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Fat Writer Running – Marathon Training Week 0

Hey everybody! The Eugene Marathon is just under 12 weeks away on April 28th and I’m registered to run it! Over the next 12 weeks I’m going to blog about the training process and all of you get to kind of run along with me to the finish line. Sound good? Let’s get to it!

First blog is for all the prep prior to the first week. I’ll post a blog for the first week later this week.

Week 0 (and before)

There are a lot of things I did and that I recommend before beginning a marathon training schedule. Here’s a bullet pointed list!

  • Run a lot! Personally, I don’t think it’s a great idea to start running with marathon. I did Couch25k a year and a bit ago and then, finding that I really liked running, trained up for a half-marathon and did that last fall. I have been running for fitness and leisure for about 15 months now. I feel comfortable with it and I like it. One of the challenges of running a marathon is finding physical and mental peace in running for literal hours. I’ve done more than a half-dozen 2+ hour runs and feel prepared for the 4+ hours it could take me to complete a marathon.
  • Pick a marathon to run! This might seem like a no-brainer but not all marathons are the same. Consider the time of year, the elevation gain, the size of the event, and things like convenience to get there when making this decision. Last October I did my first half-marathon in the Columbia Gorge and it was awesome! But that course has a lot of elevation gain and it was awfully challenging. When I decided to commit to my first marathon I opted to do one on flatter ground. I also wanted to do one in the springtime rather than fall and in a place where I knew some folks that could cheer me on. I picked Eugene but I also considered the Newport marathon and other events in Portland itself. You can’t properly train until you know what you’re training for and when it’s happening.
  • Talk to your healthcare team! I have asthma, type II diabetes, and a mostly benign heart condition. Before I committed to the grueling training schedule and put my money down for a marathon registration I consulted with my docs and got their advice. Based on those conversations, I’ve tweaked my asthma meds, and settled on strategies to manage my diet and blood sugar. I also got some clinical high fives for setting health goals that really boosted my confidence.
  • Pick a training plan and schedule! There are a whole lot of training schedules for marathons. I spent several hours pouring over them and considering the pros and cons. I ultimately picked this one because it’s pretty simple, mirrors the training I did for my half-marathon, and it’s a 12 week program– something especially helpful when considering a marathon so early in the year.
  • Get all that gear (to put on your body)! Running can be a remarkably frugal exercise. All you really need is your body and a place to run, right? Well, yes and no. You don’t need a whole lot of gear but gear can definitely be helpful. The most important thing in my opinion is a good pair of shoes. I’m on my third pair of running shoes since I started running seriously and got this newest pair about a month ago. They’re nicely broken in and ready to go now! I’ve tried different brands and I’m still learning and testing out my preferences with running shoes so I’m not going to recommend any one killer shoe but what I do suggest is buying them from a place that specializes in running shoes. I use Foot Traffic here in Portland. They know their stuff, have a great inventory, and can help analyze your gait and answer any of your questions. There are a lot of similar stores out there (I got some trailrunners I quite like from REI) and I’m of the opinion that they are well worth it for the customer service and expertise. The next most important type of gear is running apparel. You don’t want to run in cutoff jeans and cotton shirts. There are all kinds of moisture wicking synthetic fabrics that will keep your temperature and sweat and friction under control on long runs. I have several shirts, shorts, and some running pants. I don’t think any one brand is substantially better than any others for the basics but your mileage may vary. I do have a pair of Adidas running pants that have zippers on the pockets – that’s surprisingly useful. Another thing to remember; socks. Good running socks prevent blisters and blisters are the worst. For Christmas my wife got me a several pairs of Saucony runners socks and they are true MVPs. In addition to the basics, you want to think about the weather. I have several pairs of very light weight synthetic base layers for when it’s especially cold and I got a good rain running coat from Foot Traffic. I also very much recommend running gloves. You might not think about it but trust me- running in the winter or early spring without gloves is brutal. A final plug here- think about chafing and sensitive parts of your body. If you have nice lightweight synthetics, you’ll probably be fine but I absolutely must have NipStrips and I have learned this the very bloody, very unpleasant, way. Parts of your body (feet, nipples, thighs) are likely going to get rubbed raw. Do whatever you can to avoid this. Final final plug for moleskin for blisters on feet. Good stuff. Anyway.
  • Get even more gear!  You should also think about what you need/want to carry with you on your runs. I have an AppleWatch. I love it and recommend some kind of tracker to monitor your running lengths and give you analysis on splits and heart rate recovery – stuff like that. I also take headphones and my iPhone so I can listen to music. I need a place for my phone and keys so I got a runner’s belt. I’ve also found that I like to carry water with me rather than having to be reliant on water fountains on long runs so I have a super light hydration pack (1.5 liters) and a bigger hydration pack I have for hiking (with modular bladder, 2 or 3 liters) that I can use for extra long distances. I also always carry a handkerchief, sometimes tied around my wrist. It’s might look weird but having it there and accessible to wipe sweat from my eyes or deal with a runny nose is worth a few odd glances.
  • Get food gear! You also want to think about what you eat during and after a run. This is especially important when you’re running for more than 6 miles. On any run that I go for more than an hour I try to take Gu runner’s gels (packets of 100 calorie energy boost) so I ordered a box of my preferred flavor varieties from Amazon. Gels are a weird thing and some people tolerate them differently. Also, some flavors are great and some are awful. I prefer citrus flavors. They make my mouth feel fresher than the chocolate or caramel ones. I take 1 before my run and keep 1 gel for every 5 miles or so of my run in my runner’s belt. I also have a few tubes of Nuun hydration tablets for post-run rehydration, a stupid amount of protein bars, Muscle Milk, Vitamin Water, and other snacks to pick me up from the post-run crash. When you’re running for hours your body is consuming massive amounts of nutrients and calories and you want to try to be prepared for that. On my longest run to date (18 miles!) my AppleWatch estimated that I burned over 2300 calories- or more than I normally eat in an entire day. You’ll want to prepare for the munchies that follow that kind of output.
  • Plan your training routes! It’s a good idea to know where you’re going to run. I do three runs a week with one of them usually on a treadmill. I always do my long runs outside and I have a preferred path. I’m pretty committed to it as it’s close to home and I know it’s literal ups and downs but there are downsides to it- specifically a lack of reliable public bathrooms and water fountains (hence why I carry a hydration pack). When you run for hours and hours and you drink water along the way to keep from getting dehydrated there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to need to pee. Your running route should have some options (or you might learn to run with your legs crossed).
  • Set a goal (that isn’t insane)! My actual goal is just to complete my first marathon. I think 4 hours and 30 minutes or under would be a respectable time and that’s officially what I tell myself and others I’m shooting for. But I really want to do a sub four hour marathon. That’s kind of nuts for me physically but it’s my stretch goal. It’s a good idea I think to know what you plan to do so you can monitor how well you’re doing.
  • Playlist and fun stuff! If you’re a crazy running person like I am, running for hours is fun and relaxing. Part of that is the music I get to listen to along the way. Planning for a marathon run is like planning for a long plane ride. You don’t want to get bored.
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Fat Writer Running – Just Say Thank You

