2018: Make It Happen

2017. Weird year.

I’m trying to look back on what 2017 even was. It’s feels like one of those old flashbulbs going off. It was bright, intense, painful, and then it was over.

Let’s recap.

This year came in off 2016 – a year so bad that its awfulness was running joke. So, 2017 to the rescue.

I’m fairly uncool and try to theme my years. The narrative I gave to 2017 was “Go Hard.” What does that mean? Well, I’ve been trying to recapture this lightning in a bottle I had during college. Not the bad first and middle parts, but the explosive end. I probably romanticized (read: definitely) this part of my life, but I felt so much forward momentum. I felt like I was growing, learning, changing. There is truth to this. The issue is when life started to settle down, I realized how tired I was. I had worked too hard and I needed a break. By 2017, I had been “taking a break” for two years going on three and it was showing. I filled my life with other goals, but not the same intensity I had before. The “Go Hard” motif was about trying to recapture that magic, and get back to accomplishing goals.
But, any major plans I had for 2017 were put on hold, not necessarily by choice, but by circumstance. I won’t rehash what I’ve already said before, but the 2016 election changed quite a few things for me.

The emotion that dominated the start of 2017 was anxiety. I was more on edge during that first part of the year than in any point in recent memory. For instance, shortly after the inauguration some friends and I got together to hang out and play Secret Hitler (which is just a fantastic game, by the by) and due to the subject matter, I remember being nervous and shaken by the outcome of each round. In my head, this game was a proxy for the current political situation. I assure you my behavior was not contained solely to the recesses of my mind. I played the game again recently with many of the same people and they recalled my previous demeanor. There were parts of this time where I felt utterly at the mercy of my obsessive emotions and incapable of doing anything about it. I felt immobilized. I did, slowly, find ways to mitigate this though. Primarily through finding actionable ways to try to change the situation, again, see post above.

This newfound political group did add quite a bit of work to my list though. Some of it is self-imposed, some of it is because it needed to get done. Surprisingly though this is probably what actually got me back into a frame of mind with work similar to that I had in college. I felt busier this year than I have in any other time since 2014. I consider this a good thing. I’m healthy and (relatively) full of energy now, so why not use it?
To put the Indivisible stuff to bed here is a small list of things we managed to do in 2017:

* Recruited new members
* Registered new voters
* Made a website
* Got in touch with other Indivisible groups in and out of the state
* Held and attended protests
* Attended street fairs
* Branded
* Got merch (T-Shirts, stickers, business cards)
* Met all Dem candidates running for our district
* Connected with the local parties
* Phone banked for the Virginia elections
* Called our MOC too many times to count
* Got invited to be in a pilot program for fundraising for Indivisible national
* Incorporated as a 501c4 non-profit
* Got our first donation!
* And, personally, learned WAY too much about parliamentary procedure.

Not bad for year one.

As you can probably glean from that list, that is where a majority of my time ended up. I never intended it to, but it was just a lightning rod for all my panic. That means that many of my other goals took a backseat. I never let any of them go, they would just get intermittent bumps of my time. That means, I made progress on almost all of them, but finished hardly any of them. I would explode from one thing to another and drive that goal forward and then let that languish when I found something more interesting to do.

In that sense, my “Go Hard” in 2017, was a success. I went hard for most of the year. Almost always working and doing something, but none of that energy was focused. This doesn’t work with long-term, hard goals and projects. It’s easy to work on things when you are excited it is much harder to do things in the middle, when it’s boring, and a slog, but that is, arguably, the most important part.

That’s why my theme for 2018 is “Make it Happen.” Certainly not going to win any awards for originality, but I think it’s the next step. This year is all about getting back to organization, time management, and grit. I feel I have my work ethic back to where it needs to be. Now it’s all about focus, and drive. 2018 feels demonstrably different than 2017 did. I have all these new responsibilities, but I have a better handle on how and when to deal with them. Not to mention a better handle on my emotional state. I don’t want to feel like anything is solely dominating my time which had been the case. This year is all about attaining those goals, despite the slog, despite the middle. I’m an engineer by training and a programmer by trade so I’m comfortable with systems and frameworks. I want to harness this in 2018 by automating tasks that are huge time sucks, but I still want or need to get done. For instance, Tim and Matt Play is going to be a live show from now on, so I never have to setup, capture, edit, and then upload again. Our million+ fans will be very excited.

