Monday, November 30, 2009

Mother Superior

When god closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.

Under the theme of climbing every mountain I have had a busy and interesting weekend. I have been trying to broaden my perspectives while on my training break to mixed results. After a few weekends of going out, attempting to meet people and dating I am ready to return to my normal reclusive self and focus on running again. It has been fun but also frustrating. I was happy to have a long run yesterday with a good run today to regain some sense of normalcy in my life.

I have gone through the revolving door of the dating world. To be honest I have never really ever had a good date. I can compare it to my experience running the 300m indoor. I got really nervous before the event as it was something that I wanted to do well yet I was unsure if I was going to be a good fit for this event. Upon starting the race (or dates) I felt both relieved and really uncomfortable while finding myself floundering at the back of the pack. Towards the end of the race I was able to find my legs and push hard to the finish line to place second last. The race went by so fast that I was barely conscious of how painful it was and how I was not suited to the experience. On reflection after the race I realized that I was not the worst 300m runner in the Maritimes, but pretty close. I feel the same about dating. It is anxiety provoking, uncomfortable and the results are usually not terrible but very close. Upon reflection after almost every date I have been on I think of how painful that was and have a sense of relief when it is over.

With the door just about slammed on dating I am beginning to realize a couple of things. First, I am not meant to date or maybe I am undatable. Second, without a boyfriend I will have much more time to devote to myself and training. With the door to relationships closed the window to focus and selfishness can be opened. I see others who are in relationships, especially new relationships, and regard the amount of time they spend with each other, doing nothing but staring into each others eyes and gently stroking each other, as a total and complete waste of time. If I am running 100 miles a week I will have time and energy to sleep, eat and be grumpy. Not auspicious for building a solid relationship. When I am training I need to be selfish to protect my goals and my body. There will be no late night dancing or painful and depressing dates to clutter my sparse lifestyle and add to what will be a very delicate countenance.

When I look back on the last few weeks I can at least be comforted with the knowledge that I tried my hardest with all the tools possible at my disposal to expose myself to the world of the gay man. I have gone to several clubs in the city multiple times. I have been on quite a few dates and I have shamelessly used this blog in an effort to meet men, all to no avail. When it comes right down to it, maybe I am an outlier on the bell curve of love. I can be heartened by the words of Mother Superior when speaking to a terrified and in love Maria. "When god closes a door, somewhere he opens a window". The freedom to be by myself will open a window to training that others do not have.

I am adding yet another feature, mileage. I have gone a few years without counting mileage, that stops this week as I get serious.

Mileage
Sunday:10 miles
Monday:7 miles

Happy Training!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Making the Globe

I have had a wonderful last 3 weeks culminating with a direct quote on page three in the weekend edition of the Globe and Mail.

When I started this blog I wanted to show that there was more to being gay then partying and copious amounts of anonymous sex. To see a full page dedicated to gays in sport in Canada's leading newspaper is both encouraging and exciting. To be part of this movement is truly phenomenal. There is a movement afoot where eventually a young gay man or lesbian will no longer have to make a decision between sport and life.

Today I started training again. I did my first tempo on my way to Marathon. It was a tempo on the treadmill as I was a little less then thrilled to run outside in the cold rain. I also like that the treadmill shows how far I am running and I can run a specific pace. I ran a 2 mile warm-up at 6:43 pace per mile. I revved the treadmill up as fast as it could go and ran 2 miles at 6 minute per mile pace. The third mile of the workout I bumped the incline up to 2 for 1/2 mile then the last 1/2 mile put the incline at 3 (I have no idea what the incline number means or what it relates to). I was into my last quarter mile when the treadmill stopped. I was very frustrated but quickly reset the machine and got back up to pace rather quickly. I ran an extra quarter to make up for the machine arrest. I ran an easy 7 minute mile cool down.

The workout felt really good and I was ready to suffer and hurt. I was just starting to get into the drive of the workout when the treadmill stopped, funny that I can outrun the treadmill. I have been working on my core and I can feel the effects, which is good. I have also been doing some upper extremity work and I can feel the effect as well. I did 3 sets of push-ups yesterday with the last set to failure, ouch. The thing about my core routine is that I do 2 minutes of planks with my push-ups started without stopping, immediately after the planks. I am quite sore at the moment though I really like this feeling.

