“It’s just a run”

“It’s just a run.” – Andrew Miller

A couple of months ago I was with my buddy Andrew during the final days leading up to perhaps one of the biggest and notorious ultra running races in the world, The Western States 100 Endurance Run.   He was in the midst of his final preparations, carving up his running shoes, when Betsy asked him if he was nervous and excited for the race.  He calmly said to Betsy, “it’s just a run.”  Given the circumstances and hype surrounding this race I was blown away at how calm he was.

IMG_3183

Andrew and I minutes before the start of the 2016 Western States 100

Over the past couple of years I’ve had the chance to get to know Andrew.  In many ways he is a friend that helps me to keep the perspective in place for why I run.  He is wise beyond his years and has become a valuable piece to my accountability team.

In 2002, the summer after I graduated St. Lawrence University, I was supremely out of shape.  As a graduation present my father gave me a road bike to help aid in my re-discovery of fitness.  That summer, while living in Bend, OR, I road for countless hours in an attempt to re-engage with my passions for being active outdoors.  My goal that summer was to ride my first century, 100 miles, from Bend up to Mt. Hood, on Route 97.  My buddy Ben was crazy enough to embark on this journey with me.  Somehow, later that August, we completed the 100 mile trek, which became a complete death march.  That experience  was the first time in several years where I felt accomplished.  Ultimately that ride set the tone for many years to come as I had successfully re-engaged with endurance sports.

100 miles is a long fucking way.  Hell, driving for 100 miles is a task in and of itself.  Riding 100 miles on a road bike is even harder.  I’ve ridden dozens of 100 mile rides in the last 15 years, and each time it becomes a humbling and fantastic adventure.  But running for 100 miles, over mountain ranges in the middle of nowhere, are you fucking kidding me?  That is insanity.

Next month, on September 10th, I’m going to once again attempt my first 100 mile trail running race at Pine to Palm 100, in Ashland, OR.  I’ve trained countless hours over the last 9 months to ensure that I am physically ready for the task.  Even more importantly I have adopted several mental practices that I hope to employ on race day, which I hope will help me overcome the tough parts of the course as well as help me keep the perspective as to why I do what I do.  I’ve never been more ready, in both regards, to tackle a feat that is far beyond normal to the casual onlooker.

Normally, my default setting, is to get super hyped up for an event like this.  I’m apt to comb the registration list and dwell on all of the other competitors that will toe the line, asking myself if I’m faster or slower than everyone else.  As a good friend reminded me the other day, I cannot control what happens to others racers, I should just focus on myself.

I’m also susceptible, partly due to my ego, to set unrealistic expectations for what the outcome might be.  Could I pull a top ten? Could I  drop a sub 20:00 hour 100?  Could I this, could I that? The truth is, the furthest I’ve ever run is 64 miles.  I have no idea what will happen from miles 65 to 100.  Zero idea.  I’m heading into the realm of the unknown and I’m excited and nervous as hell to find out what will happen.

For me, I find the most joy in going out for long runs.  I’ve done several efforts in the past 9 months,over 30 miles, topping out at 64.  Left to my own devices, without the guidance of a coach, I would have probably done too many of these efforts.  Each time I complete a run like that I feel at peace, mindful, and accomplished.  The allure to these type of efforts for me is the ability to explore the unknown.  The more I push a training distance the more satisfaction I get in return, not with the distance, but with the exploration into an area where I’ve never been.  These efforts have been my cornerstone, not just for training, but for my recovery process as it relates to life change and the struggles I have  with alcoholism and addiction.

Last year was a different story.  While having my first 100 miler on the horizon (I was training for the same race, Pine to Palm 100, but suffered an injury in the weeks leading up to the race) I sank every bit of my soul into preparation.  I had resigned from my corporate job in June 2015 to focus on training and building my new business, Novo Veritas.  With the new-found freedom, away from corporate life,  I trained like a mad man, running hundreds of miles without the guidance of a coach.  At one point in the training cycle, without any true knowledge of what it takes to race for 100 miles,  I told myself I was going to win my first 100 mile race.  I actually believed that.  My ego told me that I could be like guys such as Geoff Roes, Anton Krupicka, and others, who won their first attempt at the 100 mile distance.  I thought that I was unique and that I deserved a good result because I thought I had trained harder and smarter than everyone else.  When reality struck me over the head, after I suffered an inflamed SI joint, partly from over-training, I quickly realized that I was not ready to even attempt the grueling distance, let alone achieve a certain result.  Last year my ego got the best of me.

