Thursday, April 25, 2019

Hibernation. Sloth sleuthing. Things I didn't want to write.

I've often wished to be taken in by a sleuth of hibernating bears (A group of bears is called a sloth or sleuth. True story. Words are fantastic.). And we would hide out in a luxury cave eating, sleeping and being detectives. Because winter is the worst and Bearlock Holmes is the best. But alas, I have yet to receive an invitation to the sloth sleuth party. I have, however, found myself in the company of a tower of giraffes (A group of giraffes is called a tower. Unsolicited advice: a good thing to do if you are ever feeling sad/mad/bad/not glad/dissed by some cad/like you've been had, is look up the names of groups of animals). Giraffe Tower and I spent much of the winter hibernating inside the house, watching true crime and untrue crime and Catfish the TV show (Coincidentally, the Tower likes all the same terrible streaming shows I do). And cracking tough cases like who left the trail of jelly blobs on the counter (Pete) and who left the empty box of Sudafed inside the closet (Also Pete. Admittedly, the suspect list was very short). Now that it's officially spring, by which I mean we've actually had a sunny, semi-warm day or two, maybe I will come out of hibernation. Though I'm not sure I'm quite ready yet.

I did not actually intend to hibernate. Generally, I like going out and doing things and seeing people. But I also really, really like being at home alone. Especially when I don't feel that great. I can't remember when the pain first started, it was so long ago. It was merely a dull ache at first. In my back, mostly. Sometimes my hips and knees joined in. Just for fun I guess. It felt like muscle soreness after a very long race. But that feeling usually subsides in a day or two. And this pain persisted and increased in intensity. At first, I just endured it. It wasn't debilitating, in that I could still go about my normal life and do most of the things I wanted to do, albeit more painfully than I would have liked. But it was annoying and wearying. I didn't know if it was physical or emotional pain, stress-induced or grief-induced, or some combination of everything all at once. On some level, I felt as if I deserved it, like this was my penance for a wasted youth spent shrinking myself, starving myself of nutrients and affection and joy. But I'm older and maybe a bit wiser now, so I was just like, no, that thought is mean and untrue, no one deserves to be in pain. On another level, I felt like maybe it was grief and genetics, because back, hips and knees are where dad was always in pain. He self-medicated his pain with vodka. When I was young, I self-medicated my pain with anorexia and excessive exercise. It works until it doesn't. Well, it seems to work but in reality we were just avoiding the pain instead of alleviating it. I say this without any judgment. You do what you have to do to get by. But there are ways of getting through life that don't involve hurting others or self-destruction (you might think self-destruction doesn't hurt others, but it does. It hurts everyone who loves you).

Being alive is beautiful and amazing and challenging and painful. Life is hard for everyone. (For some, that hardship is further compounded by systemic oppression). I'm very lucky to be in good health and that my problems are minor compared to what others have to face. Still, the perpetual physical pain was starting to get to me. I didn't want to avoid it or endure it. I wanted to figure out the cause of it and hopefully find a solution. The process has been frustrating and challenging, yet so transformative that, while I still have a long way to go, I am almost thankful to have had this experience (Almost. Aches and pains suck and I wouldn't willingly sign up for it. But it has brought me closer to being the person I want to be). I won't say that I've figured it all out, because I haven't and I probably never will. But I have figured out how to go about figuring things out. And they key to that is basically, be curious and be compassionate.

Before I go into all that, I just want to preface this by acknowledging that I am exceedingly privileged. Here's a non-exhaustive list of all the privileges I have: white privilege, thin privilege, economic privilege, cisgender privilege, heterosexual privilege, able bodied privilege. I have health insurance. I am wealthy enough to afford treatments that aren't covered by health insurance (which seem to be the ones that always work best for me). Even the physical pain I experienced, while frustrating and depressing, was mild compared to what many other people experience. I point this out because it's fucked up and unfair and I'm not telling the whole story unless I include this information. 

So here's what happened. I spent last year learning to embrace rest and to enjoy being at rest as much as I enjoy being in motion. Rest helped but it didn't solve the problems that had caused the pain in the first place. That's what I spent the winter trying to figure out. I continued to rest and eat and sleep. All the time. As much as I wanted (Outside of work, which for some reason doesn't include nap breaks. Ok, the reason is capitalism. Naps are great. We all know it). I limited my runs to the short, easy, fun variety. I ghosted 3 physical therapists and 2 chiropractors. I feel a little bad about that last part, because I could tell that they were genuinely trying to help. It's just that the exercises they prescribed made me feel even worse and I didn't know how to explain that it wasn't what I needed at all. The diagnosis was basically the same: some kind of biomechanical failure that they would try to forcibly correct with various exercises, most of which only increased my pain and decreased my optimism. My body would inevitably rebel against these exercises because it doesn't like being forced to do things. I am stubborn AF, down to the cellular level. Plus, the body moves as a whole, so focusing on individual body parts is missing the point. A body isn't a simple machine like a car. You can't just be like oh you need a new alternator or carburetor or flux capacitor, problem solved! (clearly I know a lot about auto mechanic-ing). Bodies are amazing - they're weird and complicated. Every one is different and there's still so much we don't understand about them. My primary care physician gave me prescriptions for drugs, which I didn't want and didn't take. She agreed with me that they would just cover up the pain and not actually solve anything, but it seemed like her only options were to prescribe drugs or refer me for tests and/or injections/surgeries, which I also didn't want or need. I did have a minor epiphany in her office though. When I told her I was only running X miles a week, she said "That's a lot." At first I thought no, it isn't. But then it occurred to me: actually, my body was telling me that it was a lot, I just wasn't listening to it. (Note that I haven't included an actual number of miles. That's because I don't want anyone to read it and judge themselves against it, thinking it's a lot or a little, that they should be running more or less. Every body is different. We have different stressors in our lives and we handle them differently. Comparison, to others or to our past selves, is unhelpful and potentially harmful).