Stop the presses! it’s another FWR blog post! This one will be short and  (mostly) sweet, I promise.

People ask me for advice sometimes. It’s crazy, right? I don’t think of myself as terribly advice worthy but it happens! Recently, I’ve been getting more questions about losing weight but I’ve also gotten questions about writing or resumes or having sweet, sweet heavy metal hair. Anyway, when I’m asked, I am always happy to offer feedback, encouragement, or guidance. It will be sincere and honest and based on my personal experience and it may be completely worthless. That’s okay! It doesn’t hurt my feelings if you don’t do what I suggest! There are three things though, dear readers, that I ask you to try to do when seeking advice not just from me but from anyone. These three things can be tough and I slip up on them all the time but I think it’s worth trying.

Don’t Argue With Me.

I was a jerky know-it-all when I was younger. Regardless of what anyone had to say I had the hubris and book learnin’ to refute it with passionate and often rude intensity. This most frequently came up when I asked people to read my writing or the topic of diet and exercise came up. Both were– and remain– deeply emotional and personal topics. I would argue with my friends and peers to the point where it could bruise the relationship. I offended some people I respected because I couldn’t listen to them without needing to be right. And I still struggle with it! I get notes back on a new piece of work and sometimes I want to scream and stomp around like a petulant teenage punk muttering how no one gets it like I get it. The thing is, with writing and weight loss and life, I’m always most sensitive about the things that I’m insecure about. I struggle to be as confident as I need to be sometimes and it’s in my own crippling personal doubt that the petulant teenage punk waits, ready to storm out and try to protect me with my most effective defense mechanism; the argument. I’m wise enough now to understand that rationally, though emotionally I’m sometimes still powerless to it.

So it’s with that preamble and with utmost understanding and empathy that I implore you not to argue with me or anyone else when they offer you the courtesy of their point of view or summation of experience. If you ask the best way to lose weight and I say “eating well and exercise works for me” it’s not useful for either of us for you to say “yeah, but these 728 articles say that’s not possible and 1600% of everyone that’s ever done that has gained 200 pounds and died and my aunt Sheila only ate clovers and drank 7 liters of olive oil a day HOW ABOUT THAT YOU FUCKING LIAR?!?!?!” Just get out of here with that nonsense. If you want to learn anything from anyone you need to listen and understand what they say even if you don’t agree with them and just because you don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean you need to argue about it. These are basic concepts I could swear we all learned from picture books or Disney movies right? I know we have the Internet now and that’s really upended things but c’mon. Try to argue less in 2019. It’s a huge time sink and it’s a distraction. Discuss and explore and follow-up and engage- but don’t argue. And obviously, punch Nazis and believe women but don’t argue about it on Facebook. Everyone’s got better things to do.

Don’t Waste My Time.

This second guideline is maybe more curmudgeonly and self-serving but it’s no less critical. Want me to read your short story? Will do! But you should probably read it first and make sure it’s not full of plot and spelling and other obvious and simple errors. Want to ask me about food recipes? Cool! But you should probably be comfortable with some basic terminology or know how to Google things. I could write a million examples from my day job but I think you get the point. I’m the tyrant that rejected short fiction and poems for literary journals because the writer ignored the submission guidelines. I’m the guy that tossed your resume in the trash because it was unprofessional and looked sloppy. I do these things because my time is valuable. So is yours! I make mistakes. We all make mistakes. That’s okay! In fact I’m confident some argumentative fellow who ignored this post up to now could spot some typos and “well, actually…” me about this very blog. It’s not about perfection. It’s about respect. If you ask me for feedback or advice, please do a reasonable amount of due diligence. Think things through a little bit. Acknowledge and appreciate the investment I’m making– that anyone is making– in you. If you’re terrified that I’m going to bark at you for wasting my time, first, I’m more of a wagger than a barker, and second, just put on your empathy hat. Count to 16 or something and ask yourself if you’re going forward with good faith and that’s probably good enough.

Just Say Thank You.

When I was 17 I had a mentor named Brian, a great but occasionally scatter-brained guy that was old enough to be my father. He was returning to college the same I was starting and had all these crazy stories about being a pastor and brokering truces with gangs. Sometimes Brian would offer me compliments about something and I would minimize or argue that I didn’t deserve them because I was a Very Serious Tim Burton Boy and Brian gave me the absolute greatest advice; “just say thank you.” I took this to heart for compliments but it took me a lot longer to embrace it for criticism. Now, if someone gives me unexpectedly bad notes on something the best way to get my petulant teenage punk in check is to start by thanking the note giver for their time. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but a little bit of a gratitude goes a very long way. If you ask for advice and I give it to you, the FWR guide to etiquette says you should probably reply with something like “hey, thanks buddy!” Just try it! It’s a magical life hack. Thanking someone helps you to recognize and value their time and investment and it can ease some conversational tension. I swear by it. Thank people more in 2019, you guys! It’s the magic currency that keeps polite society functioning!

