Revisiting the Process (and Accepting Failure Along the Way)

Not very good at the running thing these days

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That picture has a lot of things behind it.

The good? Pretty sure that’s the farthest I’ve gone since my knee went full a-hole about a year ago. So that’s progress.

The bad? Today was the last day I could get in a 5K race in January, and I clearly wasn’t ready to cover 3.1 miles. I’m going to ignore the fact that I went from no running to a 5K in about a month 5 years ago and ran a 31-minute 5K.

So the Super Awesome Year of the 5K sequel is already off the rails. And that’s ok.

Right now I need to trust the process. As much as I want to stubbornly force my knee to behave or fully blow up, I know that might not be the best tactic. So I’m trusting the process to ease my way up to 5K mode.

I’m a big believer in process (see posts 1, 2, and 3 about process). It’s when I tried to do too much too soon (thereby violating the process) that things went off the rails.

But what is the process?

I’m glad I asked. Well, the process is a slow rising up in time that leads to mileage, but mileage is not the goal.

To help me cover more time, I’m doing a 1-minute run, 2-minute walk cycle.


But it saves my knee and my lungs. And those two a-holes are always plotting against me.

I’m keeping that rotation until I can do it for 30 minutes. Today I hit 24 minutes, which is the first time I went past 20. This is a slow process, but it’s still a process.

After I hit 30, I’m going to start lowering the walk cycles until I hit a 1:1 rotation. And then I’m going to start raising the running cycles and keeping the 1-minute walk cycle. And the whole time, I won’t go past 30 minutes. That’s when the trouble tends to start.

It’s a process.

But it can yield some awesomeness. If I start eventually hitting 30 minutes nonstop again (which I’ve done literally once), then I’ve basically got a 5K in my workout. And if I go crazy, running a 10K in 30 minutes is technically possible. Insane but possible.

For now, we’re at 24 minutes on a 1:2 cycle. It’s a process.


Complaining about the Cold

This post was supposed to be a rant about why diets and extreme fitness challenges don’t work long-term. They still don’t, but I’m not going to dwell. I can’t stop people from going on diets or trying weird fitness challenges.

Instead, I’m going to focus on doing a 5K every month this year…

I’m realizing how this looks, but hear me out: The 5Ks aren’t the real end-goal. They’re just to make sure I’m staying active. An incentive to not be a lazy sack of crap, even when it’s cold outside, which gets us to this post.

It’s cold outside. 4 degrees to be specific this morning. 4.

This throws a nondelightful wrench into the process (as opposed to a delightful wrench?). I don’t have the appropriate attire. Evidently the right answer is man tights. I could show you pictures of men in running tights, but I think we all know where this is really going:

I can wear pants over them, but there’s only so many pairs of pants you can wear before things start to get weird.

I also need to wear gloves and winter headgear. I have a beanie, but I’ve never actually run in it. I suppose it would do in a pinch.

All of this is to say I’m not adequately prepared for Oklahoma winters. I’ve never lived this far north (and the vast majority of the country begins laughing). Texas, Florida, and Mississippi. Those were my previous locales. I’m used to brutal summers. I’m not used to brutal winters.

The last time I played this little game, I was in north Mississippi. I bought pants and a jacket to run in, and I’ve got a little collection of long-sleeve shirts to work it out, but by and large, I was ok there. I don’t remember running below 30. In fact, two of the worst times I remember running were my first two 5Ks.

They were cold snaps. The first race gave me an ice warning (not to mention scraping ice of my windshield when I was running a little late getting to the race) and some icy spray as we ran over the bridge of a reservoir. The second had snow on the ground. Effing snow on the ground. Basically, these conditions were as bad as could be expected in that part of the world

And Oklahoma has the potential to be worse. So much so I’m not actually going to plan on a 5K. I’m going to keep an eye on the weather, and the first halfway decent weekend will include me signing up for a race last-minute.

This will easily be the weirdest year, because I might have to watch the weather through May. When the cold ends, the tornadoes start, and I don’t need that crap while I’m stressing over the race already.

If my knee holds up, I’m going to have to get a lot more flexible in my running patterns. Not to mention the fact that I need to cover at least 2 miles before the first 5K. I’m so freakin’ screwed. And I’m still cold.

