Western States Training Camp: More than just 3 days of running

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Approaching the top of the Devil’s Thumb climb on Day 1 of Western States Camp last weekend

 

 

Western States Training Camp: More Than Just Three Days of Running

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine who lived in Corvallis moved down to Cool, CA.  While I don’t know the exact reasons for the move, I can certainly understand if one of her reasons hinged on the trails and scenery there.

I had never been down to that section of California before; frankly, the area had never been on my radar until I started searching out running trails.  For those who are not familiar with Auburn, it plays host every year to the Western States 100 Mile Trail race, which starts in the Sierra Mountains, at Squaw Valley, and heads west into the canyons of the American River all the way to Auburn.  The race is one of the most well-known ultra-marathons in the world.  This past weekend, a couple of friends and I travelled south to jump into a three-day organized training camp to run the last seventy miles of the Western States course.  Spending time on the trails winding through the mountains, I can see why my friend moved there.  It’s simply gorgeous.

The day before we left for camp, a friend jokingly posted on Facebook saying something to the effect of “I wonder who’s going to win the Western States Training Camp #trainingcamp.”  That was pretty damn funny, mostly because before I became sober I would have taken a camp like this too seriously, knowing that a bunch of fast dudes were going to be there and it would have been a chance for me to be “noticed” in the crowd.  This attitude, I am finding, is generated by my ego’s connection with my mind.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how my ego and mind can intrude on my life’s progress and enjoyment.  It seems that when I let my ego take over my inner thought process, my mind can go awry.  This past weekend at Western States camp I wanted to focus, during running, on holding my ego at bay so it wouldn’t affect how and who I ran with.  I will admit that anytime I run with other people, my ego drives my incentive and I automatically start measuring my fitness in relation to that of fellow runners. This is a habit that I formed as a teenager, training for XC skiing and years later as a cyclist.  I was constantly comparing myself to other athletes, never truly being in the moment to appreciate the pure act of physical motion.

On day one of the Western States camp, while making the descent from Robinson flat, a faster group of runners caught up to me.  It was the perfect chance to test my resolve to keep my ego in check.  Once I heard them catching up to me, I let my ego take over for a second, on purpose, to recognize the thought and emotion.  Then, as they drew closer, I began to ask myself: what is the narrative running through your head that is kicking the ego into motion? What did it really matter to you that they were going to pass you?  After I moved aside to let the faster group pass on a steep downhill, I began to ponder the root of the narrative that was tempting my ego to push me to run beyond my means in order to stay with them.

Here is my conclusion: As a Junior XC skier living in New England back in the 1990’s, I was surrounded by some of the best athletes in the country, some of whom went on to be Olympians and US National Team skiers.  This XC skiing talent was born into families whose last names are Whitcomb, Molyneux, Freeman, Gallagher, Spina, Lemieux, Hamel and Woodbury… to name a few.  While I could hold my own on the New England ski circuit, I never quite believed that I had any sort of talent.  The idea that I wasn’t good, fast and worthy enough to be mentioned in the same conversation as my fellow junior skiers pervaded my thinking.

Even though my parents and friends thought that I was talented as a skier, I believe now, as a practicing athlete, that this is the point where I developed the debilitating narrative that still runs through my head when I am surrounded by other athletes, regardless of their talent levels.  This constant mindset continued to haunt me during my time as a cyclist through my twenties and early thirties.  If I was dropped during a hard training ride, I would immediately convince myself that I’m not good enough ever to ride with some of the best riders in town which, in this case, was Bend, OR . On some occasions, I would experience a bout of depression, and, ultimately, I adopted an excessive drinking behavior.

If I put all of these years together starting from the age of fourteen, when I began XC Ski racing, to today, that totals twenty-one years of hearing a persistent narrative in my mind that I’m not good enough as an athlete, period.  That’s twenty-one years of having my ego and mental projections drive me to be successful as an athlete, whatever success might mean.  Sure, I had some great times just skiing, riding, or running during those years, but, when it came down to it, all I wanted to know was if I was faster than the next guy.

There it is: my confession as an amateur endurance athlete.  I have an ego problem, and it’s going to be hard to contain it.  Ultimately, I want to, for there seems to be more enjoyment in sport when it’s all about just getting out the door every day, focusing on the process of improvement and simply being outside in nature.  I believe that I had a glimpse of this new outlook on my behavior this past weekend in California.

