Mini Book Review of ‘Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink’ by Nita Sweeney

Having stumbled upon this author and her running memoir on Twitter, I decided to take a chance on it. I am glad I did as I found myself identifying with it on many levels. First, I enjoyed reading about Nita Sweeney’s journey from non-runner to endurance athlete as it paralleled my own in many ways. Like me, she began with the Couch to 5k Program before progressing to longer distances. Like me, she shed some weight along the way and was an adult-onset athlete (a term I borrow from John Bingham). I enjoyed reading her story because in many ways it validates my own. I have a tendency to regret all the the years I spent as a non-runner. How fast could I be and how accomplished could I be if I had only started when I was younger? Sweeney’s story remind me however that I am a sample size of one. Being older and/or slower than others does not make me less of a runner!

Secondly, I enjoyed reading about the author’s running exploits in Columbus, Ohio. I live forty minutes from Ohio’s capital and was familiar with many of the places she described. I did find myself growing jealous when she wrote about the support and friendship’s she forged in the MIT running group. The running community in my little town is growing, but there is nothing like MIT where I live. That coupled with my own introverted tendencies has prevented me from feeling like I belong in the running community. Fortunately, I am blessed to have my wife to train with!

Finally, I appreciated how the author found running as a coping mechanism for her depression. Like all families, mine has been touched by depression and I have long argued that a trifold approach must be taken when dealing with mental illness; mental, spiritual, and physical. I firmly believe that any approach to mental illness that lacks one of the pillars is insufficient. Sweeney points out wisely that running didn’t “cure” her depression, however, there is no doubt it has allowed her to cope with it. What a great reminder!

I recommend this book for adult onset athletes, those battling with mental health, and anyone who enjoys a good running memoir.

Mini Book Review of ‘The Fat Adapted Running Formula’ by Michael D’Aulerio

This book is like others by Michael D’Aulerio. It’s not necessarily poorly written or bad, but it is very repetitive. The 5% of the text the presented new or useful information was well done and informative. It would have made a great blog post or article, however, in an attempt to stretch it out, D’Aulerio adds a great deal of repetition, most of which includes patting himself on the back. He also spends far more time extolling the benefits of fat adapted running than he does offering practical “how to” advice. This title is available for low cost on the kindle and is free for Kindle Unlimited members … which is how I would recommend you get it. I certainly wouldn’t spend any money on it as the truly useful information can also be found via a web search.

Dying 2 Self Season 1, Episode #6: More BHAG Talk and Transformation

On this episode of Dying 2 Self, I talk more about the power of the BHAG and God as a necessary driver of transformation in your life. I also discuss Don Rose’s book ‘Average to Epic: A MId-Lifer’s Guide to Endurance Sports and Lifelong Fitness.” I would recommend this book to anyone who is a novice to endurance sports and is looking to learn more about it … especially those late bloomers like myself.

Mini Book Review of “Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire With God, Not Food” by Lysa TerKeurst

Before I review the book, I feel I must first acknowledge that I am certainly no Lysa TerKeurst’s target audience. Made to Crave is written from a female perspective to females. TerKeurst frequently references the “Jesus Girls” she had in mind when she wrote this book. Ultimately, Made to Crave is about food addiction and the spiritual ramifications of an unhealthy relationship with food. TerKeurst’s premise is that we are all designed to crave, as revealed in Scripture, ““How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1 – 2). Unfortunately, many of us misplace our cravings and try to satisfy them with food. I believe TerKeurst’s approach is much needed in face of a dilemma that is so common. Though I am not the target audience, I highly recommend this book to any Christian who has placed food on the throne of God. It helps address the mental and spiritual sides to weight loss.

Mini Book Review of ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ by David Goggins

CantHurtMeDuring a conversation about ultra running, a friend asked me  if I had ever heard of David Goggins. He billed Goggins as the most inspirational man he had ever heard of and pointed out the author and ultra runner was a former Navy Seal. I was immediately interested because I am huge fan of the Seals. They are  the closest thing to actual, real-life super heroes I know of, so I immediately looked Goggins up and bought his book, Can’t Hurt Me. 

