Monday, September 21, 2020

Soul Sucking Swamp Ass

 I guess you could say in 2017, the Chicago Spartan Super became the iconic race for my race team.  We trained hard and reached our goal and crossed that finish.  The following year we attacked the same course only this time it was totally different.  We had not anticipated what was a dry hunting ground the year before, would now see rain for all the days leading into the race.  It was nine grueling miles in ankle deep thick mud. Oh we exited that race masters of the mud pit, or so we thought.  In fact, "remember all the mud in Chicago?" became a thing among us.  We'd laugh about losing shoes, or the spectacle we made of ourselves walking into the Marriott afterwards.  Oh yeah I knew all about mud.....only now I know I didn't.

Last week, I finally did what I thought was impossible.  I raced in 2020.  Spartan may have cancelled their season, but Savage did not.  I always considered myself a Spartan racer by trade, the iconic obstacle race after all.  I have done 14 of them with three trifectas under my belt, but with COVID I was now to a place where any race is better than no race.  So, I took off for Maryland for a new race with new obstacles, knowing I wasn't as prepared as I could have been.  The race was essentially late notice as we were not entirely sure it would go off as planned.  I had been training but even my own gym has not been open all that long.  The summer had been very hot, and I had broken my finger with a bulky splint which just made running rough.  Nonetheless, we were doing it.  As we arrived at the race, the sun was high, the air was cool, the racers socially distant and the music on point.  Ah yes.... race vibe.  Oh, how I have missed you.

The front part of the race went as expected, I panicked at the top of the cargo net, which is what I always do, but still managed to make it down.  I struggled with the hanging obstacles, because lets face it, grip strength training sucks and with no races to look forward to, it just may have fallen to the bottom of the training list this summer.  However, it was in the last mile and a half it happened.  The mud pit.  At the bottom of the embankment I saw it.  Racers stuck in the mud.  No, this was not the ankle deep mud in Chicago that was annoying and shoe sucking, this was hands and knees to the chest crawling because walking appeared to be impossible.  The racers in the pit needed bystanders with long tree branches to be helped out.  The scene was so difficult to see that  I feared we would not be able to get out of it.  We chalked it up to being late in the day and maybe this mud had evolved and become more difficult with time.  We made the decision to veer to the left where it was much shallower and honestly, a bit out of bounds.  It seemed to be the safer choice.  

As we entered the final mile, down another embankment there it was.  A sign that said,"Swamp Ass."  This mud pit was a clearly marked obstacle, with no way around, and the only way to finish was to go through.  This was not a late in the day change in mud, this was like this by design.  I would fearfully wade in and end up chest deep.  The mud pulled at my shoes, walking was next to impossible.  I was slugging away with my legs that didn't want to move, I was starting to panic that I would drown in mud.  I got to the place I was essentially paralyzed.  I couldn't move.  I don't recall all of my mutterings at the time but I'm pretty sure,"I can't get out!" was screamed irrationally over and over plus a tangled web of profanity that probably still hangs over that very mud pit in Maryland.  In the end, my race partner pushed me along on my left, a fellow racer helped on my right and a guy with a cool Australian accent pulled me mostly out by my arms from the other side.  I would crawl out physically taxed, coated in an inch of mud, emotionally drained and face to face with a race photographer who captured it all on film.  Nonetheless, we had to keep moving, as well you know, there's a medal at the end and I sure as hell was getting a medal for this.  

Less than a mile later, I would find myself at the top of the 24 foot obstacle named Collosus.  As always, the height got to me but the mud cleansing plunge down the backside, which was a water slide, was the most glorious rush I have had in a long time. A short time later, we would cross the finish, medals in hand, tired from a hard fought race and happy to finally have some straight up non COVID normalcy this year.

This whole experience has taught me something.  Sometimes you are faced with hard challenges to where it's easier to rationalize a short walk out of bounds, rather than get stuck, but those challenges will always be ahead, sometimes unavoidable and much more difficult than you thought.  The trick is to stay in bounds, jump into the proverbial mud, start slugging, and if you get stuck look for the people willing to push you along when you are not so sure you can do it by yourself.  As it's really only on the other side will you earn the glory of truly conquering the hard things.