I’m discovering that the ego is a funny thing.  It’s fickle, nimble, unpredictable, and certainly continues to rule many of the thoughts I have each and every day.  The win that I’m taking from this past weekend is that I stopped my ego from affecting the remainder of my running experience.  So, my practice that I’m implementing on a day to day basis when living life, part of which is training, is to sharpen my awareness and always ask myself:  What is my ego doing and is it fueling the narrative to manifest itself even further.

Edited by Lyn Horton

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When did I become a crier?

A selfie taken yesterday after the talk Betsy and I gave on life change at Oregon State University

A selfie taken yesterday after the talk Betsy and I gave on life change at Oregon State University

Over the last several months I have cried twice, both times being in a public forum.  Betsy and I (Novo_Veritas) had another presentation yesterday on the Oregon State University campus on the topic of lifestyle change and the roads that we have individually taken to lead new lives.  Towards the end of the talk, I completely broke down. It was a crazy, vulnerable feeling, one that I am not used to.  That marked the second time during one of our talks that I experienced a break-down of sorts, the first being during the same talk we gave a few months ago surrounding the same topic.  I’m a little fascinated why it is that I have only broken down in public, and not private.  I visit with a therapist on a weekly basis, for the past year, and I have not even broken down with her.  I’m certainly not ashamed of crying, its real emotion, and apparently it needs to come out.  For the several years that I was partying my ego would tell me to man-up in public, dudes don’t cry, blah blah blah.  Perhaps the emotion that is, and was, being expressed yesterday, is a release of pent-up energy that had been in remission for the past several years.  Who knows?

The message that Betsy and I carry and talk about is very important to me.  At the end of the day, speaking about my transgressions, depression, alcoholism, and general struggles in life, helps me to maintain my sobriety.  It is a big reason why I have decided to go public with all of this.  I understand that we have only done our talk, like yesterday’s, just a handful of times, so we’re still working out the kinks, so to speak.  But damn, I’m finding that baring my soul and opening up in front of people is one of the most exhausting exercises that I have ever put myself through.  After yesterday’s talk, I literally collapsed on my couch for the rest of the day and watched a shitty movie just to try to keep things relaxed.  My body and mind were exhausted.  What is interesting about this process is taking note of how I react a day later, after we’ve given a talk, after the content I spoke about, has sunk in.  This morning I woke up, still exhausted to a degree, but also reassured that what we are doing is the right thing.  Baring my soul in this type of public setting is helping people realize their challenges in life, and providing an example of sorts to make a change, as is evidence by some of the private feedback that I have received over the last several hours.  That fact is pretty cool.

To me, shedding tears used to mean that I was weak, unmanly, etc.  In the crowds that I used to hang in I never would have thought to express my emotions the way I have done since becoming sober.  Maybe I had once or twice, with a few close friends, but overall I felt as though I had to keep a personae, to help maintain whatever bullshit status I was trying to go after.  Now, I am amazed at some of the changes that, 15 months ago, I would have never thought would occur, given my “manly” status.  I have a cat, I drink tea, I go to yoga, I read and talk about spirituality, I think about people’s vibrational energy, and I cry in public forums.  What the hell is happening here?  It makes me laugh to think of how exhausting it was to keep up the machismo act of being the cool dude, hanging with the boys, afraid to step out of society’s definition of manliness, whatever that may be.  Maybe this all was never reality, maybe it was just my perception of life, for many of those relationships that I developed back then I still hold dear to my heart.  For today, I’ll just try to be okay with the fact that I’m enjoying being wrapped up in a blanket, on my couch, with my cat and coconut oolong tea, writing all of this stuff down so I don’t forget it.

I’m a little curious how today is going to go as I’m in a good place in my head given what occurred yesterday emotionally.   I know for a fact that I’ll get exposed to negative energy, unsolicited advice, and overall life-dissatisfaction of others, throughout the day.  However, after baring my soul, and crying, I almost feel more prepared to deal with these little challenges, as I have a better perspective of what is actually important in my life. Perhaps I need to cry more? Or just realize my emotions on a more consistent basis? All that matters is that whatever happened yesterday, during my public breakdown, needed to happen.  Today it’s how I move forward, being okay with who I am and who I have become, tears or not!