But this what we do in the name of fitness. All I want for the new year is a six-pack. If I can’t have that, I’ll settle for a different kind of six-pack.

New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve briefly mentioned my disdain for new year’s resolutions before, but I don’t know if I ever gave it a full post. So here we are.

They’re a bad idea. Why? Because people set out to change their lives in some large and/or unsustainable way.

I’m going to bike to work. I’m going to cut carbs. I’m going to meditate an hour every day.

Usually they’re big changes that don’t actually fit people’s real lives. Or sometimes they’re just outright dumb. I should say I think dieting is dumb. Cleaning up your diet is good, but dieting is dumb. If you go on a diet, that’s inherently saying this is temporary, whereas if you change your diet, that’s saying this could be permanent.

And so I don’t make resolutions, not real ones anyway. I set a resolution to treat myself better each year. Whether it’s getting massage every month, staying a little more active, or just not beating myself up over things, I’m just trying to put myself in a little better position to succeed this year than I was in last year. I don’t always succeed, but I do my best.

But still, that’s not a real resolution. I won’t put that on the ‘gram.

What do I do instead? I set goals like running a 5K every month of the year.

Is it a big difference? Not terribly, but it reframes it. A resolution feels like a permanent thing being implemented with the idea of pretending it will become permanent. Things usually go to crap a month in.

Not doing it.

What I would like to do is set goals that force me to engage in better behaviors along the way. Running a 5K every month without making an ass of myself? Then I’d better stay pretty active throughout the year. Do I want to play an open mic? Then I’d better be practicing on guitar.

With the 5K goal, there’s no mileage goal. I’m not running every day. I’m just trying to stay active enough to pay 30 bucks for the privilege to run in a nicer neighborhood than I live in, and that’s good enough for me. And don’t forget the banana and Gatorade at the end.

So next year is the Super Awesome Year of the 5K sequel that no one asked for, but you’re getting it anyway. That’s my goal.

But what about that vague resolution? What will that consist of?

I honestly don’t know. I hope it includes travel to see old friends across the country. I hope it includes cutting myself some slack when I try something and fall on my face. I honestly hope it includes tough conversations that need to happen. And those massages. That’s the only thing that keeps me from punching people in the face, especially after those tough conversations.

Stay frosty, friends.

Running Reboot: Revenge of the Knee

In the next 12 months, I will either be almost done with the Super Awesome Year of the 5K 2.0 or I’ll have a gnarly scar on my knee.


Not that kind of scar.

This decision came about for a few reasons. 1) My weight is creeping up. Me not being able to run isn’t helping. That’s my best cardio option. 2) I’m back to doing almost everything I was before the knee blew up on me. 3) The ortho person I saw here was hesitant to cut off part of my knee cap given what the issue is. He actually listed big scar as one of the down sides like I gave two craps about that.

But if he’s hesitant to cut me open, then I might as well be too (even though I’ve basically been delaying surgery since March).

So we’re rebooting the Super Awesome Year of the 5K.

Some ground rules before we get rolling:

  1. Same as before, one a month. It’s not about doing 12 5Ks. It’s about staying consistent with running.
  2. Keep up the physical therapy-oriented activities of lifting and yoga. Part of the reason for the weight creep was the lifting and the ensuing spike in appetite, but I need to keep my legs strong.
  3. Cap my runs at 4 miles. 10Ks seem to be beyond the limit of my knee, and that’s ok, but if I can cover 3-4 miles on a regular basis, I can live with that.

That last one is a bit of a bummer considering this was supposed to be the Super Awesome Year of the 10K, but maybe my knee isn’t built for 10Ks. I was looking forward to seeing what I could do; my knee was not.

But this is all ok if I can regain my level of activity. So the journey started this week. I got my running shoes on for the first time in Oklahoma and got ready for a run/walk rotation to easy myself back into things.

