The glory and humility of choosing new running shoes

IMG_8676I like to spread my business around to local running stores. But my longest relationship is with Dick Pond Athletics, whose founder I first met in the late 1970s when he was selling running and wrestling shoes out of his garage.

Last evening I visited the St. Charles (IL) store to cash in a $15 customer reward voucher and buy a new pair of running shoes. I was greeted by a fresh young face working the floor that I had not met before. She is a recent graduate of Illinois State University and is studying to become a pediatric physical therapist.


I’ve grown accustomed to walking into running stores and telling them what I want. For the last four years that has been the Saucony Triumph ISO in size 11.5. I’ve worn probably 12-15 pairs of those in various colors.

But the most recent pair feels like their design had changed with a drop in the heel a bit. My Achilles tendons tend to hurt while running in them. So my alternate pair of New Balance 880s in sky blue with accents of bright green have been my “go to” shoe for a while. They’re what I’ve worn for speed training and races. But even that pair of shoes has close to 500 miles on them. It was time to get a new pair.

Testing the waters

My helper rolled up my pant legs and had me walk on the treadmill in socks. I told her all my flaws, which were clearly evident on the screen. Slightly bowed legs. Varus angle a bit more on the left left. And so on.

She pulled out a set of New Balance 860s and a set of 880s as requested. But also a pair of Brooks (maybe the Ghost, or the Glycerin, I didn’t check) and a set of Saucony Rides.  That’s the shoe I was training in before I got hooked on the Triumph after a Saucony rep gifted me a pair outside Geneva Running Outfitters.

Sweet surprises

So I appreciate consistency but always keep an open mind. That’s the liberal in me, and it has produced some sweet surprises over the years in many facets of life. Variety is good when it comes to running shoes and I’m still quite proud of having discovered a set of Puma running shoes a few years back that were one of the most comfortable pair of running shoes I’ve ever worn. But most running stores don’t sell Puma. So I gave up trying to stick with that brand.

When training big miles in my youth I always alternated running shoes day-to-day. That kept my legs from getting too grooved by wearing only a single model (or brand) of shoes.  Avoid overuse injuries. Those are never sweet surprises

Cardinal sins

Back in those days I will also admit to committing the cardinal sin (and boy, that phrase that has taken on a whole new meaning, hasn’t it) of wearing running shoes far beyond their prescribed life.

In particular I wore a set of New Balance training flats until there was literally a hole under the forefoot. But I liked those shoes because until the sole wore through, they felt good. They were navy blue with a silver N on the side. Simple and classic. But when I felt pebbles poking me under the ball of my foot during a 20K Chicago Distance Classic race in 1982 I realized I’d pushed my luck a little far. That was a humbling moment actually.

Planned obsolescence

These days I don’t let shoes get anywhere near that worn out. My body won’t let me. Which is also why I let the sales gal at Dick Pond put me through some tests and pinch my arches to see if I was in any kind of obvious pain. That was all okay. What did hurt was a poke on the Achilles. “I need to stretch,” I admitted.

I’d also mentioned that my hips were tight and tired. So the gal walked to the front of the store and brought over an elastic band. Then she showed me a few exercises to do to strengthen my hip flexors. I swallowed my pride and listened closely to what she was telling me. Even us old dogs need to be reminded how to lift our legs once in a while.

Good choice

Her counsel made me feel a lot better about my purchase. Those Brooks just felt a little low for my needs and the Saucony Glides felt good too. But gosh darn if those New Balance did not feel snappy with my running form and foot plant while skimming along at 6mph on the treadmill.

The glory and humility of buying new running shoes is that its wonderful to have that fresh out of the box feeling on your feet, but it certainly doesn’t cure all your bio-mechanical flaws or weaknesses by any means.

Instead it’s a precious illusion we create for ourselves with a pair of new running shoes. That feeling lasts a few hundred miles and then we start all over again. Glory and humility just seem to run hand in hand.



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Thought bubbles from the pool edge

The perfect lane

Thought bubble.pngI think I’ve found the perfect window for getting a lane at the Vaughn Center pool. It pays to get there after the Early Morning Diehards leave and just before the Slow Paddlers arrive.

That means arriving at 6:15, which is the time when lanes are open and I can swim in my favorite depth of water: five feet.

That way I can stand there and put fins on without climbing out of the water. It also works well for a quick change of hand paddles or grabbing the pool buoy.

The only thing bad about developing habits like that is getting so accustomed to certain routines and conditions that when you’re forced to swim in a different lane the changes throw you off.

I’ve seen people who get all upset and agitated about things like that. You can tell when they arrive at the pool to find their favorite lane filled. They pace around the pool deck like aardvarks at an ant hole on a rainy day. Creatures of habit don’t like change.

So…the trick in all of life is to not get too fixed in your ways. Otherwise when old age creeps up the love of habit produces a cranky old lady or a bastardly old man.

Water temps

Thought bubble 4The water felt cooler than usual today at the Vaughn. I noticed on the way back to the locker room that the pool temperature is listed at 80 degrees. Not too hot, or too cold.

Perhaps it was off a degree or two on the cool side this morning. But cool pool water is far better than too warm. Swimming laps in a too-warm pool gets uncomfortable in a hurry. I never thought I’d believe that given how much I used to hate getting into cool pool water. But now I’d rather deal with a bit of a shiver at the start than overheating like a frog on a frying pan as the body warms up.

Lifeguard life

The young man working the lifeguard chair this morning looked so bored.

I sincerely thought he was going to die.

He was half slumped over and looking like he dreaded being there watching mostly older people splash back and forth in their swim routines.

I get it dude, the work isn’t exciting.

But I popped up below his feet and told him, “Hey, we appreciate what you’re doing. Having lifeguards is important.”

He managed a nudge of a smile, if you could call it that. Later he was working at the checkout desk while I was leaving the pool and I told him, “Have a nice day.”

He looked up from under his hat and muttered, “What?” I said, “Hope you have a nice day.”

“Oh, yeah,” he replied. Don’t try too hard kid. You might hurt yourself.

New Wave

And listen, the lifeguard life isn’t all that bad. Occasionally, and depending on your sexual orientation, you’ll get to glimpse some bodies worth going to work about. They might even be built like this model posing for New Wave Swim Buoys on Instagram. Sex still sells even when it’s redundant.

Bleach baby

As I was swimming this morning, the smell of bleach kept entering my nose. That scent is just a touch off the chlorine used to keep the water clean and swimmable. But it is also a bit more harsh, and it gave me the creeps to smell it just over the water.

