Push

A gentle breeze blew through the humid Florida night. Far above my head the stars burned hard against the black sky, only outshined by the dim streetlights of these sleepy midnight streets. Warm darkness welcomed me like the old friend it is as I started the C25K app on my phone and pushed play to begin the music. For 5 minutes I would walk and reflect on what I had done so far and what I was about to do… and what I would have to do later. Tonight was going to be something special. I walked and waited for the signal to run. There are two meteor showers overlapping tonight. Not kidding.

The chime rang out and my body found momentum. 3 minutes. I’ll make it to the stop sign. I know I will. Watch your shadow. Are you running right? Shoulders back, chin up, straighten your posture, don’t swing your arms too much. Now I’m too far into my own head. I need to get my mind off it and let my body do what it already knows how to do. Dammit, Jim, you’re a runner not a scientist! And your name isn’t Jim! This interval is easy… but it’s not smooth. Wait… it is easy, isn’t it? Check your breathing…. shouldn’t you be breathing harder? *exhales* Push. *mind taps body on shoulder* Hey, pal, you just passed the stop sign. A smile breaks across my face. DING! Walk.

What the hell was that? You didn’t even have any Wheaties today! Mainly because they’re gross, but that’s not the point! What has gotten into you? The music isn’t even all that motivating. Are you getting stronger already? You’re not even through the program yet! Keep your head, man, you’re heading for disaster. In 60 seconds you’re gonna be running again. Be cool. Don’t take yourself out of the game when you’ve come this far. Walk… breathe… walk…. breathe. Oh, hey it’s that techno song you put in your list that has never played since the beginning of the C25K program. Weird. Why did you even put this on here? You don’t like techno. DING! Run.

You’re charging out again, knucklehead, dial it back a little. This is 5 minutes, not 3. Don’t burn out. Just keep running. Just keep breathing. This song is starting to build up a little. What is this? *checks phone* Darude – “Sandstorm”. Oh, yeah. You read about that on the forums, that’s why you put it on there. Well, it seems to have a pretty good beat, let it go. *music builds and builds and builds* Uh oh. 2:46 in the song hits and, in an instant, two meteors streak across the sky, one after the other as if they’re chasing each other. Awe strikes like a sledgehammer and as I’m in disbelief… BOOM! Adrenaline explodes through my veins like nitrous oxide. Momentum becomes force. Shoulders forward, head down… this is serious business. My brain screams, “You’re committing suicide!” I retort, “Whatever, bitch, you don’t know me!” If it wouldn’t have thrown off my balance, I might have put a finger snap and a head swivel in there all ghetto style. The music slowed about a minute ago, but you’re still going strong. You’re breathing heavy now and the music is building back up! Quick diagnostic. No pain. No burn in the lungs. Your shins and knees feel brand new. To hell with it…. (5:01 in the song blasts out) PUSH! You know, for someone who doesn’t like techno, you’re sure enjoying the hell out of this! DING! Walk.

The song softens and plays out as my pulse drops and my breathing returns to normal. This night is unreal. How the hell are you doing this, Kevin? How? You’re not ready…. but here you are doing it. You might pay for this. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but soon and for the rest of your life! *raises eyebrow* “Mr. Bogart, please leave. This is about me, not you. Jeez!” What a douche. Anyway, I feel fine. I think this is where I should be. Hell, next week is gonna bring a 20 minute run, but I shouldn’t try hard today on the last session of this week? Buuuulllshit! DING! Holy crap, that went by fast!

This time the song playing didn’t mean much. Don’t even remember what it was, but the adrenaline came rushing right back. I realize that, by now, my shoulders should be burning. My chest should be on fire! But they’re not. In fact, I almost don’t feel like I’m running too hard at all. Next week you’re going from 5 minute runs to a 20 minute run in 3 days. You think you can do that? You better prove it! *salutes* Yes, sir! PUSH! Wait… did you just run over the canal bridge? Holy crap, you just passed the canal and you’re still running! And you still have like 30 seconds! Have people been giving you steroids in your sleep?! DING! Walk.