I don’t want to steal any of his thunder, but I will say that Goggins is, indeed, incredible. The things he has overcome and accomplished is beyond amazing. His life history is remarkable … but I wouldn’t necessarily say he is inspirational. I feel inspired when I read a book that encourages me to go out and reach beyond myself, and Goggins certainly attempts to do that, but he is so practically inhuman in the things he has accomplished that I can’t really relate. For instance, Goggins wanted to be a Navy Seal so he lost 100 pounds in a very short time frame and went out and did it. Likewise, he wanted to be an ultra runner, so he went out and completed a hundred mile event with no runs leading up to it. Who does that? He did, but can anyone else? I certainly can’t. I’m at the other end of the spectrum having just completed my first sub forty minute 5k. It took me two years to run a full half marathon. I want to be an ultra runner, but I’m no where near ready and I know it. As such, there’s really nothing from this book that I can take away and apply to my own life.

Goggins is incredible. He is other worldly. He is a hero, and I am now a fan, however, he is not inspiring. Physically and mentally, Goggins is a spectacle. He refers to himself as the hardest man alive and he may just be. I enjoyed his book and will be on the lookout for him on podcasts and such, but while he amazes me, he does not necessarily inspire me.

If want to be amazed, buy this book. Be forewarned, however – Goggins is a former Navy Seal and uses language you would expect a Navy Seal to use. If you are easily offended by four letters words, avoid this one.

It Feels Like Something is Broken Inside of Me

Saturday I participated in what, is for me, the hardest run on my schedule. For the second year in a row I signed up for and ran the Indian Run at the Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio. It is beautiful, well-organized run through one of the most beautiful parts of Ohio. But it is tough. When I ran it last year it was, at the time, my longest run ever. It included many sections of climbs that I was not prepared for and it was all I could do to finish. As soon as I crossed the finish line in 2018, I knew I wanted to come back and do the run again. My long-term goal is to someday do an ultramarathon, but this 20k run through Hocking Hills beat me and I immediately knew I wanted revenge.

That revenge was supposed to happen last Saturday. With another year of training and some modest weight loss, I was convinced I would do better than last year. In some ways, I suppose I did. I beat last year’s time by 18 minutes and physically, I think I feel better and am recovering faster than last year. However, once again, this run beat me.

My problems began at mile 4 with a steep climb up Steel Hill Road. I had strategically planned to walk the hill and did so, however, about half way up the climb I began suffering from painful calf cramps. These cramps plagued me throughout the finish and hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt while running. Every step was a struggle. These cramps put doubt in my mind that I would be able to finish and caused me to walk much more of the course than I intended. I only finished because turning around at that point would have been a more difficult run; plus, my cellphone was out of service which prevented me from calling my wife to come get me. So I trudged forward.

The problems got worse at mile 9. For the second year in a row, in that exact spot, I experienced what I can only describe as an asthma-like attack. Wheezing, a failure to catch my breath, and elevated heart rate accompanied a feeling as if I were about to pass out. It was a sensation I hoped I wouldn’t experience again after last year. It was sensation that put me in survival mode. I was no longer concerned about time, or crushing the run, I just wanted to survive it.

In doing so, it felt like something broke inside of me. I vowed in that moment that I would never sign up for the Indian Run again. It’s just too tough. The 20k distance had beat me down again and any hopes of ever completing the 40k or 60k distance were dashed. In fact, in that moment of suffering, I began to question why I run in the first place. I thought I had made some gains, I thought I had improved, but here I was suffering in the same ways for the second year in a row. It called into question all the work and training I have done over the last year. It made me feel like giving up.

I told my wife afterwards that I was never signing up for the Indian Run again. I could hear the shock in her voice when she responded by telling me she had no doubt I would be back. But beyond that particular run, if I’m being honest, I’ve entertained the notion of just quitting all together. I’ve thought about giving up. I’m not a natural runner, I’m built more like an offensive lineman than an ultramarathon runner, I’m slow …. and here’s the deal, I I always will be.

I don’t mean for this post to be a downer, but for the first time since I began running and losing weight, I am questioning if its all worth it. I’ve run a couple of times since then and I’m starting to recover physically, however, I feel like I’m a long way from recovering mentally. I feel like something is broken inside of me.

I’ve never experience this type of pessimism and dread following a run and I’m not sure how to recover from it. I don’t know if it is normal to feel this way after such a hard effort, but I know I don’t like. Running normally gives me pleasure and peace. That is not where I’m at right now … and I miss it terribly.It

Am I Still a Runner If I’m Injured?

