Thursday, May 31, 2012

Do We Really Need To Know If She Pooped?

Do we really need to know if she pooped before the marathon?
The Jade Rabbit has gotten many reviews, and I am grateful for all of them.  They range from, literally  “it's the best” to “it’s the worst”,  and “the author obviously understands his genre” to "it's easy to see the author knows nothing about running or training for a marathon."

I am thankful for all of them, and only wish I could have coffee with each and every reviewer.To respond to them is to risk sounding defensive and bitter, so all I can say is I’m thrilled I’m being read.

As someone who likes to write book reviews myself, it’s not a personal thing, and if we all liked and connected with the same material, what’s the point and what a boring world.

But, when someone asks this question; “do we really need to know if she pooped before a race or the entire menu of what she ate?”  about Janice, the main character and narrator of The Jade Rabbit, I felt the need to respond. Not as an author, but as a runner. Plus, the older I get, the more I need to talk about B.M.’s, so I can’t resist the chance to respond. (If the writer of this review is reading this, I think your discussion is awesome I thank you for your comment.) I can see why the discussion and detail had no artistic value, especially to this reviewer, but isn’t that really one of the two most important things when running a marathon? What did you eat? And, Did you poop?

We marathoners usually all know well in advance what our diet will be the days before the marathon, and have probably experimented many times with the best combo and timing of food that works for us. I can picture my last meal now, and I also fully know that I’ll be eating some afternoon fiber the day before the event (frosted shredded wheat) to assure a great meeting with the commode the next morning.

What goes in and what goes out is huge. I think the reason there’s always 50 people in line at each port a potty marathon morning is not because everyone has the urge to go, they just know they will feel so much better to purge themselves of any extra bowel-cramping material.  We've all been on runs when our intestines attacked, and to have this happen during your grand moment is simply tragic.

I know I’m not the only marathoner who wants to micro-manage all these little details, who eats at a specific time, and lays out my clothes the the night before, putting the body glide in my shoe so I don’t forget to lube up, and having sixteen alarms set and a wake up call, just in case.

Controlling these things reminds me of the way we try to control things and clean in never before cleaned places when tragedy strikes. We need routine and control when about to throw ourselves into the unknown hazards of a marathon than can metaphysically kill us.
Janice from The Jade Rabbit has her marathon evening routine mapped out weeks in advance, including the decision whether or not to have sex the night before the race. (She does, since studies have shown a high percentage of those who ran a PR did have sex the night before, and because it was essential for me that she did so that the rest of the climatic end could come to fruition.)

And then marathon morning my senses all seem so acute. Every last step I check off in my brain, coffee and eating and showering and pooping and dressing.  I do it methodically like some warrior putting on his gear to go for battle. This immediacy is something I tried to capture by changing the novel from past tense to present tense marathon morning, so you seem listening to Janice at the very moment the marathon is taking place

There is a general pattern to the reviews where runners wanted more running, and non-runners felt the running was too much. This was true when I got the novel into the hands of a prominent Chinese adoption writer and publisher.  She read it for the adoption theme and not the running theme, and was concerned that was there was too much running and she asked, ‘who is your audience?’ And suggested I write with more of an audience in mind next time.

Perhaps the problem was I didn’t have an audience in mind when writing it, and that the book was fully personal. As an adoptive father I wanted to immerse myself into what an adopted woman might feel and then to turn up the heat in her life, and nothing turns up the heat in your life like a marathon.  I wanted to demonstrate that when a runner is in the zone of their training, their life is their training and their training is their life, that battles fought in personal life are reflected in runs, and vice versa, so you can’t talk about running without talking about life.  Running is the background music we live by, and the volume slowly gets ramped up the closer the race day.  We bring our lifelong baggage with is during every training run, and hopefully return a little lighter or at least stronger to carry the load.

 As it is, I followed the adage of writing the book I’d like to read, as I pretty much cry every time I read the ending.

The novel is free today and tomorrow, June 1st, on kindle, as part of Amazon’s Prime promotions, and I invite you to read it.  

Oh yeah, spoiler alert. Janice wasn’t able to poop marathon morning as usual, but had to stop along the course to go, which, as you know can be devastating if you are trying to break a sub 3 hour marathon and shatter your already fractured life back into place.  Read all about it, and then give a shout back.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

22 Miles On A Record-Breaking Memorial Day

The last long run of a marathon training program is a climactic event. In some ways, more so than the actual marathon, which is sort of a victory lap.  I always approach them trying to mimic race day; eating the same, wearing the same things, running at the same time, twisting my thoughts in the same exact bent.

Ideally I look for a sponsored training run, and Running Fit was having one Saturday in Ann Arbor.  Unfortunately, my family was taking a weekend trip so couldn’t attend, so instead chose a solo run on Monday morning,

Since I like to run this last long run on semi-rested legs, my challenge was taking a three day trip without running.  This wasn’t easy, as Grand Haven had wonderful running routes along a lake front boardwalk and tons of trails.  I feel like I experience any new area best through the eyes of, and on the adventure of, a nice morning run. As it was, I stayed inside with the kids while my wife went for her workout along the lakeside. The only movements I did was lots of walking and chasing Frisbees. Lake Michigan was frigid so I imagined the water icing my still sore knees while we waded in the waves. My shoes remained at home, also resting in my closet.

The next challenge was mapping a route around my hometown’s very popular and quite large memorial day parade. It cut me off from my main running routes along 8 mile, so I spent a good chunk of time on Mapmyrun, and found a route that connected two gas stations (where I go to buy water and other needed supplies, and then hide them in shaded areas.) The route included the much needed hills to prepare me, and a way to run around the parade and return home.

The weather was 70 degrees at the start, but soon lifted up to 85 for much of the run, on its way to a Detroit Memorial Day-record breaking heat of  95 degrees. All under a perfectly (monstrously) blue sky.  After all the comments on posts I had written across the blogosphere on not canceling races due to heat, and threatening to still run these races using water from the sewer to hydrate and the bile of passerby’s for Gu, I certainly couldn’t let the heat dissuade me.

