Friday, August 13, 2010

Is running an addiction, i dont think so.

I'm not sure why I kept running once I started. I would say I do have addictive personality,  Am I running addict? no, addict is bad word.  I dont like the word addict. In my opinion an addiction is something that is harmful. Something that is bad for you.. like binge drinking.. which I also know a lot about.
This might sound funny, but Im glad I was binge drinker living on or near a college campus. I think it helped me wrongfully justify blacking out almost every Friday and Saturday. If I knew I was doing something wrong I would have probably been depressed, I was never depressed in my partying days.Plus everyone else was doing it.  I was a happy dude and people were happy to see me... I think. Maybe I was drunk annoying guy....??

People do claim running is an addiction, knowing first hand about running and addiction I would say it is not. Running is something deeper than addiction. I think once you start to run distances your body knows something. Its going back to primal survival skills, it feels right. You are doing what you were designed to do. Im pretty sure it will never be fully understood, but any runner that is reading this knows the feeling Im describing. Its like you are not even yourself anymore, your just going and going.. on instinct.  Its like your not even in your own body.

Now compare that to what an alcohol or drug addiction can do to you.

I have never once went on a run and woke up the next morning face down in a gravel parking lot, wonder how I got there.

I have never once been on a run with a group and and had a giant brawl break out and had my nose broken.
I've had my nose broken twice in bar fights, didnt even start the fight or want to fight, just got punched in the face.

I have never went out on a run and ended up in the back of a police car for disorderly conduct.

I have never stayed up night, calling everyone I know wondering when I was going to get my next run.

I have never smashed up a car after a really fun night of running.

Ive never walked home after a really crazy night of running and accidental walked into the wrong house.

Ive never had to put one foot out of the bed to get the room to stop spinning after a night of running.

I have never woke up next to someone I didnt recognize the morning after a great run and tried to chew my own arm off to get away without waking this someone up.. Im stretching the truth a little on that one.

Ive never went out for a run with $200 in my pocket and returned home later to say, "dude how did spend $200"

Ive never been kicked out of Waffle house after a run for being too loud.

Ive never had to be rolled home in a shopping cart at 3am because I ran too much.

Ive never woke up the morning after a run and said, "what happened last night??"

Ive never slept in a hotel bathtub after a good night of running.

Ive never felt the urge to get up on stage after a few runs and sign Karaoke. I know I cant sign.

I was not running the night I walked through Minneapolis on new years ever, no jacket, in a blizzard, lost ,yelling at the police to arrest me so I could go to jail for the night to be warm. I was also not running the next day when I didnt move an inch out of the hotel bed because i felt so sick, i should have been in the hospital I think.

I was not running the night I woke up and yelled out, "who dumped beans and rice on me" to which my friends replied--- "you had beans and rice for dinner, you need to clean that puke up now" 

Ive never slept on cold, tile, bathroom floor after a run.

Ive never eaten out of a Mcdonald dumpster at 3am after a good night of running. To my credit, I knew some of the people that worked at that mcdonalds and they would bag up all the food that didnt sell and leave it in the dumpster for us.

Ive never almost burnt our house down because I passed with a pizza in the oven after a good run...

i could go on and on. I think the biggest difference I see is an addiction usually involves a chemical or something that altering your mind.
I dont know the exact definition of addiction but to me running is not and addiction, its more of an instinct, an instinct that people become passionate about.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My first 2 5k races

