Creating motivation

I just got back from my first ten-mile run since the injury. Since I took the Richmond marathon off my list of things to do this year, I've lacked motivation. It's nice to think it might be back.

I started this whole exercise thing ten months ago in order to get my head straight. My marriage had crumbled and it didn't look like all the King's horses wanted anything to do with the salvage project. To distract myself, I went to Gold's and signed up with no idea of what I wanted to do, or how I was going to do it. Somehow, I fell into a pattern where I was running and working out five or six times a day.

That pattern more or less continued unabated until my injury in late August, where I sat out for ten days out of fear of doing serious damage to my knee. Admittedly, I've had a hard time sticking with lifting weights at the gym, only because it's been hard to get organized enough to fit into my schedule, which seems to operate according to some sort of video-game logic, getting increasingly more difficult with each passing level. Two weeks ago I went three times, but last week I wasn't available to sneak away from work.

Why is the motivation fading? I don't seem to be as focused on exercise as I was, and that could just be because I've been distracted by work, which is pretty exciting now that some of my stories are ending up in the Daily Progress. I've also been playing guitar and singing for about two or three hours a week, and I'm at a point where I want to begin taking it seriously.

But, the most important reason is that the pain of my marriage breaking up is beginning to fade. In December, that particular nuclear explosion somehow got poured into my body, giving me this intense desire to push myself past the blast.

The radiation's faded quite a bit, and the sun shines again. But, what does that mean for exercise?

I skipped Thursday so I could go see a show. Okay, listen to a show. I took my kids to the downtown mall so we could stand outside the Pavilion so I could hear the Decemberists. Friday was just molten-lava-rock crazy busy with work at Charlottesville Tomorrow and then at Court Square Tavern. Well, the tavern was slow, but it's hard to run on the days when I'm there.

Yesterday, however, I just wanted to be lazy and have a day off. I had to go in to work to finish up a story. I was supposed to go to Blacksburg to see the Tech game, but I decided to save money and avoid pneumonia. I could have gone to the gym or ran, but... I didn't. It was raining, and I was lazy. I admit this.

Because I felt fine. Well-adjusted. More or less happy. No emotional pain to mitigate.

This morning, I felt the same way. Content. Happy that things seem to be okay. With no major running goal on the horizon, it's a little easier to slack off.

I got up at 9:00, and had the same feeling of sluggishness I've since Thursday. I didn't really know if it was worth while to go for a run. I didn't feel like doing it. Couldn't get motivated. 9:00 AM became 9:30 AM, 9:30 became 10:00 AM. I tidied the house to prepare for my kids to arrive. I procrastinated by listening to some of the songlets I wrote two nights ago. Finally, I realized I just had to get out there.

So, I went out. No real destination or length in mind, but I decided to go out on my 7-mile course which takes me from my house to Belmont via the UVA hospital and the downtown Mall. Blissful beautiful Sunday morning in early fall. The smells of the earth are not the smells of the earth when I first left the confines of the treadmill at Gold's Gym. The landscape is winding down after a long summer's day, about to slumber through the winter.

I felt the same way after mile two. Once again, I'd run my first two miles way too fast at an 8:30 pace. I didn't know how far I wanted to go, but I knew I needed to go slow if I wanted to cross ten miles. Of course, I didn't slow down. I picked up the pace, and when I got to West Main Street, I was conditioned and able to run at a comfortably pace for a long run.

There's so much I don't know about running. Another reason I slowed down the training is because I need the money that comes from working at Court Square Tavern on Friday nights, which meant I had to move my long run to Sunday.

I just know that I love it. As I ran up Old Preston onto the Mall, I realized that I've found something that will become increasingly important to me over time, and I can do it on my terms. For my own motivation. These days, I have to motivate myself to run because of the feeling that I'm fully living my life by not neglecting my body. I think back to when I was 200 pounds and I didn't exercise, and how sluggish I felt. How polluted my body would feel. I'm not ashamed of who I was, but I don't want to be like that again.

Is that enough motivation? I'm not sure. I want to be able to call myself an athlete. I think that might be motivation enough.

I want to be athlete because I want the stamina to do other things I really want to do. I want to one day act in a play. I want to front a band again. I want to meet other runners. I want to be able to eat as much as I want and not worry about getting fat. I want to be happy. I want to feel like I can accomplish a goal.