Hmmm. Maybe you’re the Terminator and no one ever told you about it. You’ve got one more 5 minute run and you’re doing better than you thought you could this week. What do you say? Go for broke? It has been fun but this could get you in trouble. You might feel great right now. Then again… you do have a two day break after this. You know how to tend to minor injuries. Roll the dice. Roll the dice. Roll the dice. DING! (“Run” by Gnarls Barkley starts immediately after the chime. Out loud, I actually say, “Hahaha, are you serious?!”) Hasta la vista, honkee!

5 minutes…. 5 minutes and you will reach a level of pride you haven’t known for a while. Wait a minute… am I schizophrenic? What is this other voice I’ve been having a back and forth with the whole time? *this is where I start taking some creative license* Myself 10 years ago steps out before me, glowing blue and dressed in a Jedi robe (haha) and, I must say, what a sexy devil. “You’ve been on the dark side too long. You’ve been lazy. You’ve messed things up. You’ve hurt people you didn’t want to hurt. You’re ashamed of yourself and you’re not proud of what you have become, but make no mistake… you’re not running from anything, you’re running toward it. After all, running away means you want to forget. Running forward means you’re thirsty for redemption. Well, these are your first steps. You’re not crazy. Well… no crazier than you always have been. But you cut me out of your life a long time ago and I think it’s time that we forgive each other and join forces again. Prove your worth. Prove that you can. I’ll be waiting. Now, Kevin? …. PUSH!” It’s harder to run with a lump in your throat. DING! “WOOOOOOOOOHAHAHAAA!!!” *dogs bark in the back yard of the house I’m now walking past* Oh, oops. *whistles and walks briskly away*

What on earth? Really? It’s just a run. I just went out for a run. Now I feel like I’ve been on a journey! Perfectly timed and powerful music? Meteors on cue? Introspection? Tenacity that would make a pit bull’s jaws seem weak? *exhale* Son of a bitch. That was intense.

Any beginners who read this blog, please, PLEASE understand that tonight was about… something else… and I do not advise pushing like that. I may still pay for it, but apparently I needed it because I had NO control over it at all. It just happened… and I’m glad it did. I hope it happens again.

As you can probably tell, tonight was pretty easy on the running front. I am a little surprised, but I guess it makes sense. The first week was about proving I could get out there and try. The two weeks after were spent finding my groove. This week was about overcoming harder runs until tonight. Tonight was just nuts!

Now I’ve had time to shower, eat some ziti and make myself a nice cocktail. After all… I earned it tonight. For those of you wondering, the adrenaline fueled frenzy of self-discovery earned me an extra 0.6 miles putting me at 2.1 miles for the session (not including the warm up and cool down walks). I uh…. I think my 30 minute runs can cover that extra mile. haha. I guess we’ll see, though. I could be wrong. I wish I hadn’t left my Nike+ in St. Louis or I’d have a better idea of my running pace right now. I’d especially like to know what tonight’s pace was like.

I’m sure this post probably tells a story of a madman gone madder, but this one is for me so I don’t care. haha.

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Under Cover of Night

Tonight I thought I would be lucky enough to run in a nice warm rain because it had been raining most of the day, but, as usual, the weather forecast was effin’ wrong and it stopped around 10:00 this evening. I guess I shouldn’t complain, though, because all that rain cooled the air considerably and the humidity took a dip as well. This was the most comfortable running weather I’ve experienced in weeks. I also shouldn’t complain because I do prefer running at night and, if the weather was cold, I’d have to run while the sun was up. I’m sure this winter will include some afternoon runs. BOO! HISS! GET A HAIRCUT!. No, wait… that’s what people scream at me. Anyway… if I could run with nothing but moonlight, I’d be one happy guy. I’m looking forward to finding all the night races I can. But, I’m not a vampire or anything. Hell, I don’t usually even like vampire movies. And the light of day does provide some beautiful views so I’m not against it or anything. haha. For example… Ireland. Pretty and green. At night… looks just like New Jersey… uh… at night. Dark.