I'd love to tell you I can retreat to my Spartan career for next year and get back into my wheelhouse, but I cannot.  I had a terrifying experience with Savage in the mud I thought I knew oh so well, but really had no clue.  Nonetheless, the motto of my race team has always been, if it excites you and scares the crap out of you, it probably means you should do it.  So, yep another Savage is in the books and a whole new training is underway.  Only this time it includes grip strength, because apparently the Grip Strength Fairy skipped me on her deliveries this year.  Otherwise, I am still working on my fear of heights, but I have committed to no more out of bounds so that I can jump in feet first for a fear busting soul sucking slug through the mud better known as Swamp Ass.  I am quite certain that in truly conquering that course to the best of my ability, I will be able to see the best is yet to come.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

It's Not Whatcha Got, It's Whatcha Give

After three years and 140 blog posts, I suppose I owe my loyal audience a bit of an apology. Yes. I am aware I have put nothing new out in four weeks, when I am usually a faithful every two week poster.   Here’s the problem. Writer’s block. It’s a thing. To be honest, I have had many a night recently staring at my bloggers blank entry page for a time, ultimately giving up and ending up on Amazon. The problem may run a bit deeper than I imagined as my daughter commented today,"Boy Mom you sure get a lot of packages lately."  Trust me I truly needed a new dishwasher spray arm, but new shoes for every person under my roof may have been a bit over the top.

Oh I had a million different ideas, but none were fresh and new.  It all felt like ground I had covered before.  Overcoming this or that, but somehow none of it seemed to want to flow out of me in any reasonable manner.  To be honest, writer's block didn't make sense to me.  For months, all I wanted was a sense of normalcy.  In large part I had gotten it.  Back to my gym, back to my gym family, workouts every day with trainers who knew me best and even an obstacle race this coming Saturday, something I didn't think I would see this year.  All in, I should be excited and tap into my inner inspiration and share that with my loyal readers.  "Should" is the magic word here.  

As I rolled through the last few weeks, I can honestly say the return to normal was certainly welcome and a vast improvement over the last six months, but something was missing.  I was doing like I normally did, yet somehow it all felt a bit lack luster.  I suppose I accepted a thousand different excuses, like working out in a mask was not ideal or I have made a wee bit of backward process in my strength as my weights as home were not as heavy as the ones at the gym, but the reality is I simply did not know what was missing.

That is until a simple text from a friend came through proposing the most outlandish physical challenge that would take place a year from now.  It almost seemed ludicrous to consider.  I have done a lot of stuff, but this is much bigger than anything I have done before. I talked it over with my accountability partner and my favorite training partner, my son.  I would bargain with myself.  Was it ludicrous?  Yes.  It's crazy.  But... what if we did it?  This is going to require the hardest physical training I have ever done, and will take a year to prepare for.  

In the time that followed this simple proposal, my head spun with "what if's," and it even kept me up at night.  This week I put all that aside and committed to said challenge as did my son and my partner. Our quintessential 1DOS leadership team building activity.  Admittedly, I'm a little bit afraid, and a little bit excited, but mostly curious to see what version of myself  lives on the other side of this event's successful completion.  Today, I would go to the gym with my son, this notion fueled everything I did.  Suddenly, this event had taken hold of my psyche and told me I have 12 months and I damn well better get my ass in gear.  I pushed as hard as I could, and left the gym drenched, out of breath, sore and exhilarated.  What had started as a simple text between friends has now given me the fuel I didn't even know I was lacking with my prior return to "normal." 


                                                 It's not whatcha got, it's what you give,                                                                                                     It ain't the life you choose, its's the life you live                                                                                                                                         - Tesla

As I sat in the car cooling off listening to Tesla, it dawned on me.  My return to "normal" was a return to my normal day to day stuff.  No, there is nothing wrong with daily workouts, or mid range obstacle races like I will do on Saturday.  Those, in fact, are good albeit, great things, and I am stoked to crawl through the mud and jump off a 15 foot wall, well stoked about heights may not be quite accurate....  Anyway, for now It's what I got, but It's also what I have had for several years.  In fact, I would go so far as to say there is a certain level of complacency in this particular "normal."  This new goal has reminded me that I actually am always capable of giving myself so much more so I can take this thing called life for a ride. With this, it dawns on me, maybe the thing to do is to not shoot for a prepandemic return to normal.  Maybe the better thing to do is to locate that little voice, that friend who can push us just a bit to remind us that sometimes "normal," no matter how good it appears, can be code for complacency and we are actually always able to do more in order to lead our best lives. I have a feeling this is going to be quite a year, and in that amount of time I am sure I will learn as always, the best is yet to come.


