 25 times this year and maxed out at 8 miles. I ran 4 10K races including the Peachtree and also a leg in the Atlanta Marathon Relay. I ended the year with 501 miles total. I could not be happier about the progress that I made in running this year. I'm well on my way in my half marathon training and know that the progress will continue. There were struggles and periods of the year where I wasn't progressing like I hoped to, but I'm glad that I was able to buckle down in the last part of the year and really get myself moving. There was only one week of the whole year where I posted 0 miles.

As for my other goal, the weight loss just didn't happen. I can come up with a lot of reasons why, but they are all excuses. My decision making when it comes to nutrition was nowhere close to where it needs to be. 2011 was a great year for weight loss, 2012 not so much. So I'm going to repost that goal. My wife and I have been talking about ways we can encourage each other and we have some ideas on how we can make better food decisions this year. It still is the hardest thing for us to achieve, but we're going to continue the fight.

Some other areas that I feel went well in 2012. I connected with a fantastic community of runners on Twitter through #runchat. I changed from being a Twitter lurker, looking for stories about cycling and football, to being an active participant. Social media is about conversations and it becomes much more fulfilling when you are involved in those conversations. I've been thinking a lot about ways to use social media to help my own motivation and accountability. I'm still churning around some ideas in my head, but hope to solidify some plans for that shortly.

On the whole, this year I felt much more creative in my thinking. It may sound trite, but I do credit a lot of that to the time I have to think while I'm running. Ideas at work and outside of work have really crystallized for me. Most have not seen their way to execution yet, but I plan to be able to share them with the world in the coming months.

The year ahead is going to be packed with big things for the family and I, including 40th birthday's for my wife and I, a new home for our family and continuing to grow and nurture our little family. I look forward to sharing as much of it as I can on this blog. I want to thank those of you who read and support me, especially those who aren't family members. I wish you all a happy and healthy 2013, may we all live well and prosper.