MAY 30, 2010
Apparently falling down in the woods will not be an isolated incident. I wasn't gonna run today because my right calf is completely locked up from playing in Manhattan on Saturday but I iced and Ibuprofen'd and decided to give it a whirl. I was motoring along when I kicked a stump. As I kicked it I thought 'wow, the Montrail's sure do offer better protection in the toe than the Cascadias...'. and before the thought was even finished I was laying on the ground (again) and checking for blood/bones but found nothing but mud. I was a little bit bummed about missing my weekend long run, especially as a result of another bullshit fucking show with the band. It's not that I hate the actually playing so much (but I kind of do), it's the stage fright that seems to be getting worse rather than better, and the pressure to make sure I get everyone home in one piece. It didn't help that it was Memorial Day Weekend and the traffic was ridiculous. It took us almost 40 minutes to get through the Holland Tunnel and once in Manhattan the traffic was equally as shitty. It's always the same. We get to the club we unload the shit we loaded in 2 hours earlier, then wait for hours to play while trying to find a place to use the bathroom/get something decent to eat/try not to throw up from the escalating stage fright, play for 40 minutes, load the gear out, drive back to Philly, unload the gear into the rehearsal room and then drive back to NY.
It never fails that by the time we finally do hit the stage I'm already exhausted from the load in/load out/drive/wait. Even though I've been running a fair amount recently, nothing I've ever done is more strenuous and challenging than playing a 40 minute set with Starkweather. When I describe it to the shrink what it feels like I use words like grenade, exorcism, and bloodletting. It's a difficult thing to describe. Imagine starting a stopwatch and spinning around, hyperventilating, fighting off dehydration and exhaustion and then stop all of this when the watch hits 40 minutes.
It would be amazing if there were something transformative or cathartic about it but there isn't. The only relief is in the fact that it's over and the knowledge that I've left everything I have on the stage in footprints, spit, and sweat. Running through pain and exhaustion can be a very powerful experience. I learn about finding my limits and then pushing past them. I sometimes, on the luckiest days, find a sense of inner peace that I've never experienced, and even on a bad day I have the satisfaction of completing my mission. I don't know that I've ever learned anything from playing shows other than the pride of meeting our obligations and the satisfaction of completely depleting myself mentally and physically for our music. There are no epiphanies for me onstage, no insight into who or what I am, and no drug like wash of endorphins. It's a struggle with nothing gained mentally, physically, or spiritually when it's done.
JUNE 2, 2010
I fell in the woods again. This time I had an audience. I was running, she was walking her dogs. I looked at her, looked at her dogs, and proceeded to fall in front of her. I assured her that I fall at least once per run and I went on my way. Do I need to wear a fucking helmet? Anywhoo, back to the run. I needed to put in a good 4 miles to make up for missing my long run over the weekend so I did the pond loop coupled with the bridge loop. The back side of the pond really is a pretty fucking rocky, rooty, overgrown area and not really part of the Bennett's Pond trail system. I ran as much as I could without splitting my head open (about 75%) and practiced my hiking on the rest. All in all it was a pretty good run. I managed an 11:08 pace despite walking and running very slowly around the pond. My heart rate stayed at a reasonable rate as well so it was a good day.
The album (This Sheltering Night) came out on Tuesday and the reviews have been pretty amazing. If we got paid by the review we wouldn't be the bottom feeders that we are. I've also been doing quite a few interviews lately and a few of them have asked me about running and about Running With The Devil. I'm not sure what the thread is but there is a definite thread that runs from medicine through music and running. It's hard to believe that I've been free from the ever looming hospitalizations, self destructive outbursts, road rage, and shade shutting depression for almost a year. It's something that had seemed out of reach from the time I was a teenager. I'll always find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop but until it does I'm going to run and play my ass off. To keep the hounds at bay I've been more careful recently to not dredge every horror of my life up in interviews and have managed a degree of restraint that I never have in the past. It's hard to describe why I write the music I do without excavating some of the shitty parts of my life but I don't feel the voyeurs' need to spew every painful detail of my life.
