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A Tale of Two (Missed) Runs

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Be on guard. The road widens, and many of the detours are seductive. Be constantly focused and on alert: feral talent is its own set of expectations and can abandon you at any one of the detours of so-called normal American life at any time, so be on guard. -- David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

As touched on in last week's roundup, I didn't run this past weekend -- and aside from kleph, it seems as though most of the editors here had a rough day or two last week. While the end result of both Saturday and Sunday's missed runs are the same for me, the causes and perceptions of the two couldn't be more different.

Missed runs happen; things come up and get in the way.[1] This is reality, and coming to accept this requires both patience and discipline -- things that are not always easy to come by. But the part that takes a while to come about is having the self-awareness to know why the run was missed and more importantly whether or not that reason holds any water.

So it's time to have a bit of a meta-exercise: I will now be dissecting the weekend and the runs that never were.

The Weekend

Friday night: Wife is not feeling well, so it's an easy-going night. Had dinner at a bar around the corner. Chicken wings and one bourbon for dinner. Go home, watch Lebowski. Drink a glass of water. Go to sleep around midnight. Easy-going night is a easy-going.

Saturday: Wake up at ten (a touch lazy, perhaps). Get a small bite to eat, go to grocery store to get ingredients to make dinner for twelve. Have a quick lunch at home of grilled cheese and soup (it's about 12:30 by this point). Still planning for a mid-afternoon run. Wife is feeling more sick than on Friday, so the bulk of the cooking will be on me: that's fine, there's no need to make our guests ill. Start cooking at 12:45, cook and clean non-stop until about 7 pm when people start to arrive.[2] Have dinner ready at 8, drinks and food and laughs and etc until about 1 in the morning.[3]

Sunday: Wake up on the couch at 8 AM. Drink two large glasses of water, go back to bed and sleep. Wake up at 1:15 PM. Check phone, see message from training partner: he left his house to meet about ten minutes ago. Throw on pants and shirt, walk to meeting spot, apologize for making him wait. Explain hangover situation, apologize again, sulk back home. Spend day in dark.

The Analysis

Two entirely different days, similar result. I'm OK with having missed Saturday's long run -- it was pushed aside due to a mix of things, some of which were beyond my control (mostly my wife being sick, though in her defense I was sick during the week and she got the bug from me). Missing Saturday's run is the kind of thing that I would have been quite upset about early on in my running 'career' but I now accept (begrudgingly) as an understandable occurrence.

Sunday's missed run has been bothering me since it failed to happen. It bothers me because it was supposed to be a long run. It bothers me because I've still got a long, long way to go to get back into shape. It bothers me most of all because it was completely my fault. I spent Saturday night drinking and talking about wanting to run a 50 miler with a good friend -- one that may actually sign up for a 50 miler with me, actually, if I get my shit together -- all the while completely disregarding the planned 12 mile run that would have been my longest run in nine months.

Days like Saturday happen no matter what you do -- life happens, be it disguised as family, friends, work, or catastrophe.

Days like Sunday happen because every now and again I lose sight of where my focus should be, or I get complacent, or I start to get scared of how much work I'm going to have to put in -- and instead of acknowledging that maybe I'm a little bit scared, I give up a little bit. Not because I'm feeling subversive, but because giving up a little bit is just plain easier. As absolutely miserable as that attempt to run 12 miles would have been on Sunday it probably wouldn't have sucked as much as the next few days of disappointment.

The Upshot

The way I see it, my best plan of action is to 1) Get back on the horse (I wrote this piece last night, but odds are I ran three miles this morning), 2) Move on (see Step 1 for details on how to do this), 3) Learn, and 4) Improve. The first two steps are the easier ones -- learning is the harrowing step. Not because the lesson is particularly difficult (don't party the night before a long run, duh), but because it's a lesson that I've learned before and apparently since forgotten. Improvement is the action verb here -- it will be the next iterative step towards my next mistake. I have no doubt that there will be another mistake, and another beyond that -- there always are mistakes, after all -- but this improvement will be a step forward, and that's the important thing.

It takes a long while before awareness sets in and good habits form. Tricky thing is the bad habits -- those detours DFW refers to -- will creep back if we're not careful. We all have our own detours: whether we choose to acknowledge them or not is entirely up to us. If we don't, getting to where we want to be is going to be extremely difficult.

So be on guard.


1) I say this without any idea how much time is required for such things as children. I'm just hoping that the lack of exercise and the lack of sleep when I have a child balance each other out and I don't gain a ton of weight. I also know this is not a realistic hope.

2) For the interested: Four pounds of Chipotle-style barbacoa, a pico de gallo based with four full tomatoes, shredded chicken breast meat (five breasts worth), about 2 pints of blended salsa, and three cups of rice. I also hand-squeezed two pounds each of lemons and limes for margaritas. We have many leftovers.

3) By my best estimation I had three beers too many and three glasses of water too few on Saturday night. I certainly didn't have Sunday's run in mind later on in the evening.