Normally I would have woken up this morning hung over. Not because yesterday was Saint Patrick’s Day. Not even because yesterday was Saturday. Normally I would have woken up this morning hung over for no other reason