This year, with three weeks left to go, I am happy to say that I’m in a different place.  I don’t feel the need to obsess about a particular result.  Yes, I have goals, but those are just bricks in the wall.  Whatever happens that day when I toe the line at Pine to Palm, I’m in a place to anticipate the joy of having the ability to go out for a long run in the woods.  Just like my buddy Andrew said, “it’s just a run.”

As for Andrew’s attempt at the Western States 100?  He won the whole damn thing and in the process, continued to take on the attitude that he was just going for a run that day, doing what he loves most.

 

 

 

 

 

Standard

The Soundtracks to Our Lives

Just for fun and on the lighter side….

IMG_3401

My home away from home, the Dunn Forest, where I keep my second office for writing and getting mental shit done.

Music means the world to me.  At any point in time a tune may come on and evoke old emotions and memories.  I am continually reminded of some of the best times in my life and the songs that were a part of those distinct memories.  Here’s a look back at some of the soundtracks to my life:

Early teens:  It was all about hair-metal, period.  My early teenager years revolved around mainstay bands such as Motley Crue, Guns’N’Roses, Warrant, Poison, Ratt, Cinderalla, and Bon Jovi.  Also included in the mix were more obscure bands like Lillian Axe, Trixter, Winger, Steelheart, Shotgun Messiah, and Slaughter.  If you ever get a chance check out Lillian Axe’s “See you Someday.”  It’s a FUCKING kickass ballad that never seemed to get any traction.  That song always reminds me of late night summer campouts and Navy Seal runs with my boys Matt and Matt.  To this day any song from that period can come on and I’m instantly taken back to the fun and innocence that was had in the 90’s.

Late Teens/High School:  While continuing to respect my obsession with the glamour filled 80’s bands that I had grown to love, a slight adjustment was made when I got to High School at Burke Mtn. Academy.  All of the kids there seemed to be enamored by some dude named Dave that played acoustic guitar with some other guy named Tim Reynolds.  Early on in my tenure at Burke I remember cassette tapes being traded around like baseball cards, certainly I was intrigued to know what all the hype was about.  It was at this point that The Dave Matthews Band made an entrance into my life.  Under the Table and Dreaming had just come out a couple of years prior and after one listen I wanted to hear more.  Fortunately, I was in luck, for that spring of my Junior year at Burke, right around the time when we took our annual class trip, Dave’s “Crash” album hit the airwaves.  Every single song on that album began to take meaning as friends and I would create memories based on his entrancing melodies.  The British Rock scene also made a profound appearance as Ryan Heinz, a native of England, began to bring back CD’s from home to Burke of all sorts of new bands like The Prodigy, The Verve, Blur, and of course, Oasis which to this day still has a profound effect on my memory bank.  In fact, as I’m sitting here writing in the middle of the Dunn Forest I’ve got “What’s the Story Morning Glory” blasting through my MacBook. Ryan also exposed me to a new genre of music that started a movement with what I would listen to for many years to come.  He introduced me to electronic music, most notably Underworld, through their single, featured at the end of the movie Trainspotting, “Born Slippy NUXX.”

College:  The electronic music kept forging its way into my life when I met this skinny little kid from Connecticut, who lived just down the hall from my good friends Jeff and Hillary,  named Kieran.  I didn’t really get to know him until sophomore year when we lived and pledged Phi Kappa Sigma together.  Something about him intrigued me because he was listening to music that no one else seemed to know about:  Trance.  It was also around this time that Moby’s “Play” came out.  Putting Moby together with DJ’s such as Ayla and DJ Keoki began to cement my passion for the early EDM scene.  My most vivid memory of college, in terms of music, is when Kieran and I, along with the rest of our suite mates, were playing frisbee outside of our dorm, blasting the hell out of Moby’s “Bodyrock.”  Every single time I hear that track I am quickly returned to those fantastic and care free times that we experienced together.