Throughout several months of PT and chiropractic appointments, I had been doing Feldenkrais exercises at home, first via YouTube and then The Balanced Runner Online Camp. It was the only thing that made me feel better, so I decided I would cut everything else out and just do that. I wanted to focus on what I knew was helping ease and prevent the pain and eliminate anything else that might be inadvertently impeding my progress. I signed up for one on one lessons with Jae Gruenke, Feldenkrais practitioner and founder of The Balanced Runner. It was expensive. Painfully expensive. I hesitated. I felt guilty about spending that much money on myself. But I was pretty desperate at that point. And two things convinced me to do it. One, I remembered a conversation I had with my dad where he was complaining about paying co-pays for doctors appointments and I had said "Dad, what better way is there to spend your time and money than on feeling better?" Two, I had an initial free consultation with Jae (I was still on the fence at this point) and she said something about how my body was moving in the best way it could. She did not simply point out all the things that were wrong with my form and movement patterns. Instead she asked me a series of questions about how I felt when I ran and what I could sense happening with various body parts. No shade thrown at any of the medical professionals I saw - I could tell they were trying their hardest to be helpful. But the message I was getting from them, well-intentioned as they were, was that my body was wrong and needed fixing. Finally, here was someone saying the opposite, that my body was doing its best with the information it had and we could help it explore more comfortable and efficient ways of moving. That's why Feldenkrais had resonated with me from the very beginning and I knew that this was the (gentle, curious, non-judgmental, hopeful) approach that I needed. PT and chiro felt like exams I was constantly failing. Feldenkrais felt like a treasure hunt where I was discovering fantastic new things about myself in every lesson. The lessons were focused on running movements, and obviously I was hoping it would help me run pain free. But I'm a process person not a results person. And I knew that whether or not it improved my running, Feldenkrais would help me become more connected to and fully at home in my body. That in and of itself was invaluable.

I thought I had made peace with my body years ago. When I stopped focusing on what I looked like or what I weighed and instead ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, based on internal cues instead of external rules. When I stopped focusing on race distances or times and just ran whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, for the joy of movement and exploring the outdoors. I already knew that judging myself or others by appearances or achievements was not in line with my values. But the back pain made me realize I was still judging my body based on its health/abilities and that needed to change. My acceptance of and respect for my body (and all bodies) needs to be unconditional. The white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist, diet-obsessed culture we live in has created a hierarchy of bodies, as if some bodies are better than others (This is a lie. All bodies are good bodies). Then this false idol of the so-called "ideal body" is used to oppress and profit off people (See the list of books below if you're interested in reading more about this from women far more articulate and knowledgeable than me). Unpacking and challenging internalized fatphobia, racism, sexism, ableism, healthism, etc is lifelong process. I still have much to learn. But once my eyes were opened to all the bullshit lies society inundates us with about how we're supposed to look and act and be, and how harmful that is to everyone, but particularly marginalized groups, I could no longer remain ignorant or complicit. Unintentional harm is still harm.

It's a lot to unlearn. I am still unlearning it. It requires confronting uncomfortable feelings in an open, nonjudgmental way. Feldenkrais helped me approach my physical pain in a similar fashion. The method teaches awareness through mindful movement. There's no stretching or straining. In the lessons, you do only the range of movement that is easy and comfortable for you. I've worked with Jae for several months and I've become so much more connected to and aware of my body parts and how they can move together efficiently. I'd been running with some low grade level of pain for so long that I'd just sort of gotten used to it. After one of the first lessons Jae sent me, I came home crying and Pete thought there was something wrong with me. But I was just so happy to have run a few miles pain-free for the first time in I can't remember how long. I have a lot more to learn, and I still haven't been doing any long distances, but running feels so much more natural and fluid now, like my whole body is moving together harmoniously. I didn't realize how much I had been forcing things before and how much unnecessary effort that was costing me. Some runs are better than others, of course. Because some days I'm more stressed or I haven't slept well or I haven't eaten as much or I have my period (yay so much fun always. sarcasm explosion) or whatever. The difference is I've become so much better at recognizing when something is off and knowing how to give my body/mind whatever is needed, be it nutrients or rest or sleep or saying no to things that I don't want to do.

I still feel aches and pains sometimes. I think that's just part of the experience of aliveness. But it's only on occasion, and not constant anymore. Now I think of pain as a sign, a call for attention and care. It's my body's way of alerting me that my cup is too full, that I'm at my capacity for stressors. That I need to ask questions and figure out where I'm doing too much, either physically, mentally or emotionally. I rest whenever I need to. I try to sleep better, though I am never as good at sleeping as I want to be. I don't push through the pain (and I've unfollowed anything that even hints at a no pain, no gain or similar mentality). I ask my body what it needs. Sometimes (ok, most of the time) I don't understand its language. But I am learning, little by little. To listen instead of ignore. To be curious and compassionate instead of judgmental or shaming. Sometimes I fail and that's ok, I keep trying.

My posture has improved somewhat, but that's a complicated issue. My dad used to encourage me to stand up straight and he'd say "You look like a question mark." It wasn't meant as a criticism. I think it was his way of telling me to stand up for myself, that he was proud of me and I should be proud of myself too. But I was a question mark. I had so many questions. Most people outgrow that toddler phase of asking why about everything. I never did. I didn't know how to be a person in the world. I mean, I knew what kind of person I wanted to be. But I also knew what society expected of me as a woman. And I didn't know how to reconcile the two. I just wanted to be my imperfect human self. I wanted to be a person, not an object or possession. I didn't want to have to owe anyone beauty or thinness or obedience or submission or any of that crap people expect of women. I am a person filled with wildness and weirdness, with strong convictions and sensitive to the suffering of the world. I am sometimes covered in dirt, sometimes covered in dresses. I swear more than the sailor I live with. And I don't care what is or what isn't ladylike because fuck that shit, I'm not here to be ladylike. One day maybe I will have good posture. But I don't think I will ever stop being a question mark. I can't just do things because it's what other people do. I have to ask why and does this align with my values and who profits from this and what are the other options?

So Giraffe Tower and I have been hibernating and Feldenkrais-ing and plumbing the depths of our existential angst or whatever. And mostly avoiding other people, to be honest. It's nothing personal. Either I didn't have the energy to interact with people or I didn't want to burden people with my lame problems when I know everyone is dealing with their own stuff. Plus, when I have issues to sort out, I need to do it on my own. I need refuge from the noise that is other people's opinions and advice and trying-to-be-helpful-but-unintentionally-making-me-feel-worse. I avoided big group functions, and especially races. The running community is great but it tends to be an environment of constantly doing more and more, whereas I needed to spend some time in a less is more cocoon. Though I feel dramatically better, I'm still working some stuff out and I don't think I'm strong enough yet to withstand people's judgment and comments. Judge away in private if you like, but please don't dump any of that here. I would however, love to hear your own stories, of struggle or success or whatever you want to share. I am always interested in your lives and experiences.

I wrote and re-wrote this many times. I didn't really want to write it at all but I don't want my social media to be a highlight reel, I want it to be real. This is where I've been, where I am and where I'm going. I am imperfect and this is my imperfect life. Maybe some of it will resonate with you, maybe it won't. Either way, thanks for being here. Love from the Tower.