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A look back at a random night in Portland…step two of three that led to my sober date, 2/11/14

Preface: This post touches on my experience with drugs. For friends and family who didn’t know about this side of my addiction this may not be a popular topic. Nevertheless drugs are a part of my story, especially towards the end of my partying days. It’s the truth and it needs to be told. 
When I think about the behavior that led up to my sober date, 2/11/14, three specific instances come to mind.  These distinct experiences each had their own theme, all of which were self-destructive, and were cumulative enough in nature to send me to the edge.  First, my three days spent in New York City leading up to New Years 2014.  Second, a random and low-key weekend in Portland in late January of 2014.  Third, and lastly, my three day solo drinking binge during the snow-apocalypse weekend in Corvallis of February 8-10, 2014.  New Years Eve was pretty self-explanatory, many of my best college friends gathered in the center of the NYE celebration world, NYC, to ring in the new year.  Let’s just say I had a really good time. The snow-apocalypse weekend in February of 2014 wasn’t as calculated from a social- excuse-to-party perspective, it was just me in my apartment, alone, with a large cabinet filled with Crown Royal and IPA’s.  The town of Corvallis was shut down because of all of the snow, proper justification to isolate myself and get after it.  The middle instance, the random weekend in Portland, was different.  Looking back it was a terrific example of how susceptible I was to destroying my body and mind, even when I had other plans for the weekend, which included a solid weekend of riding with my new cycling team.  Last night I had a dream that brought me back to that weekend, I want to explore it more.

After the New Years Eve debacle in 2014 I arrived back in Oregon with the intent to shut down all of the partying and get back at training to get ready for 2014 road cycling season.  I had recently joined a new team, based out of Portland, and I was eager to get back into cycling shape after spending the previous two years training for ultra-running races. Late January in Oregon is when all of the roadies scramble to get in their early season base miles, but I had a different motivation of sorts.  I needed to justify all of the bad behavior that I put myself through, by training, to lose some of the beer/whiskey weight that I had gained over the holidays.  That Friday after work I made my way up to Portland with the goal of having a low-key night to get ready for a long weekend in the saddle.  That Friday night, which started off as a light and uneventful evening, turned into one of the most embarrassing, and humbling, experiences that I had ever gone through in my partying days.

Dinner that night was chill and relaxed with good friends and a light mood.  That all changed when I got a simple text.  All it said was “I have coke.”  At that point I was presented with a decision to make.  My goal for that weekend was to get in some good training miles, not to party. Unfortunately my alcoholic/ego-fueled mindset kicked in when I saw the text and I distinctly remember telling myself “why not? I’m invincible, fuck it, I’ll do both, let’s party.”  There ensued a cocaine fueled evening, ripe with dive bars and whiskey, until the early morning hours.  My relationship with drugs, speed in particular, occurred in spurts and were generally short-lived in nature.  I enjoyed it because,  quite frankly, alcohol just didn’t provide the buzz that I was looking for any longer.  I wanted more euphoria and unfortunately speed helped provide that feeling for me.

The embarrassing part of this story, apart from the damage I was doing on myself, came at last call in the bathroom stall of a popular NW Portland dive bar, The Gypsy.  At that point I had taken the remainder of coke that was circulating around that evening and decided to finish it on my own.  I walked into the stall by myself and proceeded to shove as much of that crap into my nose as I could fit, before I got caught.  Then my luck ran out.  One of the Gypsy’s bartenders had somehow caught wind of what I was doing and confronted me in the bathroom.  He caught me in the act, banging down the stall door, and quickly threw me out of the bar, I was 86’d for the first time in my life.  As I was leaving the bar I heard him threatening to call the police, so I did what I used to do best…I ran from the situation in complete denial.  I was terrified with what had just occurred, humiliated, and scared that someone would track me down and hold me accountable for being a total jackass.  Fortunately, I ended up having to only be accountable to one person, myself, and so continued the mental downward spiral.

Not 5 hours later, after just 2 hours of sleep, I woke up in a panic realizing I had lost my car keys in the previous nights melee,  and that I had to be at a group ride with my new teammates.  I scrambled my kit and bike together, hammered a breakfast burrito and coffee, and made it in time to get in a solid 90 mile training ride. And the kicker?  I felt great riding.  Maybe I was still high?  Maybe I was still drunk?  Other than my buddy, who I was bitching to about my lost car keys, I have a feeling that no one at that ride could have imagined what I was doing to myself just 8 hours earlier.  I remember telling myself after that ride that I was unique and invincible, I could party that hard and still train at a high level, look at me, look at me.  However, the reality was certainly different from perception, unbeknownst to me I was slowly continuing to dig a deeper and deeper emotionally bankrupt and depressive hole which helped lead the way to my last binge, and furthermore, my sober date of February 11, 2014.