So, on that note, I feel like a runner again after the injury. And, I have a plan of sorts. My goal now is to run the Richmond half-marathon on November 14, as well as two other races. I'm going to volunteer to be a captain for the Men's 4-miler and Charlottesville 10-miler training programs. I'm going to run either the Shamrock at Virginia Beach next March or the next Charlottesville marathon. I'm going to learn how to get faster, how to stay injury-free.

So, this week's exercise schedule, written publicly to hopefully hold myself to it:

Monday: Gym
Tuesday: 4 mile run
Wednesday: Gym AM, 4 mile run in the PM
Thursday: 4 mile run in the AM
Friday: Gym AM
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Long run

Wish me luck!


Training update: Thoughts after the injury

I've decided not to run the full Richmond marathon. Instead, I will shoot to run a full marathon next year, next spring or fall. I have not fully decided yet. I may run the half marathon instead, and will shoot to run it in under than two hours. I think I can meet that goal through building on the training I've learned to date.

Since my injury, I have been adding to how much I've run each week. I usually have a couple of short pangs of pain in my right knee within the first minute of running, but it generally goes away if I slow down and breathe through it. I don't have any pain when I finish.

The injury was a wake-up call that there are limits to my body, especially when you factor in everything else going on in my life. We are in the midst of covering an election for Charlottesville Tomorrow. I'm a single father who has his children half the week. I serve people at Court Square Tavern on Fridays. Somewhere in there, I'm trying to figure out how Charlottesville's dating scene works. That last part is fairly tricky.

In the week-long break I took from running, I realized there are other aspects of my life where I have to train, too.

I have to become a better homeowner, for instance. I've lived here for well over a year now, and I've not put any work into it. There are so many things to organize. Many questions to answer, such as, can I possibly afford a dishwasher? Should I go ahead and get the windows properly fitted for winter?

My primary goal to exercise is to stay healthy, and to get in the best shape I can. I am looking forward to racing again, and learning more about how to run injury free. Good shoes, certainly help. I spent at least half an hour exercising in the past week, including two stints lifting weights.

I even ran on a treadmill this past Thursday. The experience is sub-par compared to running on the road, but I went in with a specific goal to do 30 minutes of cardio. I pushed myself as hard as I could in that half-hour, and it conveniently fit within my schedule.

Today, however, I was thankful to be back on the road. I will likely run once a week at the gym, which offers affordable child-care. It's also a place where I want to feel more comfortable. I was there six days a week when I first started exercising last December. Now, I don't go, because running sort of took over so I could run a marathon in November. And, that's okay. If I had not hurt myself, I'd still be on that path.

Lives change in the blink of an eye. I am certainly not where I thought I would be at 36. It's important to stay flexible about life goals, I'd say. You never know when they will have to change. We pick up new skills, learn from rough experiences, and generally improve ourselves so we can navigate the many twists and turns of our lives.


RIP Charles Lewis Stokes

Charles Lewis Stokes died today. I knew him as Lew. He was a blind man who came into Court Square Tavern almost every night I worked there the first time around. Lew was awesome. He had nothing to say except what he thought. And that was a tremendously refreshing thing. He would come in, have his three pints of Spaten, and then Ali of Yellow Cab would come in and pick him up and take him home.

I've not seen him in over a year. Maybe two years. Last time I saw him was at Fellini's. The fact that I will never again have a beer with him makes me very sad. Lew was a guy who you could have a conversation with about everything from politics to metaphysics. I had heard that we was a really gruff man before he went blind, but then loosened up a bit afterwards. Lew had a very rich wife who he wasn't tremendously close to, but both were blind, so they got along in some sense.

Lew encouraged me to do the work I do. He said to me frequently that I needed to be heard by as many people as possible. As a blind man, he really appreciated the work I did for WVTF. He said I needed to be bold, and I can definitely say his advice helped me create the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. I regret I was not able to make the service more friendly to the blind.

He and Milton Branham used to get into these amazing fights, with Milton threatening him to knock him onto the terrazo, as Milton would call the floor at Court Square Tavern. Yet, Milton loved him so very much, as did we all, for Lew was an institution. After the fire, he spent his out time at Fellini's, where I think I only drank with him twice. I had lost touch with him over the years.

So, I leave you all with this. A recording of Lew in 2005 that anyone who knew him must listen to. It captures a time in my life, his life, Doug's life, Mike's life.