My legs were eager, and I started off way faster than I should have, and my whole plan to make this a progressively faster run was shot. Instead it was a sporadically faster run, with four 7:50’s and a couple of 8 minute miles mixed in with the rest averaging 8:20.

I took more breaks than usual at my self-made aid stations to pour water over my neck or swallow some s-caps in the shade.  Same way, I assume, that if (when) it’s 80 plus degrees during the marathon I will walk through aid stations to make sure to grab more than one cup of water.  I swear with every s-cap I took, I immediately tasted the salt streaming down my face into my mouth.

Oh, the strange skills we use.  In order to space out the water, I grabbed a a smaller water at the gas station and carried it for a a couple miles to hide it in the middle of my route.  I stashed it amongst some trees, but realized, like a pot of gold, I may never be able to find where I buried it, so I broke off some branches, and laid them on the other side of the sidewalk pointing to the life-saving water for a later miles.  A water cairn.

 And while I am sure the heat effected my time, I sort of enjoyed it.  Anything that makes my head a bit more hazy, makes me more prone to running hallucinations, and increases the running stud factor is all good.

The route had some nice hills, about 4 miles of a 2-3% incline and 2 miles of 3-5 % incline. Overall, the 22 mile route had 322 feet of elevation gain.  This was a fair challenge, but just a minor sparring partner for the 525 feet that the Ann Arbor 26.2 has waiting for me.

Never try anything new on marathon day, is a familiar adage, but for this long run I did. I hardly ever use Sunscreen, but since my noggin was roaring red from the weekend at the beach, I applied a high-grade Walgreen 30 SPF to my head and nose.  Well, as the sweat poured out my body, the blinding cream poured into my eye, and in my attempt to wipe it away, the leftover Vaseline on my hand I had used for body lube to stop from chaffing was added to the mix. The result was a blinding venom, and  I did at least 3 miles with one eye closed and cleansing tears filling my eye.

I can’t see nuthing," I mumbled,  "You gotta open my eye.  Cut me Mick, cut me Mick....”

 But it was the aching legs that were the real challenge.   They already felt sore at mile 14, where in previous trainings this doesn’t happen, and I know it’s a function of my low weeky mileage.  This whole Ann Arbor marathon thing was just supposed to be a warm up to train for New York, and I’ll need to remind myself of that more than once I’m sure.

The greatness of a last long run allows me to change my self-talk a bit.  “After this, your training stops, it's all over, just this one left...” I could yell at my legs.   I told them the usual lies, like ‘we’ll take a whole week off after today” which of course isn't true.  “There is no tomorrow” I also screamed at them in my brain, not a full lie but maybe a half-truth.   I did what I could to summon everything out of me to get to that place where my greatest running passion springs forth.

And yes, there’s nothing like what gets pulled out of you during a long run, and that feeling when you finally arrive home, 3 Gu’s, 6 S-caps, and 22 miles later.  Another thing I took note of is, (as narcissistic as this could sound) I am always anxious to look at myself in the mirror after a long run. I want to see the slime on my face, the look in my eye, the beating blood-red head, all to see the metamorphosis of what the experience has done to me, since every time I accomplish these things I feel like a new beast.  It’s like the run is a full moon, and sucks the werewolf right out of me.

And, the beast I had turned myself into felt deliciously exhausted and hungry, and began to devour things. Here's what I ate the rest of the day:

8 ounces of strawberry recoverite                   
8 ounces of chocolate milk                                            
A chobani yogurts                                           
 Hot dog                                                           
Franks and beans                                            
3 scoops of ice cream                                      
Apple Pie                                                        
Handful of Honey BBQ chips                                    
Kit kat.     

Ah, taper time. Time to eat, get fat, rest, and have my mentally deranged, tapering mind fight to roll back every mile I ran and tell myself I'm under-trained, I'll never finish, what the hell was I thinking, and of course, imagine all sorts of phantom injuries.                                                                   

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Running and Reality Therapy - Assesing Efforts Towards Your Running Goals.

Yet another post where I put my therapist hat on along with my running shoes. 

I had a blast writing about being diagnosed with a running addiction based on the new DSM criteria

Then I followed it up with William Glasser's alternative perspective of running as a Positive Addiction.( I'ts worth noting that Glasser felt that "The DSM  is the most destructive book to human relationships that have ever been written.")

Glasser is the brain behind Reality Therapy, a here and now approach that promotes personal responsibility, self-evaluation, and planning and commitment to change. Reality Therapy asks us to decide:

1. What do we really want?
2:  What are we doing to get what we want?
3:  Evaluate, is it helping?  And then,
4. What can we do differently?  At this point, it's time to commit.

In this sense, Dr. Phil's saying "and how's that working for you" comes straight from this theory.

And in this sense, most runners are actively practicing Reality Therapy, or if not, might want to think about their running goals in this framework.

For example asking yourself:   

What do you want?  To run injury free? to qualify for boston?  to finish a marathon? to qualify for the olympics? run in a zombie run and not get caught?  run a full marathon taking pictures along the way, tweeting every half mile, and live podcasting your run?  If your goals aren't yours then you're just not gonna show up. And there's no reason to chop down a bunch of trees making a path through a forest you have no desire to be in.

This can of course be boiled down to individual runs. What do I want from this run?  Just to warm up and recover? speedwork? endurance? to reduce stress so I stop yelling at the guinea pigs?

What have you done to get it?
This is where I think a training log really helps.  Your brain won't remember things accurately, but if you can have multiple marathons' training programs on paper - and not what you were supposed to do but what you really did - it can help.  You can look back and see where you've been, and you can let others provide their feedback as well. Us runners are data freaks. Data Junkies.  We would bath in data if we could.

Is it helping? Is what you are doing getting you closer to what you need? Measure your wants versus your realities. Is training providing the the results you want?  do I keep bonking out at mile 21, yet not changing my training pattern? Am I constantly injured?Am I never happy during an event yet always finding something to blame besides my own training?  Go on any golf course, and you'll see the duffer out there, always swearing and cussing at his game, yet never changing his swings or changing his expectations.

