Race 2: How I lucked my way into a medal

Well, 5K #2 is in the books. I’m going to try to write the 5K summary the day of the race, so that’s always going to mean that I’m not at my best mentally, but I’ll still do what I can.

From the standpoint of accomplishing the goal of the year, which is a 5K every month, it was a success. I trudged 3.1 miles, and I’ve got February in the books.

postrace feb
Me and my coworker Charles. He only beat me by about 8 minutes. No big deal.

Now from the standpoint of comparison to previous 5Ks, this was actually my worst run. I finished 32:01, so this is the first time I didn’t break 32 minutes. That said, last month’s aberration of breaking the 31-minute mark made this run look worse than it really was. Last month was a flat run, so that was probably a large part of the difference. That said, in a couple of weeks, we’ll have the third 5K, so we’ll have another marker.

So first and foremost, let’s talk about the conditions. This course had hills. Nothing steep and I hate running, but I loathe hills. The hills ate my lunch. It was about 33 degrees at the start, which isn’t exactly a pleasant, but wasn’t terrible. What made it worse was the complete lack of sun during the run, so like last time, it took me the first half of the race to really warm up. There were still patches of snow, though no ice or snow as on the actual course. I just never thought I’d be running when I could still see snow. And did I mention the hills?

While the conditions weren’t ideal, the organizers did a great job. It’s the Chick-fil-A Race Series, so it’s not like they’re a bunch of newbs. The course was marked clearly, and no one got off track as far as I could tell. Like last month, you could tell they hadn’t planned on freezing temps. They were prepped for a larger crowd to show up than were willing to wake up for an 8 a.m. start at freezing temps. That said, that meant they extra stuff, which we’ll get to in a minute. But yeah, a well-run event overall.

I will say there were a couple of things I didn’t like about the organization. From a very practical standpoint, they organized a group stretch before the 10K and the 5K. While weird, the real problem was that they were doing a lot of static stretching, which isn’t a good idea before a workout. They also had a drone taking video or pictures. That was über creepy. But not as creepy as the cows. They had 4 or 5 cow mascots there, which is really unnerving. Even better was high-fiving the creepy cows at the end of the race. I was so exhausted, I just went with it. But still, that was creep.

As for the actual run, there’s not a lot I can say. My initial run before I had to start integrating walking was close to the last time, maybe a 30 to 60 seconds less this time because of the hills. I also wasn’t able to run as long on the subsequent run (seriously, hills).

While there wasn’t a lot of traffic, I did have to watch for cars much more than I’d like. We were crossing lanes a lot, and the streets weren’t blocked off for the most part. There weren’t any issues, but fatigue doesn’t leave me in a pleasant state when it comes to dealing with the potential of meeting a motor vehicle when I’m in running shoes.

It’s weird. I’d say I could have pushed a little harder, but I was so wiped at the end that I don’t know that I really could have done better, but that’s not the point (I’ll repeat this over and over as that 32-minute 5K eats at me).

I was pushing hard enough that I wasn’t really hearing my music. I only had one earbud in because, you know, cars, but I didn’t have this trouble last time, and there was more ambient noise. Hopefully I’m not this out of it next time.

Now, this is where things start to get more interesting. In other words, the race and the conditions weren’t the real story. It’s the rest of the story that you really want to stick around for.

I’ll start with the most surprising part: I medaled in my age group. Yep, 32 minutes was good enough to get third in my age group. This happened last time. I got 6th in my age group despite the fact that I wouldn’t have done that well in any other age group until the 50 or so bracket. Men under the age of the 30 just don’t do 5Ks. And despite the fact that I didn’t do objectively well, I’m still enamored by that medal.

It reminds me of when I placed in hurdles in high school. I did track for two years, and they had me do hurdles. I was terrible at hurdles. I might have been marginal in other events, but I was just terrible at hurdles. Like last or next to last in every heat I ever ran. Always. Well, one meet I ran my heat badly like always, and I was ready to call it a day and do long jump (where I got second that day). Then I learned I was in the finals in the hurdles. Evidently, enough people DQ’d that I ended up in the 8th spot of the finals. And I finished last. Not unexpected. But I ended up 6th because two people DQ’d again. So I walked off with 6th because other people couldn’t get from point A to point B without an infraction.

And that’s what this medal was like. I didn’t really do well. I showed up. That said, showing up’s half the battle. If more people showed up, then maybe obesity wouldn’t be such an epidemic. So yeah, I didn’t really earn my medal by running well. I earned it by running in the first place, and I’m totally keeping that shit. I might even wear it to work just to be obnoxious.


