For Every Dream That is Left Behind Me, I Take A Bow.

I always get very reflective during this time of year. Well, more than usual, that is. My birthday is July 3rd, and that means it’s time for me to look back on a year of life and think about where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. However, this year is a little bit different. I’m turning 40 on this year’s July 3rd. Yes, my countdown to 40 years of age is now at just 3 days to go (as of when this is being published).

A few days ago, I looked back at a copy of the blog I wrote for my 30th birthday. I had a different, less serious writing style then. From reading that particular entry, I can’t get a good gauge of what I was feeling at that time, but I think that was the point of what I wrote and how I wrote it then. A lot has changed for me over the past 10 years, but then again, a lot has remained the same. I don’t know if the part that hasn’t changed is good or bad.

One thing is for certain, I have a much better perspective of what’s important in life. The past 10 years have seen me deal with significant loss, emotional lows, financial turmoil, loss of jobs, and relationship issues. I’ve documented basically all of them in my entries here, and there’s links there if you want to read more.
The past 10 years have also given me some emotional highs, (a bit more) financial freedom than I’m used to, new jobs, and new relationships. It all goes back to the balance I’ve spoken of a few times. But, it’s also about my perspective on things.

It’s very easy for me to look at where I am at 40 and think I’m not “where I’m supposed to be.” I never thought at this age I would still be living in the same house that I grew up in. I never thought I wouldn’t be married. I never thought I would be struggling paycheck to paycheck as I have. But, that’s where I am. And while it does get to me sometimes that I’m not further along, I also know that I could have it A LOT worse. Trust me, there’s some struggles and strife being in this house, and that’s a topic for a few entries, but at a later time. I do have enough perspective to know that it’s not all bad.

I started my 30s with an overbearing amount of credit card debt. I eliminated that over 3 years ago. Not having that burden weighing me down is an incredible feeling. However, as I’ve stated, I am struggling financially. I am currently a full time employee at a company that won’t exist much longer, while also working part time jobs on the side, just to survive. I have a bit of uncertainty with my current employment situation. I felt much more secure there 10 years ago. I was paid better and had job security, but all of my money was going towards my debt. Now, I’m paid less, have no job security, but no debt. Balance?

In some ways, I’ve given up on the dream of finding that one job that is THE ONE for me, if that makes sense. I am more concerned about being comfortable enough at a job, while not being complacent. I am concerned about that job providing enough for me to live comfortably, and hopefully with health benefits. My priorities have definitely switched. But, don’t get me wrong, if I were in a position to make a little less to do something that I absolutely loved doing, I probably would.

Getting back to what I said about my writing style from 10 years ago, it was definitely different. I would say what I had to say, but it was mostly incredibly vague. I wasn’t able to really express myself. In some cases, I wasn’t really allowed to. And, I was definitely not comfortable enough to do so. I had so much built up inside of me, but it never came out. It just stayed there until it faded into nothingness. This itself is a possible future topic.

One thing I am definitely aware of from when I turned 30 was where my health and weight was. I gained a lot of weight at this time 10 years ago. I had gone up to 230 pounds and was just basically not really active. It was during that summer that I first joined a gym, changed some of my eating habits, and hoped to get healthier. Here I am 10 years later, and I’m in the best shape of my life. I workout daily, I run a few times per week, and I’ve participated in twenty 5k races (as of this writing). I don’t see that changing.

The simple fact that I have pride in some of my accomplishments over the last few years is a big change from where I was 10 years ago. Hell, it’s a change from where I was 5 years ago. The fact that I can write these entries as openly as I do is a big thing for me. I would never have been able to do this a few years ago. But, I realize how important it is for me to have an outlet. There were things in my way. Some were just mental blocks, some were bigger than that. Some of those obstacles are not here anymore and it’s good to be able to express myself. To be completely honest, sometimes I even surprise myself in these entries with my ability to open up.

