Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

Man in the Mirror

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When I look in the mirror I do not initially see a 41-year-old man looking back at me. The man, er boy, staring back at me is still young.

But as I lean closer to the mirror, the wrinkles become more apparent. The amount of salt on my unshaven face is ever growing. The gray in my hair is spreading, slowly, but steadily spreading nonetheless.

That guy in the mirror is no longer 22 or even 32 (which is the age I always foresaw myself staying at forever). No, that guy is 41.


41 is not old necessarily, but it definitely is not young anymore – and that’s hard for someone who has always had somewhat of a Peter Pan complex. All my life I felt that if you stayed young in your mind and heart, your body would reflect that. When I re-discovered running three years ago I became convinced that I had found the Fountain of Youth.

6 months into my discovery I was 25 pounds lighter, had more energy than I had when I was 20, and felt as mentally sharp as I ever had been. I was convinced that I had turned the clock backward.

The problem of course is that you can only hold back Father Time for so long. Over the last three months it has suddenly taken me longer to recover, I’ve required more energy to motivate and my cracker-jack timing has been, well, a little off. Despite all of that I continued to push myself, hard. Eventually I had to stop and listen.

During a time that I should have been at the peak of my training (70 miles per week) for my upcoming marathon at the end of the month, I was instead asleep and running haphazardly (20 miles per week). Obviously I needed a break. 6 marathons (along with training for them) in 18 months had taken their toll.

I felt old. Suddenly running wasn’t my fountain of youth anymore. It was more like the wrong cup at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

With just two weeks until the Run Around the Lake Marathon, I’m still working my way back to loving running again. My mojo (lower-case “m”) seems to be back – I was able to throw down 20 miles in 95° heat and just this morning I ran some pretty strong intervals – but it hasn’t been/isn’t easy yet.

One nice, and unexpected, thing about missing runs due to lack of motivation however has been fresher legs when I DO run. Maybe as I get older, less is more.

Under normal circumstances I think that I would be losing my mind right about now knowing just how crappy my training has been this cycle, but something Joanne over at Apple Crumbles said to me several weeks ago has kept me steady despite my lack of mileage. She said:

“As for the marathon training, you’re a seasoned marathoner. You know what to do to get from mile 1 to mile 26.2. Don’t worry”

You know what? She’s right.

And so I look at that man in the mirror. He may not be as young or as strong or as fast as he was even just 18 months ago (actually I know I’m faster than I was 18 months ago…I just may not be as fast as I was 9 months ago), but he is wiser and has the accumulated knowledge of 6 marathons under his belt.

For the first time since November 2009, I am nervous about running a marathon, but this time it is tempered with the knowledge, as Joanne said, that I “know what to do to get from mile 1 to mile 26.2”.

I will worry, but dammit if I don’t enjoy myself too. We, most of us anyway, don’t do this to finish first – we do this for fun!!!  And if I squint my eyes just a little bit, it easily takes 10 years off that guy I see in the mirror.

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Why do you run?

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Last night I went to bed around 11PM. My alarm was set for 4:10.  I was planning on a 12-mile run, 7 miles of which would be run at half-marathon pace.  I had  even programmed my new Garmin Forerunner 610 to monitor my heart rate to make sure I was running the proper zones.

Unfortunately my plans didn’t work out so well.  At around 12:30AM I woke up and for the life of me could not get back to sleep.  The last time I looked at the clock before finally drifting off was 2:30AM.


3 hours of interrupted sleep before a 12-mile run is not smart.  When my alarm went off I simply turned it off and rolled over.  This was the smart move, but as I drifted off again I wondered how I would feel in the light of day.  Would I be disappointed that I didn’t even try? Would I be mad that I had been awakened in the middle of the night?  Would I even care?

What’s really weird is that I think it made me more motivated.

It did make me mad, but not in the “I’m so angry” kind of way – instead, I was happily mad.  It was almost like a flame coming back to life.  I was disappointed, but instead of moping about it, I was simply excited about the next opportunity I would have to run.

Last night I was half-excited about the run (mostly because I wanted to see how well the Forerunner 610’s programmable workouts functioned.  But this morning, as I made breakfast for my girls (who are home for summer vacation) I found that I was REALLY excited about my next run (whatever that may be).  In the end, I will probably miss my 12-miler.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a 5 mile recovery run followed by 20 – 21 on Sunday and despite wanting to try out the bells and whistles of my new toy, I am even more amped to hit the road for a long run on Sunday – no sense in me blowing myself up tonight with a hard 12.  As Coach Caleb always says, don’t try to make up for a missed training run. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

I am really excited about running both tomorrow and Sunday.