It took a couple laps before I realized that it was the guy mopping the pool deck who was using bleach. The odor had spread across the pool water. Every breath that I took offered a touch of that acrid smell. Funny how we can swim in some chemicals while others would kill us.

Speed and pace and age

Thought bubblePace is a funny thing too.

I’m now swimming between 1:50 and 1:55 per 100. This past weekend a friend told me about a 65-year-old swimmer that he’d met who can swim 2:00 for a 200. “He’s fast,” my thirty-something friend told me.

I guess that gives me hope that I can still get faster at this swimming thing because I have so little history at it.

With running, I burned a lot of mojo back in my heavy-duty training days. There’s no way that I’ll ever set a PR of any consequence in running. I can’t even run a 75 second quarter mile these days, much less four of them in a row, or finish a 10K at 5:00 pace. I did that once upon a time. Almost forty years ago.

But swimming? I can legitimately still improve at that. So I’m like one of those beginning runners I used to meet at races who were trying to break 30:00 for a 5K the first time. All full of expectation and wonder, while real swimmers roll that eyes behind me.

My best 200 swim time currently stands at 3:40 or so. I’d have to chop off 1:40 to come anywhere near a 2:00 time for the 200. Let’s be honest: that’s not going to happen.

People swimming that fast at my age (and older) are like cyclists who’ve kept their fitness up all the way through their 40s and 50s. Muscle memory and endurance carry over from consistency and concerted maintenance. Typically, that’s what enables “aging” athletes to achieve much faster times than one might imagine possible. But even Lance Armstrong recently admitted that he could not ride and finish the Tour de France these days. Age has caught up with him.

So I can still improve at swimming, but there are likely limits to how low that progress can go. That would have had to start forty years ago.

Or maybe not. I’ve also met plenty of burned out swimmers and beat up runners who never want to get in the pool or run another step in their lives. It’s all relative.

A lot of things can happen

Thought bubble 2While changing out of my swim suit in the locker room, an elderly man that I see at the Vaughn quite often was just arriving to work out. Many days I’ll see him sitting with a friend who works the front desk for the track. They sit and talk for hours, it seems. The Vaughn is this guy’s social life. Nothing wrong with that.

I asked him how it’s going. He replied, “So far, so good. But the day’s young and a lot of things can happen.”

Okay, you can make that as profound a statement as you’d like. But he’s right.

Yesterday I met an artist friend who found out just six weeks ago that he has a blood cancer. He is now in treatment and needs a bone marrow transplant treatment that will be flown down from Canada where his “match” donated the T Cells he needs to survive.

He was growing tired and visited the doctor and now his life has changed entirely. We talked about the importance of good medical care and also about faith. I stopped short of saying a prayer with him but the 30-minute talk we had served as a prayer of sorts.

That’s how it is in life. Every day is like a pool workout in which you immerse yourself in the day’s activities and haul yourself out when it’s over. So much goes on beneath the surface just to keep yourself afloat and going in the right direction. Some of that we confess to others. Much of it we keep to ourselves.

When each day is done the things that happen to us rise up to our brains and then float away like thought bubbles. Then we fall into sleep where the echoes of the air we breath come floating up in dreams. This world we live in seems so much like a mirage at times, or a pool where the bubbles we make are the lone and lingering trace of our existence.




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Drugs from days gone by

IMG_8545A set of familiar orange bottles with Walgreens labels on them have rattled around my bathroom cabinets for several years now. The Hydrocodone / Acetaminophen bottle from October 25, 2013 was filled with painkillers prescribed after surgery on my clavicle after the bike wobble accident in September 2013.

The Cephalexin antibiotic 500 mg capsules might have been from treatment of a finger infection caused by a sliver in the middle digit of my left hand. But I might also have taken that medicine for a bout of cellulitis caused by a cat bite. That led to loss of my good gut bacteria and even more antibiotics to kill off the c-diff that vexed my innards for months on end.

Another bottle of Hydrocodone was prescribed after my meniscus surgery this past April, 2018. I never took any of those pills because I wasn’t in much pain and actually got up the day after surgery and walked two miles to begin rehab.

These were the drugs from days gone by. Painkillers. Antibiotics.

But now, into the medical disposal unit at our City Hall they went. It’s important to dispose of these substances correctly. We don’t want them showing up in our water supply or falling into the hands of those who might abuse the opioids.

In case you had not heard, there is a genuine opioid crisis going on

Duel in the Sun

duel-hot-streak-1529606748If you’ve never read the book Duel in the Sun about the lives of marathoners Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley, at least half of the book deals with the addiction Beardsley developed while taking painkillers to deal with the effects of a brutal farm accident. The runner’s life got turned inside out due to his addiction to those narcotics. He essentially constructed an entirely parallel life, forging prescriptions with pharmacies across an an entire region of Minnesota in order to gain access to more opioids. His dependence on those drugs had turned into a full-blown addiction.

These are powerful substances. I’ve also been prescribed Vicodin during my ACL repair surgery and recovery. But I didn’t take all of them either. I wound up putting those in a drug disposal bin at some pharmacy as well.

Drugs are great things when used at their appointed times, and for appointed purposes. I appreciate the pain-killing effects of Ibuprofen, for example. There are no noticeable side effects if taken judiciously. The same even goes for the Citalopram I take as a management tool for anxiety and depression in maintaining good mental health.

The personality of drugs

During high-stress periods as a caregiver for both my late wife and father (one with ovarian cancer and the other a stroke victim) I was prescribed a drug called Lorazepam to help me cope with anxiety. Rather than a maintenance or stabilizing drug, Lorazepam’s purpose was immediate relief from stress. It really helped me sleep and deal with the pressures of medical and personal supervision.

But a doctor’s experiment with placing me on Zoloft, did not work out so well. It produced in me a state of very high agitation and feelings of loss of control. That treatment ended in just four days.

Eventually the need for Lorazepam receded. I’d been refilling the bottles with a pharmacy for several months. Then during a doctor’s visit he asked, “You’re still taking this?”

Turns out Lorazepam isn’t really a drug recommended for long-term use. So I started physically cutting down the pill sizes by lopping them in half, then into quarters. Over two-week period the pill size got down to a fleck of the drug, and then none at all. And I was fine.

But I know other people who took Lorazepam that could not kick the habit. It’s a simple fact that drugs affect people differently. My Zoloft experienced proved that to me. And that’s what makes drug prescription on the front end and possible addiction on the back end so difficult to treat.

