A Runner Reborn

When I lost my job in March, I knew above all else that I need­ed to start run­ning again. Not only did I need to get my arms around my car­dio­vas­cu­lar fit­ness after 8 straight years of being glued to a screen, I need­ed to get some time to reflect on my pri­or­i­ties now that I wasn’t star­ing into the gap­ing maw of the Inter­net.

But if you’re friends with me or have spo­rad­i­cal­ly read this blog, you know my track record. I hadn’t suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed a train­ing cycle since 2009! I have so many shirts and so few fin­ish­es to show for it. How could I break that pat­tern and not suf­fer anoth­er demor­al­iz­ing injury?

Well, for the first time ever, I lis­tened to my body. I stuck to the plan I out­lined here. I let myself rest. I didn’t obsess over splits. I laughed at the idea of speed work. What I need­ed was time on my feet, which trans­lat­ed into the time to reflect and time to rebuild my spir­it. And even though I broke a car­di­nal rule and signed up for a race, I nev­er once thought about a hard and fast time as a goal. I set my sights on just fin­ish­ing. And it worked!

After a chal­leng­ing month of trav­el and tem­per­a­tures in August that knocked me off my usu­al train­ing reg­i­men, I toed the line at Run Wood­stock wor­ried that maybe I’d some­how under­trained after months of 50+ mile weeks. That was sil­ly.

The race was an amaz­ing expe­ri­ence. I ran a sol­id first loop that start­ed in the pre-dawn hours and end­ed with me dis­cov­er­ing that I’d worn mis­matched shoes! I met my pac­er and she guid­ed me through a chal­leng­ing sec­ond loop on very tired legs and an increas­ing­ly fuzzy mind. 

The fin­ish felt tri­umphant as I sprint­ed to the line. I fin­ished just out of the top five in my age group and in the top 25% over­all. But after break­ing my leg in 2016, just being able to com­pete and fin­ish is all I need­ed.

None of this would have hap­pened with­out the fan­tas­tic com­mu­ni­ty of run­ners sup­port­ing me, both local­ly and online. The Grosse Pointe Run­ners group has been invalu­able. My friends Britt and Jesse back in Philly have been great coach­es, reas­sur­ing me that I’d put in the work. Last­ly, the ultra­run­ning com­mu­ni­ty online, rang­ing from elite ath­letes over­com­ing their own per­son­al chal­lenges to the run­ners doc­u­ment­ing the scene, espe­cial­ly Gin­ger Run­ner.

After a decade of false starts it feels great to be back, but it feels even bet­ter to be in con­trol, mak­ing deci­sions that are mak­ing my life bet­ter in ways I’d hard­ly imag­ined. Get­ting to the start healthy was one goal; get­ting to the fin­ish healthy opens the door to adven­ture.

How to Defeat the Infinite Scroll

We all stare into the infi­nite scroll. Sure, it was once a ques­tion­able UI solu­tion that cre­at­ed an even more dubi­ous UX for sur­fac­ing con­tent on web­sites — don’t like what’s on the menu, well, what if that menu were end­less — now defines how we con­sume con­tent online, inter­rupt­ed only occa­sion­al­ly as the time­line lags. It’s an exhaust­ing, indis­crim­i­nate way to inter­act with media, but what’s the alter­na­tive? We lit­er­al­ly look at mobile devices hun­dreds if not thou­sands of times a day and the social web waits to scratch an itch our brains have to be con­stant­ly enter­tained.

Ever since the elec­tion, I’ve striv­en — unsuc­cess­ful­ly- to change my media diet. As some­one who con­sumes a ton of con­tent that streams through my var­i­ous time­lines for pro­fes­sion­al rea­sons, I’m try­ing to be more mind­ful of and inten­tion­al about my media con­sump­tion and the habits that enable it.

I’ve long admired Jason Kottke’s work and late­ly I’ve appre­ci­at­ed how he’s doc­u­ment­ed his media diet in much the same way one might keep a food jour­nal. Here’s a recent exam­ple.

To that end, I’ve com­piled a list of things I’m engag­ing on pur­pose!

Listening

  • Yo La Ten­go — There’s a Riot Going On. Seri­ous­ly just what the doc­tor ordered to start an unsea­son­ably cold spring. I didn’t think they’d match the bril­liance of Fade, but this is a great coda on a won­der­ful career.
  • Stephen Malk­mus and the Jicks — Sparkle Hard. Ever since I heard the first sin­gle, “Mid­dle Amer­i­ca,” which sounds like it would fit com­fort­ably on Ter­ror Twi­light, yet still sounds fresh.
  • The Breed­ers — All Nerve. Ugh I know this has been very “Remem­ber the 90s” but the new Breed­ers has so much atti­tude! “Ner­vous Mary” is one of my favorite songs of the year.
  • Kamasi Wash­ing­ton — Heav­en and Earth. A per­fect­ly defi­ant record. It’s how I start Sun­day morn­ing in 2018.

Reading

  • Abbott. Sal­adin Ahmed’s phan­tas­magoric thriller set in the ‘70s about a Detroit reporter inves­ti­gat­ing mur­ders in Cass Cor­ri­dor is reminscent of Lau­ren Bewkes’ fan­tas­tic nov­el, Bro­ken Mon­sters, but less nou­veau Detroit.
  • Red­dit. I remem­ber when Red­dit was cas­ti­gat­ed as being the internet’s cesspool, but now the notion of self-mod­er­at­ed com­mu­ni­ties that you can vis­it inten­tion­al­ly feels pret­ty great.