Also, I managed to duck out of the official photo they were taking of the medalists. They were trying to be quick, and go confused and merged age brackets, so the two who finished ahead of me in my group took theirs with someone from the adjacent bracket. When they took the picture, I just turned around and walked away without anyone saying anything. Introvert achievement unlocked. I’m like an introvert black belt.

The post-race was about as enjoyable as it could be considering it was cold and I was doused in sweat. There were a few coworkers there, so that was cool. Even my boss made it down (it’s his pic I stole that documents I was in fact at the race).

There wasn’t any hot chocolate like last time, which was a bummer, but they had lots of chicken biscuits.

The amount of food I’ve eaten today was quite impressive. I started with two chicken biscuits (little frozen ones). After the race, I got a banana and a bottle of water. I was so out of it, I hit my head on the sign, and the girl handing out bottles took pity on me. Then I found the chicken biscuits and had one of those. And then I grabbed another bottle of water because the girl handing out the bottles still had some pity for me. Then the organizers said they had plenty of chicken biscuits, so I grabbed one more. And then I got another bottle of water. The girl handing the bottles out no longer had pity for me; she just didn’t want to argue the point. I considered one more chicken biscuit, but 4 in about a 3-hour span seemed like enough.

I had to leave room for the post-race binging for Fatty. I went to Walmart and picked up a pizza, Funyuns, a coke, and some broccoli beef. Surprisingly, only the pizza and coke didn’t survive the day. The Funyuns and the broccoli beef will live to see another day.

In case you're wondering what this says, it says I'm hungry and I like to make bad decisions
In case you’re wondering what this says, it says I’m hungry and I like to make bad decisions

But that gets us to now. I’m exhausted. My legs are shot. But I ran the damned race, I got a medal, and I ate my weight in chicken biscuits. It’s been a good day.




Why I Was Smiling

I guess it was bound to happen eventually. On my last run before the February 5K, I was smiling. It was about 30 degrees with a wind chill in the lower 20s. It was misty. It was misting to the point that my hair looked like a dewy lawn afterward. It was also windy. It was not a good run at all. And, at times, I was smiling.

So why was I smiling? Have I finally turned the page? Have I finally decided that, no, I do not hate running; in fact, I actually enjoy it?

Nope. I still hate running. I still hate trudging along the sidewalks. I still hate wheezing up the hills. I still hate being exhausted at the end. And let’s make it clear, I don’t look photogenic while running.

I’m glad he’s enjoying himself and nothing personal, but can’t we all agree that we hate this guy?

So why the hell was I smiling?

I was thinking about after the run.

I was thinking about Popeyes. I was thinking about three pieces of spicy chicken. I was thinking mashed potatoes and gravy. I was thinking about red beans and rice. I was thinking about that biscuit. And I was thinking about the Dr. Pepper that I was going to chase the meal with.

And as it got colder, I was thinking about the heater. I was thinking about how it was going to feel when I cranked the heater in the car and I wasn’t miserable.

So that’s why I was smiling. Junk food. I wasn’t smiling because of my progress or happiness with what I was doing. I was smiling thinking about fried chicken.

Hell, Popeyes seems to be my main incentive to run. I have no further ambition than ingesting mass quantities of fast good. Gone are those other goals when I started the Super Awesome Year of the 5K.

Forget all that other mess. I want fried chicken. I’ll trudge around for an hour in the freezing cold if I can have fried chicken and watch NASCAR afterward.

And it was fantastic.

So I guess this gets us to that motivating factor for running. But not the good ones. We all know what the good ones are. What are your bad reasons? What is that unhealthy behavior you justify by going for a run?



The Sins of Running

I’d love to pretend I’m original. Lists abound on this topic, but it’s like an acoustic cover of “Hallelujah”: We all think there are too many out there, and we all think ours still merits being forced upon other people.

And so here we are.

It was a fun list to put together. We all have pet peeves, we’ve all seen people do stupid things while running, and we’ve all done stupid things while running.

Be warned, it’s a long list.
1. Doing Something New on Race Day
2. Running Someone Else’s Race.
3. Too Far, Too Fast, Too Soon.
4. Not Changing Things Up.
5. Not Cross Training.
6. Not Sleeping (Well).
7. Eating Like the Guy from Supersize Me.
8. Not Listening to Your Body.
9. Not Having Buddies.
10. Not Getting Out of the Way.
11. Not Paying Attention to the Little Things.
12. Not Being Mindful of Your Surroundings.
13. Not Running (Barring Injury).
14. Running Injured.
15. Thinking Running is the Cure.

1. Doing Something New on Race Day.


We’ll start with the original intent as I was developing this list, which was for race day. And it all boiled down to doing something on race day that you’ve never done before. Whether it’s something mild like using a new pair of socks or something more dangerous like overloading on caffeine, you know you shouldn’t, and yet we all find a way to do it every now and then.