It can be difficult to separate the physical effects of the drugs from the complex variety of components at work in each individual. drugs both reflect and adapt to the personality of an individual. That’s not a clinical assessment by any means. I’m no psychiatrist and will never pretend to be. It’s just common sense when you introduce a substance designed to impact levels of neurological substances that occur naturally in your brain and body are going to react differently for some people than for others.

Evolution within

Bottomlands.jpgTo draw an allegory of sorts: Drugs become their own environment at some point. And like all aspects of evolution, the interaction between the drug and the user creates a form of natural selection from within. That’s why some treatments involve attempts to effectively replace, contain or erase chemicals that work on the internal environments of the brain and body.

Depending on which direction this ‘evolution’ takes, it can have dramatic effects on the internal ecosystem of an individual. In the process, it can also produce a “survival of the fittest” scenario in which the personality of that individual either survives, is changed, or is replaced almost entirely by the influence of the drugs involved. As you can imagine, that is a “for better or worse” scenario depending on the degree of impact a specific drug (or drugs) has on that individual.

For some it’s a lapping at the feet. For others, it’s a tsunami.

Running out of mind space

I witnessed a top runner on our college team succumb to the effects of pot. That’s “not supposed to happen” according to some advocates for the drug. I personally believe it should be legalized, but I also recognize its potential impacts on some individuals.

The pot use by one of our teammates just seemed to remove any motivation to succeed. Pot seemed to occupy the entire personality of this individual, and that was that. It all took place followed a freshman year cross country season in which that runner nearly became an All-American, a relatively rare achievement. But after that, the pot took over his mind space.

Another teammate ultimately did lose his life to alcoholism. The early symptoms of hard consumption were already there in college. We found it funny and joked about it at the time. But actually, it really wasn’t funny at all.

Enduring qualities

Drugs really can take over the time and space of your life. Those who go into treatment learn how strong the discipline must be to break the cycles of dependency. That’s why endurance sports can be an effective road to recovery. Replacing the quick-fix reactions provided by drugs with a slow-fix treatment through exercise may not be the cure-all, but it holds potential to bring balance back to the internal ecosystem and gain a foothold again in the evolution of personality.

The same holds true for treatment of mental health challenges. It’s all about evolving a way to cope with the drives and desires can vex us if we don’t understand the triggers well enough to put them back in place. My own episodes with alcohol abuse were mostly that: drinking too much and too fast. It all had to do with insecurity and anxiety at times. But it nearly killed me once, and I’m lucky alcohol poisoning didn’t take me down that night of a cross country party in which I drank to such excess my liver hurt the next day and I could not move for hours.

Parents who worry about kids going off to college and falling into drinking have legitimate concerns. Between peer pressure and the odd circumstance where a person gets rolling and doesn’t know when to stop, those are high-risk moments in our lives. At all stages of our existence it pays to think about the interior landscape of our minds as an environment unto itself. We must tend our respective gardens, as Voltaire once stated in the book Candidate. Otherwise we may not survive and thrive.

Drugs from days gone by remind us that it is possible and important to weed and be mindful of what grows within us, and why.  Then we can get on with the opportunity to fill our lives with the type of purpose we choose.





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Wanted: dead or alive

dead or alive.jpgOver a lifetime of athletics, I’ve been fairly fortunate to only break and tear a few things. But they’re starting to add up these days, and it’s got me thinking about how it all started, and where it’s going.

The main thing that contributed to injuries early in my life was a deep obsession with winning. I competed so hard on the playground at games like kickball there were repeated bumps on the head from smashing face first into the swingset in center field that served as the “wall” for home runs. Anything that was kicked over the top of the swingset like a field goal counted as a home run.

Unless, of course, someone could charge out there and catch the ball on the other side. I’d had enough success stealing home runs from other players by running beyond the swingset to steal their glory that I judged it worth the occasional goose egg on the forehead caused by smashing into the bare metal poles sunk into the asphalt.

Competitive abandon

The same competitive abandon spread into all the sports I played, including backyard tackle football games. The older brother of a best friend once shoved me out of bounds so hard I tumbled into a roughly constructed cement ditch and struck the side of my head. That gave me a massive head wound and a concussion so bad I was seeing double on the way back home. I’m not sure if they conducted a lobotomy but the stitches were many.  So perhaps I’m lucky that I didn’t die from that incident or many other near-fatal encounters involving my head and other body parts.

Line drives and other hazards

At some point, the universe must have decided, “Well, we can’t seem to kill this kid. Let’s just keeping steal body parts to remind him of his mortality.”

Which is why a baseball eventually struck me clean in the mouth, knocking out a front tooth to the point that it was literally hanging by a tenuous bloody thread. The coaches that day reached my father by phone, and he rushed down to the field to drive his bloodied kid to the dentist, who laughed a bit and then stuck a post in my upper gums. Then he shoved the tooth back into place and said, “There. Fixed.”

And it stuck. But with time the tooth slowly died and turned gray. It wasn’t horrid-looking, but it wasn’t the kind of look that made girls swoon either. It ultimately survived a bout with braces to straighten the rest of my toofers. But eventually, I hired another dentist who tore out the old dead tooth and put a newer-looking fake tooth in my head. Such are the compromises we make to keep up appearances in this world. We want to look good whether our body parts are dead or alive. Or neither.


Which brings me to another big injury that took place later in life. I tore my ACL playing indoor soccer. I waited six months and then had ACL replacement surgery. The choice I had to make was whether to take a bit of my own patellar tendon (below the kneecap) or stick a cadaver part in there. “The first works best but takes longer to heal,” the doctor told me. So I made the dumb decision to go with the cadaver part. I called it Jake in honor of whoever the “donor” was in life.

Well, Jake died all over again when I re-tore the ACL two years later. What fun.

But again, was Jake ever really alive again? Was that cadaver ACL expected to revascularize? All I knew was that I lost Jake to another tear, but was it dead or alive?

Meniscus fracas

Years later I stupidly jumped over a traffic cone during a running race held on snowy roads in Wisconsin. That stunt hyperextended my knee and caused a meniscus tear that didn’t really cause much problem, until it did.

So the doctors again operated on my left knee with their arthroscopic toys and clipped off the “excess” meniscus that was now uselessly dangling and sticking outside the joint. And that hurt. So they warned: “That tissue will die if we don’t get rid of it.” At least that’s what I thought I heard the doctor say. In any case, that meant another chunk of my body was gone. I’m starting to shrink from the inside out it seems.

