The Year of Health

Running Man, the 2011 Edition

The Year of Health ended just a few days ago.

If I had to add it up I’d say I came out on the plus side of things last year.

On the positive: I quit smoking 48 weeks and nearly 2 days ago. I weighed in the neighborhood of 165. I completed my fastest half-marathon ever and finished a brutally cold trail marathon in December. I even regularly breached the sub-8 minute mile mark.

On the negative: My six-week post-marathon routine hasn’t been great and I’ve put on 10 unwanted pounds. I didn’t hit my time goal on the marathon. I haven’t found cross-training routines I care for.

Still, I consider the year a success. It’s certainly gotten me ready for the upcoming Year of Health 2: Electric Bugaloo. (As an aside, Electric Bugaloo will never, ever go out of style as a sequel name. Kudos to you 1980s.) Last year was training, this year should be epic.

Which brings us to my next 90-in-90 challenge: the De-Fatman Edition.

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Run Fatboy Run, a Tale of Addictions

My routine has been upended.

This is neither a tale of woe nor sorrow although in the beginning it certainly sounds that way. Like everyone else on the planet, I’m prone to fits and bouts of depressive-ness. This is not one of those times.

I started running at the end of April, 564.8 miles ago. My routine has been strict, save for a single handful of days when life has escaped me for some reason. Since I began, I’ve run in 5 states, 13 cities, 3 countries and 2 continents. I’ve befriended runners across nearly everywhere I’ve gone because – by and large – runners are pretty happy people when they are running.

I devoured Born to Run. Overhauled my eating habits (save for my pizza every other week). Purchased the Vibrams and used them daily.

But the running hasn’t been enough.

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Running…(88 of 90)

If I’m not careful with myself, I loop.

My mind works in an odd way, one that I’ve written about here and there before. It’s not anything crippling or debilitating, but it’s certainly a thing. The world in my head works in a very specific way. There’s no getting around that.

Still, it’s not entirely a lost cause when I’m paying attention to it. Which I don’t do enough.

But I’m trying to change that in my Year of Change. My Year of Health.

In the year before I came to Muncie, as I sat in the offices of doctors who tried to figure out what was wrong with my heart, I knew that whatever it was – whatever it was – it could be traced back to me. The smoking. The drinking. The decadence and indulgence of my life.

There comes a time when the body simply can’t handle the weight of it all anymore.

My doctor told me that my mind works the same way. I can push it, prod it, ignore it and run it around. But only for so long. Before the crash.

***

I’m one week into my serious training after six weeks of warm-ups.

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7:53 (73 of 90)

23 months is a long time.

We’ve covered that fertile ground before. I’m sure we’ll cover it again.

Today, though, it was all about 7:53. Because today was my timed mile. Not that I have it planned and plotted out. I know my workout regiment well enough to tinker with it. Even during the dark drunk years, I kept to that. Mostly. (Still managed to be 200 pounds three different times in my life so imagine where I was heading if I hadn’t worked out.)

My goal for this semester – for the first part of The Year of Health – was to quit smoking (check: 66 days and counting) and get back into running shape. I ditched my lifting/running routine, at least until I’m back in fighting shape.

Instead, I decided to focus on getting my wind back. To aim for another marathon, this time without all the smoking and the drinking to get in the way. To re-shape what has un-shaped.

(Although truth be told, I’m pretty stoked that I ran a marathon in the midst of my epic drinking disaster FAIL in San Francisco. If, you know, one can be proud of such things. But I digress…)

To do that, I’m training with a great workout recommended by Lance Armstrong’s trainer. One that I’ve used before. One that switches between long slow runs and mid-range fartleks. One that ends with monthly timed runs.

My goal, before I leave for Austin: 7:30 second mile.

***

In high school, I ran cross country.

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The Burn (59 of 90)

I was never a great athlete, but I could hit a baseball.

And catch a ball from just about any angle on the field. And I was quick. Not blazing fast, but sharp like a glass edge. The kind of speed you need in a game like baseball.

Plus, I was smart about the game. I studied it in ways that teenagers don’t. I read. I listened. I had the benefit of being around professionals who taught. What I lacked in ability, I made up for in knowledge. There was almost never a time I can remember when something happened that I wasn’t prepared to handle. I made up the half-seconds with my head.

It’s hard to recount how I ended up there without retelling the story of my life. This may sum it up: when I broke my arm during my tee-ball season (age 7 or 8), we had the cast put below my elbow and above my wrist so that I could continue playing shortstop.

Add that to the countless hours I spent taking ground balls after practices, hours in the batting cages around Cincinnati, hours in the backyard pitching to my dad and hours taking grounders in the pouring rain on our concrete driveway (to simulate playing on Astroturf)…

The equation was set for my life to have turned out differently.

I know my high school baseball coach, Dave Evans, thought so as well. Not Major League Baseball player differently. But Coach. Scout. General Manager. That life was in front of me if I wanted it.

Three times in my life I rebuffed offers to me: first to keep me playing in high school (I took a year off), second to get me on a college team to play, and third to take an interview with a major league team’s scouting department.

***

I bring that up because I’ve now had nearly as many days beyond athletics as I had days leading up to athletics.

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Phlegm (24 of 90)

I’m three weeks into my actual attempt to quit smoking (as opposed to my Year of Health, first month waffling).

It’s a good feeling, most of the time. I’ve always had a motor that goes 100 miles per hour, but alcohol and cigarettes kept it running at a much more manage-able rate. (For all practical purposes here, alcohol did help me calm down. Until it didn’t. I’m speaking of the former in this piece.)

My body, though, has started the long process to clear out my lungs and that brings these fits of energy bursts, the ones that send me into an almost manic state unless I do something about them. For me, that means running. I’ve always loved running (well, always in terms of adulthood; I hated it as a kid), which is good because I’ll find myself smoking again if I just try to internalize all this energy.

I go a little bit bat-shit crazy, truth be told.

One of the things I’m learning in my sobriety (or in my middle ages or in my thirties) is how to manage my body. It’s a big science experiment, this piece of flesh-meat, and it’s interesting to tinker with it to see what happens. To see how I respond. To see what comes next. And I know that I do better when I’m running.

So it’s time. My lungs are clean enough to start.

The Year of Health (for me) has officially kicked off.

***

A few years back, one of my two mentors decided to quit smoking. (The other, as far as I can tell, would never touch the stuff). He’d been my smoking buddy at Berkeley, since we were one of a small handful of smokers there. We’d sit out in the courtyard for 10 minutes at a time, griping about something.

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The Year of Health

On January 5, one of my students, Ben Luttrull, tagged me in a Facebook Note. He said he was starting on a program to get into better shape after years of neglect. His goal: lose 35 pounds and reorganize some of his life priorities. He tagged a few people who he hoped would support, cajole and push him in his journey.

That’s a pretty lofty goal he has, one that won’t come easily. I’m not much for motivational speeches (although I am one to talk) so I thought the best way to help Ben out was to join him in his quest. So I’ve declared 2010 The Year of Health, which means I’m going to finally quit smoking after years of talking about that and I’m going to finally try to get back to my fighting weight.

As part of this process, I am going to incentivize our work. Here’s the plan.

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