Post College to Present:  When Davis Smith hired me out of college to be his protegé at the Inn of the Seventh Mountain in Bend, OR, we travelled a ton together to trade shows and events, promoting the impending renovations that the Inn was about to go through.  One band sums up those road trips and time in my life.  Coldplay’s “Parachutes” and “A Rush of Cold Blood to the Head” were the soundtracks to those years, and the motivation for Davis and I to start a shitty garage band called “Tears for Beers.”  We sucked and it was fucking fun as hell.  During those times the EDM scene had taken a place on the back burner until Kieran, once again, turned me on to acts such as Above and Beyond, Markus Schulz, and Armin Van Buuren, and other prominent trance DJ’s.  I was fortunate enough to catch my first EDM show at NYC’s legendary Pacha nightclub, which has since shut it’s doors. Featured that evening was none other than Armin Van Buuren, and it was fucking amazing (until the time I blacked out and woke up with my face down in the champagne ice bucket). “Big Sky” was the opening track that night.  To this day, when that track comes on I immediately recall the love that I had quickly developed for the EDM scene.

Later in life, when times began to get dark and the alcohol and drugs became more prominent for me, I continued to lean heavily on EDM, constantly going to shows in Portland that featured smaller DJ’s like Ronski Speed, Kohma, Kyau and Albert, and some guy named Gareth Emery, who turned out to be my go-to when shit got really dark for me.  Fortunately, when things began to become brighter, I was still deeply engrossed in Gareth’s music. In fact he’s coming back to Portland this October!  I will certainly fucking be there.

Music still continues to have a profound impact on me to this day.  Last summer a page was turned in many ways, when I saw Motley Crue twice during their last tour.  The last song they played, when Jeff, Lisa, and I saw them in Portland, was fittingly “Home Sweet Home.”  After the show was done it almost felt like it was time to move on from something, I still can’t put my finger on it.  I’ve seen the Crue 17 times in my life and now knowing that I’ll never see them again (until Vince runs out of money) brings things full circle in some regard.

What’s the soundtrack of your life and what memories do those bands and songs evoke?  For me the music will never die and will continue to be an important fabric to my being.

Standard

TransRockiesRun 2016

In 2014 I arrived in Buena Vista, CO, for my second go-around of the TransRockiesRun.  At that point I had been sober for 5 months.  Being back at the event, my first time since 2012, I had severe anxiety around the social aspect of TRR.  The running portion of the race was fine and manageable.  However, after each stage, when it came to socializing and being around tent city, I was a mess.  It may not have seemed that way from the outside, but hell, it was a battle.

IMG_2314

This year I was able to arrive in Colorado early to get used to the elevation.  My friends Hillary and Brian live at 10,500ft, a perfect spot to acclimate. 

Being 5 months sober I was in the midst of trying to sort out how to live without the crutch of alcohol.  Being around people, socializing without that crutch, was extremely hard as I was re-learning how to have a conversation.  It was so easy to be social and confident with the aid of alcohol!  Without it, how the hell was I even going to say hello to someone I didn’t know?

The TransRockiesRun has a special place in my heart.  In 2012, while racing the 6 day stage race with my dear friend Brian Hetzel, I was exposed to the community that exists around the sport of ultra running.  Even though I DNF’d that year, due to a quad injury, I fell in love with the aura and mystique that this seemingly obscure sport provided. After being a part of that week in the Rockies I never looked back.  Ultra-running became my new sport and passion.

TransRockies is known as a running camp for adults.  Runners occasionally like to kick back after each stage and enjoy the scenery with beers in hand, while unwinding from a long day in the mountains.  In 2014, with my alcohol sensors on high, I could pick out what beers people were having from 100 yards away.  I was obsessed with the sight of alcohol, I thought that I was missing out on the fun and camaraderie that runners were building with the comforts of beers.  It drove me nuts.  My solution was to isolate and go to bed as early as possible.  I felt vulnerable and helpless so I did what I did best 2 years ago…I hid.