Root of the problem

And joy of joys… this week it was back into the dentist’s chair for a root canal. The endodontist numbed me up good and then used a needle-like drill to bore out the root canal material. It felt weird. It also meant that I’d be living with yet another dead body part.

At this rate, I’ll be dead before I ever get around to dying. And I’m not even really old yet. The years to come will surely provide a ton of surprises, what with a family history that’s not exactly encouraging on a few fronts.

In the meantime, I’m one of the healthiest members of the walking dead you’ll ever see. And Halloween’s just around the corner. I’ll see you around.


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Being a wholly gaseous planet is not all that it’s cracked up to be

Chai tea latte.jpgA few years back I bought a jug of whole milk at the grocery store. I wasn’t really thinking about the “whole” thing, just grabbed the jug and threw it in the cart.

Growing up, we drank whole milk quite regularly. No problems. Then as 2% came on the market, our family adapted to that because my mother bought it. Occasionally she’d buy skim milk and one of my brothers would cry out in protest: “Mom! You bought chalk water again!” Nothing tasted worse than skim milk on Rice Krispies.

That’s one of the ways we all learn to deal with compromises in life. Our tastes sometimes shift out of choice, but at other times they change out of necessity.

A sliver of reality

It’s a plain fact that as we age, seemingly harmless mistakes can turn into genuine problems. A few years back I got a sliver in my middle finger that quickly produced a nasty infection. Had I not gotten it treated, the finger could have been lost. Lesson learned. Take slivers seriously.

Other mistakes have less serious yet equally distracting consequences. And that brings us to the primary content of the iced chai tea latte I was purchasing at a local coffee shop, and how that turned me into a wholly gaseous planet of my own.

For starters: I don’t like any sort of coffee. None. But chai tea is an effective compromise. The latte milk content enriches the experience. Typically I remember to request 2% milk, or the barista person asks for specifics. All good there.

But sometimes we all forget our respective roles at the counter, or assumptions get made about the desired contents. Then they can become a routine. That’s how the whole “whole milk” formula got started at my local coffee shop.

Having a blast

There was one major problem with consuming those whole milk-based-iced-chai-tea-lattes. Lactose intolerance. The whole milk was gassing me out fearsomely. My gut was going hog wild and that mean quite a few “leans” in the office chair. I kept the essential oils fan running full bore in my office even though the whole milk gas wasn’t making me stink up the place. I felt like I’d swallowed drops of Jupiter.

But tell me did the wind sweep you off your feet
Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day
And head back to the milky way
And tell me, did Venus blow your mind
Was it everything you wanted to find
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there

This happened twice in as many weeks. So I stopped to think: What’s causing all this? It didn’t take long to figure it out. The only time I got gassy was when I visited the local coffee shop.

Jupiter.jpegSo it’s 2% milk for me at all times now. I’m tired of sitting a half inch off my chair on a cushion of expelled air.

Farting is fun sometimes, and it’s funny at others. But not when you’re trying to get work done and live in peace within your own space.

Being wholly gaseous is only fun if you’re the actual planet Jupiter and that’s because it’s made mostly of hydrogen and helium with what looks like a little whole milk mixed in.

But Jupiter can afford to fart, because it sits out there in the blackness of space without anyone to really check whether it is stinking up its part of the solar system or not. And when Jupiter farts, it makes really beautiful little squiggles on the surface.

When I fart nothing really artistic happens on the surface of my body. The best I can do is wave my hand, swear on a Bible not to drink whole milk again, and get back to work.

Being wholly gaseous is simply not all that it’s cracked up to be.


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Hurricane Florence unleashing a crapload of hurt on North Carolina

Let’s face it. Being immature about stuff like this is fun. I just read an entire thread of slightly dirty jokes riffing on an image a Facebook friend posted of the weather report for Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas.

Storm Track.jpgThat’s what happens when people in the back room at the news room get giggling about the thrust of a storm. Only to Sue and I, the image means we’ll not likely head to Wilmington, North Carolina for scheduled mid-October Half Ironman. She’s doing the whole race and I’m booked to run the half-marathon as part of a Triathlinlaws team with my sister-in-law Julie Dunn.

Hog wild

Hi_j0251.JPGAnd I just read a Chicago Tribune and also a New York times story about how that region of North Carolina is known for its industrial-grade hog and turkey farming. Regulations on waste storage were rather loose in the region, and when a big storm hit there in 1999, the first problem was drowned hogs and turkeys. They even had to float dead, smelly hogs down the rivers to dispose of them.

But that’s not the worst part. The massive pits of hog and turkey manure on those industrial farms also spilled over the banks of containment facilities. That meant incredible volumes of hog shit clogged the rivers as well. In one of the most massive understatements of all time, the North Carolina governor at the time admitted, ”We do have a practical problem here,” Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. said.

hogs.jpgSo we can’t be sure that North Carolina has done a damned thing about its hog and turkey industries. After all, the rest of the states in the deep Southeast United States are not exactly known for their progressive regulatory policies. Excuse the broad categorizations, but Southerners generally do not like to be told what to do either. Consider the lyrics from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song “Sweet Home Alabama,”

Well I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well I heard ole Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A southern man don’t need him around anyhow

So I’m here to suggest that Southerners would rather “dig in” than be told how to manage their “practical problem,” as Governor James Hunt so politely put it. So the hog pits overflowed a few years back? Most likely the farmers just dug bigger pits to hold even more hog shit. Thus we’re facing a situation where the entire five state region, shown here in this National Weather Service graphic, is going to empty its bowels into the Atlantic Ocean like a bout of diarrhea from hell. The dolphins are going to be disgusted.

Wilmington NC

To make things even tastier, it was reported by the Chicago Tribune the 1999 storm that hit North Carolina flushed all that hog shit into a toxic mix with waste fluids from factories and even gasoline tanks. The overwhelming odor was so strong that cleanup workers were forced to apply Vicks Vapo-Rub under their noses to combat the stench.

Classic stuff

Now we’ve all smelled Vicks Vapo-Rub. My mom used to spread it on my chest when I was a little kid with a cold. It’s a treatment designed to penetrate and “sooth” inflamed cavities. Here’s the active ingredient as described online:

A:” The active ingredients in Vicks VapoRub are camphor (a cough suppressant and topical analgesic),eucalyptus oil (a cough suppressant) and menthol (a cough suppressant and topical analgesic). The inactive ingredients in Vicks VapoRub include cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, petrolatumthymol andturpentine oil.”