A few years ago, a friend read a particular blog entry I made and he told me he wanted to sit down and talk to me about some things from it. He’s a few years older than I am, and told me how much his life started to improve at age 40. Here, I am just days away from that milestone and even with a big bit of uncertainty about some aspects of my life, I’m starting to believe him a bit. I’ve noticed recently in situations where my defaults would kick in, they haven’t. My fears have not kicked in. My confidence is higher than I’m used to. But, even with all of that said, and even with all of the losses I’ve had in the past 10 (and even 40) years, I’m more optimistic than I’ve been on a long time. So maybe my friend was right. I’ll let you know in a few years.

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How Long Will it Take Until There Will Be Room Again For Hope?

At the end of every year I ask myself if I’m better off than I was one year ago. Looking back at older blog entries I’ve seen that the answer has varied. But, if my biggest regrets of 2015 are failing to read one book per month and still not being able to successfully do the Black Crow pose in DDP Yoga, I think it’s safe to say that yes, I’m better off at the end of 2015 than I was one year ago.

It’s no secret that one of the biggest sources of constant frustration for me has been my financial situation. I have been living paycheck to paycheck for so long. It’s more like surviving paycheck to paycheck. There’s been little to no money left before the next paycheck would arrive. I kept trying to get a second or a better paying job. I would fill out application after application and I would rarely ever hear back from anyone. Then, I started getting replies. I went on some interviews. The first time I had only one interview. The second time I had more than one. I didn’t get hired those times, but simply because I kept going further in the process I had a little bit more confidence. Then something happened, I got hired.

The hiring at this job wasn’t necessarily the good thing I had hoped though. After going through an interview with two assistant managers at the location and seeing them impressed with my resume and what they thought I could accomplish, they set up an interview with the big manager. He also said he was impressed with my resume, but figured I needed a new challenge and assigned me to work in a department that had nothing to do with anything I had applied for. It was an area I didn’t know much about and the pay was commission based. I reluctantly accepted the position, but after just over one month of it, I knew it wasn’t for me at all. Working the two jobs was draining me of all of my energy. Due to the hours I was working and the little amount of time I had between jobs, I was not sleeping much. I had no time to do anything I needed to do at my house. And instead of being depressed that I had no money or food, I was depressed because I had no time to get any good food or to do anything besides work. To make a somewhat longer story than it needed to be shorter, I left that job. But, this story doesn’t end there. I ended up getting another second job that was much better for my schedule. I still have time to do what I need to do and I actually enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not living comfortably now. I’m just living a lot less uncomfortably.

If you didn’t know the whole story, you would say my social life isn’t any better than it was one year ago. But, I think it is. I reconnected with some old friends, I strengthened many friendships, and I made a few new friends as well. Sure, I’ve remained single throughout the year and I still have feelings of loneliness, but I also have a feeling of hope that I haven’t had in a very long time. Much like the job situation, I think I’m getting closer with each effort to change that. Each bit of discouragement here is discouraging me less, if that makes sense.

Last month I wrote about the races I ran in 2015 and how proud of my accomplishments I am. I ended 2014 not being able to complete a 5k in under 29 minutes. I ran 9 races in 2015 and only one was above 29, with a few of them being under 28 minutes, and my fastest being only 7.8 seconds away from 27 minutes. I have a pretty clear goal for 5k races in 2016.

In last year’s entry, I spoke about how I couldn’t get my weight under 200 pounds. I had been so close, but I was never able to make it there. I spent much of 2015 in the 195 range. In 2016 I want to stay (or get back) there and possibly get a little bit lower as well. I spent much of my life believing I couldn’t be in better shape, now I know I can. I also know I can be even better than I am. The mental “programming” I’ve spoken of in other entries is being changed little by little. Although, I’ve also learned (and quickly) that my metabolism is not great anymore and as soon as I slow down the workouts, my weight can go up quickly. I’ll be getting back to basics and working towards what I want to achieve.

While speaking of my programming. I did have my share of struggles with depression and anxiety during the year, but it wasn’t as bad as previous years had been. If nothing else, as I get older, I do get a little wiser and I am able to handle and manage my issues slightly better. I know I’ll continue to deal with this, and I’m sure I’ll have emotional setbacks. But, I’ll get through them.