10351180_10101245575588528_4626384412171718781_n

The Corvallis crew at TransRockies 2014.  From L to R: Dave, myself, Erica, Taryn, Brian, Laura, and Brandon.  Having my friends around in 2014 made the week much more manageable for me as they helped me feel safe.  

I’m happy to say that I’ve come a long way since the 2014 race.  This year, I am in a different place, eager to experience the event without the fear of being around alcohol.  The challenges that I have are far different from where I was back in 2014. For me, to look back at how things were, and hence the progress that I’ve made, is a gratifying experience.  I find motivation to continue this process of recovery knowing that I’ve come a long way as a person.  When I toe the line next Tuesday for the first stage of TRR, in Buena Vista, I will be focused on one thing: living in the moment in one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been.

Let’s lace em up and kick some ass!

Standard

An Emotional Relapse Around Food and Body Weight

I lost my sanity this past Monday.  The issue was not about maintaining sobriety from drugs and alcohol; the insanity came in the form of my continued issues and struggles around my body weight.

Around a month ago I began to work with a friend of mine, who happens to have a PhD in nutrition, to help identify some holes within my daily nutrition regimen.  With the increased training volume that my body was accumulating I wanted to make sure that I was getting the appropriate foods to help make this adventure I’m currently on more sustainable.  From my understanding it’s simple, food is fuel, and if I neglect the intake of proper fuel for replenishment and nourishment then this lifestyle I am creating for myself could suffer from my body beginning to break down and therefore reject any subsequent physical stress that I plan on asking of it.  I am thankful to have this person on my team for I believe in her insight and knowledge when it comes to nutrition. ***This person is my go-to for nutritional advice, in no way does she serve as my therapist.  I have one of those too that helps me work on the core underlying issues around my distorted view of how I see myself***

While still continuing to struggle with the idea of my “ideal” race weight, I hesitantly began to eat more energy dense foods such as whole grains like rice, pasta, oats, etc.  In my mind it was a hard thing to convince myself that I actually needed more carbs to fuel these epic workouts that I was accomplishing and pursuing.  More carbs equals more weight to me.  I had worked furiously over the last two years on getting lighter and leaner; perhaps it was doing more damage than good.  Today, I’m open to accepting the fact that I need more energy dense foods in my life.

Last Monday I broke out the scale, after quitting cold turkey a few weeks prior, to see what the effects were after I had adopted this new methodology of nutritional intake.  Prior to this experiment, back in June, I was hovering around the 152-155lb range.  When I stepped on the scale this time I had shot up to 162.  After seeing the number I fucking freaked the hell out.  The narratives of “you’re fat” started to roll through my head at a fever pitch.  All of the work I had done to get where I am, from a weight standpoint, had been thrown out the window in my mind.  Furthermore, I am heading into the heart of race season for me with TransRockies and Pine to Palm 100 close on the horizon (As a side-note it’s important to reveal that the previous 5 weeks of training had been the largest block of volume I had ever accomplished in my life so my body was literally starving for more food to replenish itself).  This is the time that I wanted to be my leanest, meanest, self.  As Monday progressed, with the new “number” on my mind, I started to question the addition of whole grains, etc, into my daily regimen.  I looked in the mirror trying to figure out where the weight had gone.  Was I getting a belly again?  Was it in my face?  What do other elite runners weigh?  Maybe I should research everyone in the top ultra running ranks to see what they weigh. Do my clothes still fit? What in the fridge can I throw out?  Is eating too much Almond Butter and Honey (my favorite combo) making me fat?  It even got to the point that later that night I asked Betsy to look at my gut to see if I had gained any visible weight.  My actions that day were complete fucking insanity.  I felt like I was having the same reaction to food as I was used to with drugs and alcohol.  When can I get my next drink?  Who’s got the next line of Cocaine?  Who stole my Crown Royal?  From an addiction standpoint perhaps I had transferred my addictive tendencies over to food and body weight.  The anxiety was overwhelming and I could not let it go.

Tuesday I woke up exhausted from the previous days freak-out session.  I had to talk to someone who I trusted about all of this insane behavior.  Luckily I was able to share my experience with 4 folks who have a personal investment in my journey, one of which included my new friend Ray, who very much serves as a spiritual and life mentor for me.  As I spoke to each of these folks I began to feel a sense of embarrassment for my actions during the previous day.  I felt like a shameful little child.