That’s a lot of chemical weapony called to bear in one substance. It was not reported whether the Vick’s was truly effective in combatting the smell of hog slop Gone Wild.

Hog Slop Alley

But I can relate to that hog shit scenario, because one time while driving through Southwest Wisconsin on my way to Decorah, Iowa, we rounded a broad and gradual bend on a far flung country road somewhere west of Platteville. As the road curved, we saw a three hundred yard stretch of road completely covered in hog shit. The light brown river had flowed over the banks of the farm containment pit to form a hog shit slick so long and smelly we couldn’t roll up our windows fast enough. We almost gagged. Then a little farther down the road there we passed over a dead skunk with our car windows still closed. The power of that nasty combo almost made us puke in our own laps.

Adding insult to nasal injury, that hog slop clung like cement to the underside of my Plymouth Arrow. It clung there for days. So while we were camping, it seemed as if every goddamned bottlefly in Winnieshiek County, Iowa brought its friends to come taste the smorgasbord of shit coating the underside of my faithful auto. The buzz of those insects around my car was audible from fifty feet away.

Finally we could not stand the scene any longer. So despite the fact we were traveling on a classically thin post-collegiate budget, with barely enough money for gas and food for the trip, we took the Arrow to the car wash. We rolled up the car windows as we trundled through the automatic wash. At that point, the undercarriage spray shoved the stink of hog slop right up through the vents, turning the entire car, air conditioning and all, into a strange form of a shit sauna.

What’s next? 

Hurrice imageSo I’m thinking about the scenario down there near Wilmington, North Carolina. The hurricane is supposed to strike full force against the coast, then hang around for several days pumping thirty inches of rain into the landscape. I’m picturing hogs again floating down the river in the company of dead, sodden turkeys rolling like huge, bloated pillows of sodden feathers. The world of all that dead meat will travel up the seaboard and reach migrating turkey vultures all the way up in Vermont.  The rush south on migration will be fantastic to watch as th

e birds race the chance to take choose between white and dark meat. In the natural

world, the concept of a Thanksgiving feast is all relative. Road kill and dead things are delicacy in the world of carrion eaters.

So you can picture the sight of all those hogs and turkeys floating down the Piedmont (that’s not a urine pun) heading toward Wilmington. They’ll all be bobbing in the streams of shit pouring down from five states, and aiming for the ocean. It would be a good time to hold the National Carp Festival in case anyone’s listening. Carp absolutely love shitty water.


TrumpBSSo I’m not sure I’ll be advising my wife and sister-in-law to go swimming in the ocean come mid-October. The levels of fecal pollution along the seaboard may be equal to those flowing down the Potomac from Washington several hundred miles to the north. Up there the problem isn’t hog shit, but daily torrents of disclaiming bullshit flowing from the White House straight into the Chesapeake Bay. Even the oysters, clams and crabs are talking about moving out of the Chesapeake if the water quality gets any worse.

Alas, there seems to be no way to stop a real shitstorm once it gets started. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in North Carolina, and all over the East Coast for that matter. My advice is don’t hold your breath, but clamp your nose a while. It helps to get through it all.



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Wearing down the competition, and not yourself

Pleasant Prairie 2

So many endurance events come down to a contest of attrition. In a distance race, the matter of who wins and who loses often comes down to the competitor that can hang on the longest.

During one of my triathlon races this summer, I was joined about a mile out by a guy that turned to me and said he was “keying” on me to help him reach his pace. I ran with him the last 800 meters as a kind of favor. And lost a podium spot by one second.

Ah, well. Having won and lost a number of races by mere seconds, or mere inches in some cases, I found it hard to be upset by the “loss” of third place by so little a margin. Somewhere a guy my age was celebrating his own good fortune. Is there really such a thing a Good Karma? Perhaps I earned some that day.

That attitude of controlling your disappointments is all part of ultimately wearing down the competition and not wearing yourself down in the process. Rather than kicking myself for not “winning” that day, I swallowed a little pride and congratulated myself for managing to swim well (not the straightest) ride decently (averaged 19.5 mph) and ran steady (7:40 first mile and 8:00 the last two.)

For a sixty-year-old dude that has competed all his life in sports, it is the experience of being out there and pushing hard that matters most. Sure, I’d like to win now and then. That always feels good.

IMG_3767I recall standing there at the start of the race with all the other sixty-plus dudes in their wetsuits. Several were stretching stubborn body joints. One turned to me and told me all about his back problems.

Then we got our call to enter the water and I thought they’d left me all behind. It was impossible to tell who was who out there. So I just kept swimming. My goal: get the damn swim thing done!

Turns out I was fourth out of the water. Despite my reticence and disbelief in my own abilities, I’d held my own and must have actually passed a few people in the bubbly, watery world that is still a bit foreign to me.

And apparently, that’s effectively where I stayed for most or the rest of the race. I’d not worn down the competition, but neither had I worn myself down. What a revelation! I had beaten myself up most of the race for not swimming better. Turns out it was all my negative imagination. Mind blowing!

That’s a strange little bit of triumph to take from a triathlon. But sometimes the best reward is knowing that you didn’t fall apart, give up or wear yourself out before you had a chance to finish.





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The power and truth of fidelity

City Photos Flag copyThere’s a power struggle going on at CBS as a result of sexual harassment allegations against outgoing CEO Les Moonves. Big surprise there. One after another, high profile American executives and politicians are being flattened by their own coarse desires.

From Roger Ailes to Bill O’Reilly at Fox News, and from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey out in Hollywood, the famous and powerful can’t seem to control themselves around women, or men. The same goes for our infidel president Donald Trump, whose third wife Melania is only the most recent victim of his dalliances with porn stars and Playboy models.

The #metoo movement has exposed an epidemic that is endemic to the lack of fidelity in the American conscience.

A long line of infidels

Politicians are among the worst  when it comes to sexual affairs and such. Even legacy figures such as John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were messing around on the side. Perhaps the drives that make them so goddamned horny are the same levels of testosterone that push them to greatness. Some flaws in human character can and should be forgiven. I’m not entirely convinced that the ends always justifies the means, but acts of redemption are possible. Ultimately, the nature of their character comes back to one thing:

Fidelity; defined as: “faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.”

Now one could make the case the Melania Trump is, in some sense, a princess of fidelity when it comes to staying loyal to her husband despite the very public forms of embarrassment he has brought upon her. The same could be said of Hillary Clinton, who stood by her husband during his sexual scandals both during his presidency and outside those bounds. Women often show the way when it comes to the net gains fidelity.

