Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I took my first short run on my new shoes, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 10. The original pair, which were black, were sent back because they were too small and I didn't want to wait until March 15 to get a new pair so I went with the shitty white version. It's a little known fact that black shoes make you run faster, can fight off wild animals, and attract a better class of women than white shoes. Fucked again, right from the start. What I liked about the shoes in the shop and on my short test spin were that they hugged my arch/heel very well and that they were a bit stiffer so that my ankle didn't roll inside them. I've been running pain free for the last 2 weeks; no pain in the area of my stress fracture, minimal achilles discomfort, and no knee pain whatsoever. After a long warm up and a quarter mile at my normal pace I started to feel some discomfort in my ankles and heel and I had the sensation that I was striking with my heel far more than I had in my Saucony's. I also noticed that the toe box seemed a little bit too roomy and felt my forefoot sliding around a bit. I tried tightening down the laces and this only put lace pressure on the top of my foot. FUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKK!!!

I guess I'll go back to the drawing board and try another pair of shoes. I can always go back to the Saucony's, maybe trying a different model that has a little bit less cushion/motion control. I should really just fuck it and buy trail shoes. My desire to run on the road grows less and less every day. When I'm out I don't want to see or hear anyone. No people, no cars, no fucking horses. I'm finally learning the difference between living a solitary versus a life of isolation. Solitude is a necessity for me to keep myself balanced and sane, isolated is what I am when the wolves come calling. Pretty fucking retarded for a guy that hasn't run more than a 1/2 mile on a trail since he was 15. I'll learn.

Speaking of running trails...I'm thinking of entering The North Face Challenge in Bear Mountain, New York. I'd originally considered running the 5 or 10k but I think I'll have enough time to prepare for the Half. Two things will fuck up that plan; the short training period and the pretty technical terrain. Apparently Bear Mountain is pretty rocky/crusty and I've read that many of the hills are straight climbs rather than switchbacks. I'll see how I feel by the end of the week and then decide. It would be pretty cool to run Bear Mountain because it's the place I learned to ski when I was 3 or 4 years old. Again coming full circle, whether it's Philadelphia or Bear Mountain. Maybe there are no coincidences.

It's 6:00 Tuesday and I just got up. There's a coating of snow on the ground that's covering the mud and dirty ice of the last week or so. So how do my feet/legs feel after yesterdays new shoe adventure? Not so good. I feel like a I spent yesterday long jumping onto my heels on concrete. I guess I have no idea how to pick a fucking shoe. It should be fairly simple.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I started writing this not to catalog the monotonous and tedious minutiae of my day. That's what Twitter is for. I did it to talk about my battle against the nightmare factory. The problem with this is that I have a very difficult time writing when I'm feeling better. I can't find the right words and I don't have any idea how to translate what I feel to the keyboard. I've crawled through every corner of misery writing "Pulling Scars From The Night Time Sky". I know psychic pain and disappointment so well that I wear it as skin. This feeling well, this not hating myself every waking moment is new. I have no lexicon to draw from to describe this new world and no true frame of reference. I hope I can learn.

Drink Deep

"Drink deep, it's just a taste
And it might not come this way again
I believe in moments, transparent moments
Moments in grace
When you've got to stake your faith..."

Rites Of Spring (Summer 1996)



It seems a strange thing to say but the (undiagnosed at the time) tibial stress fracture that I acquired the week before the Philly Half may have been one of the best things that has happened to me as a runner. Prior to that I was always a nervous wreck about my joints, obsessed with what surfaces I ran on, obsessed with keeping a very slow pace; I ran in constant fear. Then the fracture happened; the limping, the anxiety, the constant doubt. I didn't complete my last 3 training runs. The night before I was in such excruciating pain that I didn't even want to walk to the start from South Philly. When I got up to the Art Museum at 4:30 that morning I decided that I would run until I blew up. I didn't know if I'd make it the first hundred yards, the first few miles, or cross the finish line. It was only after the first quarter mile that I knew I'd finish. The weather was perfect, the road so much smoother than what I had trained on, and the pain of the last week disappeared, at least for the first 7 miles. I was too excited/stubborn to realize that the pain below my knee wasn't typical runners pain and I finished. It wasn't until 3 weeks later that the stress fracture was finally diagnosed. I'm not sure I would have run if I'd known about it but in hindsight it taught me a huge lesson. NEVER, EVER RUN IN FEAR. NEVER.

"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power
we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all
because we never pushed through the obstruction."
William James

After spending the next 5 weeks recuperating I started to run again, but I began running differently than I had before. I ran 13.1 miles on an injured leg. I accomplished my mission and finished much faster than I thought I would. Finishing in spite of my fucked up leg freed me from the ever looming ghost of failure. In recent weeks my mind has been pretty clear as I hit the road. I concentrate on my breathing, imagine myself running a marathon, a 50k, a 50 miler. I think about how peaceful it is out on that dirt road and how much I love the cold weather. What I don't think about is more important than what I do. I don't pass my time reliving the failure of my marriage. I don't pass my minutes punishing myself for wasted potential. I don't question every little passing discomfort. I don't even look at my watch other than to mark the beginning and end of my run. I find myself not having to use the mental tricks that I used to get through the months leading up to Philadelphia.