I was thinking last night that I would have been in Guelph today had I run well at BCs. This may be an instance of 'everything happens for a reason'. I am feeling wonderful and well rested after a great break from running which was precipitated by a less then stellar run. I love running but at times I need to get away from the obsession and the running world itself. It is easy to get caught in the mileage talk and the expectations of workouts and training. The accumulated trauma of expectation can cause burnout. Although I would have loved the opportunity to race this weekend I believe having the last few weeks off, in combination with starting my training now, will bode well for the upcoming season. I want to be in shape and running big miles by February and an early break may just enable such an aspiration.

Tomorrow I have a long run in the morning then some fun in the afternoon. It ought to be a puddle jumper!

Happy Training!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Bell Tolls

Recovery continues to good effect. After staying most of the day in bed on Sunday I woke up on Monday feeling great and ready to attack the day. To report surprise at waking feeling well rested and alert would be insufficient. I was both relieved and pleased to be able to feel better then expected. I went for a good run in the evening and finished off some tasks that I had been procrastinating. Tonight I swam with EBSC and it was enjoyable.


I was thinking about bell curves last week. We can place almost any phenomenon on a bell curve. For example; There are a few people in the world who cannot run. There are many people who are average to run and then there are only a few who are really fast. To graph the numbers with the number of people on the vertical axis and the 10 km race speed on the horizontal would present a line that looks a bit like a bell. To be mathy, most people lie within 2 standard deviations from the mean but within almost every sample there are individuals who lie outside this broad category. These individuals are very different from the mean and are outliers. All my life I have tried to be on the upper edge of the mouth of the bell and I have been able to get myself somewhat near this coveted area. With alarm I wondered, what if it is possible to bell curve love?

The average person falls in love after dating a few people, being happy with what they got, then gets married and life goes on. There are some in society that fall in love at first sight, have a passionate affair and then 50 years later they die in each others arms, while making love to each other and telling each other how much they are still in love. Then there is the last category. The lifelong spinsters who have never had an intimate sexual relationship with another person nor has had someone whisper into their ear how much love they shared. These are the people who have never been in love and have spent a lonely life looking for the one thing they really want, to fall in love.

I am wondering if I am the outlier on the down side of the love bell curve. I honestly do not think I am, but sometimes I worry. It would not be the first time I was on the down side of the bell curve. I was not a very good softball player, I hate hunting and I cannot fathom how to make love to a woman. I guess what is concerning is that I really want to fall in love though I could care a less about doing the things I suffer through. To not fall in love would be tragic but there are people in the world that this happens to. I want to ride the front of the wave of the bell curve. One sight and it will happen. I just have to find it.

Tomorrow I will have to run at the gym as I have a busy evening planned after my last day of work this week. I have been working out a bit every day this week and I am feeling good.

Happy Training!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fearless

I was just thinking, wouldn't it be nice if life was like today, then I realized it was.

My day started with an 'early for a Saturday' wake-up in preparation for the Fearless Project photo shoot. I ran over to Stanley Park for the photograph session at 9:00. I was met by Dean Nelson and Jeff Sheng at the initial site for the shoot but due to poor light conditions we moved to the Brockton Point Lighthouse to complete the shots. After warming up it was time to start. While I was running a mile or so Jeff and Dean set up the lighting on the crest of a hill with the Lions Gate Bridge in the background and the majestic, mist covered North Shore Mountains. When I was warmed up and Jeff was ready to go I pulled off my warm-ups and we began.

The actual shoot was pretty basic. While Jeff would adjust lighting or change film I would run to keep warm then go to a specific spot for the photographs. It was very cold with a pretty good rain shower starting half way through the shoot. I was wearing a small singlet and shorts which facilitated a mighty good chill. I basically looked at the camera, that was it. There were a few pointers (relax your hand, look at me, warm-up) but very minimal. I did not have to pose or do anything weird. It was quite quick as well which was a good thing because I was freezing.

Once the shoot was done we returned to the original meeting spot where we met a nice gentleman and a camera man to talk about the shoot. They asked me a few questions on camera (I believe I came across as a really dumb runner) then filmed me running a bit. By this time they were setting up the second shoot with a Mountain Biker. Overall this was a good experience and a way I can make a contribution to the gay community.