Yes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  

And one of the unique things about marathon training is, since you typically only run one or two a year, it takes incredible patience and persistence to mix up your training and then wait months to see if it is working or not. Yes, as it is said, it's all an experiment of one.  I did a similar training pattern for nearly ten years trying to qualify for Boston (yes, I"m sick and suffering and hard-headed) and then I finally changed it up with a training plan that would look ridiculous if put into a runners world article, but it was this change that finally allowed me to nail my BQ.

What else can you do? Brainstorm ideas, something to break your pattern, get suggestions from everywhere and every person you can, and then commit to something new, but something personal. (I think many runners are as hurt by following template training plans as they are helped. Here's my secret formula). Do you need to throw in more miles or less? recover more, do more long runs, more speedwork, eat better, take more fiber?  If someone told you to stand on your head and whistle because it will help in your recovery, are you willing to try?

Then it's time to commit, and with  reality therapy, that's where the therapist/client relationship increases your accountability, gives you someone to get feedback from, as you constantly assess and evaluate if you are self-sabotaging your efforts. And this is not just through behavior but erroneous thoughts and feelings and undue self-criticism.

In running, the feedback to constantly evaluate comes from your body, your race times (possibly), your joy in running, your coach if there is one, those pains in your knees and your calves and your arse or wherever it hurts, and all those tingly little endorphins that are buzzing through your blood and seeping their way into your heart telling you "I must be doing something right."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"That's Not A Feeling" by Dan Josefson - Book Review:

So, this is my first book review as a "Great Minds Think Aloud" reviewer.  It's a little verbose, and I may have gone a little overboard, but I am going to chalk it up to 25% excitement and 75% to the very complex novel that landed at my doorstep.

That’s Not A Feeling, by Dan Josefson, is the story of Roaring Orchards, a boarding school for troubled youth, and traces the experiences of Max, a new student who encounters this strange world following two failed suicide attempts. After smashing out his parents windshield in the facilities parking lot, and believing he was ‘just on a tour,’ Max’s parents leave him without a goodbye in the hands of staff who adhere to the school’s philosophy that few can explain or understand.  The journey of Max, along with other students, including one particularly endearing and quirky girl named tidbit, is told in mixed narrative.  Max is admitted as Aubrey, the school ‘headmaster’ and creator of this world, is sick and may be dying.

The title, That’s Not A Feeling,  comes from the list of accepted feelings a student, and a staff member, is allowed to identify when being challenged and confronted, and it just one of the many ways forced and feigned ways of being are put upon the cast of memorable and distinct characters.

I received an Advanced Review copy of the novel for my role as a Great Minds Think Aloud reviewer, and my interest came partially from my short-lived experience as a social worker/counselor in similar facilities where they use what is called Positive Peer Culture, and yes, it is certainly its own culture. In Roaring Orchards, groups have to physically gang up on others who act out, students have to face walls, have their shoes taken away, and there is a whole esoteric dictionary of words, terms, and acronyms.   

Children and staff alike in Roaring Orchards struggle with how much ‘buy-in’ to have for the schools curriculum. Students can explain the reasoning behind the therapeutic interventions, but it is certainly not something they have faith in, and ultimately they feign issues so that they can then impress their therapists and show progress. Staff spends time mocking the children and seem to be as adolescent as those they serve, some pledging allegiance to the mission but others planning to sue the facility or finally tell the administrator off and demand it close.  Just as the children plot to run, staff think of leaving, turning over “states-evidence,” while those with idealistic visions are met with a steel shovel to the shins and a rude awaking. Parents who object to the punishments tone down their words when offered the chance to bring their child home, since then the rules don’t seem so bad. The ultimate existential crisis for the Max, and the rest of the youth, is to run, or not to run, and youth are often chased sprinting from the grounds of the school. The only true relationships in the novel are those that are undercover, with children bonding through secrets, shared rule-breaking, and secret plots to leave. 

Genuine longings and hopes go unfulfilled, and it seems the author and the reader want more for these characters. The world the author has created is all game playing with various interventions that make it comically but darkly absurd. When you FIB you are using functioning intimacy blockers.  Students get ghosted and nobody can speak with them since they aren’t really there. They are put in their rooms until they remember things correctly, made to sit facing corners, split up into oddly named groups, and in an incredible birthing scene gone wrong (that just may have stolen the show) students recreate their own struggles in the womb, emerge to an idealistic mother, and ‘relearn’ how to form bonds.

The author doesn’t seem to be making a statement on a boarding school, what seems to fit more is that this is just a microcosm of the world we all live in.  True relationships and connections that are ached for are not found in easy, outwardly ways, feelings are feigned to get along, masks are created with beaks to appease others. Sure, we can run, but where to? We may be incapable of surviving without these rules, and we want to stick around, just to see what kind of drama happens next.  The author loved all of his characters, none of them are evil, their intentions and longings are very human and even grand at times, and the dialogue between them flowed wonderfully. Ironic passages where characters are constantly feigning how they are supposed to feel, unwittingly mocking the rules, all of them aware of the absurdity, and once in while rebelling with an axe or a fire.

The oft-occurring childhood violence is not searing, nor are the actions necessarily evil, they are matter of fact, done on a whim, with little spite and seem to be the only way a student can have any true impact on the environment.  When they come, they often make sense, or at least aren’t some sort of reflection of a dark human nature, and there’s just enough empathy for the children and supposed theoretical principle to the school to make it seem legit, and just enough mastery by the God of his Universe, Aubrey, to keep it going.

Aubrey, like any charismatic leader, has tremendous personal power and abilities to persuade others. He asks questions, spins truths, and interrogates others in a way that undress any last bit of defenses. Yet this God is dying, maybe losing his sanity, because when he finally lets it all explode in a bit of a mea culpa; telling the children and staff what he really thinks of them, it’s barely noticed. Their leader is lost, utterly disappointed in his failing and the flaws of those around him, but .everyone moves on without notice.  This is chilling. Aubrey was maybe the best part of the novel and sprinkled about in just enough doses that you wanted more.