There were other things that happened in 2017 though:

I love data, and, like last year, I compiled my exercise history down into this nice little image.

I lifted more than last year, which is apparent when I do certain things these days. I did Yoga X the other day and was able to do some of the balance postures I was never able to do before. I love everything that lifting has done for a more well-rounded fitness, and plan to continue that this year.

One thing that breaks my heart looking at the numbers is that running took a big dip. I felt it, too. I just didn’t devote enough time to it. I want to get back to my 2016 numbers. I had my share of failure and triumph this year with running. Overall, running is something I just love doing, and not setting aside time for it is detrimental to my well-being. Running is as much physical as it is mental. It’s where I think through things and blow off steam. It’s my meditation. So, 2018, more running.

One goal I am attempting is doing a triathlon this year. I’m still going to do marathons, but this seems like a fun, new challenge. I’m garbage at swimming and it seems like a good physical activity for overall fitness.

I’m still doing improv, and if running is how I mentally center myself, improv is where my mind gets to play. My job is fairly analytical, so having this outlet is so nice. As a group, we did so many shows in 2017, and it was super fun. We did end up losing our venue at the end of the year, which sucks, but we are looking. We started and stopped doing long form. And we did a structured show, which was so amazingly fun and different than what we did in the past. Luckily, I recorded the whole thang ding.

We are starting up long form again in about a week and I couldn’t be more excited.

I turned 30(!) and started a video series about my 20s which has been a blast to make. It is the first bit of video content like this I’ve made, and I’m excited to finish the different chapters. I’m learning how to be more candid on camera, and work better with voice over and different camera shots. These videos are all about storytelling which I’ve done only in the most cursory of ways with my previous vlogs. This is forcing me to get better and look at the medium differently. This is by far the most ambitious video project I’ve undertaken, and the most fun. I’m excited to work on and finish this in 2018.

Grad school. These words haunt me. I’ve been talking about this since I graduated and I’m still not in it. 2017 was supposed to be the year. It wasn’t. I took the GRE and did ok, but not to my (or most likely the school’s) satisfaction. I’ve been putting this off for far too long, and it is happening this year. No more excuses, no more procrastinating.

There is something else that happened in 2017. I’m not going get into it here, but needless to say it sucked. Hard.

As I’ve said, 2017 was weird. Lots of highs and lows, and genuine confusion and fear with what to do next. I made it out alive, and if you are reading this, you did, too. I have all these things I want to accomplish in my life, and 2018 is the time to start realizing them. Unlike this post, I need to focus.

Make it happen.

2018 is going to be buck wild.

Results and Conclusions

Where we last left our hero (no, not at all), he had a gloomy, black cloud of shame and regret following him around. And now…the dramatic conclusion.

I did it.

Not to be anticlimactic, but the fact that I did end up doing it is the least interesting part of the story, so now that I got that out of the way, let’s get to the nutmeat of this.

As I said in the previous post, I was incredibly nervous going into this race. To compound my nervousness, I meant to run an 8 miler in the middle of the week to make sure I didn’t get too rusty. On top of motivational problems, there were logistical concerns as well. Daylight saving time hadn’t flipped yet and it was getting dark right after work. I don’t really like running in complete darkness at night. It’s pretty dangerous, and it’s easy to spook people. Dark morning runs don’t bother me as much because there are really only other runners out. Anyway, this is my way of saying I did not get any runs in that week. I was going in cold.

