As some of you know, I signed up for the Rock 'n' Roll half marathon here in Savannah in November. It will be my first half marathon. Each Monday (a rest day following a recovery day), I'll post a brief (probably) video to let you know how it's going, and I'll post them here with whatever links should accompany the video.
A couple of days after I conceived of the title of this post, Rob Jones was on an episode of Jocko Willink's podcast titled I can't vs. I won't, so of course the whole thought process for the post changed.
Goggins' dad was a sex trafficker, moving prostitutes across the border from Canada to Buffalo. He didn't believe in sending his kids to school — instead, they worked at a roller rink at night, then slept while their mom worked a bar until 3 a.m. Dad beat the kids and mom, and mom finally left when Goggins was 8, moving the kids to a small town in Indiana where racism was rampant.
He wanted to be an Air Force special operations agent. He failed the test twice, but got a tutor and managed to pass it the third time. He was also afraid of the water and after six weeks of toughing out a training program, the military tested him for sickle cell and found he had a trait for it, so they sat him out for a week.
Goggins had quit everything he'd ever done, so until he was sidelined, he wanted to prove he had changed. After he sat out his week, he figured he could push through the final three weeks, but his commanding officer (CO) told him he had to start the training from the beginning. He couldn't imagine going back through that, so he told his CO the sickle cell discovery scared him and he got a medical excuse out of the special ops unit.
He had quit again.
He went on to do a job that didn't require any work in the water, and put on 120 pounds, then left the Air Force and went to work for an exterminator. Eventually he saw a show on Discovery Channel that struck a chord with him and he decided he wanted to be a Navy SEAL.
He finally found a recruiter who would sign him up for the path. His prior stint in the Air Force helped him, but at 6'1" and 297 pounds, he had 90 days to lose 106 pounds to meet the weight requirement for the SEAL teams.
The next night he went back to work at the exterminator, and decided that wasn't going to be his life. He walked off the job and, as he puts it, became "a guy who didn't exist." He went hard. He sought discomfort. He lost the weight, got into the class and went through 3 SEAL hell weeks in a year. He didn't make it through the first, but he did through the other two.
Rob Jones joined the Marine Corps Reserve during his junior year in college as a combat engineer. He and his team would be responsible for using explosives and detecting buried IEDs. After graduation, he would be deployed to Iraq in 2008 and later Afghanistan in 2010.
After a landmine exploded near him in Afghanistan, he had both legs amputated just above the knee.
It took over a year for him to heal, and eventually he left the Marines with an honorable discharge.
What's a wounded Marine with no legs to do?
Row his way into the Paralympics and win a bronze medal, of course. And then cycle across the US. And then run 31 marathons in 31 days.
Misty Diaz is called Li'l Misty because she is about 4'4" and weighs 78 pounds. No, she's not 9 years old. She's an adult with Myelomeningocele, the most serious form of spina bifida, a condition described as "a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth." She walks with the aid of two pink crutches, or sometimes a walker.
Diaz' bio says she started entering races when she was 7, but in talking to Fussman, she says at one point she found herself broke, divorced and wondering what to do, so she signed up for a 5K and started off walking to the mailbox and back so that she'd be able to complete it (which she did, in around an hour).
Now she does 15-mile Spartan races. You know, the ones with the obstacles in them. She also holds some weightlifting records in her weight class.
I conceived this post while I was in the midst of what was then my longest-distance run and still remains my longest-duration run. A few weeks after this run, I went a mile farther, but did it about six minutes faster.
But let's talk about me for a bit, and about Goggins, specifically, because most of us are not ever going to have to deal with losing both our legs above the knee, nor are we likely to suddenly find ourselves with a birth defect we weren't born with.
There are three basic body types: ectomorphic, mesomorphic and endomorphic. Ectomorphs are long and lean. They tend to have problems putting on muscle or fat. Think Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Mesomorphs tend to put on muscle very easily, and are often rectangular and lean. Think Dwayne Johnson. Endomorphs tend to put on both muscle and fat easily, and are often pear-shaped. Think Danny DeVito.
Elite distance runners tend to be ectomorphs; elite sprinters more often are mesomorphs. Endomorphs? We're likely to be elite post-run beer drinkers.
Yep, me and Mr. DeVito both, though to be honest, I don't know anything about Danny DeVito's drinking habits. Or his running habits, as far as that goes.
What I'm getting at is that running doesn't come naturally to me. It's actually very difficult. I don't start enjoying a run until I've been going for 45 minutes or so. At that point, I can finally zone out and not think about how awful it feels.
Of course, in order to run two or three hours at a time, you have to take a few 30- and 40-minute runs a week. [As I prepare for my first full marathon in November, I hope to just make my "shorter" runs over an hour and mostly cut out the annoying ones.] That means I enjoy one or two of my five or six runs a week.
Really, I do it because I'd probably weigh close to 250 pounds if I didn't. Not exactly an ideal weight for someone who is 5'2".