Strange that missing a workout actually serves as motivation to get back out there and just GO! Who would have thought that would happen.

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Why do you run?

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The alarm goes off.  I blink my eyes a couple of times.

4AM already?

I blindly reach in the dark for my phone to turn off the snoring sound (yes, my alarm is a snoring sound).  I move my stiff legs and body off of the bed and to the bathroom where I find my shorts and socks waiting for me.  I stare at them.

Do I really want to run this morning?  8 miles? Really?

I ignore my brain and change. I head downstairs for some oatmeal, a banana and some coffee – my legs are still sore and tight from Sunday’s hard, fast 18-miler.

This is gonna hurt.

I slowly down the pre-workout meal, delaying the inevitable.  Part of me wants to go back to bed; part of me knows Boston is less than 5 weeks away.  The schedule calls for 8 miles with 5 intervals of 600 meters at 5K race pace.  I don’t have it in me to run outside this morning so I trudge down to the treadmill, trying to get my brain to convert the numbers into something I can use.

600 meters…400 meters is about a quarter mile…0.25…add half of that…0.375…how the hell am I supposed to use that?

I settle on running 0.40 mile intervals at the treadmill’s top speed (10mph) with a 0.20 mile recovery in between.

This is gonna hurt.

I pop the TV on and stretch a little, not really wanting to do this.  At that moment, all I want to do is crawl back into bed and sleep for another 3 hours.  I look at the clock – 4:35 – it’s time to go.

Pain.  Not the sharp, oh crap I’ve injured myself kind of pain.  Just pain.

Just under 57 minutes later I am done.  Sweat is dripping off my body like I’m a hose with holes in it.  I am spent.

But the endorphins kick in and I can’t remember that feeling I had before the run.  I don’t remember NOT wanting to run.

All I know is DAMN! This feels good!!!

This definitely feels good.

Hope you got your feel good on today.

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Why do you run?

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I love running.

I believe in running.

I preach running.

You know this.  Anybody who spends more than 15 minutes with me knows this.

If there is a problem, running either IS or can lead you to the solution.

I definitely have a passion for running, a burning fire.

It is…consuming.

So I get a little frustrated when people don’t get it.  It’s hard to me to understand how people do not understand that running (and when I say running I mean any sweat-producing exercise) can make them feel better, be better.  I get even more frustrated when people get it, but don’t do anything about it. 

How can you not be taking care of yourself?  How can you do this to yourself?

Like I said, I get frustrated.

But then I remember – I didn’t start running until I was almost 39.  It was just over two years ago that I started running regularly.

And I knew long before!  I knew the benefits of regular exercise and what it could do for me.  But I didn’t.

I didn’t.

And that is what I tell myself when I see friends and family placing health low on their priority lists.

The fire will come. Hopefully.  Or maybe it won’t.

I hope it does.

I do.

I can stoke it for you temporarily, but in the end, the fuel must come from within.  The fire has to burn from within.


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There are many reasons why I run.  Some are for me – the sense of accomplishment, the feeling of achievement; but some are for others.

I run because I need to know that I am doing everything possible to make sure that I am “there”.  I don’t mean “there” in the sense of the here and now – no, I am talking about being “there” down the line.  I run for my kids.  I run for the wife.  I run for my parents.

Statistics show that those that lead a sedentary life have a significantly higher likelihood of being inflicted with cancer or other life-debilitating diseases.  Add extra weight (not even obesity) to that equation and the numbers become staggering.

According to the Mayo Clinic, men who have a beer gut are at a higher risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Some types of cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • High triglycerides
  • Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Sleep apnea

For women, the increased belly fat brings a higher risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Breast cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Gallbladder problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Colorectal cancer

Depending on how sedentary the life-style and the amount of weight, the increased risk can be as much as 50%.

But here’s the thing, even if a sedentary life only added a 5% chance of getting cancer or some other life-ending disease, would you want to take that chance, knowing that exercise and healthful eating habits could have helped you avoid them?  Could you look your children or spouse in the eyes at the end and simply apologize because you couldn’t find the motivation to move your body?

Time is a factor, I know.  There are only 24 hours in a day, and busy, hectic life-styles can impede the ability to sweat.  Carving out 120 minutes per week can be difficult.  It’s hard.  It shouldn’t be, but it is.  Still, I bet if you kept a diary of everything you did in the coming week, you would find a 30 – 40 minute window in a few spots.  Give it a try.  Seriously.