One thing that was definitely a highlight for me in 2015 was the bond I developed with my nephew. It took a little while, but I’ve become one of his favorite people. I have trouble putting into words the feeling I get when I see him smile because he’s happy to see me. And of course, he has a little sister now as well, so yes, I have a niece now too. The overwhelming joy those two bring me is amazing. It’s things like this that motivate me.

As of today, December 31, 2015, there are only 186 days until my 40th birthday. That milestone looms over me almost like a really large black cloud. I felt I hadn’t done enough by the time I hit 30 years old. Now it’s almost 10 years later and I still feel that way. The difference now is that I feel I’m on the right track. I still don’t really know what the destination is, but I’m pretty sure that I’m heading there. Along the way,  I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to have setback. I’m going to be disappointed. I’m going battle my depression. I also know that I can get stronger from all of that. I NEED to get stronger from all of that. I may not accomplish everything I want to, or need to, get done in 2016, but if I can look back in one year and again say I’m better off than I was, then I’m doing something right and I need to keep doing it

If You See Me at the Bottom, Please Bring Me My Running Shoes.

As much as running the five 5k races I took part in during 2014 was good for me, I never hit one of my goals, and that was to be under 29 minutes. I came close. My fastest time was 29:12.9. But one thing I learned during those races is that is 12.9 seconds can be a long time.

Early in 2015 I decided I was going to run more races. The first one I signed up for took place on April 18th. It was a new race for me, and I knew it would be a bit challenging. It had a lot of inclines and a few hills. And just a few days before the race, I started taking antibiotics for a mild sinus infection. It was a also a bit chilly that morning, but I was dressed for it. What I remember the most about this race was how when I made the final turn and headed toward the finish line, it seemed so far away. It was probably 3 or 4 blocks away, but it seemed like miles. I finished this race in 29:36.2. I was still over 29 minutes, but I was also faster than the last one I did in 2014 and I was satisfied knowing I was right about where I had been after not running for a race for 5 months.

About one month later, I did my second 5k of the year. I always drive the path in my car a few days before the race to get a feel for the path if I had not run the race before. This one seemed like it could be challenging for me. The morning of the race was hot and humid. It was not a nice day for a run. I didn’t get off to a good start. I felt like I didn’t have much in me. When I got to the 1st mile marker I looked to see the time and noticed they didn’t have a clock there. They also didn’t have one at the 2nd mile marker. So, I really had no idea how I was doing. When I got near the 3rd mile, I really didn’t have confidence in how I did. But when I saw the time at the finish, I was shocked. I completed this race in 28:46.4. I was under 29 minutes. To be honest, I really didn’t believe it. I thought something was wrong, so the joy I should have felt for setting a new record for myself wasn’t there.

A few weeks later was my next race. This one was also one with a lot of inclines and hills. Luckily for me, for every incline there was an equal decline. I felt a little more confident in myself than I did previously in the year. I crossed the finish line at 28:48.51. Only about 2 seconds slower than my previous race. Normally I would be bothered by being slower by such a small margin, but instead I felt that my record time had now been validated. I was definitely an under 29 minute finisher.

Only 13 days later, on June 20th, I competed in my 4th race of the year. This would be the last one that was new for me. It was described as a “fast and flat” course and from my practice drive, it seemed to be. I knew I was doing well from the start. I felt good. But I had no idea just how well I was really doing until near the end. I use the same playlist of songs for every race I’ve ever run and I’ve crossed the finish line to Lacuna Coil’s “Daylight Dancer” every single time. When I got to the 3rd mile, “Daylight Dancer” was just starting. I’m usually well into the song at this point in the race. When I saw the time at the finish line, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. My finish time was 27:51.86. I set a new record for myself by almost a full minute. I was now under 28 minutes!

After that race I didn’t play on doing any more over the summer. But after finishing so well, I was afraid I would lose momentum. But, I did end up taking the summer off from actual races. That’s not to say I didn’t put in my fair share of practice, but I didn’t do anything official.