I’m going to cut that short before I take you too far down the path of nonsense my brain is capable of laying out and get on with the show.

Week 4, Day 2 was challenging enough to keep me pushing, but easy enough to give me time to reflect on my progress and the running I’ve done in the past. As the longer runs went into the later minutes, all I could think about was that I’ve run two miles in less than 15 minutes before. That I’ve run a 5K in under 30 minutes and that was only a year ago. My mind always tends to go there when I start really “feeling it”. What I find most interesting about this is that my mind delivers these sentiments with a heavy amount of sarcasm. My mind says to my body, “I can do this, why can’t you? Ohhh, yeah. You got fat and slow. Well, I’m still thin and quick, tubby, so catch up!” Usually it’s others who get the wrath of my sarcastic nature, so it’s odd to be on the receiving end of it. I may end up having to kick my own ass if I can’t learn some damn respect! 🙂

What I love about this program is that it really does erase all doubt as you move on. Last week I thought these 5 minute runs were gonna end me. This week I’m sweating everything about Week 5! And for good reason. That week is the turning point. From 5 minute runs to a 20 minute run in 3 days. The difference between me now and me on W1D1 of this program is… determination. At first I was just hoping I could get through each day. Now I’m at the point where I refuse to give up. So, no matter what the remaining 5 weeks bring my way, I am going to complete each and every session. This is the attitude I had all my life and only lost gradually in the past 5 years after being beaten down by life and weight gain and generally bad mental and physical health. Each day I complete brings back another piece of the person I was. The person I know I should be. Let’s just hope I haven’t forgotten how to stay humble haha. I don’t wanna be a cocky prick. Well… no more than I am now.

I am looking forward to finally being conditioned enough to start working on speed. I have no idea what my pace is right now and that’s intentional. I don’t want to focus on how fast I am right now. I want to focus on being able to run for a certain distance or certain amount of time. I don’t care about the distance in a certain time. Not right now. Would I like to do another sub-30 5K again this time around? Sure. Do I think I will? Probably not. And I’m fine with that. But that 5K isn’t the end of the line. I’d like to run a 1:45-ish half-marathon in March. I understand how hard I’ll have to work for that, but it’s what I want and I’m sick to death of not having the things I want haha.

I should probably stop now. I can tell this entry is a bit convoluted. I’m all over the place. Just too much going through my mind tonight. And I haven’t showered yet so… that probably has something to do with it. Gonna go de-funk myself and relax.

Pushing Through

Today was Week 4, Day 1 of the C25K program. This is the week that defeated me the last time I attempted it. The only one I had to repeat. BUT! Last time I did not finish Day 1 on my first try and this time I kicked it’s ass! Not that it didn’t get a few good shots in. There were definitely times when I wished I could stop running, but I refused to let that happen. This week feels a lot like last week. Last week the 90 second runs were easy and the 3 minute runs were hard. This time the 3 minute runs were a breeze but the last 2 minutes of the 5 minute runs were a bit of a struggle. Again, not to the point that I felt that I should stop, but enough to make me wish I was only doing the 3 minute runs haha. I am mindful of the fact that last time I had to repeat the week so I’m going to wait until I finish Day 3 to see how I feel about progressing without repeating.

Since the 4th of July knee tragedy, my right leg (mainly the shin) has been aching a bit immediately after my runs. Usually everything was fine within an hour or so. If not, I’d just give it a little TLC and it’d be fine. This time there is no aching despite the hardest workout so far in this program. I’m glad to see that the conditioning aspect of C25K is taking hold and that the damage to my knee is healed up. That makes me a lot more optimistic about the rest of this program and beyond. The only thing that made me uncomfortable about this run was that I foolishly ate a bunch of jalapeño poppers earlier today for lunch. I love them, but that was not a good idea to eat on a run day. Let’s just say they attributed to some dehydration which made me feel a little overheated at the end of tonight’s run. I’m all nice and hydrated now, though, so it’s fine.