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Finding the Pandemic Fire

 She's living in a world, and it's on fire

Feeling the catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away...

                                                                                       - Alicia Keyes

I suppose you could say in the weeks, albeit months, that led into my vacation a few weeks ago it did feel a bit like the world on fire.  There were swarms of patients for COVID testing, navigating my way through virtual summer school for my youngest, all while trying to entertain kids who literally were tired of looking at the same walls of the house day in and day out since March.  Beyond all of that I was trying to hold my own feet to the fire as I fought to stay fit with races still on the books, without the help of my gym family and trainers.  For the kids as much as myself, I carefully announced the count down until we were leaving every day.  We marked the days off the calendar and somehow knew life would be just a little bit better flown away from here for a little bit.  

In the midst of all of this prevacation hubub, a crushing blow that Spartan cancelled the whole season.  Everything I worked so hard for suddenly erased in one email.  My foundation cofounder and my son, who is my social media director, had planned for the Tahoe Spartan Beast as our secret team bonding race for 2020.  The quintessential Spartan on rough terrain with the best of the best.  I had trained for a year for this, counting the months, training the inclines, lifting the weights, I was going to be ready pandemic or no pandemic.  As if COVID has not robbed society of enough, now even my personal goals were taken from me.  I suppose you could say this huge loss had me a little lost as to how to pick up and move forward.  

So, I did what I always do. I threw myself a big pity party with the only exercise being done the week I was gone was a 9 mile bike ride one time.  I whined and complained to my accountability partner.  You see it was hot where I was, so why run?    A few days off?  So what.  No races anyway.  Oh yes.  I had hit the mother load of negativity.  Which for someone who is a motivator by trade, is probably not the best head space to be in.  I fought hard to try to put that aside and spend my days on vacation with some much needed reconnection  time with my children.  We swam in the pool, watched the dolphins in the ocean and even played with a school of jellyfish.  All of this was well and good, but as the days wore on I knew where I was headed.  Right back into the fire.  

With an eleven hour car ride home, I had a lot of time to think about the roaring blaze that was coming at me faster than I wanted.  Something had to give.  No races.  No big hairy goals.  Crazy life.  What was I going to do?  My gym had just opened for outdoor workouts.  I was on the fence about paying for burpees on the pavement in scorching heat but a friend talked me into doing it anyway.  Well if she could, I could I guess.

Oh, we got our feet on the ground

And we're burning it down

Oh, got our head in the clouds and we're not coming down

Here I was one week ago.  It was 87 degrees and humid out. I was under a huge canopy which had converted a parking lot into a makeshift studio.  I was sitting on a piece of equipment  I have had a five year love/hate relationship with.  The rower.  Hello my old friend.  As I stared down at the familiar footplates and drum of water, suddenly, I had nothing but love for that thing.  There was one of my trainers, right there in person.  Another person I knew was across the way from me.  People.  My people.  There was music, familiar coaching, heavy weights and 45 minutes of the most normal thing I have experienced since March.  Oh yes.  Here's my spark, right where I left it.  I was drenched, tired and more excited than I have been in months.  Since that time, I have gone nearly every day.   I have open blisters on my hands from rowing, as my calluses that existed in March are long gone.  I have firm reminders that although I never stopped working out on my own, there were maybe some muscle groups that have had some neglect in these months making difficult this week to sit down at times or even lift my coffee.  One thing is for sure, I would not trade one single thing about it as I am suddenly fanning the flames of the old me that existed before the monster that is COVID sent the world into a tailspin. 

This girl is on fire,

This girl is on fire

This little tiny bit of normalcy has given me the opportunity to bust out of the oppressive pandemic mindset and begin to brightly look ahead in ways I have not been able to recently.  I suppose all of us got a little lost in the pandemic with the cancellations of major events, and the emotional battles over the goings on in the world.  However, I think the trick is to find that little spark.  That little speck of prepandemic normalcy, fan those flames and come back as the whole damn fire. Only in the glory of the giant blaze will we see the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Life Lessons from the Mama Bird

Last night, I took my children to the beach as we are on our annual, albeit socially distant, vacation to the Outer Banks.  I assured them if they just sat still, they could watch the crabs run around as they tend to do at night.  Sure enough, when we got there, there were holes all over the place, with plenty of crab tracks.  However, as with most things, this advice was ineffective.  A crab would pop out of his hole and my youngest two would go running with excitement screaming,"Look!  I see one Mom!"  I reminded them over and over, sit still, be patient and you will see way more than one.  This was to no avail.  The excitement was too much and like most forms of wild life, the big bad humans were just too scary and it was time to flee.