I was glad I was endeavoring to complete this adventure with some friends of mine. It helped take my mind from dwelling on the potential negative outcomes. We headed down on the Friday before the race to pick up our packets, get some food, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. We ended up going to a bar chain downtown called The Yard House because it was close and it was near the convention center where our packets were. The only reason I even mention this is because this was a concern of mine. My stomach was the issue in Chicago so I was nervous about eating anything at all. I knew I needed the energy, but I wanted to make sure I digested it in time. I had a vegan burger and a great IPA. Tried to get some good carbs in, but not overdo it.

We got to the hotel, and went to bed pretty much immediately. I definitely did squeeze in some Mario Odyssey before bed though. How GOOD is that game? Like, for real. What a triumph of design, art, and gameplay. (Oh hey, past writing Matt, future editor Matt here, we are playing you off. This isn’t about how much you love Mario, no matter how good Odyssey is)

I always sleep pretty badly before races, and this was not an exception. I was pretty tightly wound. So, when the alarm went off, I didn’t need to hit snooze. I was up. My friends, Jeff and Stacey, who are far too nice, brought me a cogurt (coconut yogurt) for a pre-race breakfast. I scarfed that down, and proceeded to get ready. I was double and triple checking that I had everything and was properly lubed up.
Ok, sidebar. If you’ve been around me you have already heard me bring this up, and I’ve chosen to become an evangelist with regards to this. Fellas, tape your nips. Anyone who runs long distances wrestles with chaffing; it just comes with the territory. Inevitably, every long-distance race you will see someone with bloody nips. We’ve all been there. Every stride just makes it worse. I’ve vasalined, and while that helps, after a while it soaks into the shirt and you are right back where you started. I decided to just try to avoid it all and slap an X of athletic tape over those bad boys. WORLD. OF. DIFFERENCE. I will not be turning back. I came away from the marathon with zero nipple related injuries. Pride goeth before the fall. Don’t let that be you. TAPE ‘EM UP! P.S.A. over.

I was ready, and vibrating internally. I wanted to start. We got to the race right on time, which was nice. There was not the usual waiting for hours that usually happens. My internal goal was just to keep a steady pace. Don’t worry about time (one caveat was that I need to be under 5 hours). Don’t try to beat last years’ time. With that in mind, I just ran. I pretty much blocked out everyone around me and focused. I was feeling good, but I always feel really good for at least the first 10 miles. I was feeling really good though. The weather was cooperating, for the most part. I had downloaded a new audiobook about game dev (watch out fellow youths, very too cool guy alert) called “Blood, Sweat, and Pixels” that had received positive reviews. Things were falling into place. I had packed my own GU gels, too. I had never done that in a race before. I usually relied on the race stations to provide them. I tried to space them out. I thought every 7 miles I’d eat one. I stuck too that, too, as much as they tasted terrible (tri-berry, more like try and bury the taste. THIS GUY IS A JOKE MACHINE.). In addition to spacing out my water intake, I also didn’t drink any Gatorade they offered. In the past, I had alternated between water and Gatorade. I think this helped, because I always got thirstier after the Gatorade. There is probably no scientific merit to this claim. My guess is superstition.

As I hit the half-way mark, my legs definitely were sore, but they were holding steady. There was a moment, where I realized, that aside from one bathroom break (which took way too long thanks to an absurd line) I had only slowed down to drink water, but never stopped to walk or catch my breath. That had never happened in any of the past marathons. I’d run almost all of them, but I would stop to walk a few times. Each race I tend to come up with some mantra, and this one became “Don’t stop running.”
In addition to mantras, I tend to also partition my races. I do it as the race progresses, but it helps to have mini-goals. Like with any big problem, it’s nice to break it down into more manageable pieces. A marathon is just as much of a mental as a physical hurdle.

These are the mind games I play:

• 1 Mile (Already? That was so fast and easy, you got this.)
• 6 Miles (10k down, peasy. 20 miles to go.)
• 10 Miles (Once you get to the double digits, it will seem easier.)
• 13.1 Miles (Half-way! All you have to do, is this one more time.)
• 16 Miles (Just 4 miles until 20!)
• 20 Miles (Just a 10k away.)
• 21 Miles (Just 5 miles left, a normal mid-week run.)
• 23 Miles (Just a 5k, you do a 5k in your sleep.)
• 25 (One more mile! Leave nothing on the field, times to crank it.)
• 26 (0.2 and it’s banana and medal time.)
• 26.2 FINISHED!

