Running in Public

As mentioned, I was on a work trip to Washington DC last week, and the week prior to that I was on vacation in Delaware. There has been a fair amount of traveling this year, with several trips down to Florida before we moved, and some of the ins and outs of taking a new job that lives in a sales department.  On each and every one of these trips – including the last two weeks – I brought running gear.  Shoes, clothes, Road ID, hat, headphones, the whole getup.  I was ready for it.

And I can count on one finger how many times I actually went for a run.  In the last two weeks, that number was zero.

These last two weeks have been strange, because in both cases I was in a place that I ordinarily would have been excited to go running in.  In Delaware we were less than a mile from the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk (and beach), and in Washington DC I was about a mile from the Washington Monument.  So the beach and the National Mall – two spectacular places to run, particularly in the early morning hours that I typically go. Instead of rocking it, though, I stayed up too late and ignored my alarm in the morning. I just didn’t go.

The failure was so real that I was forced to do some reflecting on it, to try and pin down what is going on inside that causes me to sabotage and outright ignore these efforts.  And I think I figured it out.

I’m afraid somebody might see me.

You see, I’m a fat guy.  Especially now.  And what I think about when people see me running is that they are seeing this guy:

2014 JFK Runway Run
2013 JFK Runway Run

or maybe this guy:

2013 Rock & Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon
2013 Rock & Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon

Or definitely this guy:

2014 Branford Road Race
2014 Branford Road Race

When I’m at home, I leave to go running at 5am.  And at that hour, I generally see no people.  Maybe one or two.  There is nobody at home awake, there is nobody on the road, there is just not much going on.  In a hotel, though, at 5am I’m going to run into somebody. I’m going to see a night clerk, or another guest at the little gym, or the doorman on my way out to the streets for a run.  And I’m going to be totally self conscious that they are judging me.  Or, worse, laughing at me.

Now, I know from experience that my instinct on this one is incorrect.  95 times out of 100, people don’t even notice.  We are so wrapped up in our own little worlds – we don’t care.  And the other 5 times out of 100, when people do notice, they’re almost always doing the “good for him” in their heads.  That’s what I’m doing if I ever notice somebody running that is not what you’d expect from a traditional runner.

But, for all of that, I still really struggle to go.  My mechanism, by the way, is to sabotage the morning by staying up entirely too late the night before.  This is another place where home is better, because my wife won’t let that go on for too long without shaming me.  Or at least making me feel awkward because I have to answer the question “what the hell were you DOING up that late, anyway?”

This wasn’t really a problem when I was at the peak of my running “career” (HA!).  I felt good enough that it didn’t matter so much.  I’m not there now, and I need to get over it.

Also, for the record, I’m incredibly torn about posting that picture from the Virginia Beach Half up there.  The one with my belly hanging out.  I really hate that picture.

7 Things to Remember When Traveling

This week I had a quick trip down to Atlanta for a business meeting.  Left on Tuesday afternoon, came back on Wednesday afternoon.  Traveling tends to completely hose up my weekly food and running routine, though I’m starting to notice some patterns. Without further ado, here are seven things that it is important to remember when traveling:

#1 – Calories consumed in an airport count. So one of the associations that I’ve always had with traveling is an all-bets-are-off mentality about food (though, to be fair, that was a common mentality whether I was traveling or not).   This was both about quantity (hey – gotta fuel up so I can sit on this airplane or in this car!) and quality (immediate access to beef jerky and Dr. Pepper and cheese danishes?  Umm, OK!).  I’m not sure where that association came from, but as far back as I can remember it has been there.  It is as though travel food magically is different than “regular” food. So, yeah … it is not.  Crappy food is still crappy food.  And too much of it is still too much of it.  Walk away from the fried chicken.

This is still fried chicken.  Tasty, glorious fried chicken.
This is still fried chicken. Tasty, glorious fried chicken.

#2 – Water is your friend. We hear that airplanes dehydrate us all the time.  We hear it so much that we might be tempted to ignore it, or block the message. Yeah – don’t do that. Because dehydration on airplanes is real.  That little thing that you twist to get the cool air blowing on top of your head?  That thing is blowing almost perfectly dry air that is nearly guaranteed to make your skin itchy, chap your lips on the spot, and drive you to extreme thirst.  And ginger ale, while great on airplanes, doesn’t do the rehydration thing enough. Drink your water.

#3 – Bring your running shoes.  They are a pain in the ass to pack.  And you might wind up not using them while you are there because of unforeseen timing pressures.   But if you don’t bring them, you are guaranteed to miss a workout.  Guaranteed.  Just knowing that I’d have to justify having brought the damn things is sometimes enough to get me to get up and go for a run.  Take your shoes – you’ll be better for it.

#4 – Plan accordingly for treadmill access. Whichever hotel you’re at almost certainly has a fitness center.  Most of them that I’ve seen have a large stability ball, a weight-machine-system thing, an elliptical or two, and at most 4 or 5 treadmills.  Some only have 2 or 3 treadmills.  Now, because you were traveling and didn’t want to pack anything more than shoes, socks, shorts, & shirt, you aren’t geared up to run outside.  You’re also in unfamiliar territory and may not want to risk getting lost.  So you plan on getting up and hitting the treadmill for those morning miles. You … and everybody else in the hotel. Rush hour (roughly 6am to 8am) at the hotel fitness center is almost certainly going to be busy.  And unless you are OK with the elliptical or something different, you may be disappointed by treadmill access.  If possible, plan to go during a strange time (evening, middle of the day, etc.) or get there earlier than you normally would. Also – treadmills suck.

Soul crushing, isn't it?  I hurt just looking at it...
Soul crushing, isn’t it? I hurt just looking at it…

#5 – There will be doughnuts. When people are hosting a meeting that includes out-of-town guests, they naturally want to be seen as hospitable and accommodating.  They want to be good friendly hosts.  And for whatever reason, that usually means doughnuts.  Plates and plates of doughnuts. They’re going to look yummy.  And let’s face it – they’re going to BE yummy.  There are several ways to deal with this – politely eat half of one, or even a whole one that you considered in your broader day’s meal plan, or claim you’re diabetic or whatever.  But you’d better have a plan for how you’re going to deal with that glorious plate of doughnuts, or it is going to deal with you.

Doesn't it look yummy?
Doesn’t it look yummy?

#6 – Shit happens. So on my trip this week, the travel gods were not with me.  They chose yesterday to get the pound of flesh they were owed for a largely uneventful travel season for me.  And that meant, for a large list of reasons, I was stuck looking for dinner in suburban Atlanta at roughly 11pm on Tuesday night.  And I was unable to resist the siren call of the black letters in the yellow boxes.

Picture taken at 10:49pm in Duluth, Georgia.  True story.
Picture taken at 10:49pm in Duluth, Georgia. True story.

Yep – Waffle House. And I’m just going to straight-up tell you like it is … my triple order of hash browns (scattered, smothered, and covered) was glorious. Glorious. And I don’t feel guilty. However…

#7 – If you know that kind of thing is likely to happen, plan accordingly the rest of the week. Yeah – I knew that was likely to happen.  So I’ve mostly planned accordingly.  But you DO have to plan accordingly, because otherwise the whole thing will come off the rails.   How do you stay on plan and strategy when you travel?