My next race was on September 5th. It was my hometown’s race and it would be the 4th time I was competing in it. Being that I had done this race before, my minimum expectation for it was to at the very least, be quicker than I had been in it previously. I had some other goals for the race, which on race day actually changed to include being quicker than a specific person I saw running it as well. Much like the 6/20 race almost 3 months earlier, “Daylight Dancer” started as I was approaching the 3 mile mark. When I was close enough to see the time at the finish line, I gave it everything I had and crossed the line at 27:50.6. By 1.2 seconds I had set another new record for myself and not only that, I beat last year’s time by about 95 seconds. I accomplished every goal I set out to accomplish in this race. Yes, every goal. I did end up having a quicker race than the person I mentioned.

The rest of the races I competed in for the year were also all repeats for me. The next one I did was 3 weeks later and I finished in 28:01.8. I didn’t set a new record, but I did it in about 75 quicker than the year before. No complaints at all.

For my race on October 10th, I was very determined to redeem myself after a setback on this course from the year before. When I did the race in 2014, it was raining, there was a stretch of unpaved road in which I was not comfortable running, and at one point my shoelace came untied. I finished the race 4 seconds away from a record. As I said, I was determined to redeem myself. However, since I had beaten that time in six races since then, I didn’t know what redemption was at this point. I got off to a very quick start. I believe my first mile was my quickest to date. I knew I was doing very well. Somewhere around the 2.5 mile mark, I checked the GPS on my phone to see my progress. I didn’t clip the phone on well enough and I dropped it. I had to stop and pick it up. A few minutes later, “Daylight Dancer” started playing and the finish line was in sight. I saw the time and started thinking that the phone mishap would cost me a chance at a record and my quest for redemption would be ruined. However, I made it across the finish line at 27:49.9. 7/10 of a second quicker than my previous record. My redemption had been achieved.

Two weeks later I did another fast and flat course. This was the one that I had set my record on last year. I did it in 29:12.9. As was the case with the previous repeat races, my minimum goal was to beat last year’s time. By the time race day had arrived, I really felt like doing the race was a chore. I didn’t really feel up to actually doing it. But, I did it. And I got off to a good start. I felt strong throughout, despite it being a bit chillier than I like when I run. Somewhere around the 2.5 mile mark, I started to think I was really doing well, but I didn’t quite know how well yet. When I got the 3rd mile marker, “Daylight Dancer” was not on yet. Garbage’s “Push It” was still playing, and it was just ending when I crossed the finish line. I crossed at 27:07.8. Again, I set a new record by almost 50 seconds. I really couldn’t believe how well I did. And on top of it, I did the race over 2 full minutes quicker than the year before. That’s some improvement!

The final race I did this year was also the final race I did last year. In 2014, I finished it in 29:40.4. It was my slowest finish of the year out of five races, but if I wanted to put a positive spin on it, I was my 5th best finish, out of the seven races I had done up to that point. Much like last year, I had trouble breaking out of the pack at the beginning. This races starts on a narrow road and has a lot of kids in it. They tend to stay bunched up. Regardless of those factors, and the cold weather, I felt pretty good. I did hear the beginning of “Daylight Dancer” this time, so I knew a record setting race wasn’t happening. I finished at 27:57.7. Like last year, it was my 5th quickest finish of the year, but this time it was 5th of 9 races. And like last year, this course ended up being my 5th quickest finish yet.

As I stated in my blog entry about my races from last year, my issues with depression are well documented. Sometimes, I find it hard to be motivated enough to get anything done. But these races are good for me. I set goals and I accomplish them. Sometimes, I surprise myself with how well I do. That’s why I do this. And that’s why I’ll do it again in 2016. I ended last year wanting to be under 29 minutes. I was 12.9 seconds away. I ended 2015 just 7.8 seconds away from 27 minutes. It looks like my goal for 2016 is clear.

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The racing shoes have taken a beating and are being retired from actual competition. The number in the middle was my ID for my record shattering race in October.

 

At Life’s Four-Way Stop

It’s that time again, it’s the end of the year. It’s time for me to ask myself if I’m better off than I was one year ago. Two years ago I said yes, last year I wasn’t sure. This year I don’t think I am. I have way too many questions, not enough answers, and (what I see as) a lack of any real forward movement in my life.