One of the most important things Philadelphia taught me was to not let the watch control my pace or dictate the way I feel about a run. When I was training I figured I wouldn't be completely embarrassed if I could run anything under 12 minute miles. I'd never run faster than an 11:30 mile training and was stunned when I ran 10:30/Mile and a 9:00 last mile in Philly. Now I know that there are people that walk faster than I run but hey, shut it, I'm old and broken. What's surprised me recently is that I've stopped thinking about whether I'm running too fast or too slow and I'm just running. I'm just running. So fucking simple and so fucking complicated. What I'm finding now that I'm more at peace is that I'm running 9:30 miles as my natural pace. No push/pull and no quick glances at the watch. Start watch. Run. Stop watch. Think less. Feel more. So fucking simple.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

FEBRUARY 6, 2010

It was 17 fucking degrees when I started this morning and the sky was gun metal grey. It was my first run outside since the end of November and the first since I'd fucked up my achilles a week and a half ago. Having never run in weather this cold I wasn't sure how many layers I should wear so I went with 3 layers up top and a pair of Under Armour compression tights and shorts on the bottom. Upper body: perfect. Lower body: not so much. I'm pretty sure I may never be able to feel my balls again but it was totally worth it. I run a much slower pace on the treadmill and it seems to hurt my achilles and knees more than running outside. It's counter-intuitive but this reverse logic has defined my life. A Jeff Galloway article about running in the cold suggested walking for 5 minutes, then doing 1 minute of jogging/1 minute walking for 5 minutes, and the jogging/walking in a 2:1 ratio for 5 more minutes and then start your run. It seemed to work pretty well this morning, despite the freezing cold balls, and I could feel all of the anxiety, tension, and doubt of the last few weeks falling away. I'm constantly afraid of losing my job, afraid that some other piece of my broken body will fail me, and afraid that the relative peace and stability of the last 8 or 9 months will collapse upon me. This morning that all went away. It was me and some ice fishermen out over the Reservoir purging demons in our own very private ways.

When I first started doing this I didn't really care what the setting was; shitty treadmill, shittier highway, or fairly isolated dirt road. As long as I was putting one foot in front of the other nothing else really mattered. It's possible that it didn't matter because I was more focused on completing the mission (finishing Philly) than worrying about how I got there. That approach also assumed that running would never be anything more than a punishment, another means to the same end I've tried to reach for the last decade. If it were only meant to hurt, to build while breaking, then it wouldn't really matter where the fuck I ran so long as it was painful and fulfilled the prescribed amount of miles on my training plan. But that changed, and it changed rapidly. It became more important to escape the treadmill, more important to run during the isolated and isolating early hours of the day, and far more important to be surrounded by water, trees, and very little traffic. Reservoir Road did that for me. 1.6 miles out, 1.6 miles back. Back and forth, again and again. I knew exactly where the pavement started and stopped, knew where the edges of the road canted downhill, knew every step of every hill. All of it began to matter. It mattered in the heat of the late summer, mattered when the leaves began to turn, and mattered most when the temperature hung just above freezing on my last handful of long runs.

I suppose even more has changed since I ran Philly. I'm feeling more at peace, I'm not missing Manhattan in quite the same painful way that I have for the last 6 years, and I'm actually starting to appreciate being outside. I know how funny that may seem but I have spent most of my adult life indoors. I hate the heat of the summer time and have always welcomed the cold grey of winter. I think I've always loved the wintertime at least in part because it didn't make me feel as guilty about wanting to pull down the shades and go to sleep during the day as a warm sunny day would. When the glacial depression hits I want nothing more than to disappear and the healthiest way I know to do that to force myself to sleep. This feeling is, however slowly, fading from my life. I'll still whine about the heat and humidity of July and August but this time I'll use them as motivators, just as I've used the cold and rain to motivate me. There's something about stepping out of the nice warm car into the pouring fucking rain and wind that makes me feel like the animal that I fundamentally am. It makes me feel alive. Any run feels better than not running but the days when mother nature is uncooperative make me feel more alive. I suppose this relates to the endless conversation that my shrink and I have had over the last few years. It usually goes like this...

"Todd, you don't always have to live at the extremes. There's a middle ground that you've never experienced. It doesn't have to be right in the middle, just not something that puts you at risk".

"I understand that Susan, but this is all I know. If I'm not over stimulated I don't feel anything at all and I'd rather suffer the repercussions of a life off the rails than not feel anything at all".

So the cold, rain, wind, distance, heat, etc. make me feel more alive and make me feel more alive in ways far more healthy than ways I have sought out in the past.

Jesus Christ, did I get sidetracked. What I was getting at is that I think I want to run even further away from people than I already do, both literally and figuratively. I'd like to find some trails and am thinking about running a 10k trail run at Bear Mountain in New York. The idea of not seeing another soul while I'm out, of not thinking about cars and traffic, makes me pretty happy. As soon as my achilles stops gnawing at me I think I'll head deeper into the woods (note to self: you do NOT need new shoes for running trails. You're not an ultramarathoner, not running Pikes Peak, not running the Vermont 100. Really, you don't so just stop it).

FEBRUARY 7, 2010

So I went out on a recon mission this morning and found a few trail possibilities. The first is a rail trail on fancy Ridgefield, CT. It's 5 miles out and back run with mile markers. Not exactly trail but at least I don't have to worry about getting run over. Another option is a tangle of dirt roads in the Ridgefield farm country. There are some huge fucking hills but for the most part it's still pretty smooth. It's similar to where I did my training but the scenery is much nicer. There are MASSIVE horse farms, beautiful fields, and beautiful old houses. My last option is to run behind the horse farm next door to where I live. I've been told that there are horse trails that run all through the woods behind me. Most of them are supposed to be somewhat overgrown but I can stomp my way through.

"Poetry, music, forests, oceans, solitude-they were what developed enormous spiritual strength. I came to realize spirit, as much or more than physical conditioning, had to be stored up before a race".
Herb Elliott Olympic Champion/Poet