Rather than just whine about how bad I was feeling about myself I detailed the account of the previous days actions and in turn listened intently to their feedback.   This helped immensely and allowed me to re-ascertain my sanity and perspective on what I was doing with my life. I preach and reassure the folks that I work with from a coaching standpoint that progress is not about a number on a scale. It turns out that I needed a dose of my own medicine.  I need to walk the talk.  I had become so focused on a specific number (152-155lb) that I had, once again, lost sight of the purpose of my work and life as a wellness advocate.  Lesson learned (or is being learned and accepted).  As they say in recovery, it’s about progress, not perfection.

So, here I am, on a plane to Colorado to begin the race season at TransRockies, writing about how hard it is to accept that a stronger, healthier (and heavier) body is more important than just being thin and lean.   It’s very difficult for me to comprehend that the extra weight I’m carrying will not slow me down next week as the week-long race gets underway.  This week has gotten easier partly due to my re-engagement with meditation and breathing.  However, there is still work to be done for I would love to let go of the pressure that I create for myself around body weight/image.  I feel like I would become emotionally and mentally lighter.  Once again, a saying from the recovery world comes to mind, take it one day at a time.  That being said it’s critical for me to continue down this journey with key resources at my disposal.  I want to be free of this obsession.

Standard

Chasing Down a Childhood Dream

The names Vegard Ulvang and Luke Bodensteiner may not mean much to those who are not familiar with endurance sports.  Each has notoriety and fame in the sport of XC Skiing, especially in the 1990’s, the time when I was a teenager in pursuit of my own XC skiing endeavors.  During that time most of my friends had posters on their walls of Michael Jordan, Jose Canseco, and Bo Jackson;  other than my ensemble of Motley Crue and Poison posters, I mainly kept the rare and inconspicuous photos of XC skiers, Vegard and Luke included, along with all of my race bibs, over every inch of wall in my bedroom.

IMG_3103

Game on! #revellion_usa

Growing up as a Junior XC skier I became enamored with the appeal of being a professional athlete.  During that time I didn’t know anyone who was at that level so I didn’t really understand what it meant to be one.  When I think back to those days as an awkward, pre-pubescent, gangly teenager, I remember a dream that stuck with me to one day pursue endurance sports as a passion, a lifestyle, and a way of living.  What really tipped the scales was when I picked up and read Luke’s book The Endless Winter.  He described a lifestyle of training, racing, and adventure, that I wanted to pursue.  Ultimately these dreams were sidetracked due to various life circumstances.  But today, 20 + years later, it is clear to me that now is the time to put everything I have into pursuing my childhood dream:  To pursue a lifestyle being an all-in, 100% dedicated, full-time athlete.

In this pursuit I have a tremendous amount support starting with my accountability team that includes my coach, my therapist, my sponsor, elite athletes, and family/friends.  I need these people in my life because they can help keep me accountable, in-check, and under some sort of watch for potential red flags.  I understand that this undertaking, on paper, doesn’t make sense to many people.  I’m finding that’s just the opinion of people on the outside looking in who think I am wasting time where I should be concerned with creating financial stability, etc.   Shouldn’t your 30’s be dedicated to creating wealth?  For some people, absolutely!  But for me, as of today, I am happy to say that is no longer a main concern of mine.

My friend, and business partner in Novo Veritas LLC, Betsy, who was the first person to suggest that I pursue my dream at the Western States Training Camp this past May, has been instrumental in helping me design what this new lifestyle will look like.  She is behind this pursuit, 110%.  I am very grateful to have someone like her in my life that believes in my passion, dedication, and discipline, to give this pursuit a try.

So what am I hoping to accomplish with this pursuit?  At this point, I cannot say for sure.  All I want is to experience what it is like to adopt a lifestyle that incorporates everything that I am working on in my life including training, racing, sobriety, meditation, and being of service for others.  That being said I do have several races and personal events on the schedule for the next year including TransRockiesRun, Pine to Palm 100 Miler, Cal International Marathon, 24 hour run in the Mac/Dunn (3 year sober date), and The Oregon Epic (Sept 2017). Yes, I have goals for each event, but achieving those goals would just be the icing on the cake.  The real thrill is going to be the act of throwing myself, each and every day, to pursue something that I had never thought possible.  The process will continue to be paramount.

image1

Where the hell is this adventure going to lead?  Who knows!!