With that said, there is one area of my life where I think I made drastic improvement, and that is being able to identify and deal with my depression and anxieties. However, I believe it’s mostly because I have fallen into a pretty bad depression and I have more anxieties. So, basically there’s more to work with there.

Overall, 2014 was a challenging year for me. I started off the year unemployed and not knowing if I was going to be collecting unemployment. A blizzard in early January made the wait to find out even longer as the Unemployment offices were shut down due to a state of emergency. To make a long story short, I did end up collecting, but I also was employed by the end of January. There’s good news and bad news about my employment. The good news is that I actually do like my job. The bad news is that my salary is the lowest it’s been since the late 1990s. It’s a weird trade off for me, but it’s one I was willing to do in 2014.

My low salary has not helped my stress levels though. While I remained debt free in 2014 and have not used a credit card in almost five years, I am just getting by. I sometimes joked that I work just to be able to afford enough gas in my car to get me to the supermarket to buy whatever food I can afford, with as many coupons as possible. I don’t dislike eating Ramen noodles, but I also know it’s not exactly healthy, but it’s sometimes all I can afford.

I don’t know if I can say that my social life is better off than it was. While I KNOW that I have more legitimate friends than I’ve had before, I’ve also never felt lonelier than I do now. This is a subject I’ll probably get into in more detail in a future post, but my inability to connect, or reconnect, with certain people has taken its toll on me. I can most assuredly tell you that if I were to leave my house more often or hang out with people more often, it would not necessarily help me. My social anxieties have also become heightened. I’ve gone from being slightly uncomfortable in social settings to almost outright dreading them.

My depression levels have risen to such heights…
wait, is that possible?
My depression levels have sunk to such depths that my motivation to do almost anything is not there. I barely leave my house on weekends. On some recent weekends, I’ve barely left my bed. I will sit in my room watching clips of things on YouTube because I don’t have the attention span for anything beyond 4 minutes.

I wanted to read one book per month in 2014. I ended up reading ONE book. However, does it really count since I started it in late 2013?

One aspect of 2014 that I am truly proud of is my running in five 5k races. All five of them were better times than the races I had run in previous years. I went into detail about my feelings on these races in a previous entry. I will likely run more races in 2015, but as of now, I don’t know when.

I did have some specific fitness goals for 2014. One of which was met ever so briefly. My default weight seems to be about 205 – 210 pounds. It seems that getting under that range is not too easy for me. Surpassing that range is a lot less difficult than it used to be. But, I wanted to be under 200 in 2014. I started the year at 204. There was a point in 2014 where I dropped to around 195 pounds. I would have liked to have been proud of that accomplishment, but it was immediately after something upset me and eating and/or holding food in was slightly difficult. I felt my depression robbed me of being proud of my accomplishment. And I’m back up to around 210 pounds.

The other specific fitness goal I had for 2014 was to be able to successfully pull off a Black Crow pose in DDP Yoga. Well, I’m still not even close. However, I did not try often. I only did the routines that it’s featured in a few times. I’ve more or less planned out my entire year of DDP Yoga workouts, so let’s see if I can get it done this time.

One other thing that happened to me in 2014 is something that I see as a mix of good and bad. I wrote some particularly deep blog entries and judging by some of the responses I received from people, I may actually be helping people with their issues. When I received text messages from some friends after one of my entries and those messages included them telling me how much they mean to me and/or telling me of their own battles with depression, I felt good. Not good that they’re suffering, but that my little blog here actually gives them support and comfort. Yes, I know this is a good thing that I’m writing about. A problem that I have with it is that regardless of the compliments, support, and friendships, I still feel lonely and insignificant. I wish that was different.

I have used the exact same New Year’s Resolution for the last few years, and it’s simply “to make it better” in the new year. Going into 2015, I’m not even sure what “it” is, but I know I want things to be better for me. I really NEED things to be better for me. I don’t want moments of hope to turn into months of despair. I don’t want brief glimpses of happiness to be washed away by harsh realities. I want my moments of hope to turn into real sustained happiness. Of course, I don’t know how possible any of it is. But, that doesn’t mean I won’t keep going…
Even if I don’t know where that destination is.