What made my jaw drop was actually not what was inside the novel, but when I saw that David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest, has a blurb on the cover. 

"Dan Josefson is a writer of astounding promise and That's Not a Feeling is a bold, funny, mordant, and deeply intelligent debut." --David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest

Nuff said, right? Why is anybody else even bothering doing a review?  This is Warren Buffet admiring your stock picks, and Martha Stewart oohing and awwing at your decorative dishware. Wallace is the modern day face of so called “difficult fiction,” fiction you have to work at as a reader.  It was the last book blurb Wallace wrote, reportedly doing multiple rewrites to make the 22 words give the right emotional impact, and That’s Not A Feeling was perhaps the last novel he ever read, before taking his own life in September, 2008.

This novel did take a bit of work, and my guess is there will be a splatter of one and two stars or “I gave it a chance, but I just couldn’t finish it” where others will applaud the efforts and speak of its subtle hypnotizing nature. I was both of these during different moments, but I’m a marathoner, and I know that the first miles can be the toughest and once you get warmed up, it flows smooth and sweet.  The novel is published by Soho Press, who pride themselves in presenting works that other houses ignore since they are not so quickly and easily digestible by the public. There’s something noble in that.

The difficult parts were the inexplicable narration change. The novel begins in third person, but then switches to first person, and the reader wonders how the narrator knows  things where he isn’t even present, and how he can describe how other people felt as if he’s omniscient, . You learn later that it’s a retrospective, and at one point the narrator self- reflects about writing the actual book you are reading.

“Mr. David Wallace,” if I could only ask, “were you referring to this unusual narrative stance in your praise?”   Because what I kept feeling was that the author was cheating, using the immediacy and intimacy of a first person narrative, yet also the more universal storytelling tools of the third person narrative.  Despite the intrusive narrative changes, however, it was a world I don’t’ want to run from, but certainly wanted and needed to stick around, just to see how it may end. In fact, after finishing the novel, I didn’t’ want to read anything else for a bit. It felt like having a unique dish, a rarely tasted flavor in my mouth, and I didn’t’ want any new flavor to spoil it. 

It seems kind of cheap to use traditional ratings to grade a non-traditional novel; to buy-in to this 5 star system for a novel that mocks superficial buy-in, but like a Roaring Orchards child I’ll play along, rather than run, and give it  4 stars, and will wait for the many future novels to see if indeed George Foster Wallace’s spirit has lived on in the body of Dan Josefson.

That’s Not A Feeling is scheduled to be released on October 2, 2012, by Soho Press.

Get the novel here on Amazon  or  click here for Goodreads.

~Mark Matthews, Author of  Stray and The Jade Rabbit

New York City Marathon Fundraiser: Anonymous Donor

I'm closing in on my last huge training run for the Ann Arbor Marathon this week, a 22 miler in what looks to be a 80 degree hot weekend.

And although I'm training for the Ann Arbor Marathon, I am also using it as a warm up to run my first New York City Marathon.  I'm running to raise funds for a cause I fully believe in, Covenant House of Michigan.  For more information, see here: My First Giving, New York City Marathon, Charity Page

Two cool bits of information:  For one, a local anonymous donor has agreed to match dollar for dollar whatever I can raise on my own.   I know, right! Very cool. So, whatever you think you may give, as little as it may seem (it's not!) double it in your brain.

Also, a not so anonymous donor, myself, has agreed to ship a copy of both of my novels, The Jade Rabbit and Stray, to anyone in the United States who donates 50 dollars or more.  I know, right! Very cool.

The Covenant House serves a population very similar to the youth served in The Jade Rabbit, and, in fact, is the type of facility Janice, the main character, feels can assist the homeless 18 year old Sharleen. I know, this means little if you haven't read the book, but just know that I have seen dozens and dozens of non-profits, some of which waste and squander money. Covenant House is not one of those. Sure, I've always wanted to run the NYCM, but it was a no-brainer and a perfect fit when I saw on the Covenant House website that they had NYCM entries available.

Thanks for listening.

My First Giving, New York City Marathon, Charity Page

*** Thanks to those who donated so fast and furious today. You'll receive a personal thanks and some goods in the mail, and I promise I will run until I (nearly) drop.***

Monday, May 21, 2012

Running As A Positive Addiction

Last Friday, I posted this on Running as an addiction, as diagnosed by the DSM.  I took some liberties and had fun with comparing 'running addiction' to addiction to alcohol, partially inspired by upcoming changes in the DSM which would include other behaviors as an addiction, and diagnosis them as "Behvioral Addiction - Not Otherwise Specified." ( Article here.) My thoughts are a craving to do something that can't be controlled that is hurting your life can be loosely classified as an addiction, if it meets the seven criteria over a lengthy period of time, but it may just as likely fit into some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder, since to call it addiction may actually change the nature of the other biggies: Alcohol, Opiates, Stimulants, and so on.
However, the other, more likely category most of us runners fit into is the Positive Addiction realm, championed by William Glasser. Glasser is the guru beyond Reality Therapy, and also the concept of Positive Addiction - Things that we are drawn to do, crave to do, maybe even "have to do" that enhance our life.
Glasser described activities that allow a person to achieve a meditative state where the mind can “spin free.” Positive addictions are activities that take a person to this mental state, are addictive in that missing the activity results in various symptoms of withdrawal, and are positive in that they are a creative, controllable period that endows an individual with strength in the form of both mental capacity and increased neurological horsepower. These strength gains carry over into all other aspects of life.
These changes are even biological, and the addictions can forge new neuronal connections in the brain to help you think  more creatively. Ever wonder why you get all those grand thoughts during your run?  Glasser wrote much of this book with a focus on running.