I do hate my diet right now, but I have no choice over the food I eat. That might sound strange, but, as I’ve mentioned before, I am unemployed. I have to eat whatever is available and I try to keep away from what my wonderful hosts consider their favorite foods. That’s just courtesy. I’m not happy about being at the mercy of others and I keep trying to tell myself that this is temporary and I’ll be back on my feet pretty soon, but right now it’s pretty hard to swallow and it is affecting my physical and mental health. Some good news on that front, though. Today I received a promising e-mail from a temp agency that has been doing their best to find me work. Port Charlotte, Florida is not a big place and, therefor, not a lot of jobs. Since my car was stolen in St. Louis this past New Year’s Eve, the job search in Florida has not been easy. I’ve been here since May with no leads despite hundreds of résumés and applications circulating. If it wasn’t for running, I probably wouldn’t be dealing with all of this as well as I am. I am thankful that I have the ability to do something positive during this crappy period of my life. Anyway, I cannot wait until I have money coming in so that I can afford healthy foods and so that I can get another damn car. My goal is to get everything sorted out and move up to Tampa which is where all my friends are.

Enough with the sob story! Despite all of that I am actually in pretty damn good spirits. I am more excited to run the 5K on my birthday weekend than I have been since I started running again. No matter what life brings me in the coming year or so, I am not going to stop running. I am going to run that marathon in 2013 and then start running marathons all over the world! What could be better than running and traveling? haha. I’ve been all over anyway, but this time I think I’ll enjoy it more somehow. I can’t wait to get back to England and see all the friends I miss. It’s all just a matter of time.

Relax

… don’t do it! When you wanna go to it!

*cough*

Hello, there! I’m in a pretty good mood. Not for any real reason and it might have something to do with the Baccardi in this orange juice, but I killed Week 3 tonight and I felt I deserved a celebratory cocktail. Nice and relaxed now. I’m always very relaxed after a good workout and a hot shower, but the cherry on top tonight is a very welcome addition.

This run was one of those runs that beginners need to know about. The lack of running groove. Basically, you start running and your body doesn’t slip into running mode. It’s not exactly that every step feels labored, but you definitely don’t feel natural while you’re doing it. Sometimes this will happen and it will go away in a minute or so or after your first interval, but sometimes it can last for the entire session. It’s not that your body is in trouble and it’s trying to tell you to stop or anything that drastic. I honestly believe it’s what happens when you sneak up on a run haha. That’s exactly what I did tonight. I was just sitting here waiting for run time and then, out of the blue, I just decided to get up and do it. I was out there running within a few minutes of the decision. I didn’t give my mind time to catch up with the fact that I wanted my body to do something else. Anyway, this is going to happen to you. As long as it doesn’t hurt, keep going. It will subside and, even if it doesn’t, it will give you the progress you need. Not every run will feel good. Just push through the bad ones and the good ones will feel so much better.

My shins and calves were aching pretty good after this one and I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve only been back inside for a little over an hour and I feel fine. Just dull echoes where the pain was. I stretched out the affected areas, massaged them and then took a hot shower. Seems to do the trick. Keep in mind that when you graduate this program and go on to much longer runs, hot showers are not the answer. You’ll want to consider ice baths. Don’t worry, you get used to them.

That’s about it for now. Gonna go finish my drink.

Heat

As I walked out the door tonight I was hit in the face by a wall of 85 F (30 C) degree air as thick as swamp water. I’ve run in worse, though it was enough to make me balk a little. But… the run had to happen and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like nature get in my way. I jammed my headphones in my ears and started my warm up walk. I was feeling pretty good despite the conditions. I knew it was gonna be a good one.