The Daily Bringdown.

I regret I don't have more recordings from Lew. He was someone all of us should have talked to.


The other training

I've been playing music all my life, but never really took it seriously. I played around with sound with my friend Jeffry Cudlin since I was 7 or so, an experience that lead me to seek a career in radio. But, I also played music with Jeff in high school and again in my mid-twenties. Our fake band was called the Hodads, named after a fake superhero group in some silly Marvel comic.

Jeff has gone on to play in many real bands. He was much better at writing songs and crafting things that sounded good. All I wanted was the visceral feeling of creating things, and that's where the concept of improv punk came from for me. I didn't have time or the patience to practice.

Flash forward to now. I've become a runner. Why not become a musician? Why shouldn't I take this seriously? I generally play music when I'm done with my work day, and I'm beginning to record it and take it seriously.

Is any of it good?

Why is that a relevant question?

I'm not the faster runner, and I can't run the furthest. Those are not valid questions to ask, because that defeats the point of racing.

So, tonight dear reader, I publicly announce the tumblr account where I am beginning to upload things I've made in the past as well as things I will make in the future. I don't know what people will think, but I have to put it out there so you can be prepared when I start treating making music the same way I treat running.


Training resumes

Richmond isn't going to run itself, so I'm shooting to run 26.2 miles on November 14, 2009.

Damn, it feels good to say that.

Today I got back on the road to try to meet that goal. I do so with a renewed spirit and a sense that patience can pay dividends.

As you know, I hurt my right knee on the last mile of my scheduled 16 mile run ten days ago. That forced me to take a break, during which I did not make any decisions. I didn't even really lament the loss of exercise. I just wanted to listen to my body and heal.

On Sunday, the pain in my joints and tendons had more or less faded, but would shoot through me if I put too much weight on my right leg. By Monday I felt fine, but still didn't know what to do. On Tuesday, I followed the advice of many people and went in to talk with Mark Lorenzoni, the owner of Ragged Mountain Running Shop and my coach in the Charlottesville Track Club's marathon training program. As per his instructions, I took in my program and my shoes.

Mark Lorenzoni is a very busy man, and I don't like to bother busy men. He was there chatting with his staff when I got there at about 5:00 on Tuesday afternoon. A clerk said he was really tired and wanted to go home, but asked if she could help. I started to tell the story.

Turns out, she's his daughter and she's dealt with injuries her whole running career. She started flexing my shoes, and told me they were shot. I'd only purchased them in late June, and I reckon I'd put about 280 miles on them. She had me do the routine of watching me jog in my shoes, then in my bare feet. Instantly, she knew what the problem was.

My right leg over-pronantes quite a bit. Pronating is a concept I've not yet quite figured out, but I know it needs to be corrected through arch support. This is why I'm happy to pay the big bucks for shoes. I trust the Lorenzonis with my feet. I'll eventually learn the details.

Mark came over. He looked shattered, exhausted. In the past week, he had helped run both the Ragged Mountain Cup and the Women's Four-Miler. He's really someone who gives a lot to his community, and I didn't want to take up too much of his time. But once he started talking to me, I knew he was really concerned with my training. He immediately took a pen to my program and set me up for the next two weeks. He said it was not too late to make Richmond, even with the week off. He assigned me three miles for today, three miles for tomorrow, and to shoot for 12 on Saturday.

Daunting, especially when I could barely walk the week before.

But, I immediately felt this feeling of well-being and happiness and joy. On my test runs for his daughter, I seemed fine, with no pain at all. With new shoes, I knew I'd get a little more protection. Expensive, yes, but well worth it given the power that running has had to help me this year. He also gave me a pair of inserts to try in my old shoes. I walked out feeling very good about myself and my choice. But more importantly:

I was going to run again.

So, this morning, I took a long lunch and headed home. I put my shoes on. I put my running shorts on. I stretched a little more than I had before. I warmed up by taking my dog for a quick walk. My body was tingling all over in anticipation. I fiddled with my watch. And then...

Off I went, very gently. One foot after the other. I aimed to have each foot fall land right in the middle of my foot. I just went at a nice little trot to test out that knee, to see if there was any pain. There was none, but I remained vigilant. I made it to the end of first tenth of a mile about 10 seconds slower than usual.