Lyric of the moment: "I'm trying, but I'm graceless. Don't have the sunny side to face this. I am invisible and weightless. You can't imagine how I hate this. Graceless..." ~The National "Graceless" 

P.S. For anyone who's interested, I'd highly recommend these books. I found them to be quite life-changing: "Hunger" by Roxanne Gay / "You Have The Right To Remain Fat" by Virgie Tovar / "The Body Is Not An Apology" by Sonya Renee Tayor / "Shrill" by Lindy West.



Monday, December 31, 2018

A Low Key (West) Holiday

Pete and I spent last week in Key West, Florida having a non-religious, non-traditional holiday filled with sunshine, ocean breezes and key lime pie. (And copious cocks. Key West is full of feral chickens. Roaming roosters emit a near-constant cacophony of crowing, Just a tip: bring ear plugs if you don't want to be woken up by alarm cocks). It was a restful, stress-free trip. These are some memorable moments from the week:

Running to the Southernmost point in the continental U.S. on Christmas Eve morning. Taking pictures along the way of the palm trees lit up with Christmas lights. Suddenly realizing that my military ID must have fallen out of the Spi belt when I took out my phone. Starting to panic. (We had rented a vacation condo on the Navy base. It's a sweet 3 bedroom with a full kitchen and washer/dryer and it's way cheaper than any of the hotels in town. It's a nice perk for military members and their families. But the base is guarded by an armed sentry, and I wouldn't have been able to get back on base without my military ID card or without calling Pete to come to the gate and get me in with his ID. Not to mention, it wouldn't be good if someone else found my ID and tried to use it). Sprinting back to the place where I'd pulled out my phone and luckily finding my ID still on the ground where I'd inadvertently dropped it. Feeling relieved that it was still early enough that no one else was really around and thankful for this minor Christmas miracle - I found my ID and I'd actually done speed work (kind of). Still making it to the Southernmost point in time to see the sunrise. And at the same time as two other tourists who offered to take my picture and asked me to take theirs.

The Southernmost Point. Yes, I will do all the touristy things. 

Site of my lost ID card/only speedwork of 2018


Eating all the key lime pie (it is so good!) My recommendations: Kermit's for chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick, and Moondog and The Cafe for vegan key lime cheesecake. Drinking all the frozen coffee I could since it's going to be many months before it'll be warm enough at home for me to want anything other than piping hot drinks.

Randomly wandering into an art gallery, where I was mesmerized by the underwater scenes in Andres Franke's The Sinking World (check it out, it's cool) and even more mesmerized by an old English Bulldog who I immediately befriended.

Key West trees are amazing. I wanted to climb all of them!

Climbing the tower at the Shipwreck Museum and announcing to Pete at the top "Well, now it's officially vacation since I made you climb a tall thing!" (On our previous trip to Key West in December 2016, we'd climbed the lighthouse tower, which also has great views). Inside the Shipwreck museum, lifting the 64 lb authentic silver bar. The guide only asked Pete if he wanted to lift it, apparently assuming that I wouldn't be able to (not cool, tour guide lady). So Pete lifted it easily and then told the guide that I'd be able to lift it too and how I'd even lifted him in the past (technically this is true, but it was only a couple of centimeters off the ground for a couple of seconds). The guide looked super skeptical, but I lifted the silver bar easily (It's not hard to do. The bar is in a case, presumably so no one can steal it, so you can really only lift it a couple of inches anyway).

Shipwreck museum tower
We climbed the tower. We did not spot any shipwrecks. 

Doing the Truman Little White House tour (It was somewhat interesting, but I liked Hemingway's house better, which we visited in 2016. But it's not Truman's fault - it's hard to compete with 6 toed cats).

Going to the Naval Air Station on Boca Chica Key, where there's a nice little beach and bar & grill at the marina. Eating lunch and swimming, watching the fighter jets practice their jetting (Or whatever it is they do. All I know is that jetting creates maximum surround-sound level roaring noises).

Big roaring sound. Tiny little fighter jet.


Running with Pete on Christmas morning, followed by coffee and breakfast on the screened-in porch of our rental unit. Exploring Fort Zachary Taylor State Park (The fort has a lot of cannons. The beach is beautiful, but bring your own chairs as it costs $30 to rent beach chairs and an umbrella there. Damn, Zachary Taylor, that's too rich for my blood. If I'm going to pay $30 for a chair, it had better be a massage chair. Or in a helicopter. I'm not picky).

This rooster wants coffee and breakfast too

Spending Christmas night on the Ghosts and Gravestones Trolley Tour, hearing about all the ghost stories of Key West. Apparently, Key West is one of the most haunted cities in the U.S. and apparently yes, someone does keep track of these things and rank cities in terms of ghostliness. The tour wasn't scary but the guide did tell us a few creepy stories, the creepiest of which was the tale of Carl Tanzler. Creepy Carl stole his patient's body and lived with her corpse for years, until he was caught. Before this weird corpse bride shit, he had abandoned his wife and kids and changed his name to Count Carl von Cosel. Super creepy, Carl.

If you enjoy riding a trolley while hearing about creepy dudes, this tour is for you.


Watching the sunset from a glass bottom boat at sea. This was supposed to be a tour out to the coral reef, where we'd be able to see everything from the glass bottom of the boat. But due to high winds and choppy seas, they switched it to a harbor tour instead. Initially I was disappointed, but it would be super lame to complain about being privileged enough to be out on a boat on a beautiful sunny 82 degree day in December in Monroe County (Monroe County, Florida that is. A beautiful sunny 82 degree day would never happen in Monroe County, New York. If it did, we'd have far bigger problems, mainly that global warming has fucked things up beyond all repair).

We're on a boat

Renting bikes and riding around town. Well, first trying to rent bikes and being told they were all out for the morning, but we could try back in the afternoon or rent hybrid bikes which were more expensive than the one-speed cruisers. While we were deciding what to do, two cruisers were fortuitously returned and we rented those. While she was taking our information, the rental lady asked where we were staying, Pete told her on the Navy base and she said "Do you have a military ID? Show that everywhere in this town. We put service members first. I would have canceled someone else's reservation and given you their bikes." Which I guess is nice of her, but we'd rather not get bikes at all than take someone else's reservation away from them.