But not always. We’ve watched the likes of Martha Stewart lie under oath and serve time. The original tale of Eve “tempting” Adam is one of considerable debate. But it does show an equality of sorts. We’re all human. That’s not an excuse. But it is a fact.


Fidelity is not only a personal value. It is supposed to be a commitment. One of the values we learn through participation in endurance events such as triathlon and marathons and even the local 5K is the virtue of putting in the training and living with the outcomes. If something bad happens along the way, we regroup and try again. We embrace fidelity to the fulfillment of our efforts. That’s why these events are so popular. They give us something to believe in, even if it is just ourselves.

That’s also why couples give marriage vows. Those vows are supposed to mean something when tests of fidelity come along. Some people just don’t get that or refuse to abide by the meaning of vows when true tests come along. That’s why we hear stories about ostensibly highly-principled people, even titans of conservative or liberal ideology, who when confronted with their own selfish urges and brittle humanity cave into temptation.

Newt or not

Newt or notFor example, consider the actions of conservative whip Newt Gingrich, the man who claims to know what’s best for America. Here’s how his personal life was described by a simple Google search factoid: “In 1984, Jackie Battley Gingrich told The Washington Post that the divorce was a “complete surprise” to her. According to Jackie, in September 1980, Gingrich and their children visited her while she was in the hospital, recovering from surgery for cancer, and Gingrich wanted to discuss the terms of their divorce.”

That’s a cold-hearted bastard right there. Should we assume he’s got more compassion for those outside his most immediate circle? Let’s also recall that Newt and his ilk pursued Bill Clinton high and low during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But which was worse, Clinton getting a blowjob or Newt serving his dying wife divorce papers as a complete surprise? Yet somehow, this is the man that is held up as an example of how to defend American principles. The irony is so rich it almost makes you want to puke.

Moral equivalency

Road mapIssues of moral equivalency are hard for some to sort out. But those of us that have been faced with temptations and have chosen the right path actually do know the difference. When a casual friend long ago confessed that he was having an affair outside of marriage, he asked what I thought about the situation. I replied, “Well, when you’re in a marriage, it’s like a road map:  you know which way to go. But when you have an affair then all the roads are open.” He broke off the affair not long after that.

Personally I experienced many situations that could have led to infidelity. While driving back from a work-related appointment with a much younger female associate, she began talking about the boredom of her marriage and offered me oral sex if we pulled the car over. “I know how to make men scream,” she told me. I did not pull over. Later in her life that same woman got fired from her job when she was caught on closed-circuit videotape giving a man oral sex in a supply room.

Alone and far away

And once (I’ve admittedly shared this story before) during a sponsored trip as an artist whose work was annually auctioned off as a prize at a running road race in Texas, I encountered a young woman from my home state who was racing as part of the elite corps of runners brought to the race by the organizers. I’d watched her run as a high school senior and told her I appreciated how she’d grown as an athlete. Now she was five years older and much more worldly wise. She’d nearly won the women’s title at the race. So I’d been friendly, and now she hung around the artist’s table where I was signing posters for the crowd. She stood next to me for quite in her tight black tights and sporting the occasional come-on smile. Were they signals of interest?

Later that day I saw her emerge from a hotel room with another man. Her hair was tousled and he was looking quite happy. So the signals she were sending were clear after all, at least to someone. More power to her. But it could not have been me.

Resisting temptation

The point here is that resisting the temptation to pursue such interests, even when they present themselves with little risk of discovery, is the real test of a person’s character.

It often gets more difficult to resist temptation before it gets easier. When my late wife suffered through years of cancer treatments, she was often at risk from any sort of infection that might compromise her immune system. That meant leaving her alone in terms of marital relations. We got used to that well enough. But then even her hands suffered the effects of a particularly potent form of chemotherapy. The skin was sensitive and even peeled off in layers. We laughed that now we could not even touch each other. It was no fun, but it was also part of the marriage vows. “For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…”

Then came more surgeries and more chemotherapy. Through it all we struggled to maintain some semblance of the physical bonds marriage, but mostly we just tried to get through it all.

Human nature? 

Believe in somethingPerhaps some men would have wandered off and found sex somewhere else. I know more than a few who did under much less stressful circumstances. Their marriages are no more.

I’m not patting myself on the back, and my point is not self-congratulatory. Comedian Chris Rock tells a joke in which he observes that some black men brag that they haven’t left their wives. “I take care of my kids,” they say.

And Rock retorts, “That’s what you’re supposed to do, you dumb ass.”

Same goes with being faithful to your spouse. It’s not some award. You don’t get a finisher’s medal along the way. The reward is the process, the knowledge that you’re doing the right thing the right way. That’s why the Nike campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick is justified. It’s about doing the right thing even when it costs you personally and professionally. It is significant that so many Americans misunderstand that and project their own selfish, fearful and jingoistic desires upon the man. They don’t know the real meaning of fidelity to a cause, so they can only criticize those who do.

Pointing fingers

But I am pissed at the supposedly mighty and powerful men who see themselves outside the bounds of accountability, who think they can get away with extramarital murder and then push their ideologies on the rest of us. My outrage is justified at those whose power and influence impacts all our lives, yet who refuse to exhibit any sort of truth or fidelity in their own lives. I don’t buy at all that people are allowed to compartmentalize. I was disappointed as hell that Bill Clinton turned out to be a skeeze. I do think Hillary Clinton was compromised in her own legitimacy by her husbands infidelity. That’s how bad things turn out in the end. No one escapes the infidelity clause in the end.

But it’s particularly disgusting that someone got away with calling her “Lyin’ Hillary” when the opponent was ten to fifty times worse in every respect. But that’s politics. Accuse the other side of your worst flaws until it becomes the truth. That is gaslighting. That is infidelity to the max.

Golf courses and strippers

I also recall a personal moment of decision at a golf outing to which I was invited at a prestigious private country club outside Chicago. The golf portion of the event was eclipsed by a massive rain storm. That meant we were all herded into a big auditorium to be served lunch. Then a band of scantily dressed women emerged and began roaming around offering dances at each table. A few of us sat cautiously eating our lunch as the girls approached. Just then an announcement was made that the women would be stripping down to even less clothing. “Anyone who does not want to be present should leave,” the loudspeaker warned.

But what did that mean? That we were no longer welcome at the entire event? Is that how the world of the complicit and powerful works? It certainly seemed so. A decade ago there were golf outings held all around Chicago at which strippers were hired to entertain golfers Strippers on golf course. Residents in the homes along the fairways were treated to the sight of naked young women giving lap dances to men on golf carts. It took a few phone calls and protests, but those events were eventually banned at most courses.