With this in mind, imagine my surprise when we discovered a completely different scene when  we returned to the rental house.  A bird had formed a nest on the supports of the back patio and was patient and unwavering in her guarding of the eggs she was surely perched upon. It was not just any bird actually.  It was a dove. No amount of excited squeals or vibration from children on the patio caused her to do much more than blink.  It would seem that her concern for her babies far outweighed the big scary humans invading her space.

As a mom of five children of trauma adopted from various places in the world, I can honestly say, this simple mom instinct is one I know well.  It's the setting myself aside to champion the fight to have the outside world understand the unique make up of each of my children.  I was quick to take on teachers and school boards who could not understand how spending three years in abject poverty on the side of a mountain, with English not being their first language, could make for a very different kindergartner than the affluent children from the suburbs occupying the same classroom.  I took on friends who could not understand that various orphanage behaviors based on living in "fight or flight mode" in the early years did not constitute simple rebellion, it was a deeper seeded issue that needed understanding.  I disregarded even some family who were not so sure five adoptions, including children of color, was the greatest idea I ever had, but so be it.  I was the mama bird, strong and unwavering.  No amount of noise or discord would stand in the way of me championing the causes of my children.

As far as we know that bird has been there at least 48 hours without moving, anxiously awaiting the magical arrival of her babies.  Studying this aviary symbol of hope closely makes me wonder about how many times we stand in the way of our own fears for everyone else except ourselves.  How many times do we let the slightest vibration, the slightest set back, cause us to give up and flee?  How many times do we let comments or behavior of other big scary humans knock us right out of the nest before the magic happens?

Maybe instead we need to realize we all have a little mama bird in us.  We all possess the ability to look fear and past failures in the eye and peacefully stand our ground to cultivate our proverbial life goal eggs until they can burst open and we can witness the magic that lives inside.  How do we know?  We do it for everyone else.  It just may be time to give ourselves the same priority.  I have a feeling if we do that we will learn the best is yet to come.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Biting the Dust on Dog Water

Are you ready, hey, are you ready for this?

Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat
Another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust

It's fairly ironic that this would come on as I made my maiden voyage on the stepper today after being sidelined for a week.  As the song played I relived the reality of last Tuesday night.  Here I was fresh off my latest insane work jag, and crazy speed training schedule.  It was late and I was spinning around doing odds and ends in the house before finally calling it quits and attempted a simple trip from the kitchen across the tile headed to the bedroom.  I had missed the water that existed outside of the dog's dish, I remember the sensation of the slip, the slow motion loss of balance, the flash as my face hit the pantry door and the sickening sound of my left knee hitting the tile.  I would get up, pace around, try to inspect my lip in the bathroom mirror as I knew it was cut.  Shit.  Light burned out.  I would then walk around the dining room assuring myself my knee was ok and once again, try to cross the same damn floor, only slower this time to my own bathroom within the bedroom.  It was then I noticed it.  There was blood on the floor.  There was a lot of blood on the floor.  I felt my lip, cut but not bleeding, knee already turning purple, also not bleeding.  Hmmmm.... I slowly became aware, my left index finger hurt.  I looked at it and found it was bleeding, and surely the nailbed doesn't normally look like that.  I would wrap it up just as the 14 year old would come down and trace the trail of blood to me.  I assured him I was fine, just a little cut, no biggie.

When I got up in the morning it was clear it may be a bit worse than I thought.  A band aid was not going to do it.  It had bled all night until I found myself in the midst of training two people at work that morning, asking a colleague to look at it.  By the time he was done, I found myself having a small procedure I won't get into, as it made me a little queasy, and some xrays.  The reality was I had an open fracture courtesy of my pantry door.  I had a purple lip too but thanks to the magic of COVID, I am in a mask all the time and nobody could see it.  Honestly?  I wasn't sure if I should be sickened by all of it or downright pissed that I can manage to run 14 Spartans with no injury, but walking across the kitchen was clearly a problem.  Yep, I bit the dust on dog water.

Are you happy, are you satisfied?

How long can you stand the heat?