If I had not stopped drinking when I did I know for a fact that cocaine would have become more of a regular indulgence.  I was at a point in my alcoholism that I needed something else to keep up the act, the personae, and the energy, to keep my confidence going and my ego well-fed.  I am certainly not proud of that fact that my life had resorted to using, and abusing,  other substances other than just alcohol.  As I said in the preface, this part of the story needs to be told because it was my reality.  The drug use had everything to do over-compensating for something, some hidden desire and need, that I just didn’t have the balls to find out about in a regular and good-natured fashion

What’s important to understand about this particular evening in Portland, among other things, is that it shows just how weak and susceptible I was to being tempted by outside influences.  My head was rationalizing destructive behavior in the most curious ways, if I party this hard then I can train it all off the next day, and vice versa.  It was a vicious cycle that wasn’t slowing down.  Looking back I am very thankful that I went as far as I did with these kind of substances. At this point, as long as I stay mindful and present, it will be a great reminder of where I came from.  My ship was going down, and thankfully I was able to stop it from sinking before it was too late.  Today I am just thankful to be alive.

 

 

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A new type of hangover…managing the post-race emotional hangover

a few of my peeps from the Mac Forest 50k last Saturday

a few of my peeps from the Mac Forest 50k last Saturday

Last Saturday I competed in the Mac Forest 50k here in Corvallis.  This race was the first, among 3, on my list of A-races for the year, the other two being Pine to Palm 100 Miler in September (Ashland, OR)  and The North Face 50 Miler in December (San Francisco, CA).  Racing to me these days is like a holiday, a chance to see friends, be around the fantastic community that is ultra-running, and to test out the accumulated fitness that I’ve dedicated myself to since my last training block, in this case my 12-hour run in the Mac back in February of this year, to celebrate my one year of sobriety.

On Saturday, as I looked around the crowd of folks who were about to embark on a 31 mile jaunt through the woods, all I could think about was how grateful I was to be surrounded by like-minded folks, many of which share the same values and selflessness, a signature mindset in the sport of ultra-running.  Furthermore, many of the folks at the race have been my support system over the last 15 months, the time that I have maintained my sobriety.  The point to this is that I could not have imagined a better place to be, a race environment with some great friends, I was in my element.

But what happens after such a positive and emotionally charged event such as Saturday?  This time around I was smacked in the face with a mean emotional hangover.  Physically the race itself was tough, I was sore and beat up for sure, but I’m used to that sort of pain, as I’ve been an endurance athlete all of my life.  Mentally was a different story.  On Monday of this week I was a wreck.  Agitated, exhausted, irritable, drained…the perfect storm for which I used to use an excuse to drink and cure my pain.  The trick with racing and me is that I only build, as I did for the Mac, 3-4 times per year, so it’s still a relatively new experience to manage what happens to my head after a big event.  Like anything else, it’s got to take practice, right?  Yesterday, Tuesday, was even worse.  I actually had some face to face conversations and work to do, even with people who I trust and can be honest with.  My head was all over the place, again. A year and a half ago if I had felt that way I would have driven straight to 7-11 after work and picked up a rack of IPA’s to help numb the emotional exhaustion that I had experienced that day.   I knew I was in rough shape when, as I was driving to work yesterday, I saw someone who I was involved with in the past, who I had not seen in a while, driving away from her new boyfriend’s house.  Just seeing her damn car put me into an emotional tailspin, which is ridiculous on several levels.  Normally, that wouldn’t have effected me as I’ve generally moved on from that situation, but because of the hung over state I was in, it threw me for a loop.  Maybe I still do have some buried resentments regarding that situation.  Maybe in this case my emotional hangover helped uncover the truth of something that I still have yet to settle in my head. I’m open to the idea, but also aware that yesterday I was extremely susceptible to and vulnerable to any sort of criticism and self judgement.

Today, Wednesday, is better.  I took the day off from work just to clear my head and gather my thoughts.  It helps to write down my emotions and feelings, to actualize the experience with written words.   I’ve also got some stuff to purchase that I need to help get ready for the next chapter in my life.  I see a trip to the North Face outlet in my immediate future 😉

Moving forward I expect to have this type of emotional experience again, after another big event. I imagine that the key to successfully dealing with these situations in the future is to keep tabs on my sense of mindfulness and presence, to look back at notes that I’ve taken over the last few days in my journal, and to work through the emotional pain one minute at a time, to take care of myself, to be good to myself, and to go easy on myself.  Respect the process Spence, if you’re not learning every single day, then what is the point.  Keep pushing, keep learning, keep loving, and keep having fun.