I Trust the Speed Until I Have No Need to Run Anymore

As I was training for one of the 5k races I ran over the last few months, someone asked me if I loved running. I paused for a moment and said “Not really, but I do love crossing the finish line.” It was at that moment when I realized how much crossing the finish line really does mean to me. Yes, I’ve written about the races I ran in 2012 and 2013 and the feeling of accomplishment I had when I finished those races, but this year it was different. I didn’t just do one race this year, I did five. I set personal records in 3 out of the 5. But I still don’t think that alone was what it was all about for me this year.

My depression has consumed me for much of this year. I’ve become much more aware of it than I used to be. I’ve realized just how much of my daily life is dictated by my mood. I’ve realized that it’s a vicious cycle that I haven’t been able to break. How does running 3.1 miles have anything to do with that? It’s actually simple when you think about it. When ever I cross that finish line, I’ve accomplished something that cannot be taken away from me. And the feeling of victory I have when I cross that line is not something I’ve often experienced.

In 2012 I ran my first 5k and completed it in 29 minutes and 45 seconds. I was VERY proud of that accomplishment and what that entire day meant to me. In 2013 I ran the same race in 32 minutes and 12 seconds. I didn’t do as well, but I still finished and still felt accomplished. My racing was limited to just that one race in each year due to the work schedule I had at the time. My schedule wasn’t the same this year, so I was able to do more races and I ran five of them this year.

The first one I did was the same race I had done in 2012 and 2013, it was my town’s annual 5k race. I did not slow down to walk until a bit after the first mile, which I crossed at about 8 minutes and 40 seconds. I knew I was on a good pace, but a little past that first mile I started getting a pain in my right side, so I had to slow down a little bit. I kept going and changed it up from a run to a walk when needed. This race ends at the racetrack at the town’s high school. When I turned the corner of the track and saw that I was just over 29 minutes, I gave it all I had left and crossed the finish line at 29 minutes and 24.5 seconds. I had beaten my best time by 20 seconds. My only real goal for that race was to be under 30 minutes again, since I didn’t feel too confident going into it. My goal was met.

The next race I did was a few weeks later. The path for this race was not too hilly, but had a lot of incline in it. The incline worried me and I felt that crossing the finish line at about 30 minutes and 15 seconds would be good for me. But, I also knew that as long as I finished the race, I should feel proud. Despite the having slight difficulty breaking out of the pack at the beginning of the race due to so many young kids grouped up in front of me, my first mile was 8 minutes and 20 seconds. I didn’t expect that. And once again, shortly after that first mile, the slight pain in my side started and I had to slow it down a bit. When I made that final left turn and saw the finish line, I saw that the clock had JUST crossed 29 minutes, so again I gave it all I had left and crossed the finish line at 29 minutes and 14.4 seconds. One minute better than my goal and 10.1 seconds better than my previous best time! I was quite satisfied with myself.

My third race of the year was a bit more challenging for me. It was raining a lot during the race and I had never run in conditions like that before. Due to the weather, I didn’t put any pressure on myself to set a personal record, I just wanted a time that I felt was respectable. When I got the one mile marker at just 8 minutes I started to reconsider that personal record thing. I knew it was now attainable. Somewhere around the 2 miles point there was a stretch of a block or two that was unpaved and the ground was ripped up. I did not feel comfortable running in that, so I walked that portion. That worked out somewhat in my favor because my glasses were completely fogged up and my side was hurting. Once I wiped off my glasses and got past that area, I picked up the pace. A minute or so later, I noticed my left shoelace had come untied. I stepped onto a sidewalk and fixed that and then ran a bit. Once the finish line came into view, I saw that it was again just past 29 minutes. I had a chance to set a personal record again, but I crossed the finish line at 29 minutes and 18.4 seconds. I missed my record by FOUR seconds. Yeah, it bothered me a little bit since I got my confidence up early in the race, but I was still incredibly proud of my accomplishment given the conditions I was not used to.

