Honesty in 3 Letters

I was disappointed and frustrated that my race times were so pathetically slow this year. I thought I trained well. But obviously I didn’t. So I asked myself what did I do last year that I didn’t do this year?

The answer was clear. Last year, I used my GPS for every run. It kept me honest. Every time I hit the streets or trials I knew exactly how far and how fast I was running. This year it was all guesswork. For instance, I added a “10 mile” trail run to my schedule. I estimated the mileage by the Upper Salmon River  signs and by feel. When I wore my GPS watch  on the run last week, I discovered that the trail markers were correct, but my estimates were wrong. My “10 mile trail run” was only 8.97 miles. The miles felt  longer because the trail has some steep, technical spots that slowed my pace considerably. Because I used this “10 mile run” as the basis for other mileage (I looped the route to get in my 15 and 20 milers) all of my training mileage was off. I was also running the route much slower than I should have.

This year I learned that honesty can be spelled with just three letters: GPS. For now, I’m still using my ancient Garmin Forerunner to track my mileage. But here some top of the line models that are in my wish list. These watches are perfect some of the longer ultras that I’m planning next year:


The World’s Oldest Propulsion

After many years of barefoot running, I’ve never used running as a transit system. My runs have been loops or out and backs. Today was different. Instead of hopping on Trimet to get from PSU to Gresham City Hall, I decided to run the 13 plus miles with my own two feet. Why not? It was a beautiful day, I got off a 5PM, and I brought my hydration pack,and my running clothes.

Pitiful Princess Strip Club
Pitiful Princess Strip Club in Southeast Portland

The run didn’t go as well as I expected. I took a wrong turn and added a mile. Most of the run was on the very busy thoroughfare that is Division St. The sun blazed over the exposed, cracked sidewalks which shimmered with heat fumes; black smoke piped out the noisy cars practically choking out my breathe; the route was exhausting and monotonous and since I ran against traffic, I constantly felt watched.

But it was also rewarding. I got see “gentlemen” entering the Pitiful Princess Strip Club, which neighbors a sketchy trailer park called “Golden Estates”.  Just before I passed the Pitiful Princess, two jumpy tweakers tried to block my path under 205. They  wanted money. But so did I, so I plowed my way through without much thought.

Aside from certifying that there are some sleazy sections of Southeast Portland, I also learned a few lessons from my run. First, running long distance from one place to another seems to be psychologically more difficult than running an out and back or laps*. When I run an out and back, I know I’m half way done when I hit the turn around, and that always lifts my spirits, especially on longer runs. But with a destination run, the half way point feels more like a punch in the guts. The long road ahead doesn’t let your brain turn around. The street just seems to go on and on. I also learned that it’s better to leave your work clothes in a locker than to stuff them into your hydration pack. My clothes bobbed up and down more than one of the Pitiful Princesses’s heads in back seat of a red Cadillac behind the strip club.  The straps chaffed my neck. Also, the  combined weight of the clothes and water felt like a jack hammer on my lower back.

I’ll probably run home from work again a few more times while the weather is nice and the sun is still up. Even though I had a challenging run this time around, it was nice to take a ride on the world oldest transit system, even if it did take me on tour of world’s oldest profession.

*Maybe that’s just because I’m not familiar with the route. Unfamiliar routes always seem longer.

Motivation is Bullshit?

Motivational Speaker
Motivational Speaker

Is motivation bullshit? When I hear slogans such as:”Failure will never overtake you if your determination to succeed is strong enough!!! In order to succeed, you must first believe you can!!!” I get in a mood where I am ready to do anything, even if that means ramming my head against a brick wall.

Motivation feels great for a time. But it doesn’t last. When I’m under its spell, I’m able to focus on my work. I have more energy. I write down big plans. I even vacuum behind the seats of my car. But like all drugs, the feeling doesn’t last long. Soon I’m back to being lazy and spending my time playing Skyrim, waiting for the next hit that will motivate me again to take action.

I tried change my life with motivation alone. It didn’t work. I realized that I had two options. Get comfortable with my old self–not ideal because the old self needed work–or two, develop myself. I opted for the ninety-ninth option. “And that has made all of the difference.“*

Motivation has its place. It’s good to get pumped up to have positive mantras, especially the last few miles of marathon. But motivation alone won’t do the job. It’s just a tool.

*When I was in college, my professor lectured extensively on The Road Not Taken. He even brought in a greeting card that had the poem printed on it. He held the card before the class, then he dramatically lit it on fire–almost setting off the fire alarm. He said, “This poem is NOT about how choosing the lesser traveled road made a difference. Read the poem!!! The paths are equal! Frost is being ironic! The choice made no difference whatsoever. The speaker of the poem is purposefully exaggerating the significance of his decision. He’s being sarcastic for Christ sake!!!” Back then I totally agreed with my professor, but now I’m not so sure. Was he motivated by the truth or bullshit?