I have ranted on the blog on how I do not belong to the gay community, I do not identify with the community and do not really understand the community. That may have been born of over training or a few frustrating circumstances. What I have come to realize over the past couple of months is that I do belong to the gay community and live a 'gay' existence. I was asked a question today 'What is your favorite thing about being gay?' I could not think of anything. On my run home I was trying to think of one thing that made me happy to be gay. What I thought of is being different.

If I could answer that question again I think I would say something along the following lines.

"My favorite thing about being gay is that I can be different. I always wanted to be the same as everyone else, then when I came out I was different, I had a label. It has not always been easy to be the different one when everyone seemed to be the same. Even within the gay community I am different then everyone else. The thing about being different that is liberating is that I do not have to play by anyone's rules. I can wear a pink shirt and skinny jeans, I can fool around with anyone I want whenever I want, I can be an elite athlete and also be no one. I do not have to get married and have kids, I do not have to be responsible and I can spend all my money on me. There are very lonely aspects for me being gay but they make me stronger in some abstract way. Being gay has made me a better person, a stronger runner and a has taken a healthy chip out my shoulder. Being gay is my thing and it wears well. I could not imagine it any way else!"

I am feeling very rested and relaxed, well into my break. When I was running this morning I got the training bug back. I am going for a long run tomorrow to get the lungs cleared out and maintain some fitness. It has been a couple of weeks so it will feel nice.

Happy Training!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Compliments Of

I find it amazing how some of the most offhand comments can be wonderful compliments.

Tonight I swam with EBSC as I continue to enjoy a bit of a break from hard training. I was very tired when I got home from work today leaving me less then enthused to lug my giant Speedo backpack to the pool to swim a few kilometres. To report that the swim revived me would be a bit short of a lie. I walked out of the pool tonight wired for sound. It felt like the pool water was somehow infused with the essence of Redbull. I am not primarily a swimmer and I do not have years of training to help me keep my stroke but I am keeping up and not swimming too bad. I was even asked tonight if I swam with UBC.

This question was not meant to be a compliment. The person who asked this question may never had seen me swim, yet him asking me this question made me feel very good about myself. To be mistaken for a swimmer when I am out of shape and swimming slower then I am used to gave me confidence in swimming again. It is good to know that when it comes time to train and compete Ironman I will be able to get my swimming back quite rapidly.

It is often what people do not mean by their comments and questions that shows us so much. Whether we take something as a compliment or a complaint is very nuanced. Some statements can be quite obvious such as "Skinny jeans make people look ugly!" when they are spoken to a person wearing skinny jeans. The person wearing skinny jeans will feel ugly even though that may not have been what the speaker had intended. Instead, if the speaker said "Skinny jeans make people look ugly! Except you, because you are so beautiful that you could wear anything including a Trisuit and make it look hot". The person wearing skinny jeans would then be happy though that may not have been what the speaker intended.

It is these indirect statements that can have the biggest impact. Often the overt compliment has a strong effect although can be viewed with suspicion. "What does that person want?" may be a first question of one who is complimented. As compared, an offhand comment provides the opportunity to understand how friends, acquaintances, and strangers feel about us. These comments may either boost our ego or crush it like a Royal Daulton figurine under a steamroller. Comments that are delivered from a neutral party with no intent or hidden agenda are the most honest. This is when we can build a picture of ourselves in the view of others. Of course this tendency may also serve to misinterpret what may actually have been meaningless.

I still have a few more weeks of break which is starting to seem like a really long time. I am starting to feel out of shape and ready to work hard again. I am almost starting to feel myself gaining weight which, although wanted, sends a shiver of fear through my body. It is at this time when I want to go out and run hard for 15 miles. It will take a few months until I am ready to get fired up for a good 23 or24 mile long run after running 80 miles already that week. Wow, I am really going to suffer through this, ha ha!

Happy Training!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Recharge?

What does it mean to recharge? I am taking a novel approach to the concept of recharging the body and mind by going out and sleeping less.