The biggest thing for me is gear. I don’t want to be in the middle of a run and realize my shirt’s not exactly helping me our or feeling like my shoes are about to break my feet in half. I’ll still violate this one for the superhero shirts for each 5K, but at least it won’t be a problem until it warms up a bit more. It also wouldn’t be a problem if I’d practice in them, but while I’m a big enough prat to wear a superhero shirts during a race, I’m not a big enough prat to wear them while I’m ambling through a training run. If anything, I’m buying the runner 5 shirt to wear during training, you know, ‘cause I AM runner 5.

The next thing I have to be careful about is what I eat. I don’t want to eat something that will upset my stomach.

That leads to the time of day business. These two interact. I don’t run at 8 or 9 in the morning. That means I’m not used to running on my breakfast. I’ll let you do some math… Done? Yeah, it’s not a good idea. I just kind of hope that since it doesn’t upset my stomach on a regular day and if I eat early enough, then I won’t pay the price. But yeah, not a good idea.

The other aspect of this time of day business is people react differently to different times of day. If you’re an afternoon/evening runner, your body’s not going to be used to running at sun up. Hopefully, you at least have one session that’s early just to make sure you’ll be ok, but it’s still a gamble.

Temperature is the other time of day part of the equation that factors in. I don’t like running in the cold (I also don’t like running in general, but I REALLY don’t like running in the cold). Let’s take today’s run as an example. When I woke up, it was 41F. When I started my run 4 hours later, it was 37. And misting. By the time I was done, I had collected enough of the moisture in my hair to look like a dewy lawn. Not a good look for me. That said, I know my next 5K will be in the cold again. I can’t just run when it’s comfortable because I’m not getting those conditions for the race.

And my last one in this bit is pace. Now obviously, people go faster on race day, whether they’d like to or not. But you don’t need to run faster than you ever did in training. You probably won’t sustain it, and you could end up hurting yourself.


2. Running Someone Else’s Race.


This segues off the last section, but I thought it was important enough to merit its own. Part of the reason I don’t like to think of running is that you don’t actively try to affect your competition (at least in terms of forcing them into an action, and we’re going to leave out drafting and pretend no one’s a dbag who just gets in the way). You can run your race without regard for your opponent. They run as fast as they can, and you run as fast as you can. Running their pace won’t help you. And if you’re lucky, they’re not really running their own pace and might fade late.

So unlike other sports where you actively try to put your opponent out of position, in running, everyone gets to do their own thing and then see where they chips fall. Yes, there’s strategy. Yes, they’re athleticism. Yes, there’s practice and preparation. But, your final time shouldn’t be impacted by the times of the people around you, whether they’re much better or much worse than you.

So run your own damn race.

I’m a hyper competitive person. I’d like to finish first, but I know I can’t. I’d like to run the whole thing, but I know I can’t do that either. What I can do is run a manageable pace, walk when I need to, and still beat some people who run the whole thing. That’s my race. Maybe as I progress, I’ll be able to run the whole thing, but it’s not worth the risk to push myself when I know it probably won’t help my time and will probably lead me to being in some real pain.


3. Too Far, Too Fast, Too Soon.


Now we’re transitioning to prep and training. And we’ll start where I’ve historically been the worst: trying to run too far, too fast, too soon.

I am a sloth. When I’m not being very conscious about it, I push myself too hard. I don’t just mean while I’m running; I mean in general. I try to push until my body gives out. The problem is eventually it doesn’t just give out for the run; it gives out for days and sometimes weeks.

This is what led me to the Zombies, Run! 5K app. I set a goal to do a 5K every month, and a friend recommended the app. I’d always been curious about the couch to 5K programs, but I just couldn’t make myself do it. The beginnings of them are always so boring.

At least with the app, I can hear a good story. The app also does a good job allowing for individual variability. There are free runs that close every session that allow you to run or walk as much as you would like. This is where I figure out how far I’ve gotten. It’s here that I can see I still have a good way’s to go, but at least I’m trying. I may try the first week’s session after I go through the program all the way through just to see what my progress looks like. The beginning and middle are usually pretty fixed, but there’s always the free run. I’m curious how I’d do.

Now, of course, there’s always a story. When I was getting ready for a mud run a couple of years ago, I had bought new shoes. I knew I’d pretty much ruin a pair, so I moved my running shoes to my mud run shoes, and then bought a new pair as my primary running shoes. And it was those infamous Nike Relentless.

On my first run, my feet and calves got really tired really quickly. So I couldn’t run fast. And so I didn’t get winded. I ran 2 miles nonstop outdoors for the first time in 2 or 3 years. Two days later, I went running with a coworker. They’re a slower jogger than me, so I slowed down to keep pace with them. And I really didn’t get winded easily this time. I ran 2.5 miles nonstop for the first time in 7 years.