 In the past I have been obsessed with results.  Now that focus has changed to more of a process-oriented approach where the result is much less important than living and breathing the process and lifestyle, one day at a time, a concept that I have learned in my program of recovery.  I also have zero expectation of getting to the point where I will be a “professional athlete,” so to speak.  Maybe that’s in the cards?  Maybe not.  I’m excited to find out either way.

So what does a typical day look like now-a-days?  I’ll take today as a perfect example.

4:00 AM – Coffee/Meditation

4:30AM – Breakfast/Tour De France

5:45 – 6:45AM— Yoga for Runners/Athletes/Meditation

7:00 – 10AM – Work, emails, Tour De France, touching base with clients

10:00 – 12:30PM – Run Workout

12:30 – 4PM – Turn Phone on Airplane mode, Stretch, Eat, Foam Roll, Nap, Podcasts, Read

4:00 – 6:00 PM – Cycling Workout

6:00 – 6:30 PM – Strength Session

6:30 – 7:30 PM – Ice Bath/Dinner

7:30 – 8:30 PM – Foam Roll

8:30 – 9:00 PM – Meditation, Journaling, Reading

9:00 PM – Bed

Since I’ve made the shift to this lifestyle, starting in early June, I have found that every evening before bed I thank my lucky stars that I’m able to pursue this adventure.

What does this mean for Novo Veritas?  Nothing changes.  Betsy and I are still very much engaged in building our community and movement to promote the idea that significant lifestyle change is indeed possible.

In this pursuit I am mentally prepared to manage any speed bumps that come up, for instance, injury.  Speed bumps like this are inevitable and come with the territory.  I am well aware of the potential challenges.  That being said I don’t believe that I’ve ever been in the appropriate  mindset, for in the past, the main factor in my motivation was fear of failure.  Today my motivation lies in the pursuit of the unknown and embracing the process.

Honestly it does feel a bit weird to write this down and talk about in a public forum.  I feel like a giddy teenager in many respects.  There is no real blueprint for someone at my age, with my background, to follow.  That’s why I am excited to create my own way of living, my own atmosphere, and ultimately my own reality.

With that, time is running short to prepare for today’s interval session on the hills of my beloved McDonald/Dunn Forest.  I’ll try and keep the updates coming as to how this process is unfolding.   Wish me luck!

Standard

So, who is Betsy Hartley?

About a month ago Betsy and I had a very honest and open conversation.  I was having anxiety around having people think and/or assume that we were dating, in a romantic relationship.  For me, I wasn’t entirely certain why the anxiety was persisting.  So we talked about it,  as we talk about most things, and expressed our honest opinions on the subject.  Today, I am still working through this anxiety.  However, last weekend on our trip to the Western States 100, it began to become clear to me.  While on a run, descending down from Emigrant Pass on the PCT the day before the race, our relationship began to make sense.  Betsy Hartley is the big sister I never had.

Me and Betsy’s relationship runs far and wide.  First and foremost we are great friends.  Furthermore we are also business partners in Novo Veritas, LLC.  Adding on that I am her running coach, her roommate, and a part of her accountability team when it comes to food.  Also, we are currently talking about buying a new company car together.  Even more, she is my crew chief for Ultra Marathons, training/traveling partner, co-season ticket holder for Beavs Basketball,  Emery’s aunt, a founding member of my accountability team/board of advisers, and co-everything else in just about all walks of life today.  We are certainly joined at the hip for most things in life that we enjoy doing.

Betsy is a fucking pain in my ass.  I am twice as much of a fucking pain in her ass.  For instance, as her coach, I am attempting to get her to the start line and through her first attempt at the 100 mile distance.  I know that she has had a relatively quick buildup in a short amount of time in her mileage since she embarked on her own lifestyle change.  After her 100 she is going to be fucking jazzed to do more and will hate me when I put on the brakes for her to allow proper recovery.