Watching

  • Every­thing trail and ultra run­ning, start­ing with The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats Its Young. The Barkley Marathons aren’t an insane race, they’re an exis­ten­tial cri­sis. A friend of mine from high school went this year to observe the race and he wit­nessed its bru­tal majesty first­hand. There were no fin­ish­ers this year. Check out The Year Barkley Won in Trail Run­ner Mag­a­zine, too.
  • Baby­lon BerlinJason wrote a bit about the music here, but I was pos­i­tive­ly spell­bound over 16 45-minute long episodes. “Zu Asche, Zu Staub” is a show­stop­per. Baby­lon Berlin is thrilling and punc­tu­at­ed by fan­tas­tic song and dance num­bers.
  • The 2018 Philadel­phia Phillies. I’ve been bull­ish on the Phillies’ rebuild, but had not expect­ed them to lead the NL East in the first half. I also didn’t expect the Braves to be at the door so quick­ly either.

I’ll try to update this on a quar­ter­ly basis. How do you man­age your cul­tur­al con­sump­tion habits?

A Runner Reimagined

I recent­ly wrote my near­ly oblig­a­tory “some per­son­al news” post relat­ed to leav­ing my job in March. I’ve been work­ing in dig­i­tal and social since you need­ed to code the page you want­ed to pub­lish. That’s a not insignif­i­cant time spent in front of screens. From desk­tops and lap­tops to tablets and phones, I have been hit­ting refresh on feeds and streams my entire career. Being able to step back from them, even just a lit­tle bit, has been trans­for­ma­tive.

So what have I been doing with myself when I’m not jump­ing on calls?

I’ve been retrain­ing my brain. I’ve been con­sum­ing actu­al cul­ture in a way I haven’t since I was a music crit­ic. And, I’ve been run­ning.

Now, I’ve writ­ten about run­ning in the past. In fact, when I start­ed writ­ing this this morn­ing, I had to edit — and ulti­mate­ly delete — a post I start­ed writ­ing about run­ning last Octo­ber. Why? Because I began the post the way I always do, say­ing that I’d learned from the last time I suf­fered an overuse injury and how this time would be dif­fer­ent.

Well — spoil­er — it wasn’t. I prob­a­bly had my short­est stint of active run­ning yet. I was hob­bled with a weird and painful ankle injury that side­lined me all win­ter.

So what’s dif­fer­ent this time? For one, I’ve actu­al­ly stuck to my stat­ed prin­ci­ples each time I’ve writ­ten one of these posts. I start­ed run­ning 6 slow miles a day in March, then bumped to 10 per day in May and am now flirt­ing with 12 a day in July.

Best of all I’ve dis­cov­ered trail run­ning. I watch an absurd amount of ultra­run­ner YouTube now, notably stuff from Gin­ger Run­ner, but also stuff from out­door and sports brands like REI, Red Bull, Hoka One One and more. Watch How to Run 100 Miles and tell me it’s not dif­fer­ent from every piece of brand­ed con­tent you’ve ever seen. It inspired me. It cap­tures so much of what I’ve been chas­ing in life: the abil­i­ty to dis­con­nect and, well, #OptOut­side in a way that too few of us make time to do.

Because I can’t shut off the part of my brain that thinks about how con­tent can con­nect us to mean­ing, I’ve gone deep on out­door brands because I think that since REI went big with #OptOut­side they’ve real­ly cap­tured an ethos that many Amer­i­cans I know yearn for: the abil­i­ty to escape and push the bound­aries of what’s pos­si­ble. I think it’s what Stra­va got half right in its #GiveKu­dos cam­paign when they tried to con­nect inter­ac­tion on their app to some­thing dif­fer­ent from the hell­stream of polit­i­cal memes we see every time open our phones in the morn­ing. It’s a noble effort and one that I hope these brands con­tin­ue to pur­sue.

I know what you’re think­ing. This is where I announce my next race. You’re not wrong. I’m hop­ing to run my first ultra­ma­rathon — a mere 50K — in ear­ly Sep­tem­ber. I’ve got this!

Royal Trux at El Club

 

Let’s fake our way through Bad Blood for John.”

Neil Michael Hager­ty was try­ing des­per­ate­ly to get through a gor­geous, dis­as­trous set at El Club’s first birth­day par­ty with a Roy­al Trux clas­sic, ded­i­cat­ing it to Neg­a­tive Approach’s John Bran­non, the first son of Detroit hard­core. Hagerty’s band­mate Jen­nifer Her­re­ma had spent most of the show seat­ed or lay­ing down onstage, join­ing in on vocals spo­rad­i­cal­ly.

It was every­thing I’d imag­ine it would be and more. Thrilled to see them back togeth­er again and back out on the road.

Visit Cincinnati

 

What a spec­tac­u­lar town! Since we moved to Detroit, I’ve been look­ing for­ward to explor­ing more of the Mid­west. We got a bit of a pre­view of what to expect this sum­mer when we fol­lowed the Erie canal on our trip to Cape Cod, stop­ping in Buf­fa­lo and Rochester, NY. These once proud cities still have a lot to crow about: because they were built around ship­ping, they’re all on the water and what’s left of the orig­i­nal hous­ing stock and down­town archi­tec­ture is typ­i­cal­ly stun­ning.

Cincin­nati is no excep­tion. While I was in town for the USTA Mid­west Semi-Annu­al meet­ing, I got a chance to explore a bit. There’s a beau­ti­ful water­front park beneath the icon­ic Roe­bling Bridge. The down­town is bustling and walk­a­ble. I took the advice of a friend who grew up here and walked over to the Over-the-Rhine neigh­bor­hood, which feels quite a bit like Old City in Philadel­phia, with lots of cute shops and restau­rants. It’s where I picked up the shirts for the boys and tried this deli­cious ice cream cone from Graeter’s.

 

I even walked to Ken­tucky! Check the box on anoth­er state I nev­er thought I’d vis­it!