Fat Writer Running – On New Years Resolutions and Ambition

Happy 2019, you guys! Fat Writer Running here with an all-new blog for the all-new year! In this post, as seems fitting on a day when many reflect and make resolutions, I want to talk about the blessing and challenge of ambition. But first, it’s been a while so let’s get a nice fire going and chat for a little bit about what’s been going down.

First things first, I’m not fat anymore, you guys. By the medical definition, I mean. I dropped beneath the cut off for obesity a while back but “About Average for an American Man over the Age of 20  Writer Running” is a pretty lousy title for a blog so I’m not changing it. All-in I’ve lost over 145 pounds in the last 18 months with my patented methodology of eating well and exercising regularly without doing drugs or getting surgeries or sacrificing small animals to demons or anything.

YEAHHHH

I also finished my first half-marathon in October and that was incredibly awesome. I ran in the Columbia Gorge and the weather and the scenery and the experience was beautiful and, as corny as this might sound, completely life-affirming. I was the kid in gym class that couldn’t make it around the track and I ran 13.1 miles with hundreds of other people. In training up for the half-marathon I’d done 13.1 mile runs several times already but the experience of doing it with that crowd and with my wife waiting for me at the finish line was something I’ll never forget. I was humbled and proud and sweaty and I immediately started thinking about when I was going to do it again.

About a week after I crushed that half-marathon, I also finished a draft of a new book that I’m pretty excited about. I’ll be editing it for a while but expect to be talking a lot about it sooner rather than later.

So, I haven’t been blogging but I’ve been running and I’ve been writing and rocking out with my crazy long hair out. Which, believe it or not, is a great way to segue into this blog post about ambition.

I remember a few years ago after a friend made a sideways comment I got self-conscious about having a reputation as someone that was always starting things but never finishing them. I would get excited about doing a new podcast or making a board game or something but with everything else I was already committed to I found that too often I was abandoning things I wanted to do but just couldn’t manage. When I have guests over I cook way too much, at work I volunteer to do more than my fair share, and when I set deadlines for myself they tend to be insanely aggressive. I feel most at ease in the crunch and if I hit a target, I don’t rest– I pick a more difficult target. Nothing makes me   more anxious than missing a deadline or failing to meet a goal even if those deadlines and goals are ridiculous. It’s been a personal journey for me to figure out how to temper this tendency, how to hold on to my verve and enthusiasm without burning myself out. Ultimately, I’ve come to appreciate that this internal wrestling match is a fundamental part of who I am and while I don’t want it to get out of control, my ambition is my greatest and most cherished asset.

Every great bold thing starts with ambition. It starts with looking at where you’re at and imagining where you want to be and telling yourself “yeah, I got this.” That’s the very first step on what’s sometimes a really long path. Writing, running, and living– there are no savants here, just ambitious people who read a book one time and said “I can do that too” or saw someone run by from the front room of the living house and believed “I can keep up with that.” And sometimes you can’t do it! Sometimes the ambition reaches way too far and you stumble and you miss the mark. Real ambition, the kind that gets you up over mountains and finishes the next novel and the next even when you’re not sure if it’s going to end up on a shelf anywhere other than your office, says “I learned for that- and this next time, I won’t make the same mistake.”

I was going to write a blog post announcing the end of the the Fat Writer Running series. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks. I felt like I hadn’t been keeping up on it and knowing it was out there not being updated even though I had all these grand ideas for it, made me feel lousy. When I started blogging on my website– almost exactly five years and 86 posts ago— I had this idea that I would be making weekly updates. Every once in a while I’m reminded I haven’t done that and I make a renewed effort to do it again. The big idea with the FWR series was that I was going to pre-write everything and just queue them up. I never managed to pre-write anything. I just got overextended. I still have these ideas and topics I want to dive into from the gender politics of weight loss to recipes to extended metaphors about running and writing and all kinds of other silly stuff. And I know as I write this that I might not be able to devote the time I want to devote to this. But I’m not going to end it and I’m not going to give up on it.

My resolution for 2019 isn’t to do more ambitious stuff. I don’t need New Years for that. That’s my life. I’m already registered for a full marathon in April and I’m going to run the Gorge half-marathon again in the fall. I’m working out training schedules to increase speed and endurance. I’m plotting sequels to books and juggling as many writing projects as ever with the confidence of a workaholic on a bender. My resolution for 2019 is to not give up on my big ideas and bigger dreams even if I can’t make them happen when I want them to happen. My resolution for 2019 is to shoot for the stars and if I get caught up in the ceiling of my house or if I fall back down to earth, just keep building new rockets until I get there.

Happy New Years, you guys. Do amazing things and never ever stop.

Fat Writer Running – The Myth of Discipline and White Knuckles

Hi all, Fat Writing Running checking in. I’ve been keeping pretty busy so it’s been tough for me to prioritize these blog update. But it’s been too long so here are some quick bullet points on where I’m at and what I’m thinking about. After that, there’s a bit more I want to dive into as it relates to this idea of changing diet and exercise as some result of Herculean indomitable will. (Spoilers: it’s not really if you’re doing it right).

