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Happy Birthday To Me

My odometer hit fifty today so I am going to indulge myself with a rare personal post. I’ll do it again when I reach the century mark.

In the Spring of this year I decided to take up a running program. My goal was to run a 5K on my 50th birthday. I’ve done some running in the past but not for several years — I’ve even completed a 5K (once) so I had a rough idea of what I was in for. I loaded up my iPhone with a “couch-to-5K” app and took it slow.

running as I imagine it

I’ve had some success. My problem in the past hasn’t been with running so much as it has been with recovery. Invariably I push too hard, get sick, and fall off my program. I’ve also had trouble with my knees, ankles, and hips from the impact stress of running, especially sustained running over several weeks or months of training.

When I started the program I weighed 235, and even at 6′ 2″ that’s heavy for a runner. To ease the impact on my bones I’ve spent this entire training program on an elliptical device. I’ve run about three times a week for the last six months or so, and gotten to the point where I can go for about an hour in any single session.

running as I was doing it

My goal was to get down to at least 220 before running a race (and I’d prefer to be closer to 210), but with my birthday approaching it was time to get off the elliptical and get on an actual road to check my pace and endurance under real-world conditions. I’ve been as low as 225 during this regimen but was at 230 when I went out last week, and I felt every pound as I ran the 5K distance down from my house to the local university and back (that’s a shade more than three miles, for the metrically challenged).

It was pretty rough. I was considerably more sore than usual and recovery was slow. My pace wasn’t great — I doubt I could finish a 5K in under an hour at my present level, so with regret I decided to postpone an actual race on my birthday, and keep training with an eye toward getting the weight down and running a race later this year.

running as it really is

That put me back on the elliptical for a couple sessions this week, and then this morning, on my 50th birthday, I drove to the local university track and timed myself in a flat 5K. Running on a track is easier than the road — the surface isn’t as punishing, and there are no hills. I figured this was as good a way as any to honor my intent of running a race on this day, while still remaining committed to a real race at a later date.

Running gives you lots of time to think — mostly to think about how sucky running really is. My pace was slow and sweat was stinging my eyes. A couple laps in and my body was telling me to stop, but I soldiered on because I knew that it wouldn’t get easier, exactly, but that I’d get into that space where I didn’t think I was going to die. And I did. While running the track I took some stock of my life, as I think you are supposed to do on a birthday, and while that is neither here nor there I started thinking about this blog, and the time it’s been taking, and wondering if I should cut back on my commitment to Longbox Graveyard and the other online things I’ve been doing.

This has been a strange journey, after all, and at times I wonder just what the heck I am doing. WordPress seems to agree — I mean, look at the tags WordPress suggested for this blog entry, based on content and past publications:

A few more laps and I’d convinced myself that I should start bringing this blog to a close, wrapping things up by my 18-month mark this December, and I started ticking off all the other things I was looking forward to completing, too.

Fortunately, slow as I run, I had another mile to think things through. An insight I’d had about missing my birthday race date was that it was a good thing, because completing a race as I’d intended might give me permission to stop training. By pushing out that race date several weeks or months, I have committed to getting on the elliptical and getting on the track at least three times a week. I’m never going to be a competitive runner, but races are supposed to be milestones, not goals. The goal is improved health through the training that gets me to the milestones.

Milestone

So I kept my head down, and turned another lap, and thought that maybe that wisdom about not having permission to quit should also apply to Longbox Graveyard. Now, I’ve got a lot of things coming up between now and the end of the year, and I’m not sure how I am going to do it all. Business travel (to Austin and Shanghai, as well as a weekly round-trip drive between Carlsbad, CA and Los Angeles). My company is shipping its next game soon, and there’s all sorts of distracting business fu going on behind the scenes. I’ve started another online term of school (I am the world’s oldest community college student), plus the holidays are coming and I have kids that need their dad around. The usual stresses, to be sure, and plenty of people carry a lot more, but when you start to feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to look around for things you can let go. And so it might make a lot of sense to let something like this blog go away or go on hiatus for awhile.

But there was that nagging sense that I shouldn’t let myself quit — at running, or anything else. That I needed to stay on the road and keep running.

I don’t much believe in synchronicity, but I certainly had one of those moments, as right at that instant, my iPhone started pumping Led Zeppelin‘s “In The Light” through my ear buds, and these lyrics seemed to be speaking only to me:

And if you feel that you can’t go on. And your will’s sinkin’ low
Just believe and you can’t go wrong.
In the light you will find the road. You will find the road

Pretty cool. Random bullshit but still cool.

I decided to take it as a sign. I will stick with running. I will stick with the blog. I will try to do a better job with both, and I will try to do other things and extend myself creatively as well.

I pushed through to the end of my 5K and set a time that might almost have been respectable if this had been a race day. I will get there.

I wasn’t quite ready to run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art like Rocky but I will allow it wasn’t a bad way at all to feel on my 50th birthday.

My laps complete and my resolve renewed I went back to my car.

And got my birthday present.

I’d driven down to the running track at Cal State San Marcos University, but as it was a Saturday, and as I had parked here …

… I figured I didn’t need a parking pass.

The University cops felt differently. And so I got a nice little $65.00 birthday present to make sure there was both a yin and a yang on this special day.

some Shang-Chi Yin/Yang … Master of Kung Fu review next week at Longbox Graveyard!

I got a laugh out of it.

The University Police station was closed, and I didn’t find Judge Dredd by driving around the campus a time or two, so I couldn’t make a personal appeal for mercy. I’ll drop by the office later this week and see if they take pity on me. (Update — After pleading my case by email and shamelessly referencing my birthday, the ticket was dropped!)

I’m sure there is a lesson here, but I’m too tired to tease it out.

Instead, I’m going to relax the rest of this weekend, watch Avengers on Blu-Ray with friends, spend some time with my kids, and try to rest and reset for the weeks and months ahead. I will keep going. The blog will keep going. The world will keep going.

Thanks for reading Longbox Graveyard! See you next week.

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