The first few run intervals were almost too easy. I thought that maybe I should push harder, but the reason I waited until this evening to run was that I had some mild shin pain this morning and I decided to wait until tonight so I could massage it and ice it and get it to optimal condition before I ran. The pain was gone by mid-afternoon, but I wasn’t about to push hard enough to bring it hurtling right back. I just kept a comfortable pace and trucked on through. It wasn’t until the final minute of the last run interval (3 minutes) that I started to really feel fatigue and the effects of the heat. I don’t really even know if it was fatigue. It may have been the thick air and heat I was thinking about psyching me out. I’ll have to remember to keep my mind off that next time. it did feel a bit harder to breathe at the end, though, and I think that’s what caused it to feel difficult. I still pushed through because I knew I wasn’t trying to do anything I wasn’t capable of.

It was tonight that I realized that if I’m going to run a marathon after letting myself get so incredibly out of shape, I’m going to have to bring back a mindset that I haven’t been familiar with in a long, long time. I’m going to have to be able to push myself without thinking too much about it while also being mindful of what my body is telling me so I don’t end up hurting myself. It’s a tough balance to achieve, but it does get easier with experience and conditioning, both mental and physical. Apparently, my body isn’t the only thing that needs exercise. Tonight, instead of saying to myself “You can do this”, I adopted an attitude of “It’s ridiculous to think that you’re not capable of doing this.” I know it doesn’t sound like there’s much of a difference, but it really is coming at things from the other side of the difficulty. I remember that mindset from all the years I did run and workout and it’s nice to feel it again. I know I’m stronger already.

Tonight made me feel like I’m locked in and ready for this long haul. Tonight felt like the true beginning. I’m going to run that damn marathon and I’m going to do it in under 4 hours and that’s that. Bring it on you 26 mile bitch!

Week 3

Week 3 of the C25K program, that is. I started it yesterday morning. I know I didn’t make an update for the last day of Week 2 so if you’re on the edge of your seat wondering how it went… it was fine haha. Really nothing to report at all. But yesterday was great! Week 3 is finally giving me a little taste of what I’ve been wanting to get back to with running. I know it sounds silly, but a 3 minute run isn’t all that easy if you’re out of shape, so being able to do it when you know you couldn’t have done it a few weeks ago does wonders for the ego. What? You don’t have an ego? Well, you’re gonna need one if you’re serious about wanting to run! 😉

Yeah, I’ve still got a very long way to go and the clock is ticking, but I’m on track and I’m mentally ready to graduate this program. Now it’s all just a matter of getting my body ready, too! At the very least, I’m itching to hit the last few weeks of the program with the non-stop runs. I cannot wait to run the 5K race in September and the half marathon in March. I wish I could tell you that I was anxious to run a marathon, but it’s still a bit frightening to me. I love the idea of it, but I think it would be insane of me to not be intimidated right now when I can’t even run a 5K distance. And, of course, I’ve set my marathon goal to be less than 4 hours, so that’s gonna be rough. It’s one of the reasons I’ve given myself until January of 2013 to try it.

All I can say is that if you’re a beginner and you feel like you want to stop running but you’re not feeling any real pain, don’t stop before it’s time. That’s assuming you’re using an interval plan like I am. Yesterday’s run made me want to stop twice. Both times at about the 2 minute mark of the 3 minute runs. I pushed through and I felt like a million bucks when it was all done.

Now, only you can decide what “real pain” is, but just being tired isn’t it. You will definitely know it when it comes and you’ll never make progress if you don’t push. Granted, I’m not saying you should keep going if you feel like you’re going to black out, but you have to break your mind’s control over your body. Your subconscious is just as unsure of what you’re doing as you are, if not more. It has no idea what the hell you’re trying to do and it wants to sit on the couch watching The Simpsons. Make your mind love this as much as you want to. Give it rewards by finishing what you start. Once it realizes that there is something more to this than just pain and hard work, it’ll take you to levels you never thought you’d achieve. Trust me, you’ll get a taste of that when you can run 3.1 miles without stopping.

Alright, I’m tired of typing. Tune in tomorrow!

Back In The Saddle!