Naked ambitions

I’m no prude. I like looking at naked women as much as the next man. But the vibe inside that golf club that day, with naked strippers traveling around the tables, did not feel like fidelity to me. So I was one of the few that got up and left. My example in the moment emboldened a guy sitting one table over as well. He got up and whispered my way, “Thanks. I’m not sure where this is going.”

Fidelity has many meanings and many types of expression in this world. I’ve lived through workplace environments where sexual harassment was commonplace. But sometimes it went far beyond any realm of respect. Thus I helped one young woman get a lawyer after hearing stories of how her boss was asking lascivious questions about her clothing and her sex life. She sued and won. Her boss was chastised too.

That overall environment affected the rest of us that worked there. One kind of abuse typically leads to another. I’d overheard the stories told by the most habitual abusers. They could not help bragging, but in fact it was their insecurities that were on display. Like an athlete who talks a big game but can’t back it up with physical performance, they lived in a world of falseness.

And those who deceive themselves also tend to cheat in other ways. So we’d hear tales of course gamesmanship and buying clients gifts to earn and keep their business. But when those antics caught up with them, the gig was literally up.

Standards and morals do matter

That’s what’s wrong with America right now. I’m a liberal––and because I’m a liberal––I understand (perhaps to a flaw) that standards and morals do matter. My morals have cost me in the workplace when I did the right thing rather than force people to work un-billed hours or play tricks on the organization by falsifying membership or other numbers. I’ve had to bite my tongue while watching peers ‘get ahead’ when behind the scenes they confessed they were outright cheating the system, whatever it was. And it happened again and again and again. Rather than snitch, I tried harder to win the right way. And sometimes, it actually worked. That made me feel doubly proud.

But here’s the rub: these days the people most ardently preaching morals and standards are quite often the ones so morbidly avoiding the commitment and accountability they require. I’m talking about evangelical Christians tossing aside biblical principles to cozy up to power. They’re rationalizing all sorts of egregious evidence of infidelity (political and personal) in their political friends while claiming God is on the side of the most obvious, yet oblivious sinners. Their hypocrites in the worst sense of the word.

Not American virtue

AmericaThat is not an American virtue in action. That is the death of a republic in process. The same thing has happened with the twisted ways our gun laws have been turned into vigilante justice. Now our public education is being torqued the same way, and our environmental protection policies too.  Even the Department of Energy is closing down valuable opportunities to encourage use of renewable and low-fuel energy solutions.

Here’s why: the people charged with running these agencies have no fidelity to the clearly stated purpose of their existence. They stand for the opposite ideas to what gun laws, education, environmental and energy policy mean. Instead they are whores for the commodification of these noble causes by capital, ideological and industrial overlords whose short-term interests benefit from turning the world inside out.

Sand through fingers 

And it all starts with the fidelity of those in charge. They may claim to be masters of principle, but truth is proving to be sand flowing through their fingers. Those of us that have made the right choices and accepted, in many cases, that wealth and rewards and happy endings will not come our way (pun intended) are rightly disgusted by the lack of honesty, virtue and fidelity at work in America today. Men such as Mitch McConnell ought to be ashamed of what they called political savviness. It’s infidelity to the American institution. That’s what it truly is.

Perversion of fidelity

I accept that I am not one of the wealthy and powerful in this world today. I look back and realize there were times when I could have “gone along” and gotten more of what I thought I wanted, or whored myself to ‘get ahead.’ But these days, I’m seeing the greater message of fidelity as being wholly in keeping with the Christian principles in which I was raised, and still abide. That’s a far greater brand of fidelity, and it’s not bound up in some falsely righteous, confessional brand of Christianity that sluts itself out to biblical literalism and legalism. Jesus fought those instincts with all his might. And the religious authorities of his day killed him for it. So there’s your example of how this all works. The people in charge right now are not on the right side of God’s plan. They are the height of deception and evil. But just like the old days, they claim to know the Alpha and the Omega of God’s will. It’s a perversion of fidelity to truth.

So that’s why it’s appropriate to use a supposedly sexual term and aim it as an insult at those who break all the rules and then lord their supposed power and authority over others… as if we were the suckers.

So to Donald Trump and the rest of the infidels (from every political and cultural stripe) messing up the lives of everyday Americans with licentious vigor, I say…




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“Believe in something” is good advice from Nike

Nike Cudworth.jpg

I was seventeen years old and a high school distance runner when my coach handed me a pair of blue shoes with a white swoosh on the side. “Here,” he told me. “Try these on. They’re from a new company called Nike.” They fit. I wound up wearing Nike running shoes all through college, where we placed second in the NCAA Division III nationals in cross country. Post-collegiately, I was invited to join two Nike-sponsored teams representing running shops in Philadelphia and Chicago.

And then, in 1985, I actually got married in a pair of silver and grey Nike Air Pegasus. Gave them to all my groomsman too. They matched our tuxedos.

So my relationship with Nike as a company goes back a ways. But the Believe In Something campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick made me think back through my own history with Nike and what the company has come to represent in the present era.

Instincts and principles

I’ll be first to admit that Nike is not a perfect entity. Many have questioned their labor and environmental practices. And let’s be honest: there are certainly commercial instincts at work even in this current “Believe in something” campaign. But from personal experience watching that company grow from hardscrabble shoe merchants to an organization with global influence, one can admire the will to take a stand for equality in the face of so much patent ignorance and selfish jingoism going on in America.

It’s also plain that pro football could use a good kick in the conscience. It took years (decades) to admit that NFL players were going brain-addled from concussions and CTE. The game also had a practice of turning away from issues of domestic abuse. It’s also a  fact that many players, after sacrificing all their young lives to make the league, were actually winding up financially stressed despite gambling all on their prospects for a pro career.

Follow the money

Believe in something.jpgMuch has also been made of the comparison between well-compensated NFL players such as Colin Kaepernick and the poorly compensated people serving in the military––and veterans to boot. But America is conflicted on that issue from many fronts. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders once stated, “If you can’t take care of your veterans, you should not go to war.”

But let’s face it: America stumbles into most of its wars by nature of its conflicted character. And given that nature, I personally believe that everyone who serves in the military should be paid at least $100,000 a year, receive free medical care for life and get a free education after at least four years of service. We should literally pay them well for our collective mistakes. Because war is almost always the result of many mistakes.