  • I have my first official half-marathon run coming up in a few weeks and I’m really excited. I’ve done four 13+ mile runs solo since August and while they’ve been very challenging and I haven’t mastered the alchemy of what to eat/drink before/while/after running to avoid some pretty intense post run nausea quite yet, I’m confident and eager to get out there. Running is awesome!
  • I’m also deep into a new writing project. Not much I want to share on it yet but it’s occupying a lot of my time and attention. Writing is awesome!
  • I read this story when it was first posted and I have a ton of thoughts about it: Everything You Know About Obesity is Wrong. I’ve tried to distill those thoughts into something readable for this blog but I haven’t figured out how to really approach it in a way that satisfies me. I strongly recommend you read the story. There’s a lot going on and it’s very thought-provoking. Thoughts are awesome!

Anyway, let’s talk about discipline. I shared that news story above on my social media and a friend reposted it. She added a comment that referenced me and my experience in a way that I thought was flattering but also inaccurate. She wrote (I’m paraphrasing) that I had lost > 100 lbs through “sheer hard work” and “discipline.”

Nah. That’s not how I did it.

I maybe haven’t been clear enough about this so I want to skewer this myth right now because I think it’s a big obstacle for people. They deeply believe that the only way to make changes to regular diet and exercise is through some kind of masochistic fortitude and that if they’ve ever tried before and had mixed results they must be weak-willed or incapable. That’s a deeply self-destructive and self-defeating idea and the very large (and lucrative) health “lifestyle” industries are counting on it. They reinforce this whole “willpower” narrative and then offer their solution as a magical life hack. It’s deceptive marketing, you guys, and it’s awful.

Here’s how I think about it. I’m going to use bullet points again here for clarity:

  • The things we eat and the activities we do (or do not do) are largely a result of learned behaviors and habits.
  • Learned behaviors and habits exist for a reason. We have found validation, satisfaction, or simply enjoyment from them in the past. We eat food that might not be the healthiest for us because it tastes good or makes us feel good. Doughnuts are fucking delicious, you guys, and it’s not discipline to argue otherwise; it’s denial.
  • We don’t change these learned behaviors and habits by shouting at them and hating ourselves for having them and we won’t have a lot of luck quitting them in exchange for doing things we hate and can only imagine doing for limited lengths of time. We change them by learning- or re-learning- other behaviors and habits that also give validation, satisfaction, and enjoyment. Ideally, we find these other behaviors and habits feel even better.

So, the secret of my “sheer hard work” is that I looked at the life I was leading and asked myself “how come I’m doing this?” and when I had those answers (“tacos are tasty AF!” “I don’t have time to go to the gym” etc.) I thought really hard about how I could get the same physical and emotional reward from doing something else that might also be healthier for me. Tacos remain tasty AF, but I now I make tacos a little bit differently so that they are still tasty AF but are a little leaner, a little more nutritious. Or I found ways to shift my approach to exercise. I listened to podcasts or music while walking at first, things that gave me genuine enjoyment so it didn’t seem like a chore. My wife and I recently got a treadmill and I can get some miles on it while I’m watching Netflix. Netflix is awesome!

There’s another layer to this that goes to a deeper place. I cannot and will not speak for everyone that’s had similar physical struggles. As a society- as individuals- we really need to have a lot more empathy and a lot less judgment when it comes to everyone else’s bodies. The notion that obesity (however defined) is a moral failing is one of the most profane and offensive puritanical notions that we’ve allowed to continue into the 21st century. There are a hundred passionate blogs in those last few sentences alone but I digress to talk about my personal experience: For me, food was and is a source of tremendous comfort during times of emotional distress. This is not the only reason why I was “fat” nor is it a character defect. It’s just a behavior I learned and found that it rewarded me.

The night I found out my grandmother passed away, I ate an entire Dominos pizza. I ate until my gut was full and my brain was bombarded with chemicals telling it “YES YES THIS FEELS GOOD.” Biologically our bodies are hardwired to reward us for simple calories because it wasn’t that long ago in biological terms since food was scarce and quick and easy access to caloric fuel was a decisive advantage against looming death. When I ate that Dominos Pizza my body was probably thinking FUCK YEAH SCORE NOW EAT IT ALL BEFORE WOLVES FIND YOU OR THE WINTER COMES AND YOU CAN ONLY FIND ROOTS AND MICE TO EAT but what my body didn’t know is that we don’t have wolves anymore and Dominos Pizza is totally down to bring you pizza in the winter. The net-result was the same- I ate too much because it made me feel better. And it still will. That hasn’t gone away and I don’t expect it to. If I get a gut-punch from life, eating an entire Dominos Pizza will make me feel good. So will a lot of drugs and alcohol. So will going for a run.

What I’ve endeavored to do is give myself an alternative habit to process grief, stress, and anxiety. This wasn’t- it isn’t- easy but it’s more about being vulnerable with my own feelings and candid with myself about them than gritting my teeth and spouting some American folklore about bootstraps. I need to feel better when I’m hurt or afraid or insecure. I deserve to feel better when I’m hurt or afraid or insecure.  I also need and deserve to eat delicious food and need and deserve to do awesome things that bring me joy. Willpower might allow me deny those needs for a little while but it won’t make them disappear. “Sheer hard work” and “discipline” are admirable traits and a little bit of that is always required when making changes in your life but they are woefully insufficient and too often they’re traps. If you see two options and one is not doing anything at all and the other is impossible hard work all the time that you do just because you’re a bad ass, well, I think that explains the really dispiriting statistics about the number of people that are able to successfully lose weight and keep it off.