Some notes:

  • They use Woodway treadmills where I’m at, and I’ve missed these bad boys. Treadmills are evil. Woodway treadmills are slightly less evil. I can’t remember which university I was at (I think UF) that had them, but I knew they were magical then. Just not as jarring to use.
  • Less jarring means less pain, but there was still some pain. It was within my regaining form threshold, so it’s nothing to note. Certainly better than I was when I was doing PT, so either things are better or the treadmill really is making a difference.
  • My cardio is crap. I knew this, but it’s a different thing to feel it.

But that was day 1. And now I live in Oklahoma where winters are winter. I’m going to miss Mississippi when I’m freezing my ass off in January. At least I’ll be running (or my knee will have fallen off and I’ll get that stupid surgery)


Creating the Perfect Workout Playlist

As any sentient being knows, music makes things better. Whether you’re trying to get through that last mile of your race hoping your jam comes on or you’re like my buddy in high school who would always wait for the Rocky theme to come on in the weight room so he could hit his best sets, you know music can help you through.

I’ve talked about music before, including sharing what was on my playlist and the music vs. no music running, but I wanted to go a different route today. Let’s talk about the construction of a good workout playlist.

I’ll break this into three sections so if you want to see construction, just keep reading. If you want to just see the lists I’ve made publicly available, click on ahead.

What constitutes a good workout playlist?

Yoga list

Running lists

What constitutes a good workout playlist?

We have to start at the beginning before we get into the lists themselves (unless you clicked ahead, in which case you aren’t reading this, so it doesn’t really matter, does it?).

What do you want to feel?

That’s what it all boils down to. What do you want to feel? Do you want to feel anger? Looking at you death metal enthusiasts. Do you want to feel like the audience is cheering you on? Looking at you high school buddy listening to Rocky theme. Do you just want to feel the beat in your chest?  Whatever it is, that’s where you start. You find that emotion, and then you track down the songs that grab your heart just that way.

I like making playlists, so workout playlists are just an extension of this habit. I have a wedding first dance playlist. I have angry playlists (the kind designed to be played so loud you can’t hear yourself think). I’ve made writing playlists. I’ve even made a leaving playlist since I’ll be moving in a couple of months.

The key is catching that core emotion you want to feel. We all have different preferences when we work out, so I don’t expect my playlists to necessarily suit other people (when we get to the yoga playlist, you’ll see why).

Probably the best recommendation I can make is to have existing playlists you can steal from. I have a few core Spotify playlists that I cultivate, so they’re my natural starting point whenever I build any playlists, especially a workout list. I can peruse the list and if I’m not sure if a song works, I give it a listen. If it has that hits the right emotion, it makes the list. If it doesn’t feel quite right, it stays off.

Much like going through your closet to throw things out, be merciless. You don’t need to be in the middle of making puddles of sweat and think “I’ll skip this song.” You want to stay in the moment. I actually got derailed yesterday because my internet went out, so my yoga list got interrupted. I pulled it up on my phone, and then Spotify got buggy and started playing songs related to my playlist but not my actual playlist. I quit mid-workout because I was so frustrated.

That’s step one. Step three is to Google playlists that you’re looking for. When I was building that first song playlist, I Googled alternative and indie first dance songs. For workouts, there is not shortage of lists. In fact, you can subscribe to some if you want. I’m not a fan of this because the lists aren’t yours, but if you’re not picky, go for it. I’m just very picky.

On this note, step four is to steal from other people. There are a few people I follow on the social media who have very good music tastes. When they make a recommendation, I listen. About half the time, the song ends up on some sort of playlist. Along these lines, and this is relevant for the yoga playlist, I steal from yoga teachers. Not all of their songs fit the mood I’m looking for, but if I know I can work out to something already, then that’s a start.

And finally, step five, if it pops into your head, add it to your playlist now. Don’t do anything stupid like adding songs while driving (like I have a bad habit of doing), but if you hear it or think of it, add it before you forget. You can always remove it later, but odds are you’ll forget the song if you don’t add it in the next few minutes.

But let me reiterate, it has to hit the right emotion. I’ll go a little deeper into that thought process in the next couple of sections.

Yoga list

I’m starting with yoga because I can’t run right now, so all of my puddles of sweat are being made on a yoga mat.

