The last blog.

I started writing this blog about 5 months ago when I decided to start racing again. Mostly, it was to keep me honest, accountable, and an outlet for all the raw excitement I felt about it.

I don’t feel like I have the need for that anymore. My life as I knew it exploded this past year and in the debris, I began to make it mine again. Tracing back the steps to who I used to be, I was amazed by how far you can travel from yourself in such a short time. We make small concessions about ourselves whether it be for a job, a relationship, or even something as simple as acceptance and the next thing you know, instead of being a shot of whisky, you’re as boring and grey as mop water.

I found myself looking at my past, the things I had done, the friends I had made, the sweat, the work, the goals, and the triumphs as ancient ruins of a life that had passed. The trophies and medals were relics of a time that my world had moved on from. There were plans unfinished, friendships damaged, and if I’m going to be honest, a large amount of shame. The people who really knew me, knew I wasn’t me anymore.

I think the friends who know you when you are at your best can serve as a mirror reflecting to you just how far you’ve strayed. It’s a sad thing to see, so isolating yourself feels safe. And if you want, you can stay there forever. I don’t suggest it though.

With the concessions we make, the goals we shelf, and not valuing our unique individual gifts, we build walls around ourselves. It’s a self inflicted prison that holds us back from ever reaching our potential and more importantly, living a passionate existence.

I think my training over the past five months reflects how much I’ve missed this life. Every morning, I leave my job (I work third shift), put on war paint, go to the gym for at least two hours, and test every ounce of myself. The difficulty of my workouts is staggering and they will only get harder over the next month. Everyone at the gym thinks I’m crazy. Everyone at the gym is right.

So here I am now, reassuming the life that I loved and so desperately missed when I left it. The hardest races in the world are once again looming, but more importantly, I have a renewed appreciation of myself. I’m a wise cracking, psycho athlete. I’m a flawed father who tries the best he can every single day for his son. I’m a loving brother, son, uncle, and brother in law. I’m a social butterfly who’s grateful for the friends I have, old and new. I’m a boyfriend, who now at the age of thirty-five, is starting to learn what a healthy relationship looks like. I’m a thrill seeker, a whisky drinker, a tattoo addict who routinely eats the hottest peppers in the world. I am me, scars and all, and it’s time for me to stop writing about it.

I have work to do.

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The list of races.

I ran ten miles today and pulled a sub 7 minute mile on my final mile. I’ve been training for about a month with five left to go. I’ve been doing timed 2 minute hand release push ups drills and can pump out about 65-70. Looking at this now, I want that final mile to be sub 6, I want to be able to pump out 100 pushups in two minutes before I leave to go to my event, also marathon ready, also totes strong. I think I’m on track to attaining that.

But do any of you really care about any of this? Do you want me to take pictures of the meals I’m eating? I’m sure as hell I wouldn’t care.

So as promised, I’m going to break down the list of races I’m going to do before I retire from this for good. Ready? Here goes:

All of them.

I am not keeping this a five year plan. Rather, I’m going to keep doing this stuff until I’m an old man with a cane and a million stories to tell. I’m going to slay these dragons until I fall apart.

Why did I change my mind? I realized some things over the past two weeks. I know now that doing crazy things, training till I puke, traveling to races with awesome people and ultimately testing every ounce of my being isn’t just a part of me; it is me.

Being the best Dad I can be to my son, working my good job, spending time with loved ones, and running with sandbags on my back, yeah, that’s a life I can be happy with.

The thoughts of going up to Vermont again and heading back to the small country town of Cuba, Illinois make me so excited I could scream. I’m finally going to qualify for and run in the Boston Marathon. I’m going to go to Nicoaragua and run up a volcano. I’m free.

Few people in my regular life understand why I do the things I do, but they don’t have to. The times I spend preparing for and doing the crazy things I’ve done are my best times aside from my time with my son. Even now, years later, I still glow when I tell the stories of my triumphs and failures.

I’m going to do the things that make me feel most alive again and when I finally can’t do it anymore, I’ll teach my son. He ran a five k with me last year when he was six years old.

My son and my races. It might not be a life for you, but to me, it’s damn perfect.

The DNFs

I hate failing at things. I mean, I really hate it. I always want to be the best at everything all the time. I’m not, but, if it’s something I’m passionate about, I will dump myself into it with everything I have and the results are usually favorable. It’s how I operate inside of racing and outside of it.

However this is life and there are failures. Passion can make you wake up at three in the morning to go for a run, or even push through a race while injured (one time I finished an ultra marathon with my ankle duct taped in place), but sometimes failure happens and brings it’s lessons. It always brings lessons.

In the racing world, I’ve had two DNFs. DNF stands for Did Not Finish for those of you who don’t know. They destroyed my pride each time they happened and really, even to this day, bother me on some level.

My first happened at The Northeast Suck. Joe Decker brought his event to Maryland and I drove down to take it on after training like a maniac for it. It was the first time I met Joe and wanted to perform well so I trained. And trained. And overtrained and injury.

In the middle of the event, my foot clicked and all the sudden felt like it was on fire. Stress fracture. I was out and completely heartbroken. Really, that race was just the beginning of my real racing career and friendship with Joe, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was just bummed.

See, I didn’t have a lot of experience at the time at racing or any of this. I was just a guy trying to see what he was made of and didn’t understand that damage that overtraining can do to the body. I learned that night and as proof, I am writing this on a rest day while my mind tries to shame me into going for a run. No sir, you are fine right here.

