The Top One Thing Every Amazing Runner Does Before 8 AM (Number One Blew My Mind, But You'll Never Guess What Happened Next)

I can't resist clicking on those links, the new era of self-help articles via the short, bullet point list of The Top Ten Things [insert something successful and idealistic here] Does Every Day. I read them even though I know in advance that there won't be a lot of substance. We have distilled our advice to junk food bullet points with no emotion; glossy-sounding tips created in someone's sterile life-lab, stripped from any real experience. I clicked on one about the top ten things successful people do, and realized that, wow, I occasionally multitask, act rashly, and sometimes even dwell on the past. Kiss any notion of success goodbye.

I don't want to be accused of click-baiting, so there is this running tip that has been working for me lately, and while I'm sure it has been said before, it just struck me as so obvious and simple, that I wanted to share it. I figure I owe at least one bullet point based on the obnoxious headline.

  • Fake it.

When you're out there running, struggling, tired, and the hill is winning, your body will reflect it. Your head will be bowed as if that section 3 inches in front of your feet holds the keys to the Universe's most pressing question (which, by the way, is "Kim Kardashian?"), your shoulders are so hunched that Quasimodo would offer some advice on posture, and your two feet are engaged in a battle over which one can take the smallest step.

I know, because I've been there. I was there last week on a steep climb, the second time up a mile and a quarter hill repeat. I pushed too hard on the first one, and didn't have much energy for the second, but I vowed to myself that I wouldn't walk it, so I trudged along, letting the win. Then I saw my shadow, hunched over, head hung low, and shuffling along, and it hit me...that person in the shadow hates what he is doing. What would I look like if I actually enjoyed running? What would I look like if I was on one of those elusive perfect runs, the kind where everything feels easy, and perfect form comes effortlessly? I pulled my head up, pushed my chest out, pulled my shoulders back, and increased my stride (just a little bit, because I was still hurting pretty bad), but it worked. I faked it, and immediately felt better. I was still hurting, just not as much. Good form leads to efficient running and energy savings, so fake it, just run like someone who loves to run. It can make your bad days a little more bearable.

Channel your inner Ethiopian

If you have kids that play video games, you probably know about Minecraft. It's probably the most visually boring game ever, and I played Pong on my Atari. My son loves it. He plays it whenever he has a chance, which is usually after his homework and chores are done. I'll watch him play it, and what, to me, is the most boring video game in the world with graphics straight from 1982, to him, is his own world that he created and controls, so there are some creativity, engineering, and organizational skills that are being nurtured, or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

Do you know what I dislike more than Minecraft? Listening to my son tell me the intricate details of the world he is building in Minecraft. But, I do it anyway, with a smile on my face, an occasional nod, and some well-timed "wows," "that's neat," "you did what?" and "I can't believe your character slept for 8 straight hours...that's amazing." I fake it. Sometimes, I even see it as a challenge; exactly how much feigned interest can I show without actually figuring out what a "Zombie-Pigman" is. I don't need any self-help bullet points to tell me that while I may not care about Minecraft, I love my son, and if I want to be happy, I'll turn off the computer, or put the phone away and try my hardest to pretend that Minecraft is the coolest thing that I have ever seen.

Double Peak Repeats

San Diego is known for a lot of things (nice beaches, staying classy, handsy politicians, apathetic sports fans), but bad weather isn't one of them, so last week, when the most recent MegaSuperStorm of the century rolled in and dumped some rain on us, I was ready to log some muddy trail time.

The day started with that Cadillac commercial, the one where the guy is walking around a house talking about how lazy people are, and how they take the whole month of August off in France, and the difference between taking a month off and a couple of weeks off is a shiny new Cadillac. I decided to take the rest of the day off.

My wife and I saw the pre-noon showing of Non-Stop, the Liam Neeson movie. The one where he kicks copious amounts of ass, and eventually saves everyone (Spoiler Alert!). We weren't planning on seeing this movie, but the Key & Peele sketchvertisement put us over the edge. More advertising should be like this.

By the time we returned home, the rain and winds had really picked up, and you can't just sit still after watching a Liam Neesons movie, you just can't.

I don't want to dramatize our storm too much, but we're used to a spectrum of weather that ranges between "mostly sunny" to "clear with a chance of you might need to wear a shirt with sleeves" weather and 10 degree swings from 65 to 75 degrees year-round. So, when the wind picks up and the water starts falling from the sky, we kind of freak out here.

The workout for the day was hill repeats, and my hill is called Double Peak, which is one of the highest points in the county and has a view that encompasses Palomar Mountain, the San Bernardino Mountains, Tijuana, and the Pacific Ocean from La Jolla to Catalina Island. The wind was screaming off the Pacific, unhindered and helped to push me up the initial climb to "The Secret Trail," which is secret in name only as there is a big sign there that reads "Secret Trail."

My workout called for three hill repeats, three loops starting with the one mile-ish, rolling Secret trail to the back side of Double Peak, which is one of those hands on the knees climbs. If I can run half of the climb, I am happy. It's about 5 minutes to the top, then a quick, technical descent back to the Secret trail.

The first repeat was fueled by Liam Neeson vengeance (which is the name of my new performance your doctor if your erection lasts longer than 3 hours, or if you get the urge to beat up vaguely Middle Eastern terrorist/human trafficking organizations with nothing but your bare hands and your 3 hour erection). By the second repeat, the movie theater popcorn had hit and had the opposite effect of Liam Neeson vengeance. I struggled to reach the rock formation that is about halfway up the climb without walking, and tried to keep my heart from trying to free itself from the confines of my rib cage.

At the top of the second loop, I saw a dad with two little boys in wind jackets. The younger boy was clearly scared, holding tight to his dad's hand and trying to turn away from the wind. I smiled at him and yelled, "THIS IS LIVING," which probably didn't help calm him down at all.

I fought the wind on the narrow and steep trail down the front of the hill, pushing against the wind, but trying to brake as I slipped down the muddy trail with wind in my ears and rain stinging my eyes. I hit the Secret trail, where the hill offered protection from the wind, then turned up for my last repeat, pushing as hard as I could, but not going much faster than the previous repeat, hitting the telescope at the top of the peak in just under 5 minutes.

The unimpeded wind had picked up at the top. I sat on a bench, and watched people who had driven up to watch the storm roll in try to open their car doors against the wind, then giving up and driving home. I sat there alone and leaned my head back and as the wind rushed over me and the rain soaked me, I took long, deep, tired breaths.

The next day, when the wind picked up and the clouds started to roll in, I grabbed my two youngest kids and drove to the top of Double Peak, briefly stopping to yell at James and Maggie as they glided down the hill. I wanted to rush up there before the howling winds died down, because it's not very often we get a chance to feel what it's like to fly.

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