I have a lot of advantages that have really helped me do what I’ve done. So many that I’m not sure I could list them all if I wanted to. One of them that’s especially useful is a rad support network including healthcare and mental healthcare professional. Another is a love of cooking and a diverse palate that makes it easy for me to make delicious AF food that’s also healthy AF. A stubborn work ethic is another very important advantage but I think it’s helpful to know where that came from. I experienced some lousy things as a kid and I made some lousy choices with my life. At fifteen years old I was a high school drop out living in a trailer park with my single mother, supported entirely by government assistance. I was grossly obese, cripplingly depressed, and was statistically and realistically likely to fall into a life of mental illness, addiction, and poverty. A handful of great people believed in me (my grandmother was one of them) and somehow instead of giving up and sinking into that mud, I found some final reserve of strength and trusted those great people and I got the fuck up. This was not willpower. This was survival and it was the kindness of people that didn’t need to be kind and maybe it was also some greater purpose beyond all of this skin and bone. In the wake of that experience and in the years that followed, my stubborn work ethic has always rewarded me with validation, satisfaction, and enjoyment (also a house, a wonderful wife, and a couple of spoiled Chihuahuas). I’m proud of my stubborn work ethic but it’s not a magic life hack. It’s something I came by honestly and selfishly and it’s something anyone can have. Mystifying discipline and turning it into some kind of super power gives hard work too much and too little credit for what it actually is.

Geez. I wrote a lot more than I planned to. Keep writing and keep running everybody. I have some of that to do myself. Until next time!

Fat Writer Running – the Pilgrim’s Eye of the Tiger

Fat Writer Running is back, you guys. This time it’s going to get a little philosophical up in here.

When I was younger I went through a heavy JD Salinger phase. I started, like most, with Catcher in the Rye but became especially fascinated with his stories and novellas about the Glass family. Central to these stories – especially Franny & Zooey – is something called the Jesus Prayer from a book called the Way of the PilgrimThe Jesus Prayer is a simple mantra – “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me” – that the pilgrim learns to teach him to pray without ceasing. The idea behind this prayer is that if one learns it properly prayer becomes unconscious, it becomes as integrated into daily life as breathing and in doing so brings a person closer to God and divine understanding. What I find so fascinating about this concept is that it posits that something very intentional and banal becomes revelatory through practice. What begins as a 7 word phrase evolves into an ecstatic state. This concept isn’t unique to the Jesus Prayer. There’s a tremendous number of spiritual, philosophical, and psychological teachings that cover similar territory some more elegantly or profoundly than others. Ultimately, they all say something similar about faith. God or mercy or meaning itself does not suddenly appear uninvited into the soul but is summoned after a million or a billion recitations.

For most of my adult life, my Jesus Prayer was the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket.

Because you are a disgusting fat body, Private Pyle.

Not to spoil a 30+ year old movie, but the drill sergeant’s weight loss motivation techniques didn’t work out well for anyone. Even now with all of my hard work and progress, sometimes my head still feels like a junkyard full of bad ideas overcrowded with paranoid schizophrenic hobos. The hobos sneer at me over their tire fires and bubbling can of beans or whatever and slur at me that they’re all going to laugh at me and dump pigs blood on my head when I go to the prom and I say what are you talking about I’m not going to the prom and they say oh that’s so sad no one wants to take you to the prom and I shake my head and say no, I’m a 38 year old man and they don’t have proms for 38 year old men and they cackle and spit half-chewed baked beans at me and say is that what they told you and I don’t really know how to respond to that but it still makes me feel bad.

A couple weeks ago I had this problem where for several nights in a row I would wake up in the middle of the night and I would suddenly have a song playing in my head and I couldn’t make it stop and I would lie there with an insomniac’s ear worm, miserable until the alarm went off. After a joke from my wife about her intentionally sticking a bad song into my subconscious I tried something. I woke up in the middle of the night with a song- something I had listened to on a run or while working that day, I think- and I started remembering the lyrics to that Big Red chewing gum jingle from the late 80s. Something something make it last a little long with BIG RED. It was ridiculous and I don’t know the words so I made up some extra silly ones and I smiled a minute and then, magically, the music all stopped and I fell back to sleep. For me the moral of that is that story is that if you’re to have a song stuck in your head at 3 in the morning, pick the song.

The most important thing I’ve found to being successful as a runner or a writer or a person living his best life is to believe that I can do it. Fake it until it make, mind over matter- whatever corny aphorism you can think of- there’s truth to them. The Jesus Prayer leads pilgrims closer to God and the Big Red jingle fixed my insomnia. Intention plus practice equals belief and belief-faith in oneself- is the missing ingredient to accomplishment. I think about all the years of my life with that drill instructor screaming in my face, with those weird brain junkyard hobos planting seeds of doubt, and I can’t just shout back at them. That won’t fix the problem any more than Private Pyle’s big crack up in Full Metal Jacket. I need to pick a different song.

So my new Jesus Prayer is “Eye of the Tiger.” My new Jesus Prayer is a hundred self-affirmation anthems and embroidered doily aphorisms. I don’t believe that I’m a champion (or even not a disgusting fat body) just because I listen to painfully sincere sports movie one hit wonders but belief is a practice. Prayers are just something you say over and over often enough that they transform you. I choose to pick better prayers.

This is what I want motherfucker, make it happen for me.

Fat Writer Running – Condescension in a White Coat – or – I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES 

Fat Writing Running here with a very special blog. I started FWR to be excited and positive about running and writing and life and good stuff but life is not all those things. This blog is about the impact of doctors have on our narratives and the ways they help and hinder us. I have a great story about it and then I have a not-great story about it. Because this is going to deal with serious things I’m going to get our obligatory otter photo out of the way up front to ease us in.

So, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes about 7 years ago. Since that diagnosis I have worked with a team at the Portland Clinic Diabetes Services and they’re awesome. I’ve had good health care experiences, bad healthcare experiences, meh healthcare experiences, and enthusiastically great healthcare experiences. The team at Portland Clinic are enthusiastically great. They answered questions when I was confused, supported me when I needed new solutions, and were generally rad people to interact with. About two weeks ago I had my most recent check up- my second in the last 15 months since I started eating well and exercising- and I was greeted with the amazing news that my Hemoglobin A1c, a blood test that measures an average glucose or sugar level and a primary metric for diagnosing Type II diabetes was not only really good but notably below diabetic levels. The target for a Type II diabetic to be considered “controlled” is 7. Anything above 6.5 is indicative of diabetes and anything 5.7 up to 6.4 is pre-diabetic. My latest A1c was 5.5.