I have been running very little the last week and a half. I run when I feel like it for how long or fast I feel like. Yesterday I got back to the gym and tried running on a treadmill. It was actually not that bad. The only issue is that the treadmills do not go fast enough. I am thinking when I am running high mileage I may run either the morning or evening run on the treadmill and the other on the roads/trails, just to mix it up a bit. I also did my first core workout since I got my 6 pack in the spring. I still have the 6 pack, which was an 8 pack at one point this summer, so there has not been a tonne of incentive to work the core until I saw a photo of me at BC Cross Country where I am severely hunched. I need to strengthen my core to enable stronger running. If there is nothing for the legs to attach too then one cannot run.

Of greater importance the last week and a half is the number of times I have gone out. I have gone to 2 gay establishments and spent some time with some colleagues after work on Tuesday into the late hours of the night. Last night I visited a predominately gay lounge in the 'gay village' of Vancouver with a good female friend of mine. As I have been quite critical of 'the gays' in past posts I must now admit that I enjoyed myself last night. It was actually quite fun to be in a place with many hot men. My friend seemed to be on a mission to boost my ego as well as she continually told me that I was getting checked out by just about everyone who entered the lounge. I still did not get approached by one man and there were no phone number exchanges but I still feel like the night was a success. It is brilliant to go out, see many hot men, and feel like one of them.

This time of recharge has been very important for me. When I am training and not racing that great I tend to become negative and easily upset about almost everything. Instead of focusing on what makes me great I look to the flaws, the missing pieces, and perseverate on them. I am naturally optimistic, and I would argue one has to be optimistic to be an athlete. An athlete has to be able to learn from failure and focus on the positive aspects of a performance to maintain inspiration to keep training. A good athlete also has to be a perfectionist in what they do in order to continue striving towards their goals. Some may look at the perfectionism and optimism as opposite traits though I believe one cannot exist without the other. It is the dream of perfection, knowing that the perfect race can happen, that keeps me training. It is the optimism of believing that I can reach my goals and running to the best of my talent that keeps me training.

The energy of training and the amount of optimism it takes to get out the door every day may be what detracts from the rest of my life. After a few weeks of rest, while knowing I will not be training for at least a few more weeks, I have started to regain some of my optimism towards all aspects of my life. I will be having a few changes in a couple of weeks, and a few opportunities in the world of the gays to reignite some of my passion towards what makes me unique. What is really exciting is the opportunity to participate in the Fearless Project, combining both sport and being gay. I feel my optimism coming back. Hopefully I can keep Bitter Bert on the sidelines for a while.

While I am very excited to start training for the marathon I am nervous for what may further happen with my romantic opportunities. I know I must go to a place that is hard to survive. I must push my body and mind beyond anything I have pushed before. I am acutely aware of what the outcomes of this may be. There will be many dangers along my path to the marathon including social isolation, burnout and injury. The opportunities to meet a man will also be limited unless he happens to join my running group or is able/willing to track me down on a long run. Even if I were to bump into the man of my dreams tomorrow and suddenly fall madly in love I wonder what impact marathon training would have on a budding relationship (I can hear you all saying, "better get the relationship before worrying what will happen during it"). The life of a distance runner is very lonely, I hope over the next 6 months I can survive both the loneliness of training and the lack of a romantic partner. I hope I can somehow maintain the optimism I can feel coming back throughout the dark cold training days this winter.

The break continues with an easy run tomorrow.

Happy Training!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Window of Opportunity

I am on a bit of a break from training and as such I am abusing my body in a different way. Last night I went for drinks with some friends and I must be honest, I have lost my tolerance. I remember university when we could run a race, spend 10 hours in a van driving home to Fredericton then drink at least pint of hard liquor, dance until 2 am and finish the night at 3 am with the 'poutine lady'. The next morning we would all be at the gym at 9 for our Sunday long run. Today I got out of bed at 12 after a paltry few drinks.

I have become acutely aware of a small window of opportunity I have at present to be a little reckless. I have been looking at marathon training plans and they are scary. I know the training is going to be hard and require a great amount of time and energy but it did not become reality until I saw 100 mile weeks on the schedule. I get nervous to think of the exhaustion I am going to be feeling and the horrible person I am going be when I am at my highest mileage weeks. The next few weeks will be an opportunity to get out on the town a little bit before I become a running machine. When running over 100 miles (160km) a week I doubt I will have the energy to go out and party!

