Thursday, July 22, 2010


The great undoing hasn't started yet. I'm passing my time with a little cross training and reading. I just polished off The Catcher In The Rye a few nights ago and, having lived large portions of that novel, I was again mesmerized. I'm not sure if it's a novel for boys, for misfits, or those so attuned to their own suffering as well as the suffering of others but whatever the case, it is timeless and as brilliant today as it was when I read it in high school. Next in the queue is Call Of The Wild and White Fang by Jack London. Only 30 odd pages in and I can already tell that this will have a huge influence on my training. The concept of "devolving" from the polished and pretty to the animals that we inherently are is fascinating. Whether it's a spoiled dog dragged into the Yukon to discover its' ancestors, the dudes in Fight Club discovering the transformative powers of a punch in the face, or running enormous miles through the woods with nothing more than shoes, shorts, shirt, and water bottle, the end result is a huge extended middle finger to the endless stream of tv shows/advertisements/commercials that attempt to lure us into being pretty little lap dogs rather than the absolute fucking beasts we always were.

I'm as much at fault as anyone. I work an easy job where I suck up the hospitals air conditioning when things get to hot, and siphon off their heat when it gets a little chilly outside. There are nights that I get home from work, unwilling to think anymore, and I will sit in front of the TV for hours to keep the inner and outer chatter at bay. There are days when I crave the comfort of another human being so badly that I will compromise any ethics, standards, or beliefs to achieve that goal. In AA they talk quite a bit about 'keeping your side of the street clean' and there are days when my side of the street looks like the remnants of a bomb blast. At the end of the day my only hope is that the good pile is stacked higher than the bad pile. Sometimes it's just that simple.

I'm glad that I've finally gotten this site back on course. It was never meant to be a training log. It was meant to explore my life's fractures and my attempts to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. What's so complicated though is that the things that make me whole (running, playing music, practicing medicine), that make me better than what I have been, are so far beyond the confines of language that trying to describe them just cheapens them. In a more skilled writers hands the immeasurable can be captured by our paltry vocabulary, but in these hands I can only fall short.

"And not only did he learn by experience, but instincts long dead became alive again. The domesticated generations fell from him. In vague ways he remembered back to the youth of the breed, to the time when wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest and killed their meat as they ran it down. It was no task for him to learn to fight with cut and slash and the quick wolf snap. In this manner had fought forgotten ancestors. They quickened the old life within him, and the old tricks which they had stamped into the heredity of the breed were his tricks. They came to him without effort or discovery, as though they had been his always. And when, on the still cold nights, he pointed his nose at a star and howled long and wolf-like, it was his ancestors, dead and dust, pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and through him. And his cadences were their cadences, the cadences which voiced their woe and what to them was the meaning of the stillness, and the cold, and the dark." Jack London

Monday, July 19, 2010


"The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome,
to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering." Ben Okri

I'm injured again. Tibial stress fracture. Left leg. I saw it as soon as he pulled the film up on the computer screen. I knew it prior to that in the cluster of symptoms that tell you very clearly that you have fucked up. The kaleidoscope of symptoms that tell you that you should not have done back to back to back hard runs so early in your training, that you should not have run downhills like Franz Klammer on the Hahnnenkam downhill course at the 1976 Olympics, that you should not run 9 when you should run 7, not 8 when you should run 6. Physics was the winner. The force of bone against immovable object was the winner. Gravity was the winner. I was not. I'm supposed to toe the line in two days in Pennsylvania for an ultra gnarly 10k at the Bear Creek Resort. Instead I will be home. I will be reading endless articles about recovering from this injury. I will be readingendless articles about pool running, cross training. I will be developing the mental discipline to not only get through the next few months of numbing cross training but also the desire to fight off the downward spiral that inevitably occurs when I can't do what I love.

"Ring the bell that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in. " Leonard Cohen

The impact causes the bone to break down, the recovery causes the bone to remodel. When done properly these two principles dovetail perfectly and what you are left with is stronger bone, a better frame to hang ligament, tendon, and muscle from. When done improperly the microfractures in the bone don't have the required time to rebuild and what you are left with is 4 to 8 weeks of mindfucking anxiety. The doubt, like an infection, has already begun seeping between the joints. I'm feverishly doing math, addition and subtraction of miles, the subtraction of weeks from the third week in March 2011, from the 31 miles that I promised I will run. I repeat, the thirty one miles I will run.

There are things I must be certain of. These things are as follows: I will run 13.1 miles. I will run 26.2 miles. I will run 31 miles. I will run 50 miles. I will run 62 miles. And, in time, I will run 100 miles. I will run miles on bones that want to surrender to force, muscle that wants to atrophy rather than rebuild and renew, run them with eyesight that is failing with time, and most importantly, run them with the unflinching calculus of a reptile. For the time being I'll spend my minutes running nowhere in the pool, I'll burn minutes on the rower, climb the sky on the stairmaster, and finally start lifting weights. I will run 31 miles this coming March.

"We will set out with a fire in our hearts
When this darkness gives way to the dawn
In the light we are united as one
The kingdom of heaven must be taken by storm." The Amebix (June 1985)


Today is day one of the reconstruction. Up at 5:20, at the gym at 6:15; cardio/weights/stretching and out by 8:00. The alarm said yes and I nearly said no. I can start Monday. I need to sleep because I'll spend most of the night driving to Philadelphia and back. I need to check with the Doctor to see what is safe. Cross training is painfully boring. The excuses lined up like soldiers and I cut them down. "We will set out with a fire in our hearts...". I had some help in dragging my ass out of bed this morning, out from the comfort of blankets, the luxury of air conditioning. That help was in the form of a website by Rob Fusco, a guy I know from my years in Starkweather and his years in One King Down and Most Precious Blood. It wasn't until recently that I became aware of Rob's interest in personal training and nutrition. Even after our brief conversations I knew of Rob's interest in those topics but not a commitment that goes beyond mere motivation and seems to me to be a very clear life philosophy. One phrase that appears frequently on his site ( is 'paying what you owe' and as I've gotten to know Rob through his writings, he does indeed pay what he owes.

"It’s crucial to ask one’s self before any serious undertaking what one is willing to spend, give, sacrifice and suffer through.  The question is not whether or not one has enough to spend.  There is ALWAYS more to spend, more depths to probe, more imperfections and inaccuracies to search for and correct… the planes of the ashlar are forever imperfect and coarse - this fact does not dissuade those of obsessive resolve to continue the polishing process ad infinitum.  

This is no secret.  There is no starting point but birth and no final destination but the grave.  What you do with the fleeting hours between is your choice.  

When the last shovel full of earth lands and settles six feet above you, what will you be remembered for?" R. Fusco

Like many long distance runners and other athletes at the fringes, Rob understands the transcendence and insight that comes from suffering and daring to take that one footstep beyond what is possible. It is this philosophy that helped to get my feet on the floor this morning and I owe him a debt of gratitude. The true motivation for pushing through has to come from within but if I need to be influenced by outside stimuli it may as well be from a guy like Rob who is hardcore in the truest sense of the word.

That is all.