I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES

Seriously, this is tremendous news for me and my pancreas. I did it with a sustainable diet, regular exercise, and the lowest recommended dosage of one diabetes drug, Metformin. The first question my diabetes nurse asked after telling me about the results is if I wanted to stop taking Metformin. I told her I didn’t want to do anything that could compromise my ongoing health. She said that with my A1c results (my test from 6 months prior was also very low and under diabetic levels) and my current running regimen, I should go ahead and stop taking it. She said that Metformin stops your liver from generating glucose from “emergency stores” and that at my activity level that was a detriment. Basically, all the running I’ve been doing I’ve been doing it without the benefit of my body pitching in energy reserves during and after. I agreed to this and agreed I would monitor my sugar levels with my meter at home regularly. She left my prescription active so if I noticed an uptick I could start the medication again.

And then I went to my car in the parking lot and I cried because I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES AND THIS IS ALL A GREAT HAPPY STORY AND EVERYONE HIGH-FIVED EVERYONE ELSE THE END!

Except that’s not how it went.

Two things followed. First, I didn’t believe it. I still struggle to. I have been testing my blood sugar constantly. I have been anxious that the test was wrong and this condition that I always believed was going to kill to me was just lying low and it would pounce when I let my guard down. Honestly, I will probably always worry about this, and I will test my sugar levels and I will consult with my doctors and I will do what I have to do to stay healthy and stay alive because I’m enjoying it and I recommend it. My meter readings have been just as great as my A1c even without the minimal dose of Metformin. I test before meals, after meals, between meals, when I wake up, in the middle of the night – and the results are consistently the results of someone who would not be diagnosed with Type II diabetes right now. This makes sense. I’ve spent the last 15 months not doing a crash diet or workout craze or taking drugs or getting surgery. My diabetes nurse had me do the body fat test and my results show that even though I’ve lost over 110 pounds it hasn’t come at the expense of muscle development. In fact, I have gained muscle and gaining muscle is sustainable. Every single thing I did, I did it the “right” way and my diabetes nurse in her white coat assured me as much. Her confidence in me- her educated and credentialed confidence- helped me to have confidence in myself. So much of this process is changing the story I told about myself and my healthcare team at the Portland Clinic contributed to a triumphant new one.

The second thing that happened was the opposite.

I’ve been wearing glasses for near sightedness since I was 11 years old. I’ve always wanted to do laser corrective surgery and I’ve talked to every single optometrist or ophthalmologist or street corner monocle vendor about it for years. My eyes are perfect for the procedure they’ve told me. I know that Type II diabetes can hurt your eyes so I had diabetic eye exams and I asked them about it and they said my eyes were great – there were no indications of damage from diabetes and as long as my A1c and sugar levels were well-managed (and they have been – even before they dropped to non-diabetic levels, I’ve been diligent about my health for 7 years) I should have healthy eyes and should be a good candidate for LASER EYES.

Anyway, the stars seemed to align and I had a great opportunity to get it done. I actually had to schedule the initial consultation with the Casey Eye Institute over a month in advance but it was worth it. I told them during the phone screening about my health history but at the time I was still on Metformin. There were no red flags or concerns because I had been diligent and thorough and earlier this week my appointment came and I made the trip down to the office. I filled out the medical history form in advance- clearly indicating my diabetes and all of the medications I was taking/not taking. No big deal, I thought. They should be thrilled that I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES right? The tech asked me more about my recent A1c and medication change. I answered her questions. No worries. She started with a series of exams to confirm that my eyes were good candidates. They shined lights into my eyes for over an hour and then she excused herself to check in with the doctor. She came back and informed me that the doctor was not going to do the procedure because he felt that my medical condition was unstable. He was concerned that I had recently stopped taking Metformin and wanted to wait 6-12 months to see what happened. I was caught off guard. If there was some medical justification, I could resume taking the Metformin. I still had a prescription. But they didn’t ask to see my medical records. They didn’t show any interest in 7 years of diligence with regular appointments and evaluations at the Portland Clinic. My Portland Clinic diabetes nurse (and the optometrist that did my last diabetic eye exam) were thrilled for me. The doctor didn’t even meet me before deciding I was not a valid candidate. I was told that another doctor at the Casey Eye Institute might be willing to do the surgery but I would need to schedule a later visit to find out. I was offered a refund for my non-refundable $100 evaluation fee and told I could either wait to see or, essentially GTFO. 

Look, consumers are entitled. I get that. We want what we want and if we go to the LASER EYE store and they are all out of LASER EYES we can be whiny obnoxious jerks about it. I felt that entitlement and fought with it in that appointment. The tech could tell I was upset though and she went and got the doctor so he could talk to me directly (a real standup move, I’m sure). The doctor came into the exam room and tells me my tests look great. My eyes look great. But he doesn’t do surgery on diabetics. He gives me this long speech about how diabetes works (pretty remedial stuff that my actual diabetes docs covered better) and how he thinks diabetics shouldn’t get laser corrective surgery. And I tell him I don’t understand. Why did he tell me to come back in 6-12 months then? Whey did they schedule my appointment in the first place? Why did they just do over an hour of exams? I told him if he was worried about me not taking Metform, I could resume taking Metformin – my diabetes nurse had made it clear it was my choice. He kind of waved his hands around and said “no – that would be going backwards and I would less likely to do the surgery.” Then he asked to look at my eyes with a bright light thing and I said okay and he nodded and said they looked good and then asked me some weird loaded question about how it was a good thing for him to not irreparably damage my eyes wasn’t it? And he made some comments about how I “seem to be on the right track” and how “most people can’t do that” and then walked me out into the front of the clinic and the full waiting room and told the woman at the desk that I didn’t meet the standards for his practice and that I should schedule some time with the other doctor but I probably shouldn’t get the surgery and he winked and disappeared.

