Last week I went on my first long run in months. Long, here, is generous.
It was six miles, a shortened version of a mostly flat (for Asheville) route I ran dozens of times when I was training for my hundred last summer.
Twice I stopped to walk. It was hot, but that’s not much of an excuse.
It was defeating to realize just how far I’ve slid since the hundred last July. It’s like when you go back to the gym for the first time in months or years, and struggle under a bar that’s a fraction of what you used to lift for double-digit reps. Or when you get on the scale after months of avoidance and see a number that quantifies how much you’ve let go with your diet and habits … and just how far you have to go to get back.
But something was different with this six-mile run. There was no guilt, no frustration, no overwhelm at the size of the task of getting back into marathon or ultra shape.
Because I’ve been on the roller coaster enough times now to know that this is how it works. Three different times I’ve started over in the gym, sliding back to 140 pounds after bulking up to almost 160.
More than once in my seven-year quest to get to Boston, I went six months without running — sometimes frustrated, sometimes injured, sometimes both. Once, I was pretty sure my days as a marathoner were over.
And from the time I first signed up for a hundred-miler to the time I actually ran one, I went through a lull in running where running 100 miles seemed a mere fantasy. Or perhaps a monkey I’d have to learn to be okay with carrying around on my back.
This, I realized, is the price of shunning moderation.When your approach to doing big things is to so pour yourself into them that you don’t want to think about them again for months or years, this is how it has to go.
Which is fine, because when you’re sick to death of thing A, you take a break and work on thing B. Until you’re sick of thing B, and then you find thing C (or come back to A and do it bigger or better than last time).
But in the past few months, I’ve gone through a thing C, too. This one a personal transformation.
Someone I trust pointed out to me just how much procrastination pervaded my life. After a sleepless night spent turning up every possible area I could think of where she was right — finances, email, anxiety, insurance, my car, clutter at home, to-do lists, a million NMA projects I wanted to get to but couldn’t — I promised myself that when morning came I would get to work pulling out every procrastination weed from my life’s garden, and not stop until I was finished.
Four months later, I’m finished. Along with all the stuff on No Meat Athlete, the anti-procrastination crusade has defined the first part of my 2014.
I took last week more or less off from work, to enjoy time with my family that I haven’t had in way too long. My daughter turned one, and it occurred to me that the first year of her life coincided neatly with the busiest of mine. I’m sure as a parent, I’m not alone on that one.
But I think only a few people recognize when they’re so busy that they’re forgetting to live. I’ve been reading a lot of books about philosophy, spirituality, and mindfulness recently, and I have them to thank for helping me to see that I was doing too much.
I sense now that I’m entering a new phase. From the book to the 100 to new houses to new babies to obliterating procrastination to tackling anxiety, it feels like the huge projects in my life have been neatly tied up with a bow. For now.
I’m not naive enough to miss that life has a way of serving up something new, always too soon after these rare moments come along. So I’m appreciating this one while it’s here.
To that end, I’ve spent my time leveling out before diving headlong into whatever is next. Not just spending time with my family, but picking up hobbies I’ve let go.
I took my guitar to the shop to get adjusted so I can start playing again. I downloaded the albums I missed from some of my favorite bands (mostly Saves the Day’s Daybreak, which I’ve been binge-listening to) and went to see Conor Oberst play last week. I’ve started reading the kinds of books that I normally don’t. And I discovered something called trauma-release exercises (TRE) from this mega-helpful guest post from Charlie Hoehn about anxiety on Tim Ferriss’s blog. I’m tempted to write a post about my experience with TRE but decided they’re just too weird for a blog post.
As for what’s next …
Last week I did a lot of thinking about how I want to spend the next 12 weeks of my life (check out the 12-Week Year; it’s a refreshingly short framework for approaching your life’s goals). And for the first time in as long as I can remember, I couldn’t think of much I wanted to do.
I know I want to start running long again … but I’m not sure what for. Another 100, and a step closer to Badwater? A fast marathon, to get within striking distance of three hours in the next? Or just to run for the sake of running, something I’ve never been successful at doing for long. (One thing for sure is that I have the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon on my schedule for next month, and I’ll also be speaking there on a panel about building your running brand. If you want to come run, you can use the discount codes here.)
I’ve become more interested and curious in raw diets since talking to Mike Arnstein a few weeks ago. My family and I are going to go camp out for a week at his Woodstock Fruit Festival in August, where I’ll be speaking once or twice and leading an activity. I don’t want that to be my first experience eating raw, so I plan to give it a try over the summer when the weather is warm and amenable to a diet like that. I’m not there mentally or socially yet, but looking forward to the challenge nonetheless.
With new NMA projects done for now, I have plans to focus much less on the “business” side, and way more on the weekly content, with the goal of just having fun and sharing ideas — aiming for lightness, ease, and joy in work. I’d like to write a lot more (maybe even start a personal blog) and produce more podcasts (hopefully one a week). From experience I know it’s a lot easier to say you’re going to do those things than to actually make them happen — we’ll see how it shakes out this time.
So that’s where things stand … on the edge of a new cliff, ready to dive in, and feeling happier than I’ve been in a while. I know drama generally makes for better blog posts than contented introspection, but if I can have it my way, I’ll take the status quo.
For a little while, at least. As happy as I am now, I can’t wait to get obsessed with whatever’s next.