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McDonald Forest 50k Race Report

Yesterday’s race in the McDonald Forest was brutally hard, and a ton of fun.  I hadn’t raced a 50k in almost 2 years since the 2013 Siskiyou Out and Back 50k.  Yesterday also marked the first ultra distance event that I had trained for on my own, without the guidance of a coach, which was a challenge to say the least, especially coming from the alcoholic perspective that “more is always better” when it comes to most indulgences in life, even training.  Back in January I caught the bug to see what I could do on my own given the 4 years of experience that I had under my past coaches Steph and Larsen.  Looking back over the 4 month lead up to Mac 50k there were certainly times when I did just a little too much, but it had more to do with pushing my mental boundaries as well as experimenting with new training techniques and tweaks in my approach to nutrition.  I’m glad I did it on my own, now I just need to reflect upon what I could have done better in the process to get better moving forward.

So, back to yesterday.  Even in the shaded forest it got HOT!  Perspective is everything in this regard, and I say hot because since last summer I, and most of the other racers, had not experienced too much training time in the heat, which if unprepared, can make for a long day on the course.  The mental aspect to racing, which is normally the hardest nut to crack in my mind, was actually the least of my issues.  Physically, around mile 10, my legs began to cramp due to whatever reason.  When you cramp, for me at least, it’s especially hard to run at a pace that I am used to running at for the fear that something might seize up in my legs and cause a legitimate injury, especially in technical sections where there are countless undulations, roots, rocks, and trees, to navigate around.  You’ve got to be nimble in these situations and have solid spring in your step.  Because of the cramping I was reduced to cutting my pace way back, in the twisty and hilly section of the course known as the Maze, for fear of leaping over a log and having my legs seize, which might have caused me to plummet off the trail into the brush and really screw up my body.

Once I was able to get out of the Maze relatively unscathed and healthy, apart was the 6 light diggers I took, I realized quickly that I had spent an awful lot of unnecessary energy protecting my legs from a potential collapse.  After that tough technical stretch it made for a long day into the finish.

Now for the mental side of the race.  My biggest win yesterday had to do with my improved ability to stay in the moment on several tough occasions, especially on the long sustained climbs. My fight or flight mechanism was tested a few times.  Normally in race situations all I have been concerned with in the past has been where my competitors are in relation to me, either ahead or behind.  Results used to be everything to me, they’ve helped fuel my ego and my mind, as well as be my justification to drink in excess, and my success had only to do with the overall place I was able to achieve in any given race.  Sure, I knew where I was in terms of place during the first 8 or 9 miles at the beginning, but I am happy to say that when I crossed the finish line I had no idea what place I had attained.  The win that I experienced yesterday mainly consisted of my ability to breath and be present at times, regardless if I was cramping.  I am in no way a master of this yet, as the process of improvement will continue to be something I work on moving forward, not just in racing, but in life.  It’s the little successes  that I am truly beginning to appreciate.  With my mind being my biggest obstacle in most things, I’m happy that I was able to turn it off when I needed to, and just be present in the moment in the beautiful forest that I now call my home training ground.

The irony in all of this, despite the rough conditions, I was able to pull down a 12th place overall, my highest finish in the Mac 50k to date.  Also, I was once again reminded of the amazing runners that make up the Corvallis trail running  community. Being out in the forest that I love so much, with friends whose main concern is how everyone else did, rather than their own result, was such a refreshing and reassuring experience.  One of the reasons I love the sport of ultra-running is the selfless approach that most folks take when it comes to suffering for long durations of time in some of the most gorgeous outdoor scenic areas across the West and beyond.  Up next, along with some major life changes that are going to occur in the next two months for me, is a stab at my first 100 mile attempt at the 2015 edition of Pine to Palm in Ashland Oregon.  Needless to say I’m excited to recovery from Mac and get back at it!

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St. Lawrence University…We had a good time

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My boys: Knobb, Ernie, G-love, Grabs, and Kermit

I had a really good time at St. Lawrence University. I met some phenomenal people, I shared some amazing experiences, and I laughed harder and more often than I can ever remember. I’m reminded of my years there today because for some reason I picked up and thumbed through my two photos albums from that era, this morning, while I was getting ready for work.  I even brought it to work and had show-and -tell time with the my sales girls, just so they could get a Friday morning chuckle about how ridiculous I used to look strutting around in leather pants, a Carhartt Jacket, dirty Jack Daniels bandanas, all while sporting the meanest, worst looking uni-brow you’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t help but chuckle at how care free of a life that I, and the rest of my SLU friends, had during those years.