IMG_3077

The Novo-Veritas Team

Because of our close quarters I see her, and vice versa, when times are good and when times get dark.  It’s been hard to learn how to communicate when one of us shuts down, which I am more prone to doing.  It’s the nature of our living situation.  We’ve chosen to ride this stage of life out together as roommates.  Today, I feel like Betsy can now read me and has a good idea of how to communicate and react when I feel like shit.  I know this process of learning has been challenging for her.

Early in my process of recovery I realized that I was in fact an introvert.  When it comes to Betsy she met me as “hotel guy” displaying a largely extroverted side, always selling something and in go-mode.  When the extrovert – introvert change became more evident our relationship hit a bit of a wall.  She began witnessing the pains and aches of communication with a new introvert.  To be clear, Betsy is an extrovert, period.  Without saying it out loud I had forced her to relearn how to communicate with me.  Again, it was a very painful process for her from my point of view.

IMG_2948

Seeing Betsy off for the 2016 edition of Peterson Ridge 40 Miler

 

So, what makes her a big sister to me?  For starters she is extremely protective of me, especially when it comes to the people who I surround myself with, always making sure that I am near positive-minded people.  She knows that I am still very much in the beginning stages of recovery and she ultimately wants to see me thrive in ways that are unimaginable.  She gets the fact that with one drink all of the progress that I’ve worked for would vanish in an instant.  She doesn’t want to see me go backwards.  I completely appreciate her support in this regard and would not have made it this far in recovery without this unwavering support.  Ultimately, recovery has to come from within, but it certainly helps to know that she is firmly in my corner.

Lastly, and more importantly, everything we have done together is based upon our friendship.  Without friendship, the core of our work, we would not have gotten this far in everything that we are doing together.   It’s something that I’ve taken for granted in the past, probably due to the anxiety I was creating for myself that people assumed we were dating.  I have found lately that we laugh more together, and just talk, rather than having everything be so black and white, compartmentalized, as it once was.

As I write this entry my anxiety over the outside perception of us being in a relationship is becoming even more clear.  I guess a part of me was afraid of having that perception that we were in a relationship show the world that I was unavailable.  More so, it’s becoming clear to me that the anxiety I was holding onto had nothing to do with reality.  Who fucking cares what other people think, right?  What other people think of me in none of my business.  Furthermore, my instinct says that whatever happens to me relationship-wise will ultimately run its own course.  From what I’ve heard and understand the best relationships occur when neither person is even looking.  Again, my mind at work again.  Breathe dude, get present.

IMG_2508

Stop fucking taking selfies.  I’m tired, grumpy, and sick of being in the car for 8 hours.

Moving forward Betsy and I have some big ass fucking plans, not only for our business, but for our training, running, and coaching.  So yeah, we are in relationship, just not the kind that everyone thinks of as a typical “relationship.” After having taking the time to process and write about this I am more excited than ever to see what the two of us can accomplish, professionally and personally.  We are free to fly to create our own destiny, both individually and as a duo.  Game on!  Now get in the fucking car, don’t tell me for the 1000th time that you don’t know what music I want playing, stop fucking with my seat warmers, stay off your damn phone, and just drive, or better yet, just let me drive🙂

Love you!

For more about Betsy please check out her blog:  https://allbetsareoff392.wordpress.com

Standard

My Continuing Struggle with Disordered Eating

The first time I felt fat was after my senior year at St. Lawrence University.  I had spent that year taking every drug and ingesting every ounce of booze that I could get my hands on.  The week before graduation, while hanging with some buddies in a hot tub, my friend Todd mentioned to me that I looked fat.  That comment hurt because I knew it was true.

The second time I felt fat was when my ex-fiancee called me “fat spence” circa 2007.  She was referring to a question that I had asked her about her thoughts on me getting back into shape after having indulged for a year in 80 hour work weeks and copious amounts of alcohol.  She said that she didn’t like the idea, that she liked “fat spence” better than “fit spence.”  Her words, not mine.

Fast forward to January 2016.  After maintaining my sobriety from drugs and alcohol for almost 2 years I decided that I had to get leaner.  I’m not sure where the idea came from.  I believe I had seen a picture of me running the 2015 North Face 50 Miler and thought that I looked pudgy.