Alright, I’m right back where I should be. Thinking back to my run on Tuesday after a two week break, I really thought this entire week was going to be a struggle. I was blissfully wrong. Tonight was a breeze! That is to say, I didn’t feel like I was going to quit at any point. It’s easy to look back on a run and say “Man, that was too easy” but the reality is that the run was a challenge. Not too much of a challenge, mind you. Just enough of a challenge to let me know that I’m still doing the right amount of work. I still feel great, though, and that’s the important part. Running is so addicting. I’m still riding on the buzz and I’ve been resting for over an hour. It just makes me want to become the ultimate health machine!

Now… I run with music. Yes, that’s right. I’m an irresponsible asshole who will endanger all the other people out there between the hours of midnight and dawn in this sleepy residential neighborhood. Cars knocked over, little old ladies frightened, strollers crashing and babies on fire everywhere! I AM A TERRIBLE PERSON! So… that being said, sometimes when the right song comes on and your adrenaline is involuntarily affected, you get a feeling like you’re a locomotive charging through the night heading right for a car on the tracks. Unstoppable. Sure, you’re just some jerk running through a deed restricted community and you might die if you hit a crack in the sidewalk the wrong way, but the fantasy while you’re running is nice. Some people say “I don’t need to put myself in another place mentally in order to run” as if to say that they’re better than those who listen to music or silently repeat a mantra to help push that extra mile. I say that life is worth living and you should be able to do whatever the hell you want so long as you’re not hurting anyone else. If you hurt yourself, that’s on you. So get out there and do whatever it takes to get your feet moving. I don’t care if you need to wear a tutu and no shirt while calling Marine Corps cadence on your runs. If that’s what you need to do… do it. The important part is that you are doing it! Funny how pretentious ass-hats can, and will, make you doubt that. Don’t let them. Tell them to go fuck themselves if it makes you feel better. After all, running is about you and if they make you doubt that, then their focus isn’t where it should be.

On a different note, I have been really abusing my Netflix account lately. I don’t really do TV, but there are certain shows I like and Netflix has a lot of them. Between that and Hulu, I’m pretty much set. Anyway, Netflix does give me access to stuff I wouldn’t normally think about watching and I’ve found some real gems lately. I’m not your activist hippie type person, but I do believe that big business and lobbyists in Washington are pretty much running the show. I’m not into partisan politics, so I don’t really support any party. I support people with the right ideas regardless of who’s backing them. I went on that little rant so that you know I’m not some eco-friendly, tree-hugging, anti-establishment, hyphen-loving kook when I suggest you watch “Food, Inc”. It’s a documentary on the food industry designed to inform people about the greed and the processing practices involved with bringing food from the farms to your table. There was a part about using ammonia to cleanse filler meat that is used in your pre-formed hamburger patties. So… you’re eating ammonia. Not cool! And isn’t what we’re doing here all about health anyway?

I’m starting to realize that the raw food types aren’t crazy. It’s actually quite logical. Now… keep an open mind when you watch this stuff. It’s easy to get sucked in to propaganda. Just make your information sources vast and learn to read between the lines. For example, while raw foodists are healthier than the McDonald’s lovers, they suffer vitamin and nutrient deficiencies 9 times out of 10. Meat isn’t necessarily important, but it’s not evil either. And cooking your food can actually help make certain foods better for you. It’s all about educating yourself. There’s also nothing that says you can’t have pizza and hot wings and all that jazz a few times a week. Anything is fine in moderation. The human body is amazingly resilient and we’re programmed to think a certain way about it. Did you know that the human body is capable of living on NO food for extended periods of time without doing any damage to your organs or muscle tissue? If it wasn’t, mankind wouldn’t have made it past the stone age. Winters would have starved us into extinction. I’m not recommending that you stop eating (without first consulting a physician) but unlearning what you know about your body’s limits and “healthy dieting” could make a huge difference in your overall health. I’m not trying to sell you on anything. I’m just asking you to gather information on your own and make your own conclusions. No one is hiding it from you. Well, that’s not true, the food industry IS, but the information is out there so go find it haha.

Oh, by the way, I tend to use bad language when I feel it’s appropriate. Sorry I didn’t put a disclaimer out there, but now you know. 😉

Until next time…