The 2nd, 4th, and 5th races that I ran this year were part of a series of a “Triple Crown” that three towns sponsored. And before the 4th race, I saw various posts online that said because it was a “fast and flat” race that many people set personal records on it. Well, this time I actually set forth to do so. I had 3 goals for the race. The first was to be under 29 minutes, the second was to at least set a new record, and the third was just to finish. My feelings of accomplishment would be good if I did any of those. Much like my 2nd race of the year, I had a hard time getting out of the pack at the beginning. This time, not only did I have a lot of children in my way, but I had dogs as well. Yes, there were dogs in this race. I got to the 1st mile marked at about 8 minutes and 45 seconds, so I didn’t think I was on pace for a personal record, but I still had some energy so I kept running for a little bit longer than I normally do past that mile. I noticed that I crossed the 2nd mile marker at about 19 minutes, so I had picked up some time. I also felt the last 1.1 miles were good for me. And this time, I made a right turn to the finish line and again, it had just crossed over to 29 minutes, so I put every last bit of energy I had into it and crossed the finish line at 29 minutes and 12.9 seconds. I didn’t finish in under 29 minutes, but I did set a new personal record. Again, I was quite happy with myself.

The third portion of the Triple Crown and the final race that I intended to run in 2014 was on a very chilly morning. It was only about 35 degrees out and I was concerned about my lungs and their ability to handle the cold air. I was appropriately dressed for the race, but it was still a concern for me. My three goals for the last race were in effect here too. My first mile issue of not being able to break away happened again and I crossed the first mile at 9 minutes. I figured that a sub-29 minute race was now impossible, but a personal record was not. When I crossed the 2nd mile marker at about 19 minutes and 30 seconds, I started to again think about that 29 minute thing, especially since I knew I had already gotten past the one big incline this path had. However, the last 1.1 miles was rough for me. I wasn’t able to keep up the pace and ended up crossing the finish line at 29 minutes and 40.4 seconds. It was my slowest finish of the year, but I was not in the least bit upset.

Out of 61 males to complete all 3 portions of the Triple Crown, I finished in 47th place. I am very proud of that. The people that won those races finished them in times that I can’t begin to comprehend. But I’m sure they’ve been doing this a lot a longer than I have. And I’m also not ever concerned about “winning” a race. To me, crossing the finish line IS winning.

I finished five races this year, all under 30 minutes. In 3 of the 5 I set personal records. My consistency is pretty damn good. There’s only 28 seconds separating my fastest and slowest finishes. And each and every time I crossed that finish line, regardless of the time, I had accomplished something. I finished something. And each and every time, it meant something.

I am generally lethargic, unmotivated, and not disciplined enough to get things done. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “just doing it” for me. But, these races have shown me that it is possible to accomplish something. I do put forth time and effort into training for them, but very often I feel that I won’t be able to do get it done. It’s my nature to doubt myself. It’s also my nurturing to doubt myself. But, maybe I can use these races as a catalyst to better things for me. Because on five separate occasions this year I was able to start something and just under 30 minutes later, I was able to finish it. And while the high I feel from crossing those finish lines does eventually go away, the accomplishments live forever, and that’s something that not even my depression can take away from me.

I’ll Win This Race. I’ll Leave Alone, Arrive Alone.

On September 1st of last year, I ran in my first ever organized 5K race. I had my sister with me by my side, and I still consider the entire event to be one of the proudest moments of my life. If you want more details of that race, please go back and read my blog about that by clicking here.

This year, one day before the anniversary of that wonderful day, I ran in the same race. This time, for reasons I’ll likely get into in a future entry, my sister could not run with me. Last year, I gave her A LOT of credit for pushing me to keep running and to get me to the finish line in 29 minutes and 45 seconds. Without her there, I hoped to have a comparable time this year. That was always my goal if I got to another race.

I practiced the distance on a treadmill at gyms a decent amount of times over the last few weeks and months. I did not do nearly the amount of practicing I did the year before. I also did not get to run outdoors as much as I did last year. However, I want to make it very clear that I am not making any excuses for anything. I just couldn’t make the outdoor running happen this time.