The next day I could barely walk.

My foot was in hellish pain when I put weight on it. It took weeks to recover. I got new shoes (the Brooks Glycerin), and I eased my way into them. When I finally replaced the Nikes with the Adidas Energy Boost, I’ve been easing the Adidas in. I didn’t just make a full-blown switch to them. And this leads us to the next section.


4. Not Changing Things Up.


Variety is the spice of life. It’s also how you keep from over/undertraining muscles.

Running is awesome in that the barrier to participate is very low. You need somewhere to run, shoes, and clothes. You don’t even need nice versions of any of these. Just something that will work.

Running is terrible because the barrier to participate is low and sometimes we don’t have a proper filter to make sure people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. If you keep doing the same thing wrong, you’ll hurt yourself. Hell, you can do things right and still hurt yourself because you get too used to something.

One of the best ways to prevent injury is to change things up, including your shoes. Rotating shoes is a good predictor of injury prevention. Basically, you never let your foot get used to one pair, so it keeps adapting to each.

And this is why I’m rotating my shoes for my runs. I switch between my Brooks and my Adidas. They’re very different shoes. The do both absorb impact pretty well compared to most, but they run very differently. The Brooks are a pretty smooth ride and don’t allow me to put my feet in bad positions while running, but they’re heavy and slow me down after a while. The Adidas are lighter and give me more freedom, but that also leaves me more susceptible to letting my foot land wrong and hurting myself.

Another bad habit is running the same routes the same direction. You might loop back and have a net zero balance on elevation, but odds are there’s a tilt in your route or you’re consistently turning one way and not the other. This builds muscle imbalances. Just turn around. You’ll give yourself better balance that way. This is especially true if you run on a track (just get out of the way if you’re going against traffic; we’ll get back to this concept later).

And honestly, you need multiple routes. You’ll get used to the hills, that flat spots, etc. It will become a routine instead of being a challenge. Find a new place to run to at least rotate in some change (or run a new race every month that forces you to do something new). I can’t say that you’d get injured using the same route (provided you go in different directions). I’d just be concerned that you’d get mentally bored and you’d lose interest in what you’re doing. Of course, you can always download the Zombies app and flee for you not-yet-undead life.


5. Not Cross Training.


Running is really good about having you propel yourself forward in a straight line. And that’s about it. You’re not getting a full body workout. Even if your entire body aches, you damn well you didn’t get an upper body workout. You need to put time in with other exercises so you can stay balanced. Plus, with proper planning, that balance can pay dividends on the pavement.

I do yoga, not to help my running, but it does. It gives me more flexibility. It gives me more core strength. And helps me be more cognizant of my breathing. These are all important in running. These are all things that help lessen the toll of runs and help me recover more quickly.

So yeah, running’s good for you, just throw some other stuff in too.


6. Not Sleeping (Well).


Sleep is a weapon. I stole this from Robert Ludlum. But that doesn’t mean it ain’t true.

Sleep is when we recover mentally and physically. You can’t expect to be at your best if you’re treating your body like hourly rate motel.

You have to sleep, and you have to sleep well. Sleep is just like any other part of your training. You track your miles, you track your intake, so why not track your sleep? Why not track how well you’re sleeping?

I’m a Fitbit user. I love the stupid thing. It keeps track of my activity, which is awesome. But more importantly, it tracks my sleep. If I’m out of it, I can usually see why. It lets me know if I haven’t been doing a good job of taking time to rest. And that’s important. If I’m not resting, I typically am not keen to run, and I will almost certainly be binging to try and get energy from somewhere.

So make sleep a priority. Get pillows you like. Make your room comfortable. Get blackout curtains. Block the little lights from your electronics. Stretch before bed. Do whatever it takes. This is important.


7. Eating Like the Guy from Supersize Me.


As much as I like to eat crappy food (and I do love to eat things that will eventually give me a heart attack), even I know you can’t just eat whatever you want. You have to be mindful about what you’re ingesting.

Running doesn’t do much good if you’re taking in an extra 1,000 calories every day (believe me, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds).

I don’t really like to eat a lot of healthy stuff. Why, just today, I used my run to justify Popeye’s for lunch. That said, I had garlic shrimp with carrots and broccoli for dinner. Tomorrow for lunch, it won’t be perfect, but I’ll keep things in moderation and grab a salad.

All this because I know if I can drop weight, running will be a lot easier (and I’m trying to use running to drop weight anyway). My body likes me a lot better when I’m under 180 than it does when I’m over 190 (or 200 like I was a few months ago).

It’s a fight, but I have more energy when I’m not consuming complete garbage all the time, just some of the time.