A positive addiction can be anything at all that a person chooses to do as long as it fulfills the following six criteria: (reprinted by permission of: "I think it's okay, since it's on about 5 million sites on the internet", May, 2012)
(1) It is something noncompetitive that you choose to do and you can devote an hour (approximately) a day to it.
(2) It is possible for you to do it easily and it doesn't take a great deal of mental effort to do it well.
(3) You can do it alone or rarely with others but it does not depend upon others to do it.
(4) You believe that it has some value (physical, mental, or spiritual) for you.
(5) You believe that if you persist at it you will improve, but this is completely subjective -- you need to be the only one who measures that improvement.
(6) The activity must have the quality that you can do it without criticizing yourself. If you can't accept yourself during this time the activity will not be addicting.
My guess is that's where 95% of us runners and marathoners fit. 

One concern is if the noncompetitive point of number 1 rules running out, but I think where this fits is that 'most' of your runs you are not competing. Sure, you may be training to compete, but the daily events aren't always measured against someone where there is a winner and loser. (that little running dude on your Garmin notwithstanding).  Also, the hour a day doesn't' really include allowances for activities that inherently need more time spent.  For example, a marathoner may 'average' an hour a day easy during training, probably more, but an ultra-marathoner, who certainly has all the positive addiction traits, might smash through this. 

Number 2, to me says that you don't' have to spend a ton of time convincing your brain to go. Sure, maybe some days, but mostly it's automatic otherwise you would dread lacing up your shoes. Finally, as described in number 6, if you are overly -critical of yourself, the process will either be a form of gluttonous self-punishment and thus not a Postive Addiciton, or else you will give it up entirely.

So, take heart, tell that therapist dude or dudette you don't have an Axis 1 diagnosis, you have a Positive Addiction, and sure you may have held on to your teddy bear a little too long as a child and you got daddy issues, but running will help take care of all of that, costs less than a 50 minute therapy hour, and you get your Vitamin D. Plus, nobody ever got a cool shirt for completing a course of therapy.

For more on this, check out this post on: Running and Reality Therapy

Friday, May 18, 2012

Runner Addict? Or "Behavioral Addiction Not Otherwise Specified"

Runner Addict – It’s on bumper stickers and peoples' minds everywhere.
 Every wonder what really makes someone an Addict? I mean, in a professional's opinion

Addiction, of course, goes beyond the “it's something I really like to do,”  “I can’t stop doing it,”  “I do it so much that other people think I’m crazy,” or, “I think about doing it, dream about doing it, then I wake up and realize that I am actually doing it.”.    Actually, my favorite is, "if it's the first thing you reach for in the morning when you wake up, then you may be addicted."

Addiction is a word thrown around pretty loosely and casually, but there is actually a criteria for a diagnosis, decided upon by a big alphabet soup of PH.D's and MA’s and LLP’s.  If you have ever seen that big maroon/purpley/redish color giant volume on someone desks called the DSM, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, that's where you will find it.  Yes, there are zillions of diagnoses, and probably more than a few where we could all fit into. When folks say things like “I am clinically depressed” what they mean is they fit the clinical criteria as described in the DSM, which is constantly being revised like the menu at Denny's.  

This manual is currently being redesigned again, and for the first time the smart psycho mumbo-jumbo folks might introduce a catch-all category — “behavioral addiction — not otherwise specified” — that some  experts think would be too readily used by doctors to diagnose addictions to a whole plethora of things, including, yes, Running.

So, are we ‘clinically addicted to running’?

Let's look at how someone gets diagnosed an alcoholic, or Alcohol Dependent, as the DSM says, and see if there’s a running equivalent.  There are 7 criteria listed below, three or more of which have have to simultaneously occur anytime in the same 12 month period for you to call yourself a member of the Alcoholic club. And as Groucho Marx said, I wouldn't trust any group that would have me for one of their members.

1. Tolerance – this is the alcoholic who used to barf after a pint of Vodka, that now drinks it for breakfast like it's nothing, and eventually needs to drink much more for the same effect. They can drink incredible amounts and become "ultra-drinkers." where before they could just drink a 5k worth of dixie cup shots.

The Running Equivalent: You used to get excited when you ran 3 miles, now you need to run 10 miles to get the same high, and 3 just doesn’t do it anymore.  I suppose we could just call this endurance, right? 

2. Withdrawal – when the alcohol is not in your body, your body revolts. Every cell begs for it, shakes and quivers and sweats, and it makes the regular flu look so tolerable. Ultimately, you take the substance to relieve these symptoms.

The Running Equivalent: when your body doesn’t have the endorphins flowing you get cranky, moody, depressed, your body craves the substance to relieve this pain and your brain starts working overtime trying to figure out how to fit in a run, maybe in the middle of the night when nobody will notice - just a little one will get me through, a little bit can't hurt.  (note: this is the plight of the injured, and you may start trying all sorts of bizarre alternative aerobic options)
3. Alcohol is taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.  This is the drinker who tells themselves 'just 3 beers tonight' but drinks 30.  They stop off for a beer after work but end up closing the bar. They go to the liquor store for a half-pint only but then do the half-pint shuffle back and forth for another and another.

The Running Equivalent: You head out on a run, tell yourself you only have time for 5 miles, but then you feel better than you thought, keep going, say just one more, just one more. Or you sign up for a race, promising you won’t do another this season, but then you get a free entry, you see the t-shirt and it looks really cool, all your friends are doing it and it's only a half-marathon,  plus you never been to such and such place so why not…

4. A desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use. This is the alcoholic who swears it off repeatedly, I will stop! usually announcing "I will never drink again!" quite ceremoniously. Then they go back to the substance and swear,  "I will drink less, I will drink only beer, I will drink only after work, I will drink only after noon, I will never have those six shots of Jack after a 12 pack."

The Running Equivalent:  You tell yourself it's time to stop training so hard, time to just run for enjoyment, I don't' need to run every day, but after a few good runs you realize, "Hey, I'm rested up and ready for some age-group awards, a new PR, maybe a new distance..." and your promise to reduce your running obsession, that you previously knew was harming your qualify of life, turns to instead some new passion to run farther and faster.  We can't have just a little bit, can we? Once you've had the taste, you can either abstain, or go all out.  There is no moderation. Nothing Exceeds like Excess!

5. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol or recover from its effects. You start drinking way before the party, you hate when the bar is closed during dinner at weddings, you buy a new pitcher of beer when your current one is halfway empty, and you have multiple hangovers that last all day rather than just the occasional January 1st flu symptoms. You have a special hangover routine you follow, and you do it quite often.

The Running Equivalent: you spend time thinking about it, planning it, it becomes the sun of your solar system, the apple in your eye, the meat of your potatoes.  And where before you used to have to just ice yourself once a week, now you are sticking a pack of frozen peas on your legs every day from running so hard.  Your physical therapist says "The usual?' when you walk in, your sports doctor starts booking vacations based on your copays, and the family gets used to waving goodbye to you as you run off.

6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use. Almost all of your events start to revolve around alcohol You won't go to a restaurant unless they serve drinks. You used to play softball, used to go to movies, played flag football, spent time with your kids, but all of that starts to fade. You have about sixteen words with friends games going but just can't get to any of them anymore.

The Running Equivalent: You used to go to work and then run after work. Now you skip out early and take long lunches to do a RUNch.  You used to also bowl, knit, read, watch movies, breath, but now you spend your time running, reading running blogs, thinking of your last running route, folding your race event t-shirts, looking over your training log, reading every review on The softball team or book club wonders where you went.  You're off running, of course, cause who has time for softball, reading, your kid's wedding, or your marriage anymore.

7. Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the alcohol.
.This is the alcoholic who drinks, loses his temper and explodes at his wife and his kids, cusses at the toaster, gets a few DWI’s, starts bleeding from his ulcer, misses work, gets more depressed, has the shakes, thinks about killing themselves, the whole sad laundry list, all with knowledge that this has come from drinking,  yet they continue to drink, often times, actually increasing their drinking as the walls start to come crashing in around them. The guilt builds and so does the rationalizing that maybe it wasn't the alcohol starts to follow. Your brain develops all sorts of twisted thought patterns, self-deceit, and after years and years of this you turn into a major sick and suffering addict.

The Running Equivalent: This is perhaps the biggest one and single biggest predictor. You continue to run 50 miles a week even after it injures you. When you get a running injury you still run and make it worse. You continue to run the same schedule even though your family is begging for more time with you.  You're losing sleep, missing work, thinking about running too much to focus, yet you still let your training plan remain the same.  This is the area where running seriously detracts from your life, part of your brain can't help but notice, but the other part needs to rationalize and say "hey, I'm just hard core," or "I'll stop once I qualify for Bostons, break a 3 hour marathon, run that next turkey trot backwards, or  fill in the blank."

So, be careful, pretty soon you may find yourself with a brand new diagnosis, starting next year when the new DSM comes out, and you can say I have a "behavioral addiction - not otherwise specified" and everyone will go AWWWW, wow!  That's cool, how do I get one of those?

And by the way, you can always just tape the ice pack of peas to your knees, that's what I've started to do.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My New Friend; Great Minds Think Aloud, and My Dead Friend Sarah

So, when I started this blog, my plan was that after a few posts, Brooks, Asics, and Nike would start a bidding war to sponsor me, and that the New York Times, USA today, and The Onion would fight for the right to own my domain space.  I also expected that every bit of running gear I was ever curious about would show up at my door step: compression shorts, Gu-Chomps, headlamps, Gu-in a can, running-shoe cams, all of it would be graciously showered upon me by companies eager for me to pimp their gear, and ultimately, my novels would be picked up by Random House and be placed on every bookstore shelf possible.

Well, that hasn't happened (yet) but, I was approached by Great Minds Think Aloud Literary Community through GoodReads to be one of their site book reviewers. This means the chance to pick among a slew of novels, including many not yet released, and to dive in and then post my thoughts pretty much everywhere I can.  So, it has begun!  Look for a book review coming to you soon, and thanks to Great Minds Think Aloud for the opportunity. It also allows me to post some neat news, such as this freebie for your kindle they are offering today and tomorrow: Forgotten, by Doug Lucas

Goodreads is like the local coffee shop were you get to see local authors up close and find books that are amazing and unique that you otherwise would have never known about. I wanted to share my thoughts on one such novel.  The author is a blogger and seems to be a brother by another mother. (Check out his  deliciously twisted post about the danger of running with someone else's Ipod on.)

My thoughts on his novel,  My Dead Friend Sarah: by Peter Rosch
**Update: I'm happy to report that, since the time of this review (and not necessarily because of it) this novel has taken off on Amazon to be in the top 100 bestsellers in three different genres!

The premise of this novel, the characters, the set up, made me download with grand anticipation, and the novel did not fail to deliver. My Dead Friend Sarah is a smart and unique read that traces the thoughts of a newly recovering alcoholic who is having reoccurring dreams of a woman being kidnapped, and presumably killed.  As it is suggested for any alcoholic, he tries to "do the next right thing" and help this woman,  but in trying to prevent this from occurring, the question becomes, has his sickness been squeezed right back out of him? What do you get when a horse-thief stops drinking? Well, you get a sober horse-thief, as the saying goes, and a sober man out in the world can be way more dangerous than a drunken man holed up in his room with a bunch of empties.

The novel begins with a ping-pong of first-person narrators between Max, the main character, and Sarah, who is the object of his bizarre dreams. The back and forth was fun, but as it went on, it did begin to get a bit tiring, mostly because I feared the whole novel would be this way, but just as it got too much Sarah disappeared and so did her narrative. The reader, like Max, is left wondering where she went, is she alive? held hostage somewhere? and the bigger question, who is to blame?

The novel takes place in the mental topography of Max whose brain is a great place to visit. The more his thought processes began to spiral, the more the reader gets sucked in. It was like reading an Edgar Allan Poe story, trying to figure out if the main character is mad. You sort of think he's mad, yet you find yourself having empathy for his wild self-talk. The more I explored the terrain of his brain, the more I wanted to hear him think.