Despite doing yoga for 8 years now, I didn’t make a yoga playlist until the last couple of weeks. Why? Because I can’t survive full yoga sessions on my own, especially since I started taking classes. I’m lazy.

But then life happened. My yoga teacher is on break for the summer, but I move in the summer, so to get the practice I really want, I have to do it on my own. That’s all fine and good, but I have trouble keeping myself on my mat. I thought music might help.

But where to start?

This playlist is actually a bit quirkier than my running playlists. Those are built to play on shuffle and maintain one emotion throughout. The yoga playlist is built to function for a full session of yoga, start to finish. This is not when one emotion will work. Added bonus, it’s built for ashtanga.

If you’ve never done ashtanga, it’s doing the same thing every time. Depending on how hard-core you are, you could be at it for 90 minutes. I’m not hard-core. I’m not even medium-core. I’m lucky, especially with my knee, to get an hour out of my session.

But knowing the list is built for ashtanga, I had to keep the practice in mind. While most of these songs are picked from my existing lists, I also bookended the playlist with songs I first heard in yoga (and they were placed where they are in my list).

The most energetic part of ashtanga is the beginning. You’re doing 10 rounds of sun salutations (5 of A and 5 of B). If I survive this part, I’ve already got a decent workout in, and I’m certainly sweating. As such, the first songs in the playlist have more energy than the rest. Kashi Vishwanath Gange (I have no idea what this song’s about) starts slow, which is good for getting in your right mindset, but then picks up as you actually start to do the salutations. And then it gets into Very Busy People. Timing-wise, I get very close to finishing the salutations at the end of that song because then we’re slowing it down.

The rest of the playlist gradually winds down as you go from the standing sequence to the seated sequence to the finishing sequence. There is a song my yoga teacher has that basically feels like an omnipresent heartbeat. I wish I had that song because it’s a good shavasana song, but Be the Song is a pretty good closer.

Without further ado, this is the full list, but skip to after for the discussion.

If you know these songs, you probably realize that a lot of them aren’t happy. I honestly didn’t even realize how melancholy this playlist could seem until I was in the middle of using it during a session. It was at that moment that I realized I probably am not cut out to be a yoga teacher, especially for those students who are just looking for a good time.

For me, yoga is a time to carve out space on my mat and pretend that no one else is around (at home, this is a lot easier). This is my time for taking care of me, which means fixing things. Fixing myself doesn’t really feel like a happy endeavor. It’s certainly a worthwhile one, but it’s not a happy one. I’m trying to leave all the bullshit that exists off the mat. As such, I need to feel something. I need songs that have substance. These are the songs you play as you jump off the cliff into the lake below. These are the songs that are playing on a cool, dark night with the windows down on a back country road. They won’t make you cry, but they should make you feel centered in your own little universe.

And that’s why they’re not happy.

Running lists

But how can we have a running blog post without the running playlists?

The first playlist is my 5K mofo list.

This is the list I created a few months into my Super Awesome Year of the 5K when I was getting tired of what was just on my phone. As it turns out, I would run my best race of the year the first time I used the list. Did the music help? Maybe, maybe not. But it makes for a better story to tell.

With this list, I was just going for pure uptempo music that I wouldn’t want to skip. This is music as distraction. There’s a lot of good music here, but it’s not the most substantive music to exist on this earth. The point is to distract me from running. That’s it. If I feel the need to skip a song when it comes on this list, it gets removed from the list. I’ve had a couple where that happened.

It’s a mix of pop, rock, and hip hop. And it’s a beautiful thing. It’s shallow. But it’s beautiful. Maybe I should rename it the shallow playlist.

The second list took a bit more form. I was getting tired of always using the 5K Mofo list during races, so I built another 5K list. This one was built to exclusively be rock music. The music has a bit more substance to it, and it’s honestly going after a slightly different emotion.

The goal for this playlist is a little more to pull at angst. If I’m running and I’m angry, this list is more likely to pop up that the original 5K list. I’m purposefully trying to burn off energy with this list. This will be probably be the list that’s playing when I PR and then pass out before getting hauled off in an ambulance for stupidity.

Q and His Treacherous Knee

Or Q and His Knee Jerk Reaction

Or Q and Why Does My Knee Hurt?