And you know what you’re supposed to eat. If it’s breaded and/or fried, you should probably limit it to once or twice a week. And eat you some whole grains. Everything has a whole grain option it seems. And let’s not forget about fruits and veggies.


8. Not Listening to Your Body.


If there is one thing you’ll pick up in yoga, it’s to listen to your body. If you find the right teacher, they let you adapt things to meet your needs, whether it’s making something easier or harder. It’s on you to know what you can and can’t do.

It’s the same for running. You know how fast you should go. You know how much sleep you need. You know what food leaves your energized and what food leaves you listless.

You also know the difference between sore and hurt. And the difference between hurt and injured.

My zombie app should take 8 weeks. I’m 12 weeks in, and I still have 3 weeks of training to go. While I’ve had to take different chunks of time off, ultimately, I knew I couldn’t do the 3 sessions a week the app wanted me to do. It would take perfect scheduling and perfect reaction from my body. And my body doesn’t react perfectly. Sometimes my legs are shot. Sometimes I’m just too tired. And so I run 2 times a week instead. It gives me enough time to not be sore at the start of a run, but I don’t feel like I’m losing conditioning in the process.


9. Not Having Buddies.


Everyone needs buddies as a runner. Even if you run alone, you need people to commiserate with. Total isolation doesn’t seem like a legitimate strategy for many reasons.

For a lot of people, having a running buddy is encouraging. They can push each other, and they find it easier to run with someone along for the ride.

For other people, it works to have someone to talk to about running.

And then for masochists like me, it’s more about having people who can call you out if you aren’t running.

Either way, it helps to have running buddies. And if you’re such a cretin that you can’t get real running buddies, there’s no shortage of online communities to belong to. Hell, you’re sort of reading a piece of that universe right now.


10. Not Getting Out of the Way.


Now we’re transitioning to my sins while you’re running that aren’t just for race day.

Stay out of the way. If there are other people around, odds are they need to get around you. Don’t be the jerk who runs dead center in the path. And don’t be the jerks that run 2 or 3 wide and don’t let people around. Fall into a line for 1 second, and you will be infinitely improving people’s perception of you.

And of course, this applies to race day. There’s a logical flow to things. You pass on the left in the U.S. in a car, and people generally expect to pass on the left while running. If you’re going slow, try to move to the right in a race. And if you can’t without impeding others, just find a way to make room for other runners. The next speedwalker who decides to start at the front of a race and not get out of the way of people running is getting kicked, and they won’t catch me because I know they’re not going to be running. You’ve been warned.


11. Not Paying Attention to the Little Things.


This is about breathing and steps. This isn’t so much a problem at the beginning of a run as it is at the end. When you’re tired, you naturally start to lose form. You have to be more proactive about breathing and stepping properly, otherwise you’ll hurt your run at best and injure yourself at worst.

When these two things start to go and I can’t control it, that’s when I know it’s time to walk. It’s time to slow down, get my bearings, and recoup mentally and physically.


12. Not Being Mindful of Your Surroundings.


This can range from inconvenient (like finding dog poop) to dangerous (like finding the front bumper of a vehicle). Running has low barriers to participate because you’re typically out and about with the rest of the world. And they’re not always paying attention to their surroundings either.

I’m still kind of waiting for the day I get hit by a car because of this.

Nevertheless, it’s on you as a runner to pay attention. If you don’t pay attention to where you’re stepping, you could step in something inconvenient (e.g., the aforementioned poop) or you could step in something that twists your ankle. In the winter, ice becomes an issue.

You also have to pay attention to the other people around you, especially if those people are driving cars. Way too many people will turn without looking at who’s about to be in the crosswalk, and way too many people block the crosswalk while trying to pull into traffic.

I did the math. Getting hit by a car never works out for the runner, even if it’s a BMW with good insurance.

Another aspect of this mindfulness is paying attention to the critters. I’ve had too many close encounters with snakes not to be paranoid about that just in general. While running, Florida gave me a unique experience. There’s a lake on campus where I knew there were alligators, but it was also a nice path to run. I’d never seen a gator on a run, but knew it was possible. One day a gator was sunning itself 3 or 4 feet from the sidewalk. It never moved an inch and had I not been walking by that point, I might not have even noticed it. But I did, and it got an extra few feet of clearance.


13. Not Running (Barring Injury).


And now we’re in the final part of the list, and we’re getting big picture ‘cause I’m good like that. Not running is a bad running sin. If you have the ability to and you aren’t getting your cardio somewhere else, what’s your excuse? I just gave you a bunch of ways to make this process not suck. Hell, I’m running. Get your butt out there and run if there isn’t a doctor telling you not to.


14. Running Injured.


And this is the flipside. There are some idiots who run even when they know they shouldn’t. One of them is typing this right now. You’re not doing yourself any favors. You’ll only complicate whatever’s ailing you. This is one of those listen to your body and rest things. Sometimes you just shouldn’t run. It’s not complicated.