College life for me was defined and divided into two parts: X-C Skiing Spence until 2001, then frat boy Spence until I graduated in 2002. Let me tell you, each part of SLU was a blast.

In 1997 I was recruited by Mike Knightengale, out of high school, to join the SLU XC Ski team upon my freshmen year in 1998. During that time I still had the ambition to ski as fast as I could, even with hopes to get to the point where I could crack the NCAA ranks.  At that point I was honored to be noticed by a college coach, mostly because the ski crowd I hung around with before college all got recruited by the bigger names XC Ski schools, Middlebury, Dartmouth, UVM, UNH, etc.  I was not at this level, and SLU happened to be a good fit because their XC ski programming was a 2nd tier team at the time.  What was important about that distinction is that for the first time in my ski career I felt as though I was wanted.  With that attention came a shift in my confidence, knowing that I was among one of the faster freshmen to step on campus in 98.  It was a good feeling, a unfamilar feeling, and I liked it. The ski team quickly became my family, and as a young freshmen I immediately felt comfortable around the rest of the skiers.  I was in my element for those first couple of years, handing out nicknames across the team, trying to be funny around the ski girls so they’d like me, everything seemed to be fitting except for one thing: my speed as a skier.  Ironically the fastest I ever was in my ski career was at the first SLU team selection time trial in Lake Placid during the winter of 1999.  I think I won that time trial, or was close to it, beating out most of my fellow freshmen, as well as the upper classmen. From that moment on I got slower, heavier, more apathetic, and overall under-enthused with ski racing due to one major factor: Partying.  I found, and quickly became addicted to, the consequence free atmosphere of excessive alcohol, drugs, and good times.

Heading into sophomore and junior year I still tried my hand at making the ski team, it was the reason that I came to SLU, and I wanted to respect the sport that had given me so much as a teenager.  But as time went on it became more and more clear that the other interests I had, girls, booze, and being social, didn’t lend itself to being fast on skis.  So, at the end of Xmas training camp in the winter of 2001, I tearfully announced to the ski team that I was going to quit.  It was time to move on.  When the van pulled back into SLU after that camp I had alerted all of my boys in my house, Phi Kap, that the days of me trying to be a skier were over, and I was ready to fucking rage.  Game on for part 2 of SLU.

What occurred from that point until I graduated in June of 2002 was an alcohol and speed induced blur.  My boys and I went out, 6 nights a week for basically a year and a half.  We would strut into the Hoot Owl on Tuesday nights in our Carhartt tuxedo’s and stuff as many Labatt Blue’s into our body as humanly possible.  Then, on Wednesday’s, it was game on for flip night down at the Tic Tock for 25 cent shitty draft beer, one of those nights was Glass Onion night for 9.0% Ubu’s, then Friday and Saturday went something like this. Drink from Friday afternoon straight to Sunday evening, then repeat the week-long process over and over again.  Honestly, it was a blast.  The bonding and relationships that I forged in those years were, and still are, priceless, in fact I still stay in touch with many of those guys and gals today, even though many of the connections were fueled by alcohol in my case.  See, I was introverted in high school, and it took a lot of courage to come out of my shell to meet people and be social.  But in college I had liquid courage to help suppress the introvert in me.  Looking back, regardless if I had to be hammered or not to have a conversation, I still managed to create friendships that mean the world to me.  You may not see me at a SLU reunion anytime soon, unless they include a 50k race in the festivities, but that doesn’t mean that I still do not look back at those years with such emotion, gratitude, and love, for the friends I had, and that have stayed in touch with me during my recent struggles as a recovering alcoholic.

I could look at back at SLU and have a resentment about how it was the place that I learned to party and drink like a fish, which ultimately led to my behavior as a closet alcoholic.  And to be honest, for the first few months of sobriety that is exactly how I viewed SLU.  But as time in recovery has past, and clarity of thinking has increased, I now, more than ever have nothing but fond memories of my time in rural upstate New York.  I haven’t been back to Canton to visit SLU since the fall of 2002.  My hope is that someday I can have the confidence to maintain my sobriety and make a visit back with some of my boys to remember the fun that was had along with the bonds and friendships that were created.  It’ll happen 🙂

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