I kind of have an `in' with the topic, with my personal history of addiction recovery, working in the field of addiction, and writing my own novel of addiction. I'm thinking that if you have never waited for a liquor store to open then you would still love the novel, perhaps subtract a star, but if you are a Chuck Pahalniuk fan, add that star right back.  If  you have ever been "in the rooms"  the authors descriptions of AA in the novel are incredible and worth a read by themselves

Ultimately, the real test of any book for me is my level of enthusiasm in reading. Did I eagerly look forward to those reading moments? Did I make extra time to fit in a page or two in between the rest of my living? Did I make sure to swing by and grab the kindle when nature called? This novel hit all of those. In fact, I dangerously gave my wife a hushing noise as she tried to ask me a question during the last pages. This novel is a great dish of work told by an untrustworthy narrator, and it is fed to the reader in great bite-sized morsels.

**Don't just take my word for it, check out other readers who have given 5 stars.  My Dead Friend Sarah on Amazon:  

 STRAY, $3.99 on Amazon
Reviews of STRAY
Reviews of The Jade Rabbit

Monday, May 14, 2012

20 Miler Along 8 Mile

20 miles on the schedule today.  I planned this day off work in advance, so I could fit the long run in and have some veg time afterwards. It comes highly recommended by the author.

Similar to every marathon, with every long run there's always the fear that I wont' make it in the back of my mind. That I will blow up. That something will blow up. My stomach will blow up, my knee will blow up, my calf, my spirit, something.  It remands me of the expression that the idea of death is in every game. The idea that my legs will die is in every major run.  This voice of self-doubt appears to me as a vision of myself walking home with unused Gu in my pockets and my tail between my legs.

My calves had hurt all week, my last two runs of just six slow miles included walking breaks, and I had been icing and taking handfuls of ibuprofen, but still, even as of this morning, the calf hurt to the touch.  I made the mistake of doing the google diagnosis last night, and read all these posts about how if your calf hurts as such, that running on it can make it so much worse.

Instead, I trusted my experience.  Many times I have had this same pain, and as long as I started incredibly slow, let them warm up, that they would release instead of tighten and I could run free. I took Sunday fully off running, and did many Mr. Myagi warm my hands and then massage the hell out of them.

The weather was 70 at the start, 75 at the finish, zero clouds, a beautiful but hot day, but alas no emails form race officials offering a deferment.

As it was, I loved it. There is a space in my psyche and in my spirit that only a long run can tap in to. I started slow enough, sped up at times, and my legs felt as they should. Certainly not fresh as a regular taper would eventually provide, but enough that I could work through. I averaged under 8:20 pace with my fastest miles in the 7:50's and my slowest mile in the 8:40's.    That moment when I knew it was going to hurt but I was going to make it, I was good, and my second 20 miler would be behind me. The metamorphis that a long run puts you through was complete.

I have a loop I do, 4 miles to a gas station where I grab big jugs of water and a kit kat, place them under the shade of my own personal evergreen, and then do 4 miles, out and back,along 8 mile road (yes, that 8 mile) and then return to refuel.  Some minor hills are along the way to prepare me for the beasts I'm about to face in the Ann Arbor marathon, but the main goal is to train my body to run that far and fuel itself correctly.

As always, I saw some strange things. I waved to a neighbor at mile .5 and then again a few hours later at mile 19, and they gave me a perplexed look.

I had my hands in the air with a "WTF!: look at at least 3 cars who almost hit me.

And at one point, a hearse drove by, followed slowly by 20 cars with the orange flags on top. It is always a bit odd to see a funeral procession on a life-affirming long run. In my running haze the hearse stopped, a tall, pale man got out of the long black car, opened up the back door, and wheeled the casket my way.  The lid popped open to reveal the casket was empty just before it came to rest at my feet.

Of course, this metaphysical, supernatural, childhood memory fear-driven illusion  faded away as quickly as I wiped the salty sweat from my eyes, and I watched as the funeral procession took a left turn to go honor the dead as I ran on. Miles to go before I sleep.

Next up is a 22 miler 2 weeks from now.

Reviews of The Jade Rabbit

STRAY, $3.99 on Amazon

Reviews of STRAY

Anyone remember this Dude below?  First person to name him wins a little something-something.

Hi, I drive a Hearse, I'm a Virgo, and I like walks on the beach.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all!!  

Yes, it easily the most important and challenging role in the world, not to speak in hyperbole or anything.

I saw this interesting passage today, which made me think that the challenges and rewards being a mother mimic those of being a runner;

Pleasure at the root of mommy behavior
Experts believe maternal behavior may be fostered by a pleasure system in the brain that involves areas such as the substantia nigra, which creates dopamine, a chemical messenger that interacts with certain brain cells and causes a "feel-good" high. "These are similar brain regions that are activated when a cocaine addict gets a shot of cocaine," said Strathearn said. "So for moms, it may be like having a natural high."

Or, it may be like taking a long run?

So, for Mother's Day, here's a short passage from The Jade Rabbit; the story of Janice Woodward, adopted from China at ten months old by a marathon-running mother,  and then raised in a Detroit suburb.

I remember swarming all over my mom’s lap as a child, almost trying to crawl inside of her, little hands tugging at any bits of flesh that she may have hanging off of her body. This was very difficult since she had nearly no body fat, so what I was left with was the small bit of skin I could pull at on her elbow, and even then only when her arm was straightened.
The more I looked at her and touched her skin, the more questions I had. Why couldn’t I have her eyes? Why couldn’t I have her skin? And, ultimately, why couldn’t I have been in her belly? Mom expressed her regret over this as well: “You are loved by two mothers, I know it.” Mom would say this as if pleading to me, kneeling down in order to look at me eye to eye. I can see her now: a face that hypnotized me, a mirror of acceptance that when I looked into I could confirm that I was. Her hair hung at her side and framed a sincere set of brown eyes that were begging me to believe her. I was loved by two mothers, but yet I wasn’t sure I did believe her, because loved things aren’t given up so easy. But I hated to let her down, to make her feel any guilt, so I didn’t speak on this very often and rarely protested out loud. No, it didn’t feel like love from two mothers: it felt more like double love from one mother and one father who gave me their best.
So, to try and make her proud, I did what she did. I shadowed her career choices, and emulated her as a runner. I tried to learn how she ran, match her beat, sway my arms just like her, and keep her same facial expressions. I even matched her internal dialogue with self talk-expressions like: “Hills, hills, I love hills,” “Light and fast, to the last,” “I am full of energy, I am energy,” “I am full of power, I am power,” and, “I am full of love, I am love.”
But I couldn’t be her no matter how hard I tried. She was smoother than me and had a quicker footstrike that swept over the ground gracefully compared to my pitter-patter of pounding. And my arms always swayed and jerked around, while hers were like well oiled pistons, and pulled at the air in front of her, grabbed a handful, and then dropped it behind.
I excelled in track, and loved the way it was a team sport yet individually driven. During races I would make quick glances to Mom from time to time for affirmations but always felt her eyes on me. “That’s her mother,” others had to say since it wasn’t as obvious as my teammates who usually shared the same bridge of a nose or an arch of their brow with their maternal counterparts.