Get real

If someone complains about that program being “too expensive,” then how is it that America spends more on its military than the next seven nations in the world combined? Where, in God’s name, is all that money really going? We should pay our troops more.

Because if we’re truly going to “support the troops” it has nothing to do with whether someone stands or kneels at a football game. It has everything to do with managing wasteful military spending and making a commitment to the human capital that genuinely protects our nation. Until that happens, shut the ever-living-hell up about Colin Kaepernick or any other protestor by claiming they don’t “support the troops” when kneeling during the national anthem. Colin Kaepernick didn’t mess up America. He’s just pointing out how messed up our country has become as a result of its inability to address its addiction to violence and prejudice as supposed solutions to tribal difference.

And for bringing that ugly fact to light, some people hate him for it.

No blame

Because we can’t blame Colin Kaepernick or Nike for the flaws in political logic that impoverish our troops or leave them struggling as veterans. That responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of every American citizen. And bitching about your personal tax rates while rewarding America’s wealthiest individuals and corporations with massive tax cuts is not the path to patriotism. It is the sign of vain, selfish and ignorant empire. This much we know for sure: America has been screwing its veterans since the Revolutionary War. 

If we all want to believe in something, then let’s show our gratitude to the troops and our flag not through jingoistic displays at football games. Let’s commit to a nation where  communal investment in America provides not just for our people in the military, but also quality healthcare for all its citizens and an intelligent, economically sound social contract (without borrowing against it, as with Social Security) where no segment of society is discriminated against or abandoned according to race, religion, age or economic status.

That’s what the Constitution and Declaration of Independence set out to deliver: the equal opportunity for pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Those are prime American values. But we don’t honor them by refusing gays the right to marry, or blocking women from reproductive rights and birth control. Those initiatives are the work of bigots and zealots obsessed with a control-freak version of authority.

A clear vision for America

City Photos Flag copy.jpg

And let’s get a few more things clear about America.

The Constitution clearly promises freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion.

It demands a well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state to be legislated before the right to bear arms is provided.

Just as importantly, our Constitution guarantees the right of anyone to stand or kneel in protest, especially when the flag of injustice is the one being waved in their faces.

Because ultimately, justice is something to believe in. Even if it means sacrificing everything.

Real freedom is self-generated, but that comes with the obligation to respect that in others as well. It does not come about by dictate, but by the people, for the people, and of the people.

Something to believe in. America.

Nike’s got that right.

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Have you ever been broken?

IMG_5417Recently a young runner friend who is just a year out of college made a confession on Facebook. He related his experience with depression and urged others to seek help and counseling.

Depression can leave a person feeling defeated and broken. The first time I truly dealt with that brand of emotional depths was my junior year in college. I was twenty years old and running headlong through four straight years of college. The previous summer I’d worked an absolutely terrible job in a paint factory where the conditions were dangerous and the co-workers detached, cold and often brutal. Plus the atmosphere inside the plant was rife with fumes from turpentine and paint.

So I arrived on campus that fall feeling a bit fragile yet determined to have a good cross country season. Thanks to an interminably competitive spirit at that age, I managed to run in the Top 7 much of the season. But when the time came for the conference meet, I found myself trapped inside a dark mental space that would not let go. Every step of that race was a massive struggle. I recall the sensation of racing into the dark of night, both literally and figuratively. I survived, but it was not a performance of which I was proud. In four years of cross country, it would be the only year I finished that poorly.

I felt broken.

IMG_5403That winter was cold and snowy. We trained on country roads in the dark, racing along as we always did at 6:00 per mile pace no matter what the conditions. Between my generally dark mood and the relative stupidity of what we were doing, I began to complain. Perhaps I should have approached that a bit differently, engaging in some sort of “off session” discussion to moderate our approach.

Instead, my depression drove me to an outburst in which I took off from the group in anger. I raced ahead at near 5:00 per mile pace. I recall the cold wind whipping my face and body. Soon I was hundreds of yards ahead and now committed to a pace that would be hard for anyone to sustain in a race, much less a training run.

But of course, I would not give up. I kept running as hard as I could.

A few weeks later my roommate counseled me on the dangers of engaging in that approach. “Cud, you just need to shut up and run.”

it was good advice in the circumstance. For better or worse, I was not going to escape the culture of the team, especially at the time.

I’ll confess that several teammates from that dark period in my life branded it “Cud’s Weird Year.” And I’ll cop to that. Like I said, something in me was broken. I needed to fix it. But I did not know how, just yet.

cudrunWhen the spring track season ended, I had fully begin to emerge from the grips of depression. At home for the summer, I took a look in the mirror and did not like what I saw. My thick hair framed an extremely narrow face. My thick glasses made me look like Napoleon Dynamite. The Lasse Viren beard I’d grown for inspiration that winter suddenly looked desperate and dumb.

I literally took shears and cut off large chunks of my own hair. I shaved the beard. It all looked horrible, so I drove our Buick Wildcat into town and paid for an actual haircut, the first I’d had in more than a year. All that was left was a superb 1970s mustache. I picked up a nice tan that summer and pushed my parents to finally allow me to get contact lenses.

I showed up for college that fall feeling like an entirely new person. In fact, no one recognized me at the first party fraternity party of the fall. That made me reconsider that whole scenario as well. I left fraternity life pretty much behind. I decided that some of the things once needed to prop up my ego were more like tarsnakes in my existence.

I had been broken, but now I was fixed. I had fallen in love with a girl and our cross country team placed second in the nation. Life was not perfect, but it was humming along in a pretty good way.

Admittedly, that dark year in my life would not be the last time I encountered the difficulties of depression and anxiety. But I learned enough from the experience to know that doing something is better than doing nothing.

Depression hurts. Emotional pain is real. Running and cycling and swimming can really help. But it’s not the cure-all for everyone. We all need healthy discussion of our emotional framework. Some of us benefit from counseling. More than a few of us can benefit from medical support. The important thing is to not give up.

We all need support from friends and even work associates. Over the years, I’ve gotten all of that, and am very grateful. When I can, and the situation seems appropriate, I also try to reach out to others who seem in need of help or emotional support. My personal faith is also an important component of my life, but I view it as a compliment, not a replacement for dealing with the practical reality of depression and anxiety on its own terms.

Being broken does not mean we can’t be helped, or help ourselves. That’s an important lesson to grasp at any age or stage in life.

Have you ever been broken? How have you recovered? What might you share with others about your experiences? Reply anonymously if you like to Perhaps your story can help others too. 

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