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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Car Three

If you've never experienced the joy of commuting, I salute you.

It really was not that bad when we lived in Chicago. I'd walk to the train, pick up the commuter paper, do the puzzles (maybe read the news) and suddenly, I'm there. On the ride home, maybe read a novel or baffle the kid across from me by pulling out my original Game Boy. (20 years, and still going strong.)

Driving, though, that's another beast entirely.You can't just tune the world out. You have to engage with it, and very often on Austin roads, engagement is not the most enjoyable activity. I've learned that listening to NPR takes the fight out of me and reduces the severity of my swearing by at least 60%. Plus, you know, I find out what's happening in the world, depressing as it may be. I get by.

Today's commute was almost more adventurous than normal. School is back in session, which means that traffic is back in full force. This means I have to be on the highway by time X or my time spent on the road begins an exponential climb. Yesterday, I was on the road at X-10 minutes. Smooth sailing.

Today, it was X+10, and disaster was narrowly avoided.

Not one mile down the highway, stopping and starting through the normal crush of that time of day, I was just starting to move again when I heard a rather nasty crunch to my right, followed by another crunch of lesser severity. Car three was clearly not paying attention and pummeled the back of truck two, which rolled into car one. I caught the most fleeting of glances before turning around the bend and heading down the road. If I'd been at X+15, my drive would have been 30 minutes longer, though likely not as long as that poor, distracted driver of car three.

I mean, sure, it was their fault, but I do understand, on some level, how it happens. And it didn't look like anyone was hurt, so I'm inclined to have a little sympathy. Not one of those three cars saw it coming, and their day was almost certainly a little rougher as a result.

A strained comparison, perhaps, but as the cars finally began to thin out, I thought about my morning, and how I don't remember hearing my alarm go off at all. Clearly it went off, because it was still set for the time that I needed, and clearly I shut it off because it was no longer making noise. But I have no recollection of this transaction, and as a result I was not able to get in a run this morning like I'd originally hoped. I didn't make the choice not to get up (that I recall), I just didn't. And my day was a little rougher as a result.

Somewhere deep down, we have our defaults. A friend of mine likes the saying that, "We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training." (-Archilochus) I've managed to train myself to listen to NPR and (often, not always) let the insanity of Austin traffic fade away. I had to, for the sake of my sanity and blood pressure. My new default is calm. However, I have not yet figured out how to change my default when that alarm goes off. I've tried moving the alarm, and using different songs and tones. I experimented with those alarms that make you do math, but mostly, I figure it would just annoy my wife who is still trying to sleep. 

In some way, I have to make a conscious choice (in my semi-conscious state) to get out of bed. Train myself to be aware from the moment that alarm goes off. Remind myself how good I'll feel if I get that run in. Remember that the extra 20 minutes of sleep isn't going to help all that much. And if that doesn't do it, at least I should remember this:

Car three gets to the highway at X+10.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Go to Eleven

I'm at best a pseudo-believer in the old adage, "Fake it 'til you make it."

Personally, I'd rather figure it out, learn it, master it and do it with all sincerity to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, the world doesn't quite move slow enough for me to learn all the steps ahead of time. Sometimes, sure, you just pretend and figure out the rest as you go along.

I've always preferred my parents' way of saying it: "Act like you know." How do you wander into the Horseshoe at Ohio State after hours? Just walk in and don't ask any questions, apparently. Act like you belong somewhere and don't do anything obnoxious, and you'll probably be okay, provided you don't overstay your welcome. I've ended up in all sorts of odd places outside my normal boundaries simply as a result of acting like I know. 

The most recent was a Tesla.

I love this car. It's the longest-lasting, fastest, fanciest electric car out there. And for the low, low price of only $70,000, you can never pay for gas again. Until cars start flying. Then there will be jet fuel. Or Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactors. But for now, you can just plug in your car. Or, you know, buy half a house with the money you didn't spend on a Tesla.

Feasibility of this dream aside, I've been on the mailing list for a while, just to keep track. For the future. When I'm rich and all that.

I got an email a couple weeks ago that they were doing a Tesla test-driving event. For those who may not know, Texas has laws that prevent car manufacturers from selling directly to consumers. Instead, they must retail through dealerships. This is not part of the Tesla business model, so you cannot currently sell a Tesla in the state of Texas. You can, however, attend test drive events, order one online and have it shipped to one of their service centers. Makes total sense right?

Who cares? I signed up. We got in the fancy one, because if you're going to do it, do it right. The car I drove through rush-hour traffic runs about $125,000. We got to set it to "Insane" acceleration mode once. And it was. Like, plane-starting sensation in the stomach. Apparently they'll soon be coming out with a "ludicrous speed" setting as a nice little nod to Spaceballs. And their new Model X has De Lorean doors. It will also have knobs with settings that go to eleven, a nod to Spinal Tap (not Spaceballs, as our test-drive associate thought, silly man). In understatement-of-the-month news, it was a nice car. 

Now, of course, a Tesla is outside my means, I have no delusions about that. But every once in a while, it's fun to live outside what makes sense. To pretend that you can do anything and imagine what the world around you would be like if that were true. To go to eleven, as it were.

The trick is to know when to come back to reality. Maybe some day I'll find myself in the enviable position of owning a Tesla. And maybe some day (sooner than that) I'll be back in 3-hour marathon form. Or I'll be able to complete the P90X workouts. Or even just be able to do dozens of push-ups, sit-ups, squats and dips without worrying too much about it. But for now, I'll take my incremental steps. Yesterday I did ten of each.

Today I went to eleven.

Monday, August 24, 2015


An object in motion tends to remain in motion unless acted on by an outside force. An object at rest tends to remain at rest.

Guess which one I've been.

It turns out that I've written one whole blog post this entire year. One. In what has been one of the most formative, difficult, peak-and-valley type years of my life, I've only found the need to share part of my life in long form once. And the reason is as simple as you might imagine. I haven't been running. This blog started as a way for me to track and share my running, and I just haven't been doing any of that this year.

I mean, of course, outside of the city of Boston. Yes, that race recap is coming soon. That's part of why I'm back at the keyboard in the first place.

But the main reason I've returned is that I have become an object at rest, and I have always been a creature of inertia. When I was training for the St. George Marathon, I gave up a lot of the things I enjoyed for the betterment of my performance. I wanted Boston more than I wanted any of those things, and every day made the next day easier. After a while, it had been so long, I couldn't imagine going back to the way things were. I kept moving.

And then I stopped. I slowed down and I stopped. I gave up a lot of the momentum I'd built for the enjoyment of an easier life, and I never quite got it back. It happened long before my stint in the hospital, and I was just getting back to where I'd been when everything went haywire. I've barely run a step since April.

Yes, I've been injured. Yes, I've been busy. Yes, it's been a crazy tough year for an alarming number of people who are very close to me. But the fact remains that I feel better when I'm an object in motion. And there are 130 days left in this ridiculous year, so I'm going to use them.

Today, I did push-ups, sit-ups, squats and dips. Ten of each. I know, dream big.

But the point is to start small. I always start too big. I tell myself that I'm a creature of inertia, and it takes a great force to overcome inertia, so I always make myself go out hard, starting with 30-mile weeks and P90X day 1. I cannot pretend that my body will always be able to do this any more, and I'm finally taking my cue from the fact that this behavior has always left me injured.

So today, I did ten. And tomorrow eleven. Depending on whether I get up on time, maybe even a (very) light run.

Because Newton's "outside force" is just for objects. For someone like me, the only way to get started is from within. To make one choice, and let that choice dictate the others. Whether that first choice is good or bad, you're setting yourself up one way or another. Today I did ten.