If you're interested in more, The Jade Rabbit Chapter Nine

Or, buy the whole thing on Kindle for just .99 cents thru Mothers Day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Never Catch Me Alive

Chuck Wendig is my favorite writing blogger. I love him like a 6 year old boy loves pirates, and he has a flash fiction contest this week to promote his book, Dinocalypse Now.  The only conditions are: it has to be about Dinosaurs, and is has to be under a 1,000 words.  So, I'm a flash fiction rookie, but here's my take about how a Dinosaur who loves to run may have destroyed his species.

Never Catch Me Alive

I would have been eaten first, if I wasn’t so fast. It’s not my fault, I just have a bit of a kick to my legs, so that when the Meat-Eaters came for me, I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say so, but I loved it when they attacked.  Sure, I didn’t like seeing my friends have their necks dug into with daggers of teeth, and the little noise only our breed can make while being eaten alive, but being chased was a rush. My legs kicking in the dirt, muscles firing away. It was ecstasy, especially first thing in the morning, when I could smell the blood of my brothers on the roaring breath behind me.

Nobody knew I was teasing them, letting them get close to my tail before accelerating ahead. The longer the chase, the better I felt - so free, so alive.

But now all the meat-eaters were either dead or dying.  If we came across any they were too tired to move. The meat is gone, they are gone, and we’ll be gone too, if we don’t find water or forage.

The meteors that showered down upon us seem to have stopped. The earthquakes that swallowed some up and made canyons are gone, but the heat that boils our blood remains.   

We walk with our heads down, maybe 15 of us, moving under a sun that has grown to encompass everything.  Everything is in hues of orange and red like a bloody eyeball on fire.  

Some have sunk in oily tarpits.  I think maybe they are the lucky ones. The rest of us, walk on.

My body is dying and my spirit is crushed since I can’t run. A few fast strides would certainly boil the last bit of water inside me, so instead I step forward, head down, with ten brethren with me now perhaps. The others have fallen behind and will die slow. Something ahead is tugging at my heart, but I make no mention of this.

There have been murmurs of cannibalism, of eating the more sickly who are slowing us down… nobody is thinking straight. None of us have eaten meat and would not be able to.  But I can already tell the two who are going to try.

Mostly we just walk across the scorched earth looking for water. And anything green. Water and green.

My family drops, our herd thins.  Their eyes remain open as they fall to the desert ground, but something pulls me forward despite my hollow stomach. I can feel myself feeding on my own organs, my stomach sucking at my liver, my once powerful legs cannibalizing themselves. It’s just me and one other now, a female, walking two by two.

Up ahead I see what is pulling me. A flying mass with tiny brilliant shining suns. It is like the moon has come down to hover near the ground, and brought with it all the stars of the sky stuck onto its outsides, blinking as the massive vessel floats.  Below it, animals herd to it, summoned there, two of each; elephants, insects, alligators, snakes, and flying creatures circling above.

Hovering on the ship’s bridge a being appears, standing on two legs. Grey hair comes long out of its face, and somehow I can hear him in my brain.

“This is the first of the great floods” his voice rings in my brain, “it is one of fire and will destroy all. I come to take you to safety, where the pastures are green and glisten with rains. Come, come be in peace. In time, you shall return, and multiply, and repopulate this planet once again....”

Weary animals saunter with heavy legs, and out of the big ship I see small balls of orbs floating, flying, and scooping them up with mighty jaws, before returning to bring their captives back. To eat them or save them, it is unclear, but no energy is left to give resistance, so they are eaten by the orbs and taken back inside the floating ship.

Two orbs shoot at us, and I watch as my female brethren gets swallowed. I see her face resigned to capture. 

My pulse quickens. A trap, like a raid on a sleeping herd, a slaughter, the final…

No. No, I will not be caught… and just as the shooting ball comes flying to me I move. I run with legs that feel hollow. I run, with the last bit of my might, my legs kick, my  legs fly, the fear of death commands them and I have faced monsters before and have not lost, but this one is new, moves without legs and has jaws of steel. My feet bound over the scorching ground; I dash and dash but not fast enough. The whooshing noises are closing in behind me.

It’s done, I can’t go on. There’s no fuel left inside me for the run, just tiny particles of the dust in the air shooting in out of my lungs and the electric current in my spine that propels me.  I can sense the jaws opening, ready to eat me, a boulder in front of me, and I run to it, ready to smash open my head against it because I won’t be caught alive.

I pivot before the rock, hear the crashing noise of this round flying beast smashing into its surface, titanic crash noises and shavings flying everywhere.  I collapse, fall to the ground, I’m done but not caught. Never will be caught again.

In the air, I see the giant ship swallow up the last of its captives, and it shoots into the sky. Gone. All of them gone.

It’s never a mistake to run, I tell myself, never a mistake to run.  I will be caught, but not alive.  My eyes close, I feel safe, the tiny streams of running ecstasy remain in my blood. The wind buries me in sand, and I wait for the day someone will dig for me.


Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror IS ALIVE!! $4.99 for Kindle $12.99 for paperback  (buy the paperback, and you can get t...