15. Thinking Running is the Cure.


A lot of people start running thinking it’s the magic cure they’ve been seeking, whether it’s weight loss, depression, stress, etc. Running won’t solve your problems. You’re better off going in with realistic expectations.

Running can absolutely be a part of the solution, but it’s not the only thing.

If you want to lose weight, that’s a lot of little decisions and is primarily about diet. You can get 500-750 calories in an hour running session. 10 minutes of eating pizza can easily put you over 1,000 calories. Under the right circumstances, I can clear 2,000 calories in 10 minutes. I think you see the problem.

Likewise, mental health issues will not be solved only by running. Therapists exist for a reason. Any of them worth their degree will be ok with you running as long as running doesn’t endanger you. They’ll also help equip you with the tools you need to manage your life better, even if you aren’t able to run.



Wow. That was exhausting. How are you still here? You should have given up 1,000 words ago. Oh well.

I hope this added some value. Feel free to comment and share any running sins you think were missing.


I can’t believe I’m legitimately writing about clothes

I feel like I give too much attention to what I wear when I’m running. It’s mostly because I hate running (seriously, you didn’t think I was going to stop saying that, did you?), and I latch onto any discomfort and make a mountain out of a molehill.

Basically, ignore the fact that I’m at a relatively healthy weight. If you pretend I’m really overweight, you’ll have a better understanding of how I feel when I’m running. The weight of impact affects my back and knees, so I never run consecutive days. I wheeze and chafe. So much fun.

Because of this, I’ve gotten picky about my running gear. I’ve talked about the shoes before (and the Adidas are working out great). But I want to shift gears and focus on the items that keep me from breaking any indecent exposure laws.

Once I figured out the magic that is a workout shirt that isn’t made of cotton, I felt like Alice traveling down the rabbit hole. There’s the brand new world I never knew existed. I thought runners wore the gear they did just to be weird. I mean, they were running for no apparent reason, so it didn’t seem like such a stretch.

I’m sure these are perfectly nice people, but let’s face it. Running gear is weird.

But now I’m moving closer to the weirdos. It all started with that first shirt. I realized that a shirt could be light and breath without being worn down by 10 years of use.

But it wasn’t a good fit, so I found one that fit closer to my actual shape. And it was like magic. It didn’t get in the way. It breathed. And it was of a color that would catch a driver’s attention, without saying, “Oi! You there! Yeah, you! I’m running. Can’t you see that?!”

This is from my 1st 5K, along with some friends who ran. I have no clue who took the picture. I also have no idea who's camera this is from. Does it count as theft if I just can't remember?
Me, dead center. This is from my 1st 5K, along with some friends who ran. We’re exhausted, and the dog is trying to figure out when we’re going to get started. I have no clue who took the picture. I also have no idea who’s camera this is from. Does it count as theft if I just can’t remember?

I still have that shirt, and it’s still awesome. When it gets a bit warmer, I’ll get to switch back to my preferred running gear.

Unfortunately, living in Florida for 5 years left me ill-equipped to deal with running in the cold, much less in freezing weather.

This was the wind chill for today's run. Not ok. Not at all ok.
This was the wind chill for today’s run. Not ok. Not at all ok.

And so I started acquiring more cold-weather gear. I had some things that would keep me warm but that weren’t really meant for running. They work in a pinch, but I needed gear I could take to the 5Ks and be comfortable. So I paid entirely too much for some Nike cold weather gear.

When I get started for the cold weather runs, it’s an exercise in willpower. I’m not overly fond of running, much less when it means I won’t feel my toes for a good chunk of the run. And somehow I get myself out the door.

And the gear works. I go with a jacket and pants. The jacket sleeves are long enough that I can use those little thumbhole things to sub the jacket for gloves. I also wear two cold weather shirts underneath. It’s so worth it. My lungs do a lot better when I can keep my torso warm. Now oddly enough, I’ve never run in any type of hat or beanie. My face is the only thing bothered by the cold, and hat won’t help that (except a ski mask, which seems like overkill).

And it’s good that I’m at least getting used to it. For the next 5K, forecasts have been oscillating between possibilities of snow and rain, and always cold. It’s the Super Awesome Year of the 5K, not the Super Awesome Year of the 5K If It’s Convenient, so I know as long as the race is held, my butt will be out there putting feet to pavement, so I’m glad I’m finally figuring out how to at least survive the cold.

hot chocolate 5K
That’s my friend Emily. She’s smiling because she just got a PR and she enjoys running. I’m smiling because I got hot chocolate and I’m thinking about the Sonic binge I’m going to enjoy after the race. A complete stranger took the picture, and then I stole the picture from Emily.