During some practice runs last year I learned VERY QUICKLY that running on a treadmill and running on pavement are INCREDIBLY different activities. My legs did NOT like outdoor running at all last year. This time around, they were a bit more accustomed to it, even if I didn’t do it as often.

Also, as I’ve mentioned in previous entries, I’ve been doing DDP Yoga for over a year. By coincidence, my initial 13 week program ended the day of last year’s race. It was a great culmination of effort on various fronts for me. For most of the time since last year’s race and this year, I didn’t follow any pre-planned program with DDP Yoga, I just made it up as I went along. However, leading up to the race, I again made sure to follow a specific 13 week program, but this time I made it a harder one. I’ve also been eating A LOT healthier than I’ve been used to and I’m likely in the best shape of my life.

A day or two before the race, I had a dream about it and in that dream, I finished it in 28 minutes and 50 seconds. I had also told people who I would be very satisfied if I completed it in 31 minutes. The way I looked at it now, I had the goals in front of me. It was just up to me to make it happen.

Fast forward to race day, August 31st, 2013. I was nervous. I didn’t know what I was capable of that day. A few of my recent practice runs didn’t go so well. I had my MP3 player ready and I chose to use the exact same playlist I had used during last year’s race, but as I said before, this time I was doing it alone.

At 9:20 am, former New York Giant, “Touchdown Maker” Stephen Baker fired the gun and we were off. I believed I was doing well, but early on I had a bit of discomfort in my side. I slowed down to a brisk walk. I walked a few times during last year’s race, but this time I had started my walk A LOT sooner than I did last year. I was now concerned about my time.

I picked up the pace and ran until I had to start walking again. This happened a few times, but at no point did I ever stop moving. Well, that’s not true. At one point I had to stop moving since I noticed my shoelace was about to be undone. Once I fixed that, I kept moving. Slightly after the 2 mile mark of the race is the only real hill in this path. It’s a little steep, and after running/walking 2 miles it can seem like an issue for inexperienced runners such as myself. At this point, since I was not confident of my time, I was determined to RUN all the way up that hill. Even if my time was lousy, at least I had that accomplishment.

The race finishes on the track at the high school in my town. When I got to the track, I had to run about 70% of the distance around the track. Well, I didn’t run 70% of it, I walked some of it. When I came around the bend and saw the time, I saw it was past 31 minutes, but once the finish line was in front of me, I took off and ran across and finished in 32 minutes and 13 seconds.

I did not hit either of my goals, but at no point then or since have I been disappointed by that. I crossed the finish line, and that itself is a wonderfully rewarding feeling. I have no complaints about the result. The time may not be what I wanted, but I did learn two things from it. The first was that I CAN do this. The second (which may be more important) is that I started out too fast, and that’s really where my sister came in last year, as she paced me and at various times had me slow down.

The title of this blog had been picked out for a long time. It’s a line from Faith No More’s song, “Stripsearch.” It’s on my running playlist. When I picked it for my playlist, I did not pick it because of that line. I actually forgot about the line. I picked the song because they had done the theme from “Chariots of Fire” as the intro to the song during their reunion tour in 2009 and 2010. When I heard the line during last year’s race, I got emotional and motivated to “win” the race. This year, it was more appropriate, since I was doing it alone.

Last year my sister and I crossed the finish line together. I’ll say it again, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. This year, I crossed the finish line by myself. It was different, but still very rewarding. It wasn’t the culmination of things that last year’s race was, but it was the culmination of what had been an incredibly good week. And I will explain all of that in another entry in the near future.

I do look forward to competing in more races and I hope my schedule will allow it to happen. But, like anything obstacle or challenge in my life, that’s up to me to fix. My determination is stronger than it’s been in a very long time to make some more changes. The line “I’ll win this race, I’ll leave alone, arrive alone” does not necessarily just apply to a 5k race I do, it applies to life. Life is a race. I am in no rush to get to life’s finish line, but I WILL win the race….

A respectable time.

A respectable time.