June 30, 2013

Looking Ahead

I had a rather long post written here, on which I'd been working for a while. I write a great deal about running - and that will only increase, to be honest - but very little about what, specifically, I do. Moreover, I don't have any clearly stated goals. What is it I want to achieve? Boston? Western States? A number? A distance? A pace? I had a written an awful lot, in an attempt to address all of that, but instead I will just say this: No. None of that, specifically.

I simply want to be better; and that's it, really. I think specifics are best left to those with real talent, who target one or two races a year, for which they must be completely and totally optimized.

But for the rest of us, I don't think fitness is truly that picky. When you're well and truly fit, you'll probably be  faster across a pretty wide spectrum of distances. I ran a half marathon PR as a training run (meaning I had to stop for traffic, carry a bottle, etc.) for a 50 mile race in which I placed 3rd. There is little similarity in system stress between the two, and I could talk a great deal about that, but I won't.

I won't because there is as yet not much to say. I'm not nearly as fit as I'd like - nor will I ever be - but I'm pleased with my trajectory. So pleased, that I'd like to keep it for another 20 years or so. That, I suppose, is the only real goal I have: I want to be faster at 45 than 25. Faster at what distance? I don't know. Something between 5K and 100 miles, which really narrows it down.

The plan, then, is do hard but sustainable work for the foreseeable future, and see what happens. That, unfortunately, does not a terribly exciting post make. You have to wait 20 years for the payoff, after all.

But I am racing twice in July, so do look forward to the thrilling accounts of those bipedal excursions. My goals: Do the best I can that day. I'd really prefer if "my best" wins me a $100 gift card to the local/organic grocer, but we'll see. The plan: As always, run like hell. Racing is all that is lucid and true about the human experience, and it deserves nothing but everything your legs have that day. Two weeks, and I wake up.

June 21, 2013

Deciding and Doing

The internet is something great and terrible - so great and so terrible that those words do nothing to encompass even a fraction of a percent of the whole of it.

It is everything we've ever wanted and thus, sometimes, it is nothing at all. When you need one answer you need one; you don't need 20,000.

Want to make a better cup of coffee? Look. You'll find answers, and among them, you'll choose. But on what basis is that choice made? Weren't you looking for an answer from experts? And if that's the case, how can a non-expert pick The One Truth from the maelstrom?

Simply, you can't. And I can't either.

That why - to be totally honest - I'm glad to no longer produce content that adds to that. There are good people producing good resources; but at some point, we're saturated. And then, you just have to try shit.

I think we're at that point. I can tell you that I favor aeropress and pour over brew techniques, and how I prefer to do them. Other people can tell you other things.

I think someone once said about running that "The best training is the training you do". Want to hammer intervals every day? Worked for Roger Bannister. Want to run mega aerobic mileage? Worked for Peter Snell. There is theory and science to every approach, but neither theory nor science get your legs moving. That's up to you. Do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Similarly, the best coffee is the coffee you'll make. The point is to drink it and enjoy it, not to induce an anxiety attack over its preparation.

June 14, 2013

Other Things

In case my last post was a little too emo (it probably was), here's some stuff I like. Literally and only that. Just a random listing of things I am enjoying at the moment. Other than coffee. That's implied.

Larabars have been a go-to treat to me for a while, and protein bars, as a market, have basically been dead to me for just as long. But now Larabar makes a protein bar, free of bullshit ingredients, but with a little more heft that their traditional fare. The secret ingredient? Pea protein. Don't knock it 'til you try it; and you really should.
Beets taste awesome, are inexpensive, and are essentially EPO pulled out of the dirt. Numerous trials have demonstrated that beets (their juice, specifically), due to their high nitrate content, enable your body to zip oxygen around more efficiently. These trials have also demonstrated a boost in exercise performance. Doping with your salad is the best.
Artichokes are another great salad topper, though I usually just eat them by the can. As in, I eat the whole can. I enjoy the taste, but as with beets, there's an ancillary motive: Bile production. In short, bile is produced in your liver, stored and concentrated in your gallbladder, then released to aid in digestion. Did you know that I don't have a gallbladder? Probably not. But now you do. From ancient Greece to modern Germany, artichokes have been doctor recommended for people such as me, because artichokes aid in bile production and release.
This next thing is not food. But it is a posterior chain activating aerobic workout, and I'm basically useless in the heat.
This is the area's best espresso. I know I said I wouldn't mention coffee. I lied.

June 13, 2013


The romance of running - and fitness in general, I think - is it gives us the satisfaction of doing something, and through that crucible, making ourselves into something else. No one pushes us out the door. No one logs of the miles for you. Your legs, your effort, your choices. You either train or you don't. You either eat like an adult or a child with an overdeveloped sweet tooth.

Again, this isn't just running. I've progressed to the point where I'm doing my pullups and dips with 20 lbs added weight now, since my scrawny ass isn't sufficient resistance. Am I bragging by saying this? Pretty much. But effort earns you that right.

I bring this up, not to further discuss my mediocre fitness (I know a guy who does dips with 135 lbs hanging off his waist - it's insane. And I'm certainly not the fastest guy I know.), but to say that this notion is a little off base, at best, and fucking delusional at worst.

Simply, this recreational fitness thing does not make me a badass, a hardass, or any other kind of "ass" - except, maybe, a self-important ass, at times. It does not draw lineage from me back to whatever ancient warrior culture is trendy these days. It does not make me a better, more worthwhile person than someone who simply goes on walks over their lunch break, or hell, sits on their ass all day. And it does not make me a martyr, deserving of tens of facebook "likes" for completing another "epic" workout. Recreational fitness is not an albatross, not a cross to be born.