I got started because when I was going to get married, my future sister-in-law (my wife's brother's wife) said we should do a 5K every month until the wedding. We signed up for the Chilly Chili 5K, a mid-January run in Cazenovia, New York. It was 12 degrees at race time.
That was the last one she ran with me.
I did a couple of others, and when we moved to Savannah at the end of the year, I needed a new challenge, so I signed up for a half marathon and trained hard for it.
It wasn't easy. Easy would be sitting on the couch.
When I signed up for the race, if you had told me I had to run it the next day, I would have said, "i can't." I'm no Bert Kreischer, who barely trained for the LA Marathon.
But the fact is, I could have. Running is just one foot in front of the other until you're at the finish line.
Goggins found this out, as well. He could go in the water. He could go through SEAL hell week three times. He could run a 205-mile race, even though the first time he ran he weighed 297 pounds and only eked out a quarter mile.
What are you telling yourself you can't do? Have you proven you can't do it? Have you tried? I mean, really tried? "It's too hard" is not the same as "can't." You (most likely) can't flap your arms fast enough to fly. You (most likely) can't pick up a tractor-trailer and carry it to the nearest port.
You (most likely) can do basically anything you can conceive. Thomas Edison famously took thousands of tries to come up with a filament for the light bulb. When asked about all those failures, he is quoted as saying, "I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that didn't work."
If you're going to say you can't do something. You'd better be able to prove it. Think about Edison. And Rob Jones. And Misty Diaz. And David Goggins. And then try harder.
I suggest removing the phrase, “I can’t,” from your lexicon and replacing it with, “I can’t YET.” Do this, so that you don’t risk being on your death bed saying, “I didn’t.”
Oh, and in case you need more proof that you can, meet Kyle Maynard, a congenital quad amputee (that means he was born without arms or legs) who went on to become a high school wrestling champion and a mountain climber.
Back at the beginning of the year, I decided to set a goal to run 1,000 miles this year. At under 20 miles a week, that may not be really ambitious to some people, but you need to understand a few things about me and running.
For most of my life, I've played sprint sports, like baseball and tennis and racquetball. I'm not a power hitter, so the most I ever really had to run in baseball was 180 feet (home plate to first base to second base). A tennis court is about 39 feet from one corner of the baseline to the opposite corner at the net. Racquetball is played in a 20-by-40-foot room, and since the ball bounces off the wall, you never have to run the full diagonal.
Before I signed up for that half-marathon last year, I'd only run longer than a 5K (about 3.1 miles) a handful of times. I also turned 40 this year, and I promise I am not getting faster and more agile as I get older; nor are my knees turning back the clock.
Until I was 38, I had maybe run a 20-mile week once, ever.
So that's me and running.
Why set the goal? Well, I wanted a reason to keep running. I think it's now ingrained in me enough that I'll keep doing it as long as my body allows, but I could have easily stopped after that half marathon last year. I can't say I enjoyed much of that training at all.
My goal-crossing run Monday was different, though. Instead of holding on to some 3-hour podcast so that I'd have something to listen to, I put my trust in iTunes to shuffle my way through 11.3 miles. I may have danced a little bit. It was cold and raining, but I smiled a lot. I made sure to run by some of my favorite downtown spots, like the fountain in Forsyth Park, the armillary in Troup Square and Monterey Square.
I stopped off where my wife was working to give her a kiss.
I also wanted to see if I could set a realistic goal for a whole year. It took me 354 days to get there. It's a leap year, so that's just about 97% of the year it took me to get to 100% of my goal. I'm going to say that was exactly the right number of miles to shoot for, if you're me.
I tweaked a calf during a race earlier this year, and it's been bothering me for a while. It flared up around mile eight, but I wasn't going to let it stop me from getting to where I wanted to be. I'm sure it'll bother me for a good while, so I might be looking at bicycles and elliptical machines for a couple of weeks to get it some rest.
I'll share with you some tunes from my run, because who doesn't love a little music in their life?
1. Jane's Addiction's cover of The Grateful Dead's "Ripple" — this one got me out the door and down to the pavement.
2. Asylum Street Spankers, "Monkey Rag" — I might have been dancing up Habersham Street. OK, I totally was. Bonus, this animation is adorable.
3. Bruce Springsteen, "Thunder Road" — This came on about halfway. If you thought you saw some crazy dude grinning and saying good morning while running down West Bay Street, this was in my ears.
4. Edesio Alejandro, "El Sopon de Yuya" — Yeah, so I was doing the rumba (badly) in the bike lane. So?
5. Gooselove & Antara, "Change With Me" — You know how some artists are formative in your life for the eight months you really needed them and then they disappear, only to show up in your earholes 15 years later?
6. Willie Nile, "History 101" — This is the song that was playing when I hit my thousand-mile mark.
Honorable Mention: Ellis Hooks, "Uncomplicated" — This came on as I turned toward home. It's one of my faves, but I can't find a video, so here's an excerpt at Shazam.