Things I Hate

Cancer: This is an obvious thing to hate. Cancer is an insidious disease that is growing in each one of us. It is the unfortunate who, for whatever reason, have their bodies overcome by this illness. Cancer hit my life at a young age when my dad passed away well before he should have. Working in a hospital I see every day the horrible effects of cancer and it's debilitating and painful outcomes.
I hate cancer the disease but also the fear it instills in all of us. We cannot leave the house without fear of cancer. We 'slip, slap, slop' before heading out, we eat lots of antioxidants, avoid smoke and other carcinogens and inspect our skin, prostate, testicles, breasts (I don't have breasts but ladies should check them) to ensure there are no lumps or bumps. The fear of finding a lump, having a biopsy and potentially hearing the word 'cancer' can throw a life into total disarray.
One of the most difficult things to know is the effect of the treatment for this disease. Looking to train for a marathon I am dreading the pain and fatigue that I will feel. Imagine looking forward to cancer treatment. Imagine knowing that the oncologist is going to push your body as close to death as possible to kill the cancer, hoping not to kill you. It puts training and running into perspective. I guess the one good thing about cancer is the value it can place on a life free of disease. I can see how fortunate I am to be able to train and run.

I think I will take a day off today or go for a green light run.

Happy Training!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hindsight, Retrospect, Looking Back...

Maybe I was a bit over-trained and over stressed.

As I look back on the past 3 months, in light of the great run I had this morning and the wonderful mood I am in, I think I was over trained. After years of training I have gained an understanding of the toll training takes on my body. I have learned the signs of being over trained and when I need to chill out and rest some. The last few months I have missed all the tell tale signs. After a couple of weeks of rest and a few days off I am feeling refreshed for some further rest.

Looking back I should of known. I was easily angered, tired all the time, not sleeping though the night with night sweats, dizzy at work, loss of appetite and general disinterest in what normally gets me going. Small little errors or issues would put me into a sour mood for days which made me less then desirable to be around.

After deciding not to run Haney to Harrison and taking an impromptu easy week, despite planning to train, I woke up this morning feeling tired. So, I rolled over and went back to sleep. Two hours later I woke up feeling rested and relaxed and cheery. I have not felt like this in a long time. I went out for an easy run in Stanley Park and I was back to my dopey smile run. When I am rested and happy I can't help but grin stupidly when I am running, especially if I am running fast.

Looking back on my running performances I was over stressed. A big key in my improvements in running has been realizing that this is what I want to do more then anything else. My races this fall were not like that. I was nervous and anxious or just was not into racing. I was stressed about having to perform to get a good result to send to sponsors or to try and win prize money. I was concentrating on the outcome rather then the process.

I am going to let you in on another little secret. I love figure skating and by 'love' I mean slight obsession. I was watching figure skating yesterday and the commentators mentioned something that can be applicable to running. When a skater is stressed and thinking about the outcome rather then the process they get tight, their shoulders are at their ears, stiff knees and it seems to take twice as much energy to do what would normally be quite easy. Sound familiar? This sounds like my last race!

I guess my goal for the next few weeks is to rest and gain a bit of weight. I never ever thought I would want to gain weight. I am a bit of a bag of bone and muscle at the moment and I think it is getting a bit too extreme. I saw a cute guy when I was out to dinner the other night. My friend commented that he was totally my type when I commented that he was a bit too skinny. Then I realized I was that skinny. Oops.

For some inspiration and to see what one can do when they rise to the moment and compete relaxed check out Elizabeth Manley at the 88 Olympics!

Happy Resting!

Happy Training!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Exhaustion

Do you ever remember a time when you woke up feeling well rested and alert? Does the sound of your alarm in the morning cause you eyes to roll back in your head in order to open? Do you long for sleep? I do.

I honestly do not remember the last time I felt rested. For the life of me I cannot recall waking up in the morning feeling well rested and ready to attack the day. I wake up tired every morning with the thought of calling in to work sick. I dutifully ease myself out of bed with my eyes closed and slowly shuffle and limp, arms outstretched to find the walls, to the bathroom. As I slowly open my eyes to the painful white lights I see only two black eyes with large bags and sunken jowls. Typically, I am so useless when I wake up, that I need to pack my lunch and lay out my clothes the night before. I long to wake up in the morning and look great with tonnes of energy.