This was my weekend a week ago:

Nothing like unexplained knee pain to liven up the weekend #thuglife #thisis30

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And this was me less than a week ago:

There’s a theme here. I’m a week and half into unexplained knee pain. I know what’s happening (tendonitis), but I don’t know why (unless we accept that my knee is an a-hole argument).

I spent a week on steroids and that seemed to help, but then I tweaked it on day 5 of steroids, and three days later, I’m back in the kind of pain I was in before starting the steroids.

With a couple of other things, I’m now two and half weeks removed from my last run, which was just a light jaunt to shake out the post-10K creaks.

My goal was a 10K every other month, and it’s already in jeopardy, and not the cool Ken Jennings kind.

If I go after the race I’m targeting, I’m looking at basically 5 weeks to go from 0 to 10K.

That’s probably not going to happen.

This is going to be an interesting year.



First 10K of the year is in the books

1:13:30. I lapped everyone on the couch. I also got lapped by the winner of the half-marathon.


Other than that, things went pretty well. I knew I wasn’t going to have a blistering time. The plan was to do a 1:1 run/walk ratio on minute intervals.


I am vengeance. I am the night. I am, well, you get the idea. #ihaterunning #batman

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Prep for this race was actually more obnoxious than usual because of the temperature. It was supposed to be high 30s to start and mid-40s when I would finish.

This is generally jacket weather for me. My lungs don’t appreciate cold air, and it gets worse if my torso is cold. Because it was in the 30s to start, I figured I would get one of my thicker long-sleeve shirts. And then I couldn’t find it.

I have three thicker shirts. The one I wanted wasn’t in the office, so I knew it was at home. And then I couldn’t find it at home. I really have no idea where that thing is. Luckily, I have a thinner cold-weather shirt that’s ok. With the jacket, I would be fine.

The next worry for me was parking. It was downtown in a relatively small town. If the race was packed, parking could become a problem pretty quickly. There ended up being about 400 people across the three distances running today. I had to leave a bit early to park where I wanted.

Of course, I then got to find out people have no sense of politeness when it comes to parallel parking spots. Two big SUVs decided to park as far forward in their spots as they could and for some unholy reason didn’t pull into the spots the farthest forward, so I got to do an awkward backing in to get my spot. It was fine, but it was obnoxious parking. Of course, they were Ole Miss and Bama fans, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything better from them.

Now for a pet peeve of mine. Pretty much every race I go to says to bring ID to pick up your packet. I think the only time I’ve actually shown ID to get my packet was Disney (and I’m not even sure if I actually showed ID). They say it and never ask for ID when you actually show up. Luckily, I’ve stopped bringing my ID along to the booths. I figure if it ever gets asked for, I’ll tell them to Google my name. Perks of having a weird name. The only person who shows up in the results is me.

Other than that, not much was atypical about the setup. You have the usual lacking number of port-a-potties. You have loud music. You’ve got people who didn’t know there was a race going on trying to go about their usual Saturday routine as runners are crawling all over the place with nervous energy.

I just basked in the sun waiting for the race to start. And then I got hot. Uh oh.

If I was hot standing in the sun, this wasn’t going to bode well for running. I was honestly afraid I was going to be a little on the cold side to start because I had on the thinner long-sleeve shirt underneath. Now I was about to ditch my jacket and was again having to worry about being cold in just two shirts because 6.2 miles of overheating wasn’t about to happen.

Luckily, my Batman shirt was a tight fit, so it helped trap heat in and acted as an extra buffer for the wind.

Unluckily, I hadn’t brought my arm band, and I didn’t trust myself to hold my phone for 6.2 miles. I was going sans music (well, podcast. I was going to listen to a Nerdist episode during my fat kid shuffle).

The rest of my attire was fine. I wear the same cap in the heat and the cold. Of my two viable pairs of running shoes (I have Adidas that are in good shape, but a foot injury rules them out for now), I only race in my Asics, so there was never a debate there. I also had a new pair of Goodr sunglasses to wear for the race.