My first official 5k was a couple years ago in New Orleans, but I did run the distance once back in 1997. It was December 1997 in Wisconsin. Construction job was going great and I had purchased my first nice car months earlier. It wasnt uncommon for my parents and I to switch cars. We both owned nice cars and worked hard for them, it was nice to switch it up once in a while, it was liking getting a new car. They had just purchased a brand new Yukon and I happened to be driving it.
Im not sure what led to me to the construction site at bar time with a car load of drunk (and who knows what else) friends, I must have had a sudden urge to go off-roading. I knew the site well, I worked there everyday. I drove in, we did some off roading, finished some beer and were on our way back home at 3am . Im not sure what happened, I think I hit a patch of ice, but the next thing I remember is this nice new Yukon smashed into a pole behind a department store. My first instinct was to run, which I did. Oddly enough 3.1 miles back to my house. Amazingly since it was the back of the construction site, no one saw, and nothing was damaged except for the truck, I never got in trouble. I went back the next day, pushed the truck into construction parking and had it towed Monday morning to the body shop. $8000 later and some maxed out credit cards the truck is fixed and returned to my parents. They knew I was using for it two weeks so I was in the clear. I just couldnt tell them. They had stressful jobs, I got myself into the mess and I was determined to get out of it on my own. I took care of it but it set me back for a long time. I hate letting people down. Theres a lot more to this story but that can be saved for another day.

Fast forward to New Orleans 2008. I had been running for about 6 months but had never entered a race. My wife happened to working out of town in New Orleans and I often go with her just to hang out and see different cities. Her sister was planning on meeting us there as well. She had run a 5k and found one for us to run in New Orleans. It was race day and I was nervous. There were 1000 runners.I didnt know how to put a race bib on. Good thing my sister in law was there. I was basically lost. Its not difficult to be in race but I did have a big case of the nerves. It helps to have someone there that knows whats going on.  By this time in my running life I could run about 8 miles comfortably. I didnt really know how far exactly or how fast because I didnt own a Garmin. I lined up near the middle of the pack and the gun sounded. I started out with the pack and then I realized I was really holding back. I went to the outside and passed hundreds of people. My thoughts were racing faster than me. Was I going to pass out, was I going to puke, was I even going to finish?? At the mile mark I still felt awesome. I actually sped up. 2 mile mark felt great.  Now there was no doubt I could finish, I just kept running a nice pace crossed the line. I was hooked, I love running races. Theres a lot of people there but ultimately its you against yourself. Leaving it all out there is the best feeling you can have no matter what time you finish in. I finished fourth in my age group, one away from a medal on my first race. I was actually good at something besides partying. I love the positive attitudes of all the runners. What other event gets 1000's of people out of bed at 6am on a weekend morning to go push their bodies as hard as they can?? Its just awesome. I love seeing the elites on the way back knowing Im only a couple minutes behind. Watching a great runner is a beautiful thing. I love running and keeping up with the high school kids, makes me feel young again. I love getting passed by people older than me. It inspires me to know that there is chance I could get faster. I like being passed by kids way younger than me, future elites I hope. Also very humbling. Nice seeing kids starting out early in running, I wish I would have. It would have saved me a lot of money and a lot of brain cells.

My wife has said to me a few times, "you are a better runner than I am." I tell her BS. A time is just a time, there will always be faster people, but faster does not mean better. We as runners are all pretty equal especially when it comes to race day. If your putting your max effort out and running your hardest, trying to get your PR on race day, we are equal. Max effort equally difficult no matter where you finish so keep that in mind and be proud of yourself for being out there!

I have always been determined, just not always sure why

I was pretty grounded until my junior year of high school. I played football and baseball and was pretty good at both because I was determined to be good at them. I went to camps and practiced on my own. Then, that summer I discovered college parties, I looked older than I was so it wasnt difficult to blend in with a sea of drunk college freshmen in the basement of some huge campus house. Bye bye sports, I found my new passion... college parties.  Two years of this, every weekend, my last two years of high school were a college party. This was great! I needed to get into college so I could do this all the time. I was determined to get in. I made the grades my last two years of high school balancing school, college parties, and gambling. The casinos in Wisconsin were I grew up were not to strict about age, if you looked 18 they let you in.  I was determined to win. I read every book I could find on blackjack and learned some basic counting techniques and was winning regularly.