Running and racing takes a lot of energy. It is difficult to explain the exhaustion that comes with training. It is a tired that aches in the bones, lingers through out the day, and is resolved through more training. The only time I feel good when I am running high mileage is when I am actually running. When I am generally fatigued I do not ever feel rested, not even when running. I have been feeling this way the last few weeks. I need to sleep and rest my body.

The thing is, I am not alone. The work world is filled with people who are in one state or another of exhaustion. If one is younger they are tired because they are going out in the evenings and on weekends while maintaining a party schedule similar to university. The mid range peeps are up all night for a number of possible reasons ranging from young children crying and needing feedings or the despair of an impending divorce. The elder folk do not sleep due to sleep apnea or stressing over their older children. We are all exhausted.

I think it is time to work less and live the 'dulce vida'. When I think of Europe and their relaxed lifestyle with ample siestas my heart grows green with envy. It would be so wonderful to work a few hours, meet friends for some dinner with a nice red wine then nap for an hour before returning to work. Finish the day shortly after 5 and head home for a late dinner at 8 followed by drinks at the local pub until midnight. How lovely. As it stands now I am totally exhausted and ready for bed.

Time to go to sleep!

Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream, make him the cutest that I've ever seen!

Happy Training!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

When The Going Gets Rough...

...Go Shopping

When I have a bad race or generally feel sad I do two things. I go for a hard run and then I go shopping. It seems the more profound the sadness or disappointment the harder I run and the more expensive a store I need to remedy the situation. This morning I was working my own personal Prozac with a vengeance.

My long run this morning was 10 miles of hard running. I was almost at tempo pace for the duration of the run and I did not care. I ran hard on the soft surfaces and then would recover on the hard surfaces. When I hurt emotionally sometimes the hurt of training somehow makes things feel better all over. After my pathetic run yesterday I was ready to hurt a bit this morning. The biggest feeling I have now is that I wish I could run the race again.

After a quick lunch I hit the street to enjoy the wonderful sunny day and pick up a few groceries for dinner tonight. Somehow or other I found myself at Holt Renfrew. For some reason shopping makes me happy. Usually I can be satisfied with window shopping and trying on expensive clothes. With how my Autumn has been going I needed a purchase with the efficacy of Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT). I was in Holt's and I happened across an amazing navy blue cashmere/alpaca cable knit Cardigan. This Cardigan even has real leather closures. A rush of excitement shook my body right down to my Blundstone Boots. This was the softest knit I have ever touched in my life. I found my size and checked the price, way too expensive. I walked around the store and found myself back at the sweater. The sales person (who was wearing the same sweater vest as I have, omen?) told me to try it on. I went to the change room with butterflies in my stomach thinking of what is going to happen when I tried it on. It fit like I was destined to find this sweater when I needed it most. A smile broke across my face and I realized that there was no way I was going to leave the store without this Cardigan sent straight from heaven. Being that I would like to travel to USA in the future I thought shop lifting would be a bad idea so I broke out the Visa and happily bought myself my second cashmere Christmas present for 2009.
I have had some time to think about what I want to do with running. I still have some decisions to make. One decision that I think I am pretty sure about is starting to marathon. I think it is time. I have to acknowledge that I am not a cross country runner, I am meant for the road. I am going to train status quo for the next couple of months to maintain my fitness then enter into marathon training in the new year. I need to bump up the mileage and commit to running. If I am doing this to the exclusion of the rest of my life I might as well do it right. I would also like to run some track next year as well. I have a few meets in mind and it would be cool to see what I can run for 10,000 metres on the track.

The other big decision I have made about running is that I want to be the Johnny Weir of running. Any figure skating fans out there will know what I mean. In the spirit of Johnny I am on a search for my third and final Christmas present for myself, a new bag! I have been looking quite diligently and have yet to find what I am looking for. I would really like something leather but I fear that leather might be too gentle to throw a pair of muddy spikes into. I think I will hit main street in an attempt to find something that captures my heart and gives me butterflies. If no man can give me butterflies then at least I will have cashmere and a bag that make me happy. Long live commercialism!

Time to braise some brisket.

Happy Training!