Looking for a restaurant to eat dinner on our last night in Key West, we browsed a menu at one place, but everything had meat or fish in it so there was nothing I could eat. We went to a restaurant across the street instead. I tried to order a salad but the waiter said they were out of salad, so I ordered the veggie wrap (which was 75% spinach and was basically a salad inside a wrap so not sure how they were out of salad? But anyways, nutrients were had by all). When the waiter said they were out of salad, Pete said we could just go somewhere else if I wanted. This was the second place we'd tried for dinner. We were both tired and hungry and he was just casually like we can go somewhere else, not irritated or inconvenienced like other people can get sometimes. Pete eats meat and fish and pretty much everything besides onions. He doesn't really understand why I don't eat animals, in that he doesn't feel the same way about it that I do. But he accepts it and accepts me, without hesitation or annoyance. I'm not a grand gestures kind of person. It's the small, ordinary moments like this where I feel like I got the best life partner for me. I'm a difficult person to love. I don't mean that in a self-deprecating way. I don't think I'm unlovable. Everyone is inherently lovable. But I'm stubborn and strong-willed and fiercely independent. I have strong convictions and high expectations about who I want to be and how I want to live my life. I am a lot of motion and words and ridiculousness compressed into human form. It's too much for some people and that's ok. Pete and I are different in some ways but there is space enough for each of us to be who we are and I am thankful for that.

There were many more moments that I'm forgetting here, but suffice it to say Key West is a fun place, an island of cocks and seamen and pie. What more could you want from a vacation?

We are weird

The sun sets on another adventure

Lyric of the moment: "And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last. I can't remember all the times I tried to tell my myself to hold on to these moments as they pass..." ~ Counting Crows "A Long December"

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A non-exhaustive list of things for which I am infinitely grateful

First, a moment of silence and love for all of you who, through distance or circumstances or loss, are unable to celebrate Thanksgiving in the way that you want or with the people that you love. Infinity of hugs to you. 

My friends: I hope you know that you don't have to do something just because it has always been done. Because I want to is enough reason to do anything. Because I don't want to is enough reason not to do something. You don't have to make all the foods or buy all the things or see all the people if those things fill you with dread instead of joy. This day, and all the days, may your minds be open to wonder and curiosity, may your stomachs be full of all the delicious nutrients and may your hearts be bursting with love and gratitude. 

And now a non-exhaustive list of things for which I am infinitely grateful:

* Clean water. Clean air. Shelter. Food. Healthcare. Education. Human rights. Hugs. Everyone should get to have these things. Every single human everywhere. 

* Wild spaces. Mountains to climb, canyons to explore, trails to roam. Some parts of the earth and of ourselves should always be left wild.  

* Books, blogs, music, movies, TV, art. For making me laugh and cry and better able to understand the full range of human experience. 

* Financial independence. I don't owe any money to anyone for anything. That is a freedom and a luxury I don't take for granted. 

* My parents, who loved me for the weird, independent, adventurous kid I was, who nurtured my love of reading and running and writing and who taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be (but that of all the things a person can be, the most important of those is kind). When I was a baby I would habitually climb out of my crib and throw myself on the floor (Why? WTF who does this? I cannot explain this other than to say that it is just so very me). My parents were probably worried or scared I was going to get hurt or maybe they were just like what kind of weirdo child do we have, always trying to skydive without a parachute? The best part of this story is that my parents put pillows all around my crib. They never stopped me from climbing, they just gave me a soft place to land. And that is love: the freedom to adventure and explore and be yourself, knowing you always have a soft place to land, a home where people love you no matter what. (I won't get to spend Thanksgiving or any holiday or any day with my dad ever again, but so much of who I am is because of him that it feels like he is always here in some way, every time I laugh or run or save money or say "you gotta be freaking kidding me." One Thanksgiving when I was little, Dad and I wrote a story called The Turkey That Got Away about a turkey who hid under the hunters' tents to avoid being killed for Thanksgiving dinner. And every year I hope that somewhere out there some turkeys got away). 

* My friends. I have met so many amazing people in my 37 years of life. People who opened their doors and their arms and their hearts to me. People who were there for the joy and the sorrows, the failures and triumphs, the beauty and the pain that is life. Genuine human connection is, hands down, the very best part of being alive (sorry, cookies). And my life has been filled with it, thanks to you. 

* Dogs. This requires no explanation. Dogs are the actual best. 

* Husband Man. More than anyone else, Pete has seen me, all of me, all the ridiculousness and sass and motion and feels and fierce independence (at times detrimentally fierce) that I am. I am a lot. I know I am. For some people it is too much. But I have never had to make myself smaller in any way in my relationship with Pete. I have been my whole bigger-on-the-inside self from day 1, I have pushed and challenged us to be better people and partners, and 1173 days and 2 giraffes later, he's still here. He always says he loves everything about me, and maybe one day I'll believe that could be true. All I know is Pete is my home, my soft, funny place to land. (By soft, I mean strong, Honey. So big!)  



Lyric of the moment: "Thank you, friends. Wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you. I'm so grateful for all the things you helped me do..." ~Big Star "Thank You Friends"

Thursday, November 1, 2018

I don't have the right words but these things need to be said

I've seen several posts on social media lamenting the loss of friendships over politics and requesting that people not discuss divisive or controversial political topics online. I think most of these people mean well. They just want their Facebook feed to be all puppies and rainbows. And I get it. Puppies and rainbows are awesome. But life is not all puppies and rainbows. Life is also sadness and struggle and heartbreak and rage-inducing injustices. I understand the impulse to feel like can't we all just get along? However, it's not that simple, especially when some groups of people are trying to deny basic human rights to other groups of people. Expecting the oppressed to just "get along" with their oppressors is cruel and unfair. Personally, I will not stop talking about politics, online or otherwise. I'm not going to be a dick about it (I mean, not intentionally. I'm imperfect, I make mistakes). But I have strong opinions and I'm going to assert them. I will strive to be respectful and compassionate but I will not be silent. Being silent in the face of injustice would make me complicit in perpetuating the injustice.

When people say they don't want to discuss controversial or divisive issues, what they really mean is that doing so makes them uncomfortable. Most people have a very low tolerance for discomfort and especially for witnessing the pain and suffering of others. This doesn't make them bad people. It's a natural impulse to want to avoid discomfort. But learning how to sit with and tolerate uncomfortable feelings is one of the best life skills you can develop. It is especially important when it comes to social justice issues that we are able to have those difficult, uncomfortable conversations. Because that's how change happens. Everything is divisive and controversial until it isn't. The reason slavery was abolished and women got the right to vote and gay marriage was legalized is because of all the people who refused to remain silent. It is important work and it must be continued.