It was the most condescending shitty experience I’ve ever had with a person in a white coat ever. He talked down to me. His rationale seemed muddled and inconsistent and honestly, he was just a prick. Even if I met him at the grocery store and he was like “I see you have an avocado” I would probably find him arrogant and off-putting. He emanated glib detachment and smugness with rare and complete repugnance. Above all- and if you’re a white coat wearer or know a white coat wearer please note this- this doctor lacked the empathy and respect for me that I deserved as a patient and a person. In the days since this happened I’ve gone over every moment of this interaction trying to pinpoint his exact words and actions that bothered me to so much and ultimately it was just everything. If it was about my health I could have talked to him about my health. He didn’t want to see my A1c results going back 7 years. He didn’t want to see that I have literally everything I’ve eaten for the last 15 months carefully logged, that I haven’t gone a day without at least 30 minutes of exercise in that same time, because he didn’t care.

I left that appointment feeling not like a champion because I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES but instead feeling somehow ashamed and bad about myself. What about me or my story made this doctor so certain I was unstable? The way he talked about “being on the right track” and the way he wanted to wait 6-12 more months felt like he was telling me “I know you’re going to slip up fatty- I know you’re going to fail and I don’t want my glorious LASER EYES damaged by your weak gluttony.” Because he’s wearing a white coat and because I’m already anxious about my own health, it really got to me, you guys. I’ve been incredibly lucky as a fat man with diabetes that my doctors have listened to me and considered my specific history and condition. A lot of people aren’t so lucky. They see a doctor because they’re depressed and need help and they’re told that maybe they need to eat a little bit less because of their BMI. It’s not exactly fat shaming. It’s fat blindness. Some doctors just can’t see- or don’t want to see- beyond your body shape, or your diagnoses.

Now, I’m not crazy and entitled. If I’m a bad candidate for laser corrective surgery I shouldn’t get laser corrective surgery. But my diabetes isn’t unstable. My diabetes is fucking gone.

I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES 

I’m not going to fall off the “right track.”

I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES 

I have data. I have the history. I have doctors that care to look at it and make informed decisions. And this jerk in his white coat would know that if he asked. This jerk in his white coat could have come in and not been a jerk and talked to me with respect. Even if he thought it was best to wait for the surgery he could have given clear reasons why and told me when to follow up instead of lecturing me about how “most people can’t do it.”

It is so incredibly difficult to tell your story triumphantly when men with bleached teeth and bleached hair and bleached white coats and bleached smug pop in for a quick 5 minute fuck you and then tell a room full of people that you aren’t up to his standards.

Fuck his standards.

I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES

Fat Writer Running – The Triple Dragon August Challenge

Keep your socks on folks, because it’s Fat Writer Running business time!

The most important things in my life are my wife, my friends, and my neurotic dog monsters but after those things there are three big priorities that fight each other for my time and attention. Starting this week I’m throwing these three priorities – I’m going to call them dragons because dragons are pretty damn cool, you guys – into a cage match where they will have to work out their differences and improve the equilibrium of my life. And! The very best part is that I’m going to blog about this and tweet about it and stuff – as long as I don’t get caught in the middle of the rumble.

So, you might be wondering, what are these Triple Dragons, Erik? Are they cake? Is cake involved? I like cake. No, my friends, cake is not involved.

Like Double Dragon but 50% more Dragon-y

My Triple Dragons are Miles, Hours, and Words or more specifically, miles I run, hours I bill, and words I write. These three create a kind of sandwich with things I’m passionate about on one side and things I need to do to not lose my house in the middle. Ideally, there would be proportion in my sandwich but that’s not always possible and lately it’s kind of seemed like one piece of bread has been alright, the other has been wafer thin, and the middle of the sandwich has been made out of lava and bees and workahol. That, my friends, is not a tasty sandwich. Thus, the Triple Dragon August Challenge.

I’m a data nerd, you guys. I dream data sets and metrics and my barbaric yawp far too often comes in the form of a pivot table. I struggle with my addiction to quantifiable measurements (and my tendency to redefine my targets midway through) but for this challenge I think it will be a helpful structure. My ultimate goal is complete parity. Every mile run = an hour billed = 1000 words written. This might not be realistic or smart but that’s never stopped me before!

Starting out, here are my numbers from last week:

Miles: 14

Hours*: 25

Words (in thousands): 8

 

To make this work, my intention is not squeeze more time out of the day but to shift priorities. I want to increase my miles a mile or two a week (that’s my half-marathon training), pull back some work hours, and really increase my writing output. I’d like to get 16/16/16 by the end of August, a goal that I think is both super ambitious and absolutely arbitrary. I’ll be posting about my progress here and on the Twitter. If you’re not following me, look up @erikgrove. I might even tweet out some bonus otter photos!

 

*Yes, I bill a lot fewer hours than the average person works per week. This is a privilege I have worked hard for and do not take for granted. If you have ever been a contractor or consultant you know that billed hours <> hours worked and that there are times of feast and famine. I also spent about 10 years of my life side lining every other important thing in service to my career and I was savvy and lucky enough to get where I’m at now. It could go away tomorrow. Don’t @ me.

Fat Writer Running – I Just Ran Nine Miles AMA

Hi all. Fat Writer Running here. I’m doing pretty good. A little less fat. Running more. Writing when I can. How are you? Have any good barbecue or anything?

The thing about running nine miles is that it takes a really long time and one of the many things I thought about while I was doing my nine mile run this morning was “oh hey I should be updating my blog about how I just ran nine miles and stuff.” So, here’s a new post, you guys.

Long Ass Run FAQs

How long did it take you to run 9 miles?