I've tried to be more gracious toward the people that like the band. I need to remember that even though they have nothing to do with why I write music it is very humbling and flattering that anyone would give a fuck about what I do. I tried to practice this new attitude on Saturday. On show days a combination of stage fright, stress, and unhappiness turn me into a fucking monster to spend time with. I tried (and failed) to enjoy the experience of playing shows but I behaved better than I have in the past. I have been nasty, violent, depressed, and manic. I've at times required a babysitter to keep me from doing awful things to myself and other people (right Mr. Murren?) and most of that seems to be fading away. I still rank playing shows down there with sharp sticks in eyes and painful dental work but at least now there's a purpose. We have an album to promote, we're playing songs that people will actually know, and it will give me a chance to conquer some of my stage fright demons. In the grand scheme of things these are just the miniscule problems of a guy with too much time to sit around and think about them. So be it.
JUNE 4, 2010
81 Degrees, 7 miles, slow pace, no falls. I learned some important things on this run. It had rained pretty hard the night before and I was a little bit worried about the wet rock on the far side of the pond. I tightened my shoes down like they were ski boots and started on my way up the bridge loop, the most significant climb on my route. I learned two important lessons in the first 1/4 mile when I acquired some brutal shin splints. The first lesson I learned is that most of my shin splint issues in the past have been due to tying my laces too fucking tight. The shin splints taught me lesson three bit more on that later. The second lesson was to not start my run with a decent sized climb/downhill. Too much too soon. Back to lesson number 3. I'd planned on doing a 6+ mile run and with shin issues a few minutes in, I started to panic. I finally loosened my laces, walked a bunch of climbs that I would normally have run, and slowly my shins returned to normal. This rough spot so early in my run reminded me of something I'd read in UltraRunner magazine that said things WILL go wrong and the trick is to find the solutions/mental toughness to over come these spots. Running long distances is about problem solving. As I began to feel better I started ingraining in my psyche the idea that short walk breaks are like a reset button and that every time I started running after a walk break it was like I was starting a new run. My final lesson involved clothing. I like to go to Marshalls and by discounted clothes. I love buying shorts, socks, shirts for under $10 each. Sometimes I hit the jackpot ($45 Brooks shorts for $7), and sometimes I pay much more than that. Take the "moisture wicking" Fila tank tops I bought last weekend. By the end of my run they felt like a combinaton of a soaked dish rag and steel wool. Lesson learned. So how did it feel to run 7 miles for the first time since training for the Phily Half? Amazing. I can feel myself reeling in the HAT Run 50k a mile at a time and today was the first time I felt like I was well on my way. Only 25 miles to go!!!
JUNE 7, 2010
I twisted my ankle on Saturday somewhere about 6 miles in but was determined to hit the 7 mile mark so I kept going. Just a little strain so I took the day off. I probably could have run but I'll just shift my run days to Tues/Wed/Fri/Sat. I'm trying to find a trail half for the Fall to test myself a bit but the race calendar info is very scattered compared to the well organized but uptight road racing calendars I've seen. I also decided that I'm going to take some time off from work toward the end of the summer and run the 2 HAT Run training loops (6 mile and 11 mile loops). Maybe I'll do the 11 mile run on Saturday and the 6 mile loop on Sunday. It should give me a way better idea of whether I'm preparing myself properly and alleviate some of the anxiety I'm already feeling about whether Bennett's Pond is a tough enough training ground for HAT.
I spent 50 minutes (and a $25 copay) trying to find something positive and rewarding about playing shows. The only thing we were able to accomplish was driving my shrink to want to rip her fucking hair out. She asked if I found it satisfying to play well. No. She asked if it was satisfying playing in front of people that came to see us. No. She asked if there was any physical rush that came from playing live. Other than nausea, no. She asked if it was fun to see old friends at shows. No. We were at an impasse. Running removes all of the things I hate about playing shows (crowds, reliance on unreliable people, crowds, people, people, people) and rewards me for the parts that should be rewarding when hitting the stage. It gives me a sense of accomplishment at completing my mission, even when it's unpleasant, it provides an enormous and addictive rush of endorphins, hours and hours of self reflection, and the sense of balance that comes from being far, far away from the human plague.
"The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary. Men alone are quite capable of every wickedness."