My life is very privileged and with great privilege comes great responsibility. Having privilege doesn't mean that your life isn't hard. Everyone's life is hard in some ways. Having privilege means that your hardships aren't compounded by prejudice against your race/gender/sexual orientation/physical disabilities/body size. (Please read more about this if I'm not explaining it well here - just google "what is white privilege/able-bodied privilege/thin privilege/heterosexual privilege/etc to find many examples). I have so much privilege and I need to use it to amplify the voices and the stories of marginalized people. Because everyone deserves to be treated with respect, to be treated as a PERSON. Everyone deserves basic human rights. I cannot be the person I want to be in the world if I remain silent. If being outspoken means that some people no longer want to be friends with me, I can accept that. Social justice is more important to me than being liked. Besides, I believe in true friendships, the kind that are unconditional. If your friendship is conditional upon me always agreeing with you or never saying anything "controversial," if I have to make myself smaller in any way in order for you to like me, I cannot agree to that. I won't be anything less than everything that I am. I would not want anyone else to be either.

I understand that we're all at different places in our journeys and that's ok. I'm at a place where I can see so much pain and suffering in the world and I am choosing to bear witness to it rather than avoid it. I want to hear your stories and your opinions and your experiences of being a person in the world. I want to talk about the injustices and the pain and the struggle and the sorrows, not just the puppies and the rainbows. Because that's the whole point of everything - to be here with each other, for each other, to make the world better for each other. And to do that we have to listen and we have to confront the uncomfortable, unfair realities of life. We have to acknowledge the systemic injustices in our society and work together to rectify them.

I'm not the most articulate person. I don't know all the things, I don't have the answers. I don't have the right words, but these things need to be said. I don't think my words are going to change anyone's mind. I can only change myself. So I will continue to change myself. I will keep listening and learning and feeling the uncomfortable feelings and challenging myself to do better and be better. I hope you will join me. If you have puppies, please come on in. If you have anger and despair and pain, please come on in. I want to sit with you on the sunshine and rainbow days and on the WTF What Fresh Hell Is This?! days. I want to sit with you on all the days.

Lyric of the moment: "Sick of leaving things half done, leaving things half said. Oh I am, I am trying the best that I can. I am, I am trying..." ~Vance Joy "Best That I Can"

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Strength Training

"Why are you doing this?" I ask myself as I try to do yet another thing I can't do because I don't have any muscles and I don't know how to let my body parts work together instead of struggling against each other. Or rather, the small insistent voice from somewhere deep inside me asks this. The voice that I can finally hear clearly and consistently, after tuning out the cacophony of the culturally ingrained messages of how I'm supposed to look and act and think and be. Many of those messages are untrue. We are constantly bombarded with messages designed to make us feel fearful and insecure, to manipulate and control our beliefs, actions and especially our money. It takes a concerted effort to unlearn the untruths we've been told and to determine for ourselves how to be a person in the world. The process is messy and confusing and, for me at least, involves a lot of crying in the shower (For me, the shower is the perfect place to release all the feels. The water drowns out and washes away all the puffy, snotty evidence of an ugly cry, while also being warm and relaxing. It feels like a clean slate and a gratitude enhancer - I will never cease to be amazed that I get to have hot running water or ice cold water any time I want).

"Why are you doing this?" I ask myself.
"Because I need to get stronger." I whine in frustration.
"There are different kinds of strength." I reply.

And this is the answer. I know it's the answer, but I don't know how to actualize it. Do I need the kind of strength that comes from lifting heavy things? A little bit, yes. Insomuch as it benefits my health and better allows me to do the things I want to do. But it's not like anyone is ever going to mistake me for The Rock. Visible muscles are not ever going to be my thing. My best muscle is and always has been my stupidly hopeful, wanderlustful, bleeding heart. But I don't know what kind of class you go to in order to gain the other kinds of strength. Like the strength to stand up straight and risk being seen (and possibly being misunderstood or judged or attacked - I wonder if animals think our bipedalism is super weird, like here we are walking around all exposed and in danger of being eviscerated, figuratively and literally). The strength to confidently and compassionately challenge the misinformation and injustices of the world. The strength to forgive and atone for my past mistakes, all the times I starved myself of nourishment, both physical and emotional.

The world can be a very dark place. Sometimes I think fighting it is a Sisyphean task. Every day you push the boulders up the hill and some asshole knocks them back down again. But I have to keep pushing the boulders up the hill, because I have a lot of resources and privileges that allow me to do so, and because not doing so means the boulders might fall and hurt someone. And because maybe all of us pushing together will eventually make a difference.

So I need the strength to be bigger and brighter, to be an unstoppable force of lightness and kindness. The strength to fall into the well of feelings that is the human experience, to swim through them, struggling and learning and growing, and to climb back out of the well a kinder, better person. Over and over. For as long as it takes.

(Last week the well of feelings was deep and dark. It felt like scream crying into the abyss. So George and I canceled most of our plans, felt the feels and watched old Elementary episodes on Hulu while pretending to be detectives. But mostly we ate snacks and cleaned things. Though we did find 90 cents in the couch cushions. First case solved! George is a very good, non-judgmental feelings-feeler friend. Plus he doesn't eat any of the snacks. Alas, he is not very good at coming up with funny detective agency names).

Lyric of the moment: "When everyone you thought you knew deserts your fight, I'll go with you. You're facing down a dark hall, I'll grab my light and go with you. I'll go with you, I'll go with you..." ~Twenty One Pilots "My Blood"

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Old Forge Half Marathon: Old Asses Half-Assing Old Forge

"Well this is either a great idea or a terrible idea!" I said as Prem and I were running from the rental house to the start of the Old Forge Marathon and Half Marathon. It was Prem's idea to run the two miles as a warm-up. Because running 26.2 miles wasn't enough for him. I only had to run half that distance so I figured a couple more miles couldn't hurt. Or they could hurt but then it would be a funny story afterwards. It was a cool, crisp 50 degrees, ideal running weather. We ran past two ice cream places and the race start/finish area had a giant stuffed moose and bear, so it was already shaping up to be a perfect day.

Thanks to Coach Prem for the warm-up and photo

Jenn, Prem and I had driven to Old Forge in Jenn's Car 'o Fun the night before and met up with Alison, Bob, Todd, Brooke, Mark and Amy at this amazing rental house with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and countless moose and bear knickknacks. Whoever decorated this house had a serious commitment to the outdoorsy motif. There was virtually no surface untouched by wood or woodland creatures. We were all up early on Saturday morning. Sleep had been in short supply, due to pre-race anxiety or sleeping in an unfamiliar place with odd noises and hundreds of tchotchke eyes. But coffee, bagels and laughter were plentiful. Prem and I set off on foot and the others followed later by car, bringing our bags with them. I learned two important things: 1) I am too old to sleep in the top bunk of a bunk-bed (though I didn't fall while trying to go down the unstable ladder in the dark so that was a major win) and 2) easy warm-up miles can be very enjoyable and probably even a good idea (though I'm no Prem - for a marathon or ultra, I'm perfectly content to use the first miles of the race itself as a warm-up).