It is, rather, a supreme luxury, afforded to me based on a number of factors I had nothing to do with. Not a damn thing. I was born in a first world country, a healthy baby to healthy parents. I was raised without any wants or needs, allowed to play (or not) whatever sports I wanted, and eat like a growing kid ought to. I was given the opportunity to pursue whatever interests I developed, without family pressure, and without financial or logistical limits. I had books and basketballs and a dog.

Sitting here, right now, I'm typing this in my air-conditioned room, on my laptop computer, with which I'm connected to wireless internet. I'm wearing new clothes and have just returned from the gym, where I worked out and showered. I ate food to compensate for the 13 miles I ran, because there are 24-hour grocery stores where you can buy endless amounts of supremely nutritious food. Or not. I could have had ice cream for dinner. The point is, I can, almost literally, eat as much of whatever I want. In a world where roughly half of the population is starving, that's impossibly absurd.

Tomorrow, I will get my first paycheck from my new job. I will drive to this job in my car and sit in front of a computer, where I will nitpick minute details of academic writing. I will enjoy it, both because the work is intellectually stimulating, and because the co workers have been very welcoming and helpful. I will be paid for this in another two weeks - not a lot of money, but more than many people will see in a lifetime. And I will use this to buy all of the things mentioned above, to feed myself and support my recreational calorie burning.

There are too many circumstances and too many people who have collectively made this possible. I can't know of or name them all. (Although I should say, hi Mom and Dad. Obviously you did a lot - the most - to make everything possible. And you're reading this, because you're still endlessly supportive. Thanks.)

To be clear, this isn't first world guilt, nor is it an anti-exercise screed. I am proud of the fact that I've managed to coax my body into doing some pretty cool shit. Other people should be proud of themselves as well. This is simply awareness. Awareness that, of all possible realities, I've been given a pretty damn good one. Awareness that I didn't put this life together myself, and that no endeavor - not mine, and not anyone's - is truly solitary.

June 6, 2013

Coffee Art Kickstarted

I don't know anything about art, and haven't the cultured vocabulary to describe it in a deep and measured way. So I'm not equipped to tell you why I think this looks as cool as it does. (Not just because it involves coffee. Though it does. Which is awesome.)

But I do think it looks spectacularly cool. If you do as well, there's a kickstarter page where you can support the project. The cost of entry is as low as it gets - $1 is the minimum - and the value climbs quickly after that.

The good news is that, with 9 days to go, the project is more than fully funded. But of course, more money is better. And it's worth emphasizing that this isn't charity; you're getting cool stuff in return for your money.

Now, here is a steampunk penguin.

June 4, 2013


A conversation about coffee today went well; it's still a subject I can speak on with authority.

I also bought a plantain, thinking you could just eat the thing like banana. It looks like banana, after all. That was a dry, starchy mistake.

This will not come as a revelation, then, but even still: There are a lot of things I don't know.

It's worth remembering, as you try and eat fruit wrong.

New things are new, and thus challenging. We don't know things that we soon will; we will laugh at our former ignorance, which was really no greater - merely a different shape - than our current allotment. We will think we've got it figured out, until we take one really disappointing bite of Guatemalan fruit. And we will be reminded again of our perpetual vapidity.

But it's cool.

We'll keep learning, because ignorance is only bliss when it's treated as an opportunity.

Happy neuron feng shui.

June 3, 2013


Two things: I have roommates, and they're married now. They went to the courthouse on Friday, signed the necessary papers, then invited friends over to our house on Saturday.

I spent most of the night watching Arrested Development, playing horseshoes, and eating baby carrots. I was taunted by a small child (belonging to one of the visiting friends) who insisted that I couldn't win at horseshoes, because I was "the bad guy", and bad guys never won in the end. She determined this on the basis of my red shirt - a clear "bad guy" wardrobe choice, in her estimation.

In any case, my horeshoes record now stands at 7-1, and as the victories (and yes, that one defeat, which I did avenge - twice) piled up, the girl began to look a little sullen. She blew on my opponents' horseshoes and said "abracadabra", wishing them luck in vanquishing me. I don't know what it says about me - nothing good - that this only served as motivation, and that I engaged in some minor verbal sparring with a very young child.

I told her that this bad guy was different, that I always won in the end, and that this was not a fairy tale. I yelled and celebrated every score - certainly every ringer - and generally made an ass of myself in the pursuit of living up to my supposed villainy.

She didn't back off, however. Since her well wishes and magic tricks didn't seem to be helping, she took to more direct involvement. Namely, she tried throwing little rubber balls and bits of dirt at me as I threw, or shouting things from right behind me. But her efforts were in vain, and I finished playing only when I'd exhausted all potential challengers.

But then she had cake, watched Monsters, Inc., and - I'm sure - remembers none of this. I had an apple and just finished detailing the events on the internet. So, I think we can all agree I lost that one.

June 1, 2013


I've been getting asked if I'm excited about my new job lately, so I'd like to address that as succinctly as possible here.

In short, no, I'm not excited to have been hired. I'm excited to have the opportunity to make myself an asset, however. The goal is not to get a job, and merely survive. The goal is to thrive, to vindicate those who invested time, money, and effort in you. The goal is to prove them right.

So: Excited to work towards contributing in a meaningful way, to feeling - however we might define this - good at my job. 

One week in, and I feel as if I'm on my way. But there are miles to go, and complacency is nowhere on the horizon.