Starting around New Years Day I started an account on MyFitnessPal and began tracking everything that I ate. (note: I believe that MyFitnessPal can be a very useful tool for some people, in fact some of the folks I coach use it for purposes of useful feedback).  Getting on the food tracking website was rooted in fear.  I was afraid that if I didn’t have a control and accountability mechanism then I’d go back to being 230 lbs, my heaviest weight to date.

I tracked every single thing I ate for 7 straight months.  I also paired my Garmin watch to sync the amount of calories I was burning.  I was hellbent on losing weight, in seek of finding my ideal race/running weight.  Every single day I had to log the meal I was about to eat to make sure that I didn’t forget to leave a single ingredient out of the proper calorie count.  I obsessed over it.  Each night after dinner I’d get to my computer and look at my total for the day.  If I had a 400 calorie deficit I was convinced that that was a good day and that I could go to bed happy knowing that I was going to lose weight from the days intake.  It got way out of hand when I’d be going to bed knowing that I was upwards of 800 – 1000 calories in deficit.  In my eyes less calories consumed equalled a lighter weight in the morning, regardless of the consequences.

The joy of eating totally went away for me.  I found myself consumed with controlling the amount of food I ate each day, thereby skipping the enjoyment piece of the wonderful and healthy food that I was putting in my body.

I began bringing my scale with me everywhere I went.  When I didn’t bring my scale, or know exactly where my weight was every morning, my world got thrown off and the narratives of “you’re fat, you’re slow, and you’re weak” crept back in to haunt me.  I wanted so badly to achieve a weight which would equal faster running times.  This obsession with a number on the scale began when I read some article about ideal race weight.  In general, for me, given my height and build, the ultimate running weight was somewhere in the ballpark of 144 – 149 pounds (I’m currently 154).  It’s important to note that this obsession came on the basis of one single article.  I hardly did any research on the subject, I was basing my perception on something that was extremely skeptical.  But I listened and continued to feed the obsession.

So where do I sit with this today while I write this story?  A couple of weeks ago I dove headfirst into the idea of meditation, not just so I could tell everyone I was meditating (like I had before), but because I began to see what it could do for me.  Furthermore the act of meditation enhanced my ability to breathe and reset my head, away from the negative and manic thoughts.  When my mind takes over and starts telling me all of these stories about how I used to be and what I will become I’m able to revert back to the act of breathing, which gives me relief from all of the negative bullshit my mind wants me to hear.  Breathing has become my new anchor, my home, my place to just be.  Breathing helps me to remember that who I was, fat or fit, is a thing of the past.  It is not who I am today.  It also helps me to appreciate and actualize the continuous process of self-discovery.  I must remember and respect the fact that when I decided to get sober I had no idea who I really was.  Disordered eating is just a small fabric in the construct of Spencer Newell.

Moving forward, my next step is to go get an accurate body fat percentage, something I’ve avoided for years. I feel that I need scientific proof that I am not getting fat again.  I know this seems ridiculous but it is the truth.  Then, I will continue the work with my trusted professional to continue exploring why I look at weight the way I do.  Luckily, she is someone who has worked with several endurance athletes, on eating disorders ranging from Bulimia to Anorexia, and everything in between.  Today during our appointment I divulged every single act of madness when it came to calorie counting and the scale that had occurred since the beginning of the year.  She is a trusted member of my team and clearly confirmed that the action I was taking to control my eating in an obsessive manner, was indeed, disordered.

I am tired of living with the pressure I put on myself to achieve a certain weight.  I am sick of logging every shred of food I eat.  I truly want to relieve myself of the incessant pressure and anxiety of having to stress about how I see food.  It seems like a cloud that plants itself in my head and doesn’t let me see or enjoy the workouts and the food I eat for what they truly are, simple acts of pleasure and enjoyment.  Working honestly and whole-heartedly on this next challenge is just another step in the process of recovery and self-discovery.  As I told my team member today, I’m glad that this layer of recovery is clear to me, it helps me to understand that this whole life is a process of learning.  When the learning stops what else is there to live for?

 

 

 

 

Standard