Pre-race, pre-Mark getting dressed for the race.
Photo thanks to Sherpa extraordinaire, Amy!

Waiting around for the start, we were all dancing and goofing around as usual. Prem insisted he was "not racing" (then went on to come in 4th overall!!) Everyone else was sandbagging too, claiming they were unprepared and going to be slow (all lies, everyone was super fast). We called ourselves Old Asses Half-Assing Old Forge. I wasn't thinking of this as a race, just a mini-vacation with tramily in a new-to-me destination. I was happy and relaxed at the start line, having no expectations or goals for the race. Except to make it back alive to my box of Neopolitan JoJos. The course was non-technical and flat, mostly rocky dirt roads with some small rolling hills. I wanted to focus on my form and have a smooth, relaxed stride. Lately I've been working on improving my biomechanics, which are admittedly quite terrible. I have flat feet and my posture is atrocious, from decades of hunching my shoulders inward and attempting to be as invisible as possible. It has taken many years to undo that mindset from the inside out and fixing my posture has been the latest piece of the build-a-better-robot puzzle. I still have a ways to go but maybe one day I'll actually achieve my full height (before I'm old enough to start shrinking).

I started off following Todd and just getting into an easy rhythm with my breathing and steps. Somehow I ended up ahead of him and I worried maybe I was going out too fast, but my legs felt good so I just let them do their thing. I had no idea what pace I was going and it didn't really matter. I wanted to run by effort and feel and didn't care about pace. For a few miles, I ran with a marathoner named Rob and we chatted about our favorite NY state races and our goals (or non-goals) for the day, you know, the typical conversations you have with strangers in the woods. At one point he said it was a flat course and the perfect running weather and encouraged me to just go for it if I felt good. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but apparently my legs decided that was exactly what we were going to do. There was an out and back section where I got to see everyone, then a turnaround at a cone with a giant stuffed bear on it (the bear/moose theme is totally overdone in Old Forge, but I love it), then we were already halfway done and I still felt fresh. While I could definitely feel the effort and some minor aches, my stride felt looser and more effortless than it has in a while and I just kept thinking "Thank you, body for enabling me to do what I love." Bob caught up to me and I got to run with him for a bit. We ran along a cinder-track-like path, and I saw two dogs up ahead who looked familiar. As we got closer I realized it was Beth out running and spectating with Indy and Metta. It was a most awesome surprise!

Photo thanks to Beth! Bob is so fast he's just a blur!

The second half of the course passed as smoothly as the first half had, though now I was in the zone and keeping mostly to myself, just happily ticking off miles. I ran steadily up all the hills and let go on the downhills, not trying to control anything, just allowing my legs to find their own way. At one point I somehow managed to kick a rock into the back of my own right Achilles, which stung for a few steps but I couldn't help but laugh at my stone hacky-sack fail. Since I'd worn my hydration pack and had my own gels, I hadn't needed to stop at any of the aid stations so it had been a continuous and surprisingly fluid grind since the start. Somehow I had just gotten into a groove and stayed there for the full 13 miles. There was one last hill up a paved road, which I crested seamlessly, then sprinted downhill to the finish. I'm sure it didn't look fluid or fast from the outside (I probably looked more like a lumbering elephant), but it sure felt fantastic. I haven't run that far that fast and felt that good in a long time. But that's running - some runs are a pile of crap, some runs are a piece of cake. I like to think the effortless feeling days are the reward for persevering through the sufferfest days. Every day I get to run is a good day, but I am especially grateful for those perfect, relaxed days. It's such a wonderful feeling to glide through the wilds of life, surrounded by your favorite old asses.

Bob, Todd, Jenn and Mark crushed the half and Prem, Alison and Brooke all had super strong marathon finishes. We hung out at the finish area, eating, cheering and dancing until Brooke came in. I think we even made it into the official race video with our dance moves to Salt-N-Pepa's "Shoop." After the race there was a lot of eating, euchre playing, exploring Old Forge/Webb, laughing, hilarious picture taking and more eating. Warm-up miles and cool-down dancing may become my new race routine because it really helped limit the typical post-race soreness.

We did it!

Shenanigans


Sunday morning, Jenn, Alison, Prem, Todd, Brooke, Boden and I did the 2ish mile hike up and down Bald Mountain, which had beautiful views and a cool fire tower to climb at the top. Then it was time to clean up and head home, with full, happy hearts and stomachs.

Bald Mountain

Of course we have to climb it


All the thanks to the RDs, volunteers and runners who make events like this possible. And infinity of thanks and love to my tramily for filling my life with so many adventures and so much awesomeness. I know one day my running escapades will end, but until then I'm going to savor every wild, weird, wonderful moment of the terrible, awful, beautiful, amazing torture paradise that is distance running.

Lyric of the moment: "I don't recall a single care. Just greenery and humid air. Then Labor Day came and went. And we shed what was left of our summer skin..." ~Death Cab For Cutie "Summer Skin"

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Trails of our Lives: Steve

These are The Trails Of Our Lives, the stories of our adventures, our demons, our victories, in running and in life. If you're interested in participating, please email your story (how you started running, how you ended up on the trails, your struggles, your triumphs, your photos, anything you want to share) to jen@fromrobotwithlove.org.

This is the story of Steve, one of the most impressive and accomplished athletes and humans I’ve been fortunate enough to know. I have long admired his determination and strength but especially his kindness. He became my friend forever when he bought me an ice cream cone after a college cross country meet. But in all seriousness, he was a good friend at a time in my life when I really needed friends but didn’t realize it and still thought I had to get through everything alone. Steve was just there for me and I will forever appreciate it. 

Dear Running
By Steve Chabot

Dear Running,

I’m not quite sure how to say goodbye to something that has defined me for more than 25 years. Especially since it’s a physical act that I can no longer do. At least not in any way that I would find satisfying.

First, the necessary caveat. This letter (if you will) is purely an exercise in self-indulgence, and the topic is certainly a “first world problem.” I feel guilty just typing this, knowing I should instead be writing another letter about the inhumanity of our country’s current immigration practices. Or, you know, working on my online course for my superintendent’s certification, or answering some of the 200 emails I get each day, or doing a million other things for work. But all that said, and as cheesy as this feels, I’m going to write it anyway.