When I received my acceptance letter from the UW Whitewater it was time to coast. I changed my high school schedule so I would have study hall first hour.. which meant I didnt have to be there. I was determined to win money. I remember playing blackjack with some of my teachers late at night at the casinos. There was a mutual feeling of you dont tell and I wont tell. I was basically untouchable when it came to being late for school. I wasnt arrogant about it. I remember quietly walking into class late many mornings with $500 of winnings. It got to a point where class would stop because people couldnt wait to ask me how much I won. I wasnt doing homework anymore so I had a lot of free time. I started to lift weights which I dove into full of determination. I learned everything I could about it. I lifted everyday. I took supplements that guys would tell me to take at the gym. Half the time I didnt even know what I was taking, but the weight training was paying off. I was getting pretty muscular. Life was good for me I thought, but I was on a slippery slope. Life in the fast lane and I was only 17. Walking around looking good, a pocket full of money I wish I would have saved and partying with college girls.

What does this have to do with running??? A lot, most people are determined and can accomplish anything, you just need to focus that energy towards positive actions. I, like many others, focused my energy on material things. Try channeling some of that energy to your health. You will really feel good about yourself

High school was over and I went away to college. A little dose of  reality soon set in. I was going to so many parties that I literally went to 6 classes the whole time I was at school. No lie. Six classes total. Six hours of college. straight F's. 0.0 gpa. I really didnt like school at all. Im not sure why. Nice going Joe. I did manage to live in college housing the entire year even though by not attending classes at all and not taking any second semester I was technically not a student. Which meant I was a trespasser and could have been arrested.

The campus police couldnt prove that I lived there. I had a roommate and roommates were allowed to have visitors. So thats what I was. A visitor. The campus police finally gave up on me the day they came to try and scare me out of the dorms. They told me they were there to confiscate my belonging because they had reason to believe I lived there and was not a visitor. They asked which things were mine... that was a mistake.. I said, "none of it, I'm just visiting." It was the truth, i only slept there. my stereos and tvs were in a house across campus. i was letting my friends borrow that stuff.  they were over me, and i was over them. I wasnt being disruptive and had paid in advance for housing so they didnt bother me anymore. Time to really party and really hit the gym. My parents would soon find out what I was doing and I would have to pay them back tuition they fronted me so I might as well live it up now. 

I was determined to stretch this party out as long as I could and that carries over into my running today. I want to run as far as possible on my long runs and as fast as I can at my races so I eat right and train right. I listen to my body. I find healthy food that tastes good and there is a lot of it just do some reading. I educate myself the same way I did about gambling and weight lifting. All the info is out there and its not hard to find. Use facebook to ask questions. Use online forums.  Ask questions, people who are passionate about running will be happy to share knowledge.  I love helping people as much as i can. There are a lot of runners that know more than me and can better than me, but I love helping other runners if I can. Someone helped me and Im greatful for that so Im paying it forward. I do belong to one running forum that a friend of mine started. time for a cheap plug... its called there are tons of people there that help me and i try to give advice there when i can.

I thought leaving college and getting job would calm me down. I got a job in construction and worked my butt off. I really liked it. I was getting paid to work out. I started out as a laborer for a masonry company. The money was good but I wanted to be bricklayer, not a laborer, I was determined. I worked fast to get ahead so I would have a little time to watch the bricklayers. I would work with some of them on side jobs after work, for free, as long as they would teach me how lay block and brick. Before I knew it I was the youngest mason at a big company making $25 an hour. I made a lot of great friends. Two of which kept me grounded and out of jail when I would start to get out of control.  Talk about adding fuel to the fire. Now I have tons of cash. I laid off on gambling because I had income. I rented a nice house with 5 other workers so my rent was minimal. We worked 8 hours a day at our regular jobs and made mad money doing side work. The really great workers were sent to do work for the state which was higher pay. I saw plenty of state work. It was awesome.  I have always gotten along with everyone just by being positive and practicing a couple simple rules... Do unto others, which i live by and dont listen to or engage in gossip which can be difficult. Judge a person on how they treat you, not what you have heard about them. You dont know the whole story unless you were there so dont listen to second hand information when it comes judging someones character.