The day was warm, but not too hot. Slightly humid. I trotted along to the end of the downtown mall and back home, alert to the possibility of knee pain. Things felt a little stiff, but it wasn't too bad. I saw a lot of people I know, and felt like I had myself back again. I wish I could explain more clearly how positive I feel about myself because of exercise.

I really resisted going fast. I know I could have gone much faster, but I'm hoping I've learned a little more about pacing now. The next two weeks are not about speed. They're about recovery, and relearning form and discipline. The run was absolute bliss, and I was reminded of all the runs I've taken. How I've used the adrenaline to get me through dark times.

On my way out of the shop Tuesday afternoon, Mark Lorenzoni called me an athlete, and said that he really respected what I was doing. I've never been called that before, and didn't resist it. He told me that the race wasn't important, and to focus on the journey.

I've come such a long way in the past nine months since I began this chapter of my life, and there are so many more footfalls to come.


Training is on pause

I was doing so well. Last Sunday, I did my long run in town, and made two circuits of an eight mile loop. The weather was gorgeous. I was well-rested. I had enough liquid. The run was absolutely beautiful and fantastic.

And now, I'm going to have to hold on to that memory for a little while, because I don't know when I'll be strong enough to run again. On my last mile, I screwed up trying to negotiate a curb, and slammed my right leg down with far too much power, sending a spike of pain through my knee. It went away a second or two later, so I kept going and finished up, and felt fine. Got home, drank my Gatorade, ate my protein bar, stretched out, and then went to walk my dog.

I didn't get even a house away before my calves hardened like concrete. Had I been glared at by Medusa? No. I'd just ran 16 miles. I hobbled back to the house, and sat down for 20 minutes. When I got up, I felt okay. And then went to lunch at the Bluegrass Grill with my ex and our kids. While waiting for our table, I played race cars with my son. And, suddenly, began to feel twinges of pain in my leg. Nothing excruciating. That would come later. But, I realized something was up. Something serious was up.

That afternoon, I had plans to take the kids to the pool. I couldn't disappoint them, even though my knee was slowly becoming an issue if I put any pressure on it. My son is too young to swim by himself, so I had to stay within arm's reach of him for the entire two hours we were at Washington Park Pool. There was also a lot of up and down, and a lot of grimacing as I tried my best to get through our day out.

When I got home, I put ice on it. I stopped off at Seven Day Junior for a huge pack, and filled two freezer bags. Somehow, though, I got it into my head to have an impromptu dinner party, which meant a lot more getting up. I should have rested, but I'm a single dad building friendships with people. I can't just stop these things to take care of myself.

Maybe I should have, but my training has always had to be fit into my emerging life as I try to sort out what the rest of it is going to be like. Running has been the engine that's allowed me to transform my image of myself, as well as my physical body. As I type this, I can remember that feeling of power of my body moving through the universe. I know I'll get back to it again. But I don't know when.

I did not go to the doctor on Monday, but I should have. My insurance shifted recently, and I've not yet figured out how to fill out the new paperwork. It's also more expensive to me directly. I don't have the cash flow to go to a physical therapist, and like many people, I'll put off care if I can't afford it, or it seems like a luxury.

I more or less took Monday off, though. My ex came to get the kids early, and I just sat on the couch for a while, alternating between ice and heat, taking generic acetaminophen to try to keep the swelling down. Of course, I was later told I really needed Advil. I never seem to get the right things in life.

Things felt much better on Tuesday. I could walk up the stairs at work without pain, but there was still some pain. On Wednesday, the pain wasn't constant. I even tried a quick jog of about 100 steps, and felt okay, with no pain immediately after. Soreness about an hour later, though. Thursday was okay, but a new sensation of soreness began to occur on the underside of my knee. A tendon seems like it's not being stretched properly.

Tonight, I'm waiting tables, and I'm a bit worried I'm going to over-tax myself. But, waiting tables is not a luxury. I need that money to help me get through the month. I hope we're busy, but I also dread getting injured while at work.

I don't know when I'll run. I don't know if I'll be ready for the marathon. I can't think about that right now. I am beginning to find alternatives to running, because I want to stay in shape. I am also convinced that if I want to make a lifelong habit of running, I have to respect this injury and not trivialize it. Tonight, I'll wear a brace while waiting tables and I'll move slowly. In time, I'll be healed and I'll be back on the road. But for today, my training is on pause.