The second happened at the 2014 Winter Death Race. I had finished some very hard races at this point and felt like I was superman going into that race. Superman doesn’t need to eat when there’s sandbags to be carried up the mountain. Who cares if you threw up all the water you drank? You’ll be fine. Nothing can stop you. Camelbak frozen and can’t drink? Fuck it, you’ll be fine. Why do I keep throwing up? Where am I? I can’t think, what the fuck is wrong with me. DNF.

It took me a long time to figure out just what the hell happened to me at that race. I was on such a good streak of races and finishes that I overestimated myself and underestimated what thirty hours of straight racing could do to me in the cold. I stopped taking care of myself and was rewarded with a sweet failure as a result. I think that might have been the most valuable lesson I’ve learned and I’m sure it will serve me well over the next five years.

As much as I hate to say it, my DNFs have made me better and smarter. Sometimes as much as you pour yourself into something, whether it be a race, a job, a relationship, you will fail and your lessons are the most bitter fruit you can imagine. All you can try to do is learn from your mistakes and only have to taste the fruit once.
-S

The Grind.

I’m about a week in on my training and I couldn’t be happier about how it’s going. Everything hurts and it’s hard to walk. I’m not setting foot in a gym for this entire six month training; it’s going to be lots of running, carrying heavy shit uphill, sandbags, calisthenics, more running, being uncomfortable, and doing whatever else I feel like. 

What I’m happiest about is how strong my running game is this early on. I’m a bigger guy, even when I completely cut down, it’s hard for me to get below 185 pounds. So I’m never the fastest runner at events, but I’m usually one of the strongest. So as long as I go into this event able to do an ultra at a reasonable pace, I’ll be happy. And judging from how good I’ve been feeling on my runs, I’ll have that in the bag by the time I’m done with my training. 

What I’m not happy about is how ungodly, stupid, cold it’s been in the northeast. Holy shit, it was like seven degrees yesterday. The first 10 minutes of every run or ruck I go on is murder, but in a way that’s good. I’m sure I’ve gotten soft over the past three years so some extra adversity will only make tougher when it’s time to perform. 

So that’s where I’m at. I’m eating healthy, not drinking,  running every day, and feeling like my body has been beaten by a large man with a meat tenderizer. Life makes sense again.

The long game.

I have no idea how often I’m going to write on here. But luckily for you, dear reader, I’m doing it two times in as many days. Today started with the best news possible; I could get the time off of work to do the first race on my list. It’s happening, guys. I’m finally going back to Vermont. The catch is that I can’t even name the race on here, I don’t think. Those of you familiar with the crazy races in the USA can put it together, but if you’re expecting a event review from my first race back, move on. I literally can’t do it. I’ll never name the race but I’ll probably talk about my feelings on it after it’s over. June 22 is my first race back since my hibernation, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. 

The picture at the bottom of this is my first race I took on in my journey into the insanity. It was a warrior dash. Yep, the first dip into racing and where I fell in love.  3 miles and obstacles your mother could probably do. I thought it was work even getting to that point. The funny thing is that less than a year later, I finished my first ultra endurance event. 

I trained so hard for years for the outcomes of some of the races I’ve finished. I just wish I had that kind of patience in ever other part of my life.

I can patiently wait for a race a year down the line, but struggle with it in every other part of my life. I want things right now all the time. 

So after I got the best news I’ve had in years (I would be able to finally go up to VT again), I just kinda went hard at every other part of my life. Knowing I had something great down the pipe caused me to try to instantly sew up every other loose end in my life instantaneously. Guess how well that worked? 

The man in the picture below had no idea how much he would sacrifice to get what he wanted in racing. It took parts of me that I didn’t know existed to get there. I guess I need to adapt that philosophy in all areas, not just in on trails and tracks. Instant gratification is a game for people who don’t win in the end. 

Perhaps it’s time to start not just winning races completing races, but my life as well. 

New Year, Old Me

I’m a goals guy. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. I need to always be working toward something I consider to be big, even grandiose or I stagnate and become unhappy. I’ve been like this my whole life and it’s allowed me to accomplish some pretty cool things while completely failing at some pretty basic shit. Being focused on the top of the mountain can make you trip over a pebble if you’re not careful.

If you know me, you know some of the stuff I’ve already done. Right before I turned thirty, while having no running experience, decided to start competing in the hardest races and endurace events in the United States. ¬†I’ve done marathons, ultra marathons, Death Races, obstacle course races, Ultimate Sucks, Rucks, ¬†various random challenges and whatever else I felt like doing. Some of those races went on for days and disqualified you for sleeping. I did polar plunges and Strong Man competitions too. If it was crazy, challenging and painful, odds are I wanted to be a part of it.

I have some amazing memories of those times. I met some of the best people I’ve ever encountered and finished some truly challenging races. It was a time of my life that I never wanted to end. It did end, however.

I got hurt running down a mountain and needed surgery, but since I worked for myself, I had no insurance. So, I couldn’t do what I loved anymore and since I was a personal trainer and exercise instructor, my injury affected my performance in that as well. So instead of staying the course, I switched careers, got a fine government job, and thought I had it made in the shade and at peace with never racing again.

Two years ago, the mountains started calling for me again. I wanted to return then, but I don’t think I was ready. I was still sorting out my new career and trying to work on my failing marriage. Having those kinds of things going on in your life isn’t conducive being productive in ultra endurance.

So now, two years later, with my career stable and my marriage dead, I think it’s time to answer the call. My goal is simple: one extremely hard race per year until I hit 40. My final race will be The Barkley Marathons (Google it). That’s five races.

I have my first two picked and my final picked, but I still need to figure out two more. Once I have it figured out, I will post the list on here.

My training starts January first. It’s time to return to what I was made for.