Whats a free spirit with money in his pocket to do... Time to hit the college bars.. every weekend... for the next five years... Everybody knew me, I was the guy would buy 50 shots and just set them on the bar for everyone to take. I have no idea how much money I spent. A lot.. did I mention that I hadnt even turned 21 yet. A lot of the guys I worked construction with during the week were bouncers at the bars on the weekends so that worked out good.  I was determined to be the life of the party. I lived for it. It is not a healthy lifestyle, when it comes down to it, it was a waste of my life. 5 years gone. all a blur. it had to be hard on my body. Do I regret it.. no... would i do it again.. No way, never!  Was I good at it.. I was the best. I think I should have been a club promoter sometimes.

My next blog will be more running based but I will always try to tie in a few stories from my past, its fair to say Ive lead an interesting life. I've flown first class to Las Vegas for free and had everything comped at the casino and the very next week had to pick up co-workers from crack houses becasue they were on 7 day binge and out of money. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The journey started with braces

A 34 year old runner with braces on his teeth, yes that would be me.The former self proclaimed king of partying turned runner. Yes indeed. Its never to late to change. If someone would have  told me 3 years ago I would be running marathons I probably would have told them, "Lets do 15 shots and see who passes out first, what is a marathon, I dont get it, why would someone run that far... wheres the shot glass??"
Did I mention it had been 15 years since I ran even 1 mile. My main goal of this blog would be to show people that its not too late to start running and there is a lot support out there if you need it. It will change your life for the better. If I can run, you can run. Im here to help

The only thing that saved me from 100 percent self destruction was a strong work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit. I was the ultimate weekend warrior when it came partying, I didnt go out for a few.. I went out to see how drunk and how crazy I could get without getting arrested. Monday through Friday - not a drop - but I surely made up for it on the weekends. Fun times I think, I dont remember.

Then one day, out of the blue, I just thought this isnt working for me. I cant keep doing this. I need a drastic change. Im not sure what made me think of my teeth, they were a little crooked but nothing drastic (i thought) no cavities, but could use some straightening. Long story short, I went to the orthodontist about 30 pounds overweight and over the time span of 2 weeks had braces on my teeth and a plate on the roof of my mouth to fix the major problems i didnt know I had. Now I am unable to eat anything that had to be chewed, no chewing for at least 4 months, do you know what foods need chewing... pretty much all of the good ones except oatmeal and yogurt.

Big decision to make now, do I pity myself and eat all junk or do I try to do the right thing and eat things that taste good out of blender and are good for me, which happen to be mostly fruit and protein drinks. Could have easily went back into party mode, it would have been a pity party for myself. I had to keep in my mind that I was trying to change my ways. Time to get healthy.

I go crazy sitting around. So here I am, basically turned vegetarian overnight because steak just doenst taste the same out of blender..  talking funny because of all these dental devices in my mouth and done going out partying. I did feel better, no more hangovers and the weight was falling off, I was almost too skinny, but I liked the way I felt.
Maybe it was boredom, Im still not sure. Maybe it was because I talked so funny and was trying to avoid people,  but I just went for a run one night in January just over two years ago. I couldnt run a mile, but I kept trying. My neighbor who happens to be a marathoner saw me about 3 weeks into my running. He asked how far I could run and I told him I could finally make it around the block which was 1.8 miles. He told me the best advice anyone could give a new runner... SLOW DOWN... within a few weeks I was up to 3.5 miles which is the distance to entry way of our neighborhood and back. I became obsessed with improving my time to the entrance and back. every night i would run it. In my mind 3.5 miles was the most i could run because i still wasnt fully understanding SLOW DOWN. My neighbor stopped me again weeks later "Slow Down! I mean it this time! you can easily run a lot farther if you would slow down"
Ok I thought I will run slower and see how this goes... so now Im obsessed with distance, I remember my first 5 mile run. What a great feeling! 5 miles... I need to run more... I will run my fast 3.6 one night a week and run slow the rest.  I was doing speed work and I didn't even know it. I still didnt know how far a 5k was. I thought it was 3.6 instead of 3.1 for the longest time. I didnt know anything about running except that I was slowly learning how to do it right. I should have bought a runners world or asked my neighbor more, but I didnt. The next time I talked to him about running which was months later he asked me how long it took me to run to the entrance and back. I told him 25 minutes. 25 mintues roughly.. He told me to enter a race and thats when things really started changing, but thats for next blog......