So, here goes.

The sport of running has been at the center of much of my life, and now I have to say goodbye to it. Running gave me a reason for being during times when I struggled to find any reasons at all. It smoothed out the edges of my creeping depression, obsessiveness, anxiety, jealousy, insecurity, and anger. It made me confident, and strong, and happy.

A look back:

1991

It was time to sign up for middle school sports and I was already sick of soccer. The only other fall sport option was something called “cross-country.” I asked my dad what it was and he said something about training for races. I had a vision of doing push ups in a gym, and signed up. My mom told me my grandfather had been the West Virginia state champion in hurdles, whatever those were. My older brother was fast, but he and I had a strained relationship. That was the summer he left for the Army, and it definitely felt like a big transition for me. I started running around the block with my dad a couple times a week after dinner.

I felt free.

1991 - 1994

Middle school cross-country and Track were great. I was faster than Sol, and I got to hang out with Hannah Jacobs and Yen Tran, two girls I had crushes on. By 8th grade I was one of the better runners on the team. It’s probably safe to say cross-country was the only good thing about middle school for me. I was a tiny kid, not even 5 feet tall, and very skinny. I had acne and got picked on a lot and didn’t have much confidence. But running gave me something I was fairly good at and the fitness helped me on the basketball court and I got to occasionally talk to girls. Running around the pond at Robin Hood Park became a near-daily ritual, and helped me exhaust my OCD tendencies and fall asleep at night, something that was a big problem in middle school.

1994 - 1998

High school cross-country and track (along with basketball and nordic skiing and tennis and the mountain bike club) pretty much defined me as a high schooler. That, and being a good student. I was relatively quiet, but drawn to sarcasm and the works of Ed Abbey, Tool, Vonnegut, and all the Seattle bands.

In high school I learned a lot about running from Coach Goldsmith, but it’s safe to say much of what he taught us about distance running didn’t really hit home for me until well after high school. I became obsessed with my times, even though I didn’t train consistently until my senior year. Senior year I had the incredibly bittersweet experience of ending up one spot too slow on a team that won the state championship. I had to watch my teammates win from the sidelines. All year I had floated between ranking 5th and 10th on a stacked team, but calf pain* slowed me down just enough towards the end of the season that, even as a senior, I didn’t get a top 7 spot at states. We were so deep that I was running sub-18’s and yet still not good enough for varsity. That will happen on a team with Mitch Leet and Justin Fyffe breaking 16 minutes on a regular basis, and a slew of talented kids. We must have had a dozen kids under 18:30, and we swept a number of meets. It was an odd experience to know you would be the top runner on half of the teams in the state, while at the same time struggling to crack the varsity squad on the team you’d devoted all of high school to. As cool as it was to see Keene High School in the Runner’s World national rankings, it didn’t feel like my team as much anymore.

Over time I accepted this, but I must admit I still can feel that ambivalence when the subject of state championships comes up. To be part of it, but not really part of it, is a feeling that spans across many areas of my life.

*I hesitated to break the flow of the above story by discussing the calf pain. Sophomore year we did the “12 minute run” in PE class and I just had to beat Brett Ouellette. I went all out with no warm-up. At practice that afternoon we did a speed workout, and I can still remember the feeling of tearing my right calf. It only took a few weeks to recover at that age, but little did I know that my poor flexibility, combined with this and other early calf and Achilles injuries, would continue to be issues for me for the next two decades.

1998 - 2002

I almost didn’t run in college. I spent the summer before my freshman year working construction, lifting weights, and working on my game. I was going to walk on to Hobart basketball. I’d be the manager if need be, and work my way on to the bench from there, and then into games by junior year. I was determined. Then I ruptured my right pectoralis. I had my first real relationship heartbreak. I got to Hobart and was no longer sure about basketball (another decision I regret to this day) or if I even wanted to do a sport anymore because my pec and shoulder were in such bad shape. Maybe I’d just study and party. I dove head first into both, that’s for sure. How many people party five nights a week and still end up graduating Summa Cum Laude? Yes, I’m bragging.

Then I met Justin Siuta and Andy Phillips across the hall, two guys on the cross-country team. I remember hanging out with them one Saturday night after they’d raced, and feeling jealous of their fatigue and pain. They had done something hard, something visceral. What I love most about running is that feeling of satisfaction, of contentment, of knowing you’ve put in a pure effort at one of life’s simplest acts. I showed up at practice Monday and introduced myself to Coach Ron “Live Fit” Fleury. In hindsight it was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.

For the next four years being a collegiate runner was my #1 focus. I became good friends with Greg Stowell, the best runner I had ever met (until I met Mark Miller). I took his advice on “secret miles” and crept to upwards of 80 a week at times. I had always been a middle-of-the-pack runner, talentwise, but I am proud to say I got myself into the low 27’s for 8K. I’ve earned dozens of trophies from road races and team MVP and the like, but the slip of paper that says “Conference Runner of the Week” is the athletic honor I am most proud of in my entire life. I still vividly remember Coach Fleury walking into the locker room one day before practice and announcing it to the team: Conference Runner of the Week. Finally, a break from the coach’s awards and “Well, he showed up all the time” trophies! Everything in running felt very earned. Run a hard ten-miler one day, and do a hard track workout of 800m repeats the next day, all to improve by maybe 8 seconds at the next race. There is no hiding and no bullshit to running.

Hobart was great for me. I gained self-confidence. I did a life-changing term abroad in West Africa. I made lifelong friends (Hi Jen!) and I look forward to going back every time I can make it to a reunion, formal or informal. I definitely stopped being so reserved. I still think fondly about the Hobart cross-country team at least once a week. There are a thousand running anecdotes from those four years, but here is one of the most powerful for me: On Wednesdays, we frequently did 1,000m repeats in a cemetery near campus. Senior year I was the fastest on the team, but Rob Portik, a year younger, could often best me in shorter distances. He was fast and had the strength and pure speed of an 800m runner. I would run five miles in the morning (secretly, sorry Coach Fleury) and then do my best to keep up with Rob during the afternoon speed sessions. I can still remember the final turn of the last 1,000m repeat that day, and finding a gear I didn’t know I had. Passing Rob, and clicking off the final interval faster than I had ever run in my life. I can still feel it and I can still taste it, 19 years later. Fast, Fierce, and Free.

Alive.