I guess you could say in the days that followed I would have a little PTSD, as I now refuse to walk on that floor barefoot and every now and then my mind wanders to the flash of my face hitting the door. Every day I find other splatters of blood in places I had missed with the initial clean up.  Today?  Said light switch in the bathroom where the bulbs had been burned out now replaced and illuminating my blood perfectly.  I further had cause to hit the pause button on my training schedule.  I was not going to run and risk elevating my heart rate as my finger already had it's own throbbing heart beat.  I put in 60 hours of work in the week that followed my tumble seeing crazy numbers of COVID patients which was completely annoying as my finger did not fit in a glove easily.  When I finally took a day off, I was completely overwhelmed with the things to do at home and was having anxiety over paused race training.

So I did what I always do, checked in with the accountability partner, and when I say check in, I mean whine about my finger and how it is getting in the way of everything.  I committed to walk that day to see how it went.  It was clunky with the bulky splint on my finger but I even managed a light jog.  Following that was a successful trip to the hand surgeon, and other household errands.  Then it happened  I got a difficult challenge.  As I was busy complaining about the million things that had piled up on me when I was busy with work, I was challenged to a night off.  No work, no bills, no blog, hence this is days late, just breathe.  Oh ok.  A night off?  I wasn't sure I could do it.  I had charts from my work days, I had bills to pay, taxes to prepare, a blog to write, business related things to do, get my kid ready for his summer school calls the next day, laundry......and, and, and.....  a night off?  Damn accountability partner was killing me, now I was just going to be further behind, but I was doing it.

I would find myself on my back patio talking to a friend, admiring my flowers, and enjoying the cool breeze with an adult beverage.  Yes.  I felt guilty.  Yes.  I had so many things undone, but to take the time to be present, I found I suddenly could breathe.  I would later go to bed and find myself getting a full night's rest that night which is definitely a rarity for this card carrying insomniac.  In the day that followed, yesterday, I would break company records in actual number of patient's seen, and not even miss a beat.

Today, my finger was settling down and my lip is nearly healed so I was back at it.  Three miles on the stepper at a sub 8 minute pace, renewed from the simple act of taking the night off.  It makes me wonder how many times its going to take for me to learn the lesson.  I tend to live life at 100 mph.  I am driven to be the best I can be at all times at home and at work often pushing so hard I forget there are cool breezes, good friends, pretty flowers and this crazy renewal thing called sleep.  I suppose I should be thankful for biting the dust on dog water because it helped me to see that sometimes pushing hard is simply too hard and if I am not willing to slow down, surely the universe will find a way.

As for tonight?  I think I'll go sit on my patio again.  I will take a second night off in the same week, crazy, I know.  I'm pretty sure out there I will begin to see that sometimes biting the dust on dog water clears the way to see that the best is yet to come.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Lessons from an Upside Down Turtle

I guess you could say the turtle was my mom's spirit animal.  She always loved the ocean, and living in Florida, she took the plight of turtle nesting season to heart.  She would send newspaper articles from the Florida newspapers outlining that season's plan to protect her favorite creature.  In fact, the last time I saw her she was excitedly showing me the turtle nest that had cropped up on her own lanai.  I believe she thought those eggs held her very own children.  Unfortunately, she would pass away suddenly shortly thereafter and miss the excitement of her brand new babies.  I suppose that is why running on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Trail these days is usually comforting.  That trail is lined with turtle nests this time of year and nearly every day I can spot turtles wandering around, or in the case of one particular turtle I see a lot, simply four turtle feet sticking straight up in the air out of a sea of mud.  It is truly a hilarious site.  In fact, I have seen that turtle enough that I am beginning to wonder if it can even survive like that.  Nonetheless, running right there is like having mom right there with me as I go.

Friday I decided to go hang with my turtle friends for a simple four miler.  I texted my accountability partner with the plan.  A simple,"two out, two back."  Yeah, I had that.  I set off on the trail feeling strong.  I had my virtual running coach coming through my headphones reminding me of my form, my breathing, my cadence.  I was in the zone, the sun was shining, and I even saw two friends I have dearly missed as I have not seen them since before the pandemic.  Oh yes, strong mile one.  Pretty soon the tide began to change.  Yes, the sun was out, in fact it was beating down on me.  It was 85 degrees and some obnoxiously high percentage of humidity.  I pushed through mile two trying desperately to maintain focus, but the reality was I was hot.  I was thirsty.  I was being dive bombed by these Kamikaze deer flies that seem to have taken a liking to me.  Not to mention the turtle nests that were normally so comforting, instead were reminding me that in a week it will be the three year anniversary of my mother's abrupt exit from this Earth.  