Today it took me about an hour and forty-five minutes. My average speed varies between 11 and 12 minutes per mile (5-5.5 MPH) on long runs depending on how hot it is and how many times Eye of the Tiger comes up on my running playlist.

Isn’t that really slow?

Not really. I mean, I run faster over shorter distances. I’ve done a comfortable 6 MPH for 3 miles and my overall speed is trending up. It’s not really about going super fast right now. It’s endurance training.

But I mean aren’t you a slow pathetic loser?

Wait. Are you just the shitty anxiety voice in my head that says mean stuff all the time?

Kinda. But answer me this – aren’t you just a neurotic insecure life failure?

Will you shut up if I put on Eye of the Tiger again?

Yes please. It’s the thrill of the fight.

So many times it happens too fast. You trade your passion for glory.

That’s not a question.

Rising up, straight to the top. Had the guts, got the glory. Went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop. Just a man and his will to survive. YEEEEEEEAAaaaaahhhhh! EYE OF THE TIGER MOTHERFUCKERS!

Okay… moving on. Next question.

So, running for an hour and forty-five minutes seems like a bad way to spend an hour and forty-five minutes. Why are you doing it?

Well, I’m training for a half-marathon. And I like it. It feels pretty fucking rad to keep breaking my personal record. Plus, it really helps me cope with stress and be more creative and just overall improve my health and life.

Do you have any idea how many times you could listen to Eye of the Tiger in an hour and a forty-five minutes?

… No. Why would I know that?

Exactly 28 times if you were listening to the single version of the song.

The song is on my running playlist. I listen to it. It’s a catchy song.

Is it on your running playlist 28 times?

It’s not.

Life failure. What are you doing while you run that isn’t listening to Eye of the Tiger 28 times?

I’m thinking mostly. It’s meditative.

Thinking about what?

Let’s see. Story ideas. Running really helps me work through things.

Are you just saying that to justify this indulgent internal monologue on your writing blog?

Give the people what they want. And by people I mean my wife. I gotchu sweetie.

No YOU’RE indulgent.

That’s what I thought. What are you really thinking about?

Sometimes I think about how boring running is. Sometimes I think about how amazing it is. I think about how I haven’t updated this blog in a while and about blog posts I wish I had time to write. Oh. And I think about how bicyclists are the worst.

Why are bicyclists the worst? 

They’re always cycle spreading, taking up all of the multiuse path, pushing me into the bushes or out into the street. I hug the right shoulder while I’m running. I take up half of a lane in a two lane trail full of runners and dog walkers and baby strollers and we all get along great. But then a gaggle of jerks on two wheels come flying down the trail riding three of them in a row and that’s how I almost die. Also, bicyclists are generally rude. Everyone else that’s out there killing it on a hot day, we nod or smile or wave at each other like keep on killing it killer, I see you but the only thing these helmeted assholes with Tour de France delusions do is shout out “ON YOUR LEFT!” while they pass and glare at you for having the temerity to exist. They’re smug buttholes and I hate them.

Wow. Tell us how you really feel.

Maybe it’s just a Portland thing or just the cyclists on my running route. I have a lot of friends and family that cycle. I like to think they aren’t jerks. But c’mon. I see a hundred cyclists and exactly one guy gave me a Sup Dog nod in almost two hours. I know they can interact while they’re riding without falling down or something because they talk loudly and gesture dangerously while they pretend no one else uses the MULTIUSE path. What gets me is that they’re rude even when they’re stopped and standing next to their bikes. They block the entire middle of the path and they still don’t wave or smile or anything when I’m running along. Just get down off your adjustable seat and stop being an entitled pompous jerk butt.

Are you going to rumble with cyclists? Are you gonna throw down, you slow running life failure man?

I mean, all I have to do to win a fight with cyclists is go up some stairs. So. BURN BICYCLE BROS BURN

I have a note here that says I’m supposed to ask about how you prepare for a long ass run.

Yeah. That’s my note.

I see. So by FAQs you don’t mean Frequently Asked Questions you mean stuff you made up in your head while you were bored because you were running for an hour and a forty-five minutes?

Pretty much yeah. But about the preparation. I try to eat a meal a hour or two before a run so I have some energy. I also try to drink water leading up to it. I stretch a little bit. I check the weather. I find it’s a lot harder to run when it’s over 75 degrees out. The best is between 50-70. Also, I like to scout out the route I’m going to take.

What do you mean by “scout out?” 

I don’t know if it’s primarily psychological or not but it’s a lot easier for me to run a route when I have it all mapped out in my head. I know where the hills are, where the shady spots are etc. Lately, I’ve been doing my long runs on parts of the Trolley Trail in Milwaukie. I’ve gone from the junction at Roethe into Sellwood and across the Sellwood Bridge in different legs. My speed and confidence is always higher when I know what’s coming up.

Alright, that’s a little bit interesting. Anything else?

For a long run I make sure I have my favorite running shorts and shirt clean and my Apple Watch and Beats X headphones all charged up. Also, band-aids.

Band-aids?

*cough* For places.

Oh. Oh God. 

It’s not always glamorous.

New subject. What about after the run?

Water! I spend the rest of the day making sure to rehydrate properly. I’ve also been drinking Muscle Milk after my runs. I thought it was silly at first and I don’t really like milk but the protein and vitamins seem to help. Plus, it does sort of taste delicious. I also try to eat a proper meal with lean proteins, whole grains, and some fruit within a couple hours.

Does it hurt? I heard running hurts and you shouldn’t do it?

It doesn’t hurt me. I run three times a week and walk or cross train other days. I’ve been doing this consistently for 9 months with increasing distance and intensity. I think keeping active on non-running days is important. And good shoes. And not over training or pushing too hard. My knees and legs used to feel worse. The only real danger is chafing around the-

Stop. I saw the link. That’s gross.

I’ve stained a couple of shirts.

You have some serious psychological problems. You shouldn’t do this, you should just-