So, I was around mile 18 and it really clicked. Mile 18 is usually when the reality of the situation makes itself known. You just ran 18 miles and you still have to run 8 more. It’s been an overwhelming feeling in the past. The place where the feelings of, “Why on Earth did I do this?” set in. The surprise this time was that at mile 18, I was Gucci. I wasn’t seeing red, all signs pointed smooth sailing ahead.

If we follow my mental map, next up was 20. It came and went; the usual signs of wear were nowhere to be found. Mile 21, 22, 23 passed without much fanfare. I felt the vibrations on my watch, but held firm. Before I had even realized I was at mile 25 and ready to leave it on the field. I booked it (as much book as my legs had left) and just like that I had crossed the finish.

I was no doubt tired and sore, but I just ran an entire marathon without stopping. The one word that came to my head after I finished was how smooth the race felt. It was like going on a long run around town.
To say I was satisfied with the results is an understatement. I was and am ecstatic. I did not beat my time from the previous year, but I felt far more confident coming off this race than any previous. Maybe I got lucky. We all have good days and bad. Maybe the cross-training was paying off. All I know is that I came off this race immediately wanting to do more, and to perform better. One of my goals next year is to work on speed training. I’ve never done it before, I’ve focused solely on distance, but that seems like the next logical step.

I want to take this moment to thank and congratulate my super buds, Jeff and Stacey. Not only have they been super supportive throughout the year, but they were the best companions to have around for the race. It was Jeff’s first marathon, and Stacey’s first half-marathon. They both finished strong, and I couldn’t be prouder of them both. They also just made for a crazy fun, and memorable weekend, even if we were limping around for the rest of Saturday and Sunday.

So, after my last post, how is my overall feeling of shame and disappointment? It’s pretty much vanished. I am still disappointed with how Chicago turned out, but it’s a muted disappointment. My process of using failure as a motivator seems to have helped again. I know there will be a time where this won’t work anymore and I’m not looking forward to it.

I was hoping to increase my marathon number to 5 by years’ end, but I can live with 4, especially if it’s a solid 4. I already applied to Chicago for next year, and signed up for one last half for the year in December.

God, I love running.

Dealing With Failure (Or Not)

If you haven’t surmised from my Spacebook, Twitspace, or Instagram (sorry no cute name for this one) I fancy myself quite the runner. I’m far from the ranks of the elites. If they are the crust of the Earth, I am near the molten core in terms of proximity. The one thing I can do is pack on the distance. It’s been a slow build through the years, but it’s one of the things I can point to and say, “See, I’m a runner, look at the numbers.” Why do I need to point and say I am? Well, it probably has a lot to do with the fact that I still suffer from imposter syndrome when it comes to running, among other things. One thing that has helped curb this feeling is running marathons.

When I ran my first marathon in 2015, it was watershed moment and the culmination of my efforts as well as a solidification into the runner class. Having that medal around my neck made me feel powerful (while the rest of my body was crying out in agony). Once I ran that I knew I caught the bug. This would not be a one-time deal. The next year I decided to up my ambition and try for the Chicago Marathon. This was a far bigger event than the Indy one I had ran the year prior. It was a lottery system, so I was not guaranteed entry. Due to this I signed up for the Indy Monumental Marathon as a backup. As luck would have it I was admitted to Chicago. Great! But I had paid for Indy already! I mean, I ran one last year. What’s one more? They were a month a part, plenty of time for recovery (I also had a half between them, but that wasn’t another full, not a problem). Long story long, I ran them both, and myriad other races I had signed up for. I felt like a fully-fledged member of the running fraternity. Marathons were old-hat!