By mile 2.2 I would find myself walking.  I was no longer listening to the coach.  Instead, I was attending to the wave of grief that hit me all at once.  In fact, I found myself walking the remainder of the distance,  looking at the baby turtles along the way.  I was a bit relieved the deer flies were leaving me alone, as they are territorial and tend to attack when you are moving quickly. However, I was mostly wondering what life would be like if my mom was still here.    At the end of it all, I came to realize my head space had completely interrupted what I set out to do and I had to report the epic fail to my accountability partner who would assure me it was alright to grieve. 

Yesterday, I had to think long and hard about what it was my mom would have actually wanted from me in a time like this.  She was a strong independent woman who didn't take shit from anyone.  She would want me to pick my head up, take control and move ahead.  It seemed like a tall order, but as I often dish out the,"fake it til you make it advice" I supposed I had to get to it.    I was afraid I would let my accountability partner down again, so I didn't want to commit much there.  However, with that notion, I found myself asking a new question.  What if I made a promise to myself and followed through?  Historically I have not been good at this sort of thing, but what if I did it?  Seemed a bit on the terrifying side, but I was willing to try.  Besides, nobody would know if I failed but me, a free pass loophole from my usual commitment to accountability.

I ended up ghosting my accountability partner, committed to six miles on the stepper and got to work.  Point 4 mile intervals with heavy upper body weights in between.  Off I went, with the first few miles strong, and the last ones stronger.  Even the weights got heavier as I went.  When I hit mile six, I tossed in another .2, because 6 miles was just so damn close to a 10k, why not finish the job and be better than I planned?  I ended the workout with a PR, drenched, free of the grief that overtook me the day before and the air of a surprised satisfaction knowing I was much more capable of trusting myself than I ever thought.  

I ended up doing some reading on that crazy upside down turtle.  As it turns out, turtles do that to slow their metabolism down to barely existent, take on life giving oxygen from the surrounding water and simply recharge.  You know, I'm beginning to think those four feet sticking out of a sea of mud were not ridiculous after all.  Maybe that turtle had it right.  In fact, it is entirely possible my run on Friday was not the epic fail I made it out to be.  Maybe when life dive bombs you with the vengeance of a deer fly, the thing to do is slow down, stop the attack, lean into the hard stuff, trust your own abilities and don't forget to look for the turtles.  In the end, my mom may have missed her own baby turtles but it would seem she has sent plenty for me to enjoy to serve as a not so subtle reminder that the best is yet to come.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Speed Training Meets Old Demons

Anyone who knows anything about me and my wellness journey knows I come from a lifetime of obesity.  Honestly, the landscape was quite different growing up in the 70's and 80's.  There were no electronics until the advent of Atari. While we are on the subject, I was quite skilled at Donkey Kong,  there was something about smashing barrels with a large sledge that gave a certain satisfaction, ahhh.... I digress.  Anyway, as a result kids were healthier.  There was nothing to do but play outside until night fell in the summers.  Consequently, come school time, you would see the emergence of the token fat kid.  The one kid who stood out from the rest.  The one picked last in gym class, or if the gym teacher felt sorry for them, they were made team captain and did the picking.  Let's just say, I was that kid.  I remember the uncomfortable picking when I was made team captain.  The mutterings by the other kids just a bit too loud,"Not me.  Don't pick me."  There was the complete lack of eye contact as I stared down the row of children hoping someone wouldn't be angry with me because they wanted nothing more than to be on another team.

Following the school yard antics of elementary school, came the horrible timed runs of PE class in junior high and high school.  There was the Presidential Fitness mile run.  Each time I was forced to do this, it always ended the same way.  I attempted to run, where I never did outside of these godforsaken events. I wouldn't get far before  I would end up an obese, wheezy mess, finishing at a painful walk well behind everyone else, left with facing the rest of the class at the finish as I tried to just make it all go away. A humiliation I would not wish on anyone.

Oh, I have plenty of blog entries on this very subject.  I often talk about taking on this race or that, crossing a finish, getting a medal.....  oh yeah.  From obese bullied kid to Spartan racing badass.  Yes this is historic underdog crap.  I even have standard phrases I use when people talk about my racing, 14 Spartans, 2 Dopeys, 5 half marathons, countless10k's and 5k's....  People complement me and as I admittedly do not handle compliments well, I end up explaining,"I was obese my whole life.  I didn't start running until the age of 45.  I am 50 now.  So, yes, I have done a lot of races, but I'm slow.  I won't break any speed records, but can run a long time.  I'm just glad to be able to be out there at this age."