Energy is another factor.   Low-energy can sap the will like nothing else, but I tell you this – you energy-level is much like matter in that it is subject to inertia.  If it is sedentary, it will remain sedentary until you move it.  The spectacular part though is that once it is moving, it is more likely to stay in motion.  You just have to push – a little bit, every day.  Get the ball rolling and the rest will take care of itself.

So, I guess the question is, are you happy playing Russian Roulette?  The statistics say that nothing should happen when you pull the trigger, but do you want to take that chance?  Whether it’s a bullet or life-ending disease, the result is the same.

That is a reason I run; why I try to break a sweat at least 2 out of every 3 days.

Take the bullets out of the gun.

There are no guarantees in life other than death and taxes, but why not stack the deck in your favor?

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The average American sleeps over 106 days per year.

The average American watches almost 78 days of television per year.

The average American surfs the Internet nearly 30 days per year.

The average American eats for nearly 23 day per year.

How much time does the average American spend on exercise?

Less than 20% of the American population participates in regular exercise. Of those 20%, 65% spend less than an hour doing it. For 80% of this Great Nation, the average amount of time spent during the year on truly sweating is less than 1 day.


Sleep and food are necessary. Television and the Internet are not.


And no, it’s not just lack of exercise; it is also what we are doing with the time we COULD be spending exercising (staring at a screen, mindlessly eating). It’s a double-whammy.  Mindless eating is not about hunger or nutrition. It’s not even about pleasure, as a fine meal can be.  But junk/fast-food is not the enemy. It’s what we are doing with it that is – a topic for another post I suppose.

I digress.


So what’s your health worth to you? 20 days? 10 days? Would you believe that you could significantly help yourself with just 6.5 days a year? 6.5 days.

Can you spare 6.5 days?

That averages out to 3 hours per week.

I can already hear some people saying, “I don’t have an extra 3 hours per week.”

I hear you. Loud and clear. Time is precious. Choices have to be made. Issues must be tended to. But I take you back to the statistics above. How many hours per week do you spend in front of the television or the computer?

Be honest.

I have friends who are constantly traveling, constantly working and literally don’t have the time. They don’t watch TV and time spent on the computer is for work. For them, I’m not sure what the answer is. Some kind of multi-tasking?

But there are others. Other who complain or come up with excuses.

3 hours a week.

Not only are you receiving the benefits of physical exertion during that time, you’re getting the added bonus of not sitting in front of a screen, munching on HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).

So let me re-phrase – can you re-allocate 3 hours per week?


Isn’t your spouse/child/parent/friend worth 6.5 days?

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This one is for the mommies and the daddies.  The uncles and the aunts.  The grandparents and family friends.  And for those who may one day become any one of those things.


Watching the cycle all over again…~2033 and beyond.

Spoiling little ones… ~ 2033

Motherhood… ~2033 – 2035

Wedding Day…~2031 – 2033

Engagement…~2028 – 2032

The first job…2023 & 2025

College graduation…2023 & 2025

First day of college…2019 & 2021

High school graduation…2019 & 2021

Driver’s License…2017 & 2019

First Boyfriend…hmmm…maybe that happens when the wife finally allows me to buy a shotgun and a rocking chair.

What’s your reason to run? Or swim? Or bike? Or walk? Or generally live a healthy lifestyle?

I have two:

Brooke & Katie

I am taking care of this old body of mine because I don’t want to miss a single milestone.

Are you?

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Last week, a little over 12 weeks out from my next marathon, I suddenly had a crisis of confidence.

It’s not like I fear the marathon like I used to.  I know I am capable of finishing.  Yes, there is always a part of me that wonders “can I finish this marathon today” but for the most part, I know that if the fate of the world depended on me running 26.2 miles in one shot, I could do it, and the planet would be saved.

No, the crisis wasn’t about completing a marathon.

It was about finishing, more specifically, finishing strong.


I am close.

Real close.

Just over 9 minutes close to calling myself a Boston qualifier (3:20:59).  Yet many of the metrics used to project marathon times based on shorter races like the half-marathon and 10K indicate that I should be capable of running anywhere between a 3:07 and a 3:17.  My best to date?  A 3:30.

So what’s the problem?

I supposed I could reason that Boston is a tough race to qualify with.  I could argue that maybe I would have BQ’d in Providence had I not just run a Boston 2 weeks earlier.

But those would just be excuses.

Is Boston really 12 minutes harder?  Did running Boston really cost me 9 1/2 minutes in Providence?  I have a hard time believing that.