Fast-forward to this year. I wanted to up my game even more. I got an auto-entry into Chicago this time around because I finished the previous year, so I decided to sign up for that again because I enjoyed it so much. I also signed up for the NYC Marathon, with the same restrictions as Chicago, lottery system. I went drinking with a buddy of mine and he mentioned he would like to do a marathon someday. I still maintain that anyone can do a marathon (barring extreme physical impairments) all it takes it lots of time and miles. Maybe it was the alcohol that convinced him, or maybe it was my silver tongue (in no uncertain terms was it my silver tongue), but he decided he would run one this year. I couldn’t run Indy and NYC because they were only a day apart, but I said I would totally run Indy with him if I didn’t get into NYC. Sadly, I did not get admitted to NYC. So, I signed up to do Indy as well this year. Indy is next week. This is where this post is going to take a bit of a turn.

In the timeline of this story, Indy is next week, which also means that Chicago has already happened, or in my case, didn’t. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I went. I trekked up to the windy apple, fought terrible traffic and inadequate signage, grabbed my packet from McCormick Place, and even inconvenienced an old friend to let me stay with them. On top of that, I went to bed early, did not overeat the night before, got up early got all my gear and preparations done, and got to the race with hours to spare. Everything was moving like clockwork. When we started the race, I was feeling strong. I was going at a great clip. THIS WAS A SUCCESS STORY IN THE MAKING. Well, if I haven’t set you up for this to fall off a cliff, then here it goes, around mile 7 my stomach started to disagree that this was going to be a day to celebrate. It was just a little something at first. However, it started to grow. It felt nauseated. I was eyeing every trashcan along the throngs of cheering supporters. I stopped at a med tent and asked if they had anything for stomachs. Nope, just Tylenol. I decided to keep going. I play with pain. It was not subsiding. I stopped and tried to throw up, but couldn’t get anything to happen. Still, I had come all this way, had to keep going. Around mile 10 I hit another med tent, and thought maybe I was dehydrated or something, so they looked me over and gave me some Gatorade. I rested for a few minutes, and went back out. It only got worse. It felt like there was just a rock in my stomach – immovable. At mile 13, I stopped and got checked over by a doc. I asked what she thought I should do, “Well, you can keep going, but you will probably dehydrate yourself.” I could call it quits, be taken back to the starting line and chalk it up to bad luck. I could continue, and perhaps injure myself even more. This was Sophie’s Choice. I don’t mean to overstate the impact of this decision, but only to show the weight of it on me personally. I really wrestled with it. The decision had been tumbling around in the back of my head since mile 8. I ended up calling it.

I felt a crushing sense of shame while walking to the bus to take me back. The first text I sent about it was incredibly hard to press send on. If any of you know me personally, I’m not really a crier. I have nothing against it. I don’t think it’s emasculating, and I think it’s a pretty healthy thing for humans to do if they feel the need. Even so, I rarely cry. Well, I was on that bus choking back tears. I can blame it on any number of things, but the truth is, I didn’t finish. I carry that around with me. In the grand scheme of everything, it is the most trivial problem to have, but it still sits with me. It doesn’t help, that I’ve had to tell the story of this to countless relatives and others who have asked about it (just got asked about it yesterday as of this post). I don’t fault them at all either, they are taking an interest in what I do. How nice of them! I want to say that my friends, family, and loved ones were and have been just the most supportive about this, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

So, I have this glaring failure just following me around. How do I come to terms with it? I certainly have no idea. If I had misled you, I apologize, I tried to give it away in the title. I can tell you how I’ve dealt with failure in the past though. I’ve used it as a motivator to ensure a different outcome in the future. That’s where I’m at. I have Indy in a week. I have to complete it. I’m nervous. I’m extraordinarily nervous. I have a lot riding on this, mentally. I’ve run a half marathon between Chicago and now, and my stomach caused no issues. These are good signs. I am treating this as a comeback. All I can say, wish me and my cohorts luck next week. I will report back with how it went.

I’ve been in the quote mood, so I will depart this post with the mantra I kept repeating when I ran my first marathon.

“The best way out is always through.”
― Robert Frost

P.S. I am not a psychiatrist and do not advocate dealing with any issues you may have in this manner. Truth be told, this is probably a really bad way to go about it.