2002 - 2005

The day after I graduated from college, I broke my ankle playing basketball. I would break the other one (guess how...yup! Basketball!) a year or two later. Still, I was able to bounce back and kept right on with the miles I was accumulating. I knew that, talentwise, I was average, so high mileage and hard work were the only way I could be fast. I ran. A lot. I took pretty good care of my body (in AmeriCorps someone named me “most likely to be stretching” during an assembly) and my pectoralis and shoulder had mostly healed, but I struggled a bit to keep my calves and Achilles pain-free, especially the right ones. Still, I won a few local races, including a low-16 performance in Lancaster, NH that netted me a $300 pair of hiking boots. I started marathoning as well, and after a year as a nomad (California, Arizona, DC, and a marathon in Ireland) I got my Masters in curriculum & instruction and became a high school English teacher and (you’ll never guess) a cross-country, basketball, and track coach.

2006 - 2009

My life during these years was ... interesting. My career was going great: teaching, coaching, and chipping away at my principal certification. But outside work I was partying way too much. And when the partying for the night would end, the depression and anger and all the rest of it would flood back in. I know I scared my parents and girlfriends a few times, and I scared myself. I took a sort of hiatus from running, and got really into rugby and MMA. I lifted, and got close to 200 lbs. I wasn’t out of shape, but it was a very different shape than the 165 lbs. collegiate runner version of myself. This version also managed to accrue a broken scaphoid and a broken nose, thanks to playing in a few rugby leagues and competing in a few amateur fights. I still ran on occasion, and even did some more marathons, but my times got slower and the calf and Achilles pain got worse. Burning the candle at both ends didn’t help, I’m sure. I don’t regret these years, but in hindsight I was reckless with myself, reckless with alcohol, and reckless with other people.

2009 - 2011

I became an Assistant Principal at 29, and moved back to New Hampshire for the job and to help take care of my grandmother. I decided I was done with rugby and MMA, and that it was time to recommit to running. As is typical of my personality, I couldn’t just ease back in. I decided to “become a triathlete” and train for the Ironman with my friend Vince. I bought a Kestrel Talon road bike, and eight months later traded it in for a Cervelo P2 tri bike. I took swimming lessons. I did a few sprint triathlons, then some Olympic distance, and then the Timberman Half Ironman in 5 hours and 24 minutes. That was arguably one of the most complete races of my life. One of those days when everything actually falls into place and goes according to plan. I felt like a veteran racer: cool and calm and confident in my training. I knocked off my tenth marathon, and four or five century rides. I was probably in the best endurance conditioning of my life, and then…

Crash. At mile 95 of my final training ride before Ironman Florida, I crashed at 22 mph, broke my collarbone, and got a concussion. So much for the sub-12 Ironman I had envisioned.

I spent the winter recovering, deferred to Ironman St. George a few months later, and gutted it out in something like 16 hours, with no swimming practices and only a handful of bike rides under my belt. It was ugly, but it counted, and I got my Ironman tattoo the next day in Las Vegas. At least it’s a good first-date story. It worked on my wife anyway.

2011 - 2017

I did the math, and it’s not hyperbole to say I’ve probably run 1,000 races in my life. The mileage and the injuries really started to add up in my thirties. I have never been flexible, and the mobility in my ankles and legs is laughable. I mean, literally laughable: my physical therapist sister and ortho wife often force me to demonstrate my limited range of motion to people by doing a squat. I fall backwards before I even get to parallel, and they all share a laugh.

But I love running, so I went to PT. A lot. And I got a foam roller and a lacrosse ball and five cortisone shots over the years, and slept in that damn Achilles-stretching boot. I had a surgical consult, but it would be eight months recovery per leg and no guarantee of improvement. I did some hot yoga (sorry, heated vinyasa flow) and I own several pairs of calf sleeves and half a dozen topical creams. I made it work, because running was what made me feel right. I watched my marathon times creep from nearly breaking 3 hours all the way to struggling (and failing) to break 4 hours. Still, I tried to put in the miles, because that’s how I felt centered and whole.

As my wife and I continued our careers in the greater Portland area and started a family, I felt like I became a fairly recognizable part of the local running scene. I’ve been a race director four or five times, and became a very active member of Portland Trails. I own not one, but two running strollers! I even got to be the male model in Dan Frey’s book on core strength for runners. I made a lot of great new running friends, helped out at some of Hark’s collegiate track meets, volunteered at Tri for a Cure, and the good people at Fleet Feet like to occasionally give me free stuff. Maine: the way life (and running) should be. I love nothing more than building my weekends around local races, seeing my friends, and feeling the endorphin rush of both maximum effort and supporting local causes. It’s a great scene up here in Portland, Maine. You should try it out sometime.

2018

In nearly 27 years of racing, I had only dropped out of two races. One my sophomore year in high school, and one my sophomore year in college. Both times because of calf issues. The feeling of dropping out was so terrible. I hated it more than anything. Then, this year, I dropped out of my last two races in July. I just couldn’t do it. My calves and Achilles are in bad shape. Painful and nearly immobile. I had quit drinking and added “voodoo flossing” and dry needling to my repertoire of treatments, but the sad reality is that for the last few years I have spent more time trying to get my body to be able to run than I have actually spent running. I’m barely able to get in ten miles a week, and I’m always a misstep or a slight over exertion away from another tear, and another six to eight weeks of inactivity. My legs look like they belong on two different bodies, such is the accumulated scar tissue damage. I’m tired of having to gut out a 5K, only to limp up and down the stairs for the next three days.

So here we are. Just sort of … done.

Running has been the most consistent thing in my life for more than a quarter century. And now I just can’t really do it. Maybe there are still a few low key 5K’s in my future, and I will try and replace “real running” with weight lifting, mountain biking, the occasional game of tennis, hiking, and so on, but I know it’s not replaceable. That’s hard to accept sometimes, but it’s reality. And I know it’s a first world problem, and that I’ve been blessed a thousand times over to have the life that I have. And I know I’ve just talked about myself for, like, ten pages. Sorry.

Regardless, I will miss running profoundly. I am so grateful for it, and for everything it gave me. The miles gave me form and substance. The effort helped wear down the jagged pieces of glass in my head and to calm down the frenetic angst in my heart. Life isn’t easy for a lot of people and I think we’re all looking for things that make it feel real, and make it feel worth the effort. Running did that for me. When I ran I felt fast, and fierce, and free. I felt alive.

It’s hard to imagine my life without running, but I’m going to gut it out. And I know it will be just fine, and I know that because of all the running.

Thanks for reading.

Steve