Many in my life will attest that I have struggled through much of my adult life with the concept of finishing.  I will start dozens of projects and finish a few.  One of the “few” things that I have maintained an almost laser-like focus on has been running.

Running has brought a certain amount of order to my life that was definitely lacking before.  With each race I have signed up for, I have been able to focus on a goal and follow it through.  The success or failure in achieving that goal (a sub-40 10K – SUCCESS!, a 1:30 half-marathon and a 3:20 mary – not yet) has almost been secondary to following the task to the finish line.

When I briefly ran cross-country in high school, I did it begrudgingly.  I ran because I really wasn’t any good at any other fall sport.  Unfortunately, I was expected to do something in the fall to stay fit for the spring track season (I ran the 330 IM hurdles – I was too slow for the 100, 220 and 440).  To say I didn’t like it is an understatement, plus, I really wasn’t any good.  I dropped out of a few races, a few because of injury, others because my heart was just not in it.


My heart was just not in it.


That statement has been floating around my head for the last few days.

Is that my problem?  Is it a heart issue?  A twitter friend said to me recently that she thought that heart was represented through determination.  I’m pretty sure that I have that.  Another friend said to me when I first started this marathon quest, that the last 6.2 miles of a marathon are where you really discover just who you are and what you are made of. The last 6.2 of Manchester showed me that I could finish what I had started, even if it meant doing so on frozen quads.  But as I look back at Boston and Providence through the lens of time, I wonder, what did those last 6.2 miles really tell me?  Did my body fail me, albeit to a lesser degree, again? did I error strategically? or was it my heart?

I am going to tell myself it was the first two, and I now have 12 weeks to prove it.  For my Boston/Providence double this Spring, I did not follow any particular training plan.  I simply ran.  I logged a tremendous amount of miles, but never followed any schedule, and quite honestly, never did much in the way of speed or threshold work.  That changes for this fall.

Yes, I am again pulling a double (this time 5 weeks apart), but my approach is going to be different.  I am running the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon on October 3rd followed by New York City in November.

For the next 12 weeks I will be following a plan (the Pfitz 12/55) that works on endurance, speed and strategy.  Something I have come to realize, just now, is that race day strategy doesn’t start when the gun goes off.  It starts with the beginning of your training cycle.  I tried to execute a smart strategy in Boston on race day, but the training I had done (essentially all long runs) didn’t lend itself to doing that.

The training isn’t going to be easy.  There will be hard runs and easy runs over the next 12 weeks, but maybe that is what heart is all about.

To go back to my twitter friend, determination is where it all starts.  It’s time to train hard, and more importantly, train smart.

I’ve got 12 weeks to make my body match my heart.

My heart is set on 3:20.

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If we can’t live together, we’re gonna die alone.

-Jack Shephard

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What am I running from?

What am I running to?

What drives me?

Is it as simple as that?

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation about the relationship between self-image and food. The gist of that particular conversation was that some people use food to fill a void or ease a pain in their lives.  The void or pain “drives” them to food.

Not a revelation, I know.

But for some people, they need to hear it out loud or from an “expert” to internalize it and then use that information in a positive way.

That conversation got me thinking about my relationship with running.  Without a doubt there are some who have substituted running for food in the above mentioned relationship.  I don’t think that it’s a lot of people, but it’s a reality.   I had to ask myself, what about MY relationship with running?

Is there a void? And am I trying to fill it with miles upon endless miles? Is there a buried pain that I am not aware of (or choose not to be aware of) on the surface?

I consider myself a pretty shallow guy. I don’t mean that in a negative sense. I mean that for the most part, when it comes to me, what you see is what you get. There are a few deep undercurrents, but I am generally an open book and am pretty easy to read. At least that’s what I believe.

So what drives me? Why do I do this? Why get up early or go to bed late to run.

A long time ago I had a huge competitive streak. I worked hard to be first in everything I did, whether it was in academics, on the track, or in the ring. I wasn’t always the best, and sometimes I had my ass handed to me with a side of humble pie, but I always came at it hard.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my edge…completely. So when I discovered running 18 months ago, and found that one could be competitive no matter the talent level, my fire was somewhat renewed.

I love running because, despite the fact that 99% of us will never win a race outright, we can feed our competitive fire with the runners that are around us. Whether you’re fighting for 10th, 100th or 1000th place, you can still fight, push, give 100% and feel good about how you did. Disappointing finishes can be used to fuel the fire and drive you.  A fantastic finish can feed your desire even more.  In the end you are truly only racing against one person – yourself.

That is what has driven me in my runs for the last 18 months.  Trying to PR with every race, trying to push myself harder and faster than I did before.