What follows this conversation is usually something on the order of,"if I can, you can," and yes.  I believe this is true with every fiber of my being, and inspiring others on their journeys is something that matters a whole lot to me.  However, there is something I must rat myself out on here.  "I'm just glad to be out there at this age."  That right there?  The biggest bullshit lie I have sold to myself in some time.  Yes, running at 50  That's cool and all, but you know what's cooler?  The thing I never would dare to think about?  Running fast.  Yet, I never seem to get all that much faster despite years of training, and as a result the,"I can't" on this subject is quite loud in my head.

 "I can't because I have never been a runner and at 5 ft 10 and large framed, I'm not built for it."

 "I can't because in a year I have put on 15 pounds of muscle and that will slow me down. "

"I have proven I can't because in years of training everyone else got faster but me, and I train hard."

"I can't"

"I can't"

"I can't"

And so it goes, the self rationalization that leads me back to,"hey, I'm just glad to be doing it."  Round and round it goes.  I suppose everyone on a journey like mine should have an accountability partner.  You know, the guy you love to hate.  The one you promise stupid crap to, hate him every moment of doing it, than appreciate it when the tasks are done.  I was talking about this very thing to him recently.  He kept saying,"you can run fast.  You just don't know you can run fast."  Again, that guy is full of crap, but let me prove to him how much.  He suggested a running coach.  Oh right.  That's what I need.  Someone to observe my slow running up close and personal to remind me how slow it actually is and telling me I am doing it all wrong.  Sure, that's a great idea, it's like junior high all over again.

As the discussion with any good accountability partner goes, the subject never seemed to die.  Over and over with the,"you can run faster.  You just don't know you can."  I decided I would show him he didn't know what he was talking about by hitting a happy medium.  I took on a speed training app with a virtual coach.  Saved the in person humiliation, and I didn't have to talk about it anymore.  I took on my first speed run a couple weeks ago. In trying to run fast for the first interval, I realized I was anxious.  I held my breath.  I couldn't breathe.  My chest felt tight.  I was moving my legs as fast as I could and it felt out of control.  It was all the things of the junior high mile, and my head screamed at me to stop.  It was then I realized I wasn't listening to the coaching at all.  I would take the first recovery to reset and vowed to be smarter for the second interval, as I had many more intervals to do.  Why did I do this?  This was going to be as awful as I thought, but then I started really focusing on what the coach was saying.  I needed to run relaxed and strong.  Control my breathing.  Yeah, none of that took place the first time.  I was sure I was slower but thought well, let me start someplace, and at least that didn't feel so bad.  The virtual coach repeatedly reminding me to relax, and each time he did, I realized the anxiety of it had crept back in.  This was going to be  a challenge for sure.  I couldn't see my interval paces while I was running, so it was a bit of a surprise when I was done and I would see I ran some of the intervals at a 9:30 pace.  I'll be damned.  I guess I could maybe be faster than I thought, as my last 10k was a 13 min pace and my last few 5k's at nearly a 12 min pace.

Since that time I have done a lot of other speed training runs, with my last PR of 7:22 for that same interval a mere two weeks later.  I guess the question is this.  Did I discover some miracle app that made me two minutes faster in two weeks?  If I did, I'd sure like a piece of that.....  No.  I had the realization that all those demons I so carefully thought I slayed along the way never totally went away.  In fact, if anything I had become firmly anchored to them, allowing them to dictate my speed to avoid the discomfort instead of learning what this new version of myself was actually capable of.  I have decided that 2020 will be my year of speed training.  Each run I get a little more confident, a little less anxious and faster than I ever thought I could be and, in case there was a question.  Yes, I did go back to my accountability partner with a cleansing post 7:22 pace,"I was wrong.  You were right.  I needed a coach and to believe I could be faster."  Damn that guy is annoying, and if I am truly being transparent, he's not the first guy to tell me I could run faster.  Off hand I count four others in recent years.  Anyway, this experience makes me wonder how many times do we unknowingly hold on to the things that slow us down, sugarcoating the contentment of the situation, and ignore the people in our lives who see our potential when we cannot see it ourselves, because let's face it, demon slaying is hard work, running slow is not.  I have a sneaking suspicion I will get faster this summer, and look out post pandemic racing.  My best is yet to come.