As many of you know, last year I ran 100km in one day with GoodGuysTri raising money to end kids' cancer. Here's a short video about last year's experience. We're doing it again this year, so please help if you can. Click here for more information.
I ran my first mountain race today. It was hard. It was beautiful.
Before we get into this, if a Google search brought you here and you're depressed or having dangerous thoughts, please speak to someone about it, right now. Your feelings aren't bad, wrong or shameful, and there is help available. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...
I don't talk about my depression much, because I feel it's minor when compared to other people's struggles and I don't want it to define me. I'm embarrassed by it too; I'm the happy guy, that's always running in the forest and tweeting puns, afterall. But somedays, it not only defines me, it completely engulfs me. When suffering from depression, I feel like a boulder is on my chest, pinning me to my bed. No amount of willpower or convincing is enough to get me up, and all I'm capable of is silent reflection. Being told to "cheer up" or "just think happy thoughts" in these moments is like being punched in the stomach, and only makes me feel more disconnected and alone. Tonight I was planning to run with friends. I came home from work at 5, ate some dinner and put on my run gear. I had 30 minutes to spare, and laid down on my bed, where I dozed off, and woke up a different person.
I've been beating depressed for 20 years at this point, which makes me feel extremely old. It started in middle school, after my dad left us and my mom started dating. My older brother was getting in trouble at school and with the law, and I was stuck in a shitty hick town. I didn't identify with the people around me, who were more interested in sports and dirt bikes than books or technology.
As I went into high school, I was diagnosed and put on Zoloft, which I promptly gave to my peers who thought it would get them high. I had a close group of friends, and long stretches of happiness. Skateboarding, partying, smoking weed. Once in a while I'd nosedive into a down period, and spend a few days locked in my basement bedroom, listening to punk rock, reading about political activism and Gandhi. After high school I lived in Taiwan, with my father for the first time since I was a child. I got to know him; a caring and loving man, talented guitarist, hard working teacher, and a lifelong depressed alcoholic. In my last year with him, I plunged back into insomnia and deep depression and needed a change, so I came back home.
Back in Canada, and in the adult working world, I've been through many phases, some happier than others. I've learnt tricks and built habits that help. I thrive on change, and enjoy new challenges. I need a social life, balanced with introverted days to recharge. In the last few years I've learned that exercise and a clean diet is the best thing I can do for myself to maintain my mental health. When I get off my routine and miss a few runs or eat too much processed and sugary food, it can tip me over the edge. That's what happened tonight, after skipping 2 runs due to a busy schedule, and eating junky food all week.
Depression or anxiety doesn't make you weird, bad or wrong. I've found the people in my life that understand and know how to help. They know who they are, and that I love them for it. Tomorrow I will focus on the things that keep me on track, and be back on top in no time. See you there. <3
My last longterm relationship crumbled, because the foundation wasn't strong. The romance started at work, after we learned we were both beginner runners. She ran for fitness and fun, and I had just started a Couch To 5K program, with plans of running my first 10km race in the fall. She had just left a long relationship; I had returned from a two year stint in Calgary. We were both lonely, so perhaps our judgement was clouded. Things moved quickly and before we knew it, we had plans to move in together. It was a whirlwind couple of years, which spanned two apartments and an adopted dog. It was set up to fail, because we had skipped laying the groundwork, and built a life together on weak legs.
When I started training for greater distances, and faster paces, I thought I had it all figured out. Intervals and hill repeats, adding 10% distance each week, and taking every fourth week easy, for recovery. It's simple. I had a spring marathon booked, and the opportunity to run a 100km at the Sears Great Canadian Run, so my goals were clear. By March, three weeks before Around The Bay, where I'd test my marathon training on this legendary 30km course, I began to fall apart. Hips, hamstrings and glutes were holding on for dear life after every speed workout. My osteopath diagnosed a hip imbalance, and a weak core. I was running marathon distances on a 5k frame. I made it through the season, with the help of amazing friends, trainers and lots of at home workouts. I was officially a marathoner, and an ultramarathoner, all within 5 months. I'd doubled my distance, then doubled it again (and helped raised $100,000 for CHEO while I was at it). I was a real runner, and there were no limits to where my legs could carry me. This spring, as I reached peak training season again, preparing to attempt to Boston Qualify at a spring marathon, I began to crumble again. Same issues, same diagnosis.
Running is a relationship, and here are the lessons I've learned from both experiences, that have made me a better runner, and a better partner.
Compromise is necessary, and worthwhile. Some fights aren't worth having, and some runs aren't worth doing. Listen to your gut in both cases. Is it better to visit her parents this weekend, or to fight about it and send her away alone and angry? Is it better to do a session of painful (and embarrassing) yoga, or run yourself into the ground on inflexible joints? It's usually better to compromise; give a little. Visit her parents and take that yoga class. You'll receive far greater returns for your efforts. I've begun weekly strength training sessions, aimed to fix the root of my hip and core injuries. I'd rather be running on Tuesday evenings, but it's worth it.
Trust is mandatory. Towards the end, she started texting with a regional manager from work. First it was only during work hours, and seemed okay. Then it was in the evenings and on weekends. He had a better job than me, and a house in the Beaches. You've been hitting your interval paces spot on, and your long run fuelling is now second nature. You've only missed 2 runs in 3 months, and on paper, you're ready for 42.2km. But something feels off and you feel insecure. You could worry yourself sick, and give up. Start a screaming match over breakfast, or sell your race bib on Kijiji. That's an easy way out, if you're okay using the escape hatch. If you'd rather use the front door, I'd suggest you stop worrying about things you can't change. She's with you for who you are, so keep being the best version of that. Your training plan was written by an expert, who has done this a few times before. It's time to use the power of positivity and trust that it will end exactly as it's supposed to. Stick to the plan and give it all you've got, because leaving your comfort zone and finding success, is totally worth it.
Love is everything. Forget everything I've said so far, it's all bullshit compared to this one: Love is everything. Love in a relationship and the love of running; they're totally different, but exactly the same. It's a flood of endorphins, a bit of adrenaline and some serotonin (go ahead, science nerds, tell me I'm wrong). No matter what comes your way in a relationship, having mutual love is what you need to get through it. We built our relationship on loneliness, lust and convenience. When the time came to do the hard work of strengthening our foundation of trust and practicing our compromise, we gave up. We resorted to fighting, jealousy and emotional infidelity. In my short, but passionate affair with running, I've found something I truly love. This love has given me the will to strengthen my foundation and practice my compromise. It's nowhere near over, infact it's only just begun. I never said that having love would make it easy, but I do promise it will be worth it.
I've learned through running that without these key components your relationship will hit a wall, and it will hurt. As I continue my journey into new challenges, both athletically and romantically, I'm constantly reminded of these lessons. Every time I have to ice bath, and every time I have to watch a chick flick. It's worth it.
Wow! I got to chat with Bart Yasso, CRO of Runner's World and the creator of the Yasso 800s, among many other incredible credits. We talk about what makes a race special, why South Africa's Comrades Marathon is the greatest footrace in the world, and the story behind the Yasso 800s. Enjoy!