OK...it's almost 2017. What are you up to for the year?
I was running south down Drayton Street, along Forsyth Park, on yet another high-heat, high-humidity day in Savannah.
It seems like every time I've looked down at my phone's weather application the past two months, it says something on the order of "92°, feels like 109°."
I'd been frustrated by my inability — really, lack of true desire — to push past two or three miles (I'd been running two or three times a day sometimes to get some time in on the pavement).
That particular day, I had set out to run five miles, and here I was, about 2.25 miles in, drenched, sagging and miserable. Up ahead about a quarter mile — well within my view — was a corner.
I could turn left, and get home in about a mile, or I could turn right and keep going. I could go home, get comfortable and tell myself I was going back out later, or I could push myself through.
Let me note here that in general, five miles is not a stretch for me. I'll run my second half marathon this fall, and I've set a running goal of 1,000 miles this year.
At 10 minutes per mile, a quarter mile is two minutes, 30 seconds. That's not a long time if, say, you're driving to Baltimore. But just sit there and count off two and a half minutes. Go ahead. Bet you last about 15 seconds and say, "OK, I get the point."
Two and a half minutes of norepinephrine nudging me to the left, saying, "hey, three-plus miles on a really hot day isn't all that bad!" And a piece of my brain, feebly frying in the July heat, meekly responding, "no...I'm...running...five...today."
I thought I'd do something a little different here and move the post to early in the week, since the podcast posts at the end of the week. I'm not really sure if I can keep up a new publishing schedule like this, but there's only one way to find out, right? If need be, I'll just go back to Thursdays.
I went into that training with no time expectations, and by the time I got through the summer heat and really settled in, I decided I'd set a goal of 10-minute, 40-second miles (which from now on I'll format like 10:40 so as to not only sound like I know what I'm talking about, but save some space). I was right around that (a little behind — I finished in 2:21:12, which is a total of eight seconds behind over the course of 13.1 miles, if my math is correct).
I've kept running, which, I understand, is unusual for someone *cough cough* my age who only just started running. And like I said, I set a goal of 1,000 miles for the year.
I'm going to keep that goal, knowing that, as it gets warmer, I'm going to taper some miles. Sure, I'm still putting in some miles while it's 85 and humid, but given how early in the year the heat's hit, I expect we'll see some 100-plus weeks.
I'm also going to have a couple of weeks when I know I'm going to not run or maybe just get out for a few miles once or twice. My typical week consists of three, maybe four runs for a total of between 22 and 27 miles. This week will be more like 5 or 6 runs at a total of around 20 miles. Those weeks we have friends coming into town, we'll wind up walking 25-30 miles, and I won't run at all. I'll be out of town on vacation for a week and a half, and I'll run sporadically and enjoy myself instead.
That said, if you watch the progress on the right side of the website, you'll see I'm averaging more than the 2.75 miles a day I need to reach 1,000 on the year. I'm also well over the 85 miles per month, so I'm giving myself some breathing room.
All this time, I've been maintaining my goal of running at 10:40 a mile, and I realized on a run Monday that I need to stop that. I need to give myself the opportunity to fail as the weather gets less runner-friendly. I've been setting PRs almost every week at one or more of some of my more common distances (2, 7 and 12 miles).
I'm moving my goal up to 10:00, and I'll revisit that in September. That'll also make the math easier for me along the way (I have Runkeeper tell me where I am every quarter mile — just time and distance — and I calculate where I am compared to my goal to keep myself focused a little bit).
This is a good reminder to reevaluate your other goals, too. If you're knocking your goals out of the park, maybe it's time to set more difficult goals. And...go!
And 2016 is going to be a great year, if things go as planned. Yeah, we're so planning that we're not talking about anything. So there. Here are some of my favorite posts from 2015 – posts that I need to come back to every now and then to remind myself. Maybe they'll be useful for you, too. Happy new year.
Well, a week after I ran my first half marathon, I kept going. I took Sunday off, and Monday, I hopped on a treadmill for 10 minutes or so before hitting the weights, and then the rest of the week I hit it reasonably hard.
My lovely wife J signed us up for the Color Vibe to kick off 2016, and since she's not been training at all, I gave her an interval schedule that keeps her at distance for the seven weeks leading up. Her first week was a minute running, a minute walking, and the route is right about 3.5 miles.
Tuesday, I ran to the gym to lift and back (about 2.5 miles each way). Wednesday, I ran with her. Thursday, I ran four and change, and Friday was going to be a rest day but I was in a bad mood and decided to train with J again to get in some sweat and keep the endorphins flowing. Saturday, I went out for 11 miles.
I'll be back at it this week at least a few times; it's nice to be back in the gym, and 2.5 miles is a great warm-up before the workout and a nice way to keep everything warm after. My birthday is Friday, and I'll try to get a long one in that day and maybe give myself the weekend off.