But this past week brought me a completely different kind of fuel.  One that can be just as powerful, if not more so, than the re-kindled internal flame that has been driving me.  This summer I am running for my girls.  One of my two daughters is on the autism spectrum, the other is typically developing, but both are greatly affected by the effects of autism.  Though my little one is the one who struggles daily with autism, my older one has had to learn how to accommodate a little sister who can act in ways that don’t always make sense, are sometimes irrational, and quite frankly, from my older one’s perspective, occasionally embarrassing.

Though her struggle is nothing like that of my little Brooke’s, Katie’s struggles are nonetheless real and truly burdensome.  Katie, in a lot of ways, has had to grow up more rapidly than her peers.  She tries to find a balance between being a typical 9-year-old girl and being the big sister of a 7-year-old with autism.  I have to remind her on a regular basis that she does not need to “mother” her sister.

But there is a third girl in my family who has been deeply affected by autism as well – the Wife.  She has had to take a different path than I am sure she imagined when we first said, “I do” (coincidentally, this past Sunday was our 11th anniversary).  Having carried both our girls for 9 months,  she has felt every bit of pain and frustration she sees in both Brooke and Katie in ways that cut deep and leave scars. She has found her outlets through her blog and has become a uniter of sorts in the local community, helping create a very popular inclusion committee at the girls’ elementary school.  But she too, along with Brooke and Katie, struggles with the rippling effects of autism on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

When I first got word from Autism Speaks that I had been accepted to be part of their team for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon, I focused almost completely on my little Brooke.  I sent out emails and updates on Twitter, Dailymile and Facebook asking people to help me help my little girl Brooke, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this run, these efforts by Autism Speaks, my reason for asking you for donations and/or spreading the word, were less about just Brooke and more about the big picture – the families and circle of friends that are affected by weight of autism.

Autism can be isolating, not just for the person affected by it, but for the entire family.  From a personal perspective, I can tell you that autism, although introducing us to a whole new world of friends (Drama, Jersey, Judith, Pixie, Jeneil?  We love you!), it has also kept or pushed us to the periphery with other groups.  I don’t blame those people who have fallen off our social radar.  Part of it has been our own doing.  Some people just don’t get it or are unable to convey and instill their own compassion into their children and because of that we have withdrawn.  But sometimes, it is the other families that pull away, because it is the parents who can’t wrap their brains around what it is we go through on a daily basis.  Again, I don’t blame them.  It’s human nature to pull away from something we can’t understand.  Hopefully awareness can change some of that.

And so I run this summer.  I run for Autism Speaks.  I run to raise autism awareness.  I run to make the world a friendlier place for my Brooke.  I run to make the world less of a burden for my Katie.  I run to help the wife see a world where the sun is in fact shining, there are fewer tears, and the occasional torrential rain storm can be a good thing because it can lead to rapid  growth.  I run to help others, whether they are affected by autism or not, to reach across their differences and shake hands in friendship.  In the end, whether it is autism, some other disorder, religion, politics or whatever it is that divides us,  if we can learn to appreciate and understand our differences, we can learn to live and thrive together.

Yes, I have found a new fuel to drive me this summer – it starts with my three girls, Brooke, Katie and the Wife.

Brooke, the Wife & Katie

I hope you will join me in my fight.

Click —>HERE<— to link to my Autism Speaks donor page OR THERE—> Bookmark and Share to help me spread the word.

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I used to love tomorrow.

Tomorrow offered the promise of a new day. The sun was sure to shine tomorrow. Tomorrow would clear away the cobwebs and the sorrow.

But there’s a problem with tomorrow. Something that I’ve grown to really dislike about tomorrow.

As the little red-head sings, it’s always a day away.

Tomorrow never comes and never will…especially when it comes to something like finding the motivation to run. If you are going to wait until tomorrow to start running, don’t bother – it ain’t gonna happen.  I’ve seen it too many times among friend, acquaintances, but more specifically, me.

“Oh, I’ll start that running program tomorrow.”

“I am gonna start running next week on Monday.”

“I got sidetracked today [Monday] so I guess I’ll have to start next week.”

“I’ll get to those Yasso 800’s.”

NO!  No, you won’t. You won’t do it unless you start today!  Right now.  If you’re not going to do it today, at least make a schedule and write it in.  Not in pencil.  Do it in permanent marker and write it down.   Carve out the time.  And then commit.  And no more excuses.   Just do it.

Time marches on, days go by, the body ages – but tomorrow will always be a day away.




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