I can’t wait ‘til it warms up. I know how to handle exercise in the heat. That’s been my M.O. Texas and Florida have left me very well prepared for dealing with heat of all varieties. (check back in the summer to see if I’m still saying that)

And of course, there are the themed shirts. It started with the Blerch shirt.

This is from The Oatmeal’s comic on running. Great article. Articulated my views on running better than I ever could have.

I liked the idea of the shirt, so I bought it. I even wore it to my second 5K.

This is my friend Deidra beating me at the very end of the race. Had she wanted to, I’m pretty sure she could have beaten me by about 3 or 4 minutes, easily. This was my second 5K, the NERD 5K at UF. The picture belongs to those folks.

And then we got to the Super Awesome Year of the 5K. We had a theme for the year. It was to run a new 5K each month. Simple enough. Between the running gear and the entry fees, it’s a big enough splurge all on its own.

But no. I had to add one more cost because I like jokes that nobody but me really appreciates. I decide that as I’m going to wheeze through these 5Ks, I’m going to wear superhero shirts (the alternative was to wear the previous 5K shirt to the next race, but a friend nixed that by reminding me that most are cotton).

The shy introvert is going to willingly call attention to himself at something he’s not good at. Great idea.

But not only do I want to wear a superhero shirt to each 5K, I want to wear a DIFFERENT shirt for each race. 12 different shirts. I had two because I’m weird like that: Batman and Captain America. I picked up Superman, Spiderman, the Punisher, and the Flash in January. And my latest arrival is the Green Lantern for my St. Patty’s-themed race (side note, I’ve picked my March race) so I could stay on theme. So that’s 7 shirts. And because I’m stubborn, I’ll be pretty forceful about finding 5 more, even if I end up having to wear cotton shirts.

Fun fact: I’ve never actually run with any of them as a bottom layer. I’ve only ever run in the Punisher shirt, and there were two more underneath. I have absolutely no idea how they’re going to fare in a 5K (This is a cardinal sin of racing, and it’s topic I’m going to come back to another time). Pretty sure I’m going to regret my life choices the first time one of those causes me issues. I’m not worried about the shirts. It’s the graphics (which are the reason I’m wearing them). Between affecting the amount the shirt breathes and the possibility of those graphics rubbing against me, I’m concerned.

And what is the product we have when we put all this gear together? A newbie runner. My running gear is mostly unused. I don’t run so often that I need more than 2 or 3 shirts, and I have 13 (3 long sleeve, 10 short sleeve). And my shoes stay sparkly clean because I stay on pavement mostly. It was actually pretty funny because my Brooks are electric blue and one of my shirts is electric blue. It was an unfortunate pairing when I accidentally did that. They were a spot-on match. I wanted to punch myself for that.

I had become one of those weird runners wearing weird gear while running for no apparent reason. Dammit.



Keeping up with the progress of the process

I’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth repeating (or maybe I just drank the Kool-Aid). It’s about being satisfied with the process, not progress.

Progress is temporary. You stop, you look around, maybe take a picture or two, and then you move on. It’s supposed to be temporary. Good or bad, you’re going somewhere.

It’s the process that helps ensure that you’re heading in the right direction.

This is something that I’ve seen show up in almost every facet of my life. When I had a good process, no matter what, I eventually found a way to win, no matter where I started or where I ended up at random points in time. Likewise, when I don’t have a good process in place, long-term success doesn’t exist.

Every facet of my life shows this. My biggest successes have usually been preceded by some monumental failures. I showed up day after day, and nothing was getting better. But I had a good process. I was doing what I was supposed to. Things just hadn’t clicked yet. Eventually, momentum took over. It looked like an overnight success, but quite frankly, the hell it was. I worked for it.

And this stands in contrast to those times where I had temporary success, but I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, and the other shoe dropped eventually.

When we translate this to trying to be healthier, we see good and bad examples everywhere. Fad diets are an excellent example of a terrible idea. It’s not a good process. You might lose weight quickly, even more quickly than you would if you were just doing the basics correctly, but the weight always comes back. I don’t know a single person who has used a fad diet to achieve long-term weight loss. What ends up happening is that they lose the weight, and either because they’re celebrating that temporary success or because the diet isn’t feasible long term, they gain it all back (and usually a bit extra for fun).

Let’s accept that any diet that has a name should probably be ignored. You know damn well what’s good for you and what’s bad for you. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

That said, it looks like more people are sharing the good examples. You’re starting to see a decent amount of pushback against fad diets, instead focusing on making lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes are about the process. It’s about parking a bit farther away, taking the stairs, switching to whole grains, etc. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. But it works. And it works long term. You might not see quick changes, but you’re body will appreciate it all the same and it will pay dividends down the road.

The same can be said for exercise. There’s no shortage of exercises that will give you a six-pack, give you killer shoulder, make you 6 inches taller, etc. But we know that’s not the truth. Like food choices, if you’re doing something to the extreme, you won’t maintain it. You’ll either hurt yourself or find some other reason not to do it.

But if you can find something that is sustainable, then you’ve got a real plan. You can ease your body into it to prevent injury, and you can really make it a part of you day-to-day life.

And with all this talk of process and progress, I guess I should share my progress. The process is the same as it ever was (try to walk more daily, run more when the zombies are chasing me, and try to make slightly better food decisions when possible).

Progress is changing. It’s temporary, and I’ll be somewhere else sooner than later, but it’s worth taking a few pictures before getting back to the process.

For running, I’m getting farther. It feels like I’m still having the crap kicked out of me, but when I look at the objective measurements, I’m getting farther, I’m running longer, and I’m running faster. I can’t really ask for much more than that. I know individual race-day conditions might lead to regression from my overachieving first 5K of the Super Awesome Year of the 5K, but I know I’m getting better. I can see the changes.

Looking more directly at distance I’m travelling every day, this is where the change is most noticeable. Since I started running, I’ve been averaging 55,000 steps a week (≈ 8,000 steps daily). Prior to this, I was averaging about 30,000 steps a week (≈ 4,000 steps daily). I knew I was doing better, but I had no idea how much better. I’m not hitting my daily 10,000-step goal as often as I’d like, but I’m clearly doing a much better job of moving around.

As for what I’m eating, I honestly don’t know if I’m doing better. I’m trying to be better about making sure the food on my plate is completely bad for me, even if I’m still eating more than I probably should. I’m making an effort to eat fresh fruit and veggies daily when I can. I’ve ingested a lot more salad this past week if nothing else. I’m starting to feel like I might develop a cotton tail and hop down the bunny trails. It’s a bit disconcerting, to be frank (ok, but I’ll be Ernest).

I can even tell a difference in the mirror.

Maybe my mirror’s lying to me, but I’m ok with that.

The scale, though, it never lies. And there’s a trend of dropping weight. I’m not breaking any records on weight loss, but I’m heading in the right direction.

So yeah, it’s progress. But it doesn’t matter without the process.

And so tomorrow, we’ll get right back to the process even as we celebrate the progress tonight.


#ihaterunning, but I like where I’m going.

Maybe I hate running a little less

It’s been an odd last couple of runs. I’d tell you they didn’t go well if you asked right afterward, and in the moment, they didn’t feel like they went well. I was just happy that I was putting feet to pavement so I can hopefully avoid regressing at the next 5K. That said, when I looked at the times, distances, maps, etc., I did all right. Not great but all right.

And so maybe this is what progress looks like. I’m not getting as far, as fast as I’d like, but I’m going farther and faster than I was. Definitely doing better than I was before I started this little journey.

And that’s what this is: It’s a journey, not a destination. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll never be satisfied with my progress. I’m just hoping I can stay satisfied with the process.

It’s a fight every day to make better decisions. I’d rather sit my ass on the couch and goof off than run, but I got up and ran Sunday morning.

Where I’m not doing so bueno is on my food choices. I’m not doing as bad as I could do, but I could do a lot better. I chased my Sunday run with a 1,000-calorie burger (not to mention the tater tots and Coke that came with the combo). That’s not exactly helping myself out.

That said, it’s a process. Some days will be better than others. And some days will just be complete and utter failures. Like Gigli. Well maybe not quite that bad.

And so we’re at the point where we have to reevaluate things. My schedule’s much more hectic now than it was a couple of months ago. That’s alright, but it makes bad decisions more likely to slip through the cracks. I have to mind my schedule more closely. I have to plan out my runs days in advance for when I end up losing 5 days in a row where I can’t feasibly run. I need to make accommodations. And sometimes, it just means that fatty needs to take the stairs a few more times during the day just to make sure the muscles are getting some work, even if it’s not 3-4 miles.

I’m halfway through my Zombie app. I’m 1/12 of the way through the Super Awesome Year of the 5K. I’ve put in more than 50 miles since I started running. Not an astounding amount unless you consider that I put in less than 20 miles in the preceding 12 months (that’s more than 250% increase in less than ¼ of the time).

I’m not breaking any records, but I’ve gotten hot chocolate, and I’ll get a chicken sandwich next time. Things could be a lot worse.



Super Awesome Shirt Picker – February

Alright peeps, you’re getting the chance to rock the vote. I’m going to let you pick the shirt I wear in February. Limitations exist, of course (I don’t have a wide variety yet and I’m trying to not wear the same one for any two races).

So let your voice be heard.