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’re aware that a hip injury has sidelined me recently. I’ve certainly griped about it enough! There was no fall, stumble, or other mishap that led to my injury. I didn’t get hit by a car or fall over a steep cliff on a nasty trail. I can’t even say I had upped my weekly mileage too fast. I went for a run in January during a period of less mileage than normal (cold weather has that effect) and my hip just started to hurt. I fought through it for four miles. They next day, my hip hurt a little worse, so I took a day off. When it still hadn’t resolved itself after a couple of weeks I shut my running down and eventually went to a sports medicine doctor. The diagnosis? An MRI revealed I had a “mild focal marrow edema involving the inferior margin of the left femoral neck.” I’ve heard it described as a bone bruise. My doctor called it a “baby” stress fracture and indicated it would turn into the real deal if I didn’t stop running. He shut me down for another three weeks. Then I am to ease my way back into running and shut myself down if I still experience pain. I’ve already missed all of February and with this plan of attack, I am likely to miss most of March as well. In addition, the half-marathon I had signed up for at the end of April isn’t going to happen. Even in a best case scenario, there wouldn’t be time to train for a long run.

I must admit I was originally fairly disappointed. Running has been my primary source of exercise over the past two years. It has helped me lose well over one hundred pounds and has given me a great deal of joy. I love it. I’m slow and I struggle, but I love it. My running is my alone time with God. It allows me to pray and to listen for His response. Not being able to do it hurts. I am blessed, however, that there is hope this will all heal and I will able to run again soon.

I wonder though, how long can I lay off of running before I am no longer a runner? The doctor gave me the go ahead to bike, swim, and lift during my layoff … but I identify as a runner. I’m hoping to use this forced time of cross-training to work on my swimming and maybe even dabble into some sprint triathlons later this year. But in the meantime, not running stinks! Maybe I need to identify as an adult-onset athlete rather than an adult-onset runner. Cross training may have to become my new best friend.

Happy running to all those out their doing it. Know that I am jealous!

Mini Book Review of ‘Fitness Confidential’ by Vinnie Tortorich

I bought this book hoping to learn more about author’s no sugar, no grains diet (or NSNG). I suppose I expected it to be like other formulaic diet books out there. You know, an intro to the plan followed by the phases of the plan, followed by suggested recipes. However, that wasn’t the case. In all honesty, Tortorich spends little time presenting his diet. As it turns out, “no sugar no grains” is really as complicated as it gets. He spends more time exposing the cesspool the fitness, health, and diet industry has become and even more time chronicling his own journey. I won’t repeat them here for fear of ruining the book, but Tortorich’s battle with his health and fitness demons made for a good read. He is a straightforward guy and cuts through the usual nonsense one would expect from a health expert. His foul language and bluntness may offend some, but I actually kind of found his book refreshing.

For anyone who does want to learn more about the NSNG Diet, Torotorich is a prolific podcaster and Twitter user and he tends to share most of his knowledge for free.

2018 In Review

My 2018 turned out better than I expected. After losing a bunch of weight in 2016 and beginning to run, I lost ground in 2017 when I suffered a calf injury and gained back around 60 lbs. This year I was faced with the choice; I could give up and gain all my weight back or I could fight back one step at a time. I fought back.

As I write this, I’m almost back down to my lowest weight. I ran 487 miles in 2018 and added another 227 on the bike. I ran in an organized 5k, a 10k, a 4 miler, and a 4 mile trail run. I also completed my first duathlon. My hardest run, however, was a 20k trail run that I wasn’t quite ready for. In the Hocking Hills Indian Run I bonked around mile 9 and struggled mightily to finish. But thanks to some grace from God and an angel armed with twizzlers, I survived. And I learned a little bit about myself in the process. I like to be tested. I like to approach the edge. I like to challenge myself … and I hope to continue to do so in 2019.

My goals? I want to complete a full half marathon. I’m signed up for one in April. I also want to return to the Hocking Hills Indian Run and do more than just survive. I would like to finish that one better than I did in 2018. I’m also considering a longer duathlon if I find one that fits into my schedule. Along the way, I would like to run 750 miles and add another 400 on the bike.

To achieve these goals I think I need to clean up my diet a little. I’ve done well, but would like to lose another 20-30 pounds. At 258 pounds, I’m still a little too heavy. I’m thinking about exploring a lower sugar and lower grain diet. That seems a little daunting to me, because I seriously like to eat, but I’ll take it all one step at a time. Hopefully, I’ll find something that works.

I pray you’ve had a good 2018 and I pray your 2019 is fantastic! –

Regardless of what happens to me, I will continue to praise my Lord and Savior. I can only run because of His grace. I’m very much aware that many people who are nearly 400 lbs and diabetic face a much different reality than mine. They would give anything to lose weight and run. I run for them and I run for Him! –

Happy New Year and God bless!