I was in the red-framed glasses. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but they are the most obnoxious color scheme: blue lenses, red frames, and yellow ear pieces. I thought I’d never wear them (they came bundled with the other two I got in the Kickstarter). And then I realized the obnoxious color scheme went well with the obnoxiously colored shirts I wear to avoid getting hit by cars. Turns out the pair I looked forward to the least are going to be my priority pair for running.

I was dressed for success and ready to gol

The halfers took off, and then the 10K and 5K runners lined up together.

Now all I had to do was run. And then walk. And then run. And then walk. Etc.

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Actual Race

As usual, some walkers made their way to the front. I’m starting to think they can’t help themselves. If this was a track meet, someone would spike them in the back of their legs.

I hung out in back because I knew I wasn’t going to finish in front of many people. I had to let myself run longer in the beginning than I intended just because of the mess of walkers around. I don’t dislike walkers, but when they start in the middle and front, they’re an obstruction. Think of the person hanging out in the left lane in traffic who isn’t passing the car on the right. That’s what they’re doing.

The weather was beautiful, though I wasn’t quite dressed correctly. I really did need a little bit thicker shirt. I was ok, but not 100% comfortable to start. Luckily, the day came to me. Unfortunately, my hands weren’t in great shape. I don’t wear gloves when I run, and my hands stay cold naturally, so they got stiff pretty fast. It’s not like I needed to compose a letter, but it’s never fun to basically have your hands become useless for the better part of an hour.

I don’t have any über-weird stories to tell about the other runners. I had my typical crowd that I would yo-yo with. At least they were also alternating between running and walking. The only mildly interesting stories come past the halfway point. One runner turned to ask if I was dying too. I think they were feeling social. Or maybe they’d never seen the dark knight in person before. Who knows.

The other interesting thing was someone who kept yelling in frustration. I’ve done a fair amount of races now (21 is my best guess), and this is the first time I’ve had that happen. I think they were in that “I’m exhausted and going on fumes” mode. The last time I remember hearing people do that was during football workouts. Usually these were the people who didn’t really want to play football and were there because someone made them be there. I hope that wasn’t the case. It sounded like someone was running with them and encouraging them, but this is kind of a dangerous game to play. I’m not fond of running, but I don’t feel the need to yell. If they do, maybe they’d be better off with a different hobby. Again, I don’t know what was going on. I just know it was weird.

The running and walking went fairly well. I knew I couldn’t put together a blistering pace. I was vaguely optimistic that I’d be feeling good at the end and could extend my running segments.

That did not happen.

It wasn’t a brutal course by any means, but there were a good amount of climbs to make. These were mostly halfway and later, so they gassed me pretty good. But I did survive. My lungs went first because that’s what they do, but my legs were dead by the end too.

And to pour salt on the wounds, there was a steady climb to finish the race. You never notice the grade of a road until you’re actually running it. I always thought of it as a fairly level stretch until today. This is also when the half winner flew past me for the second time.

But I finished and I high-fived a couple of cows. All in all, it could have gone worse.


There’s not much to say post-race. For once I finished in a weird spot where there wasn’t a mess of people at the end. Only one half-marathoner had finished. All of the 5K runners were done. And I was far enough back in the 10K that there weren’t many of them left either.

I snagged a couple of slices of pizza before walking around as my inadequate cool-down. I then went to my car to switch to a dry shirt and get my watered-down bottle of Gatorade. Of course, I had to get two more slices of pizza before I left, so I went back to the finish line for that. A few coworkers were running other races and I vaguely thought of sticking around, but then I realized I wanted to continue making bad decisions more than I wanted to hang out in the wind with sweat salt caking my face.

The bingeing continued with a some Sonic: 5-piece chicken strip meal, with tater tots, toast, an onion ring, and Coke. I left two pieces of chicken behind for later and ate the rest. After all this mess, I had gained 2 pounds compared to my pre-10K weight.

I really am good at turning good decisions into terrible mistakes.

At least I had enough sense to foam roll after I ate. I’m also icing my knee as I type to prevent further problems.

The aftermath. #ihaterunning

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But that’s all I have for you, party people. I’ve got 5 more of these to go for the year, and I have no idea when any of them will be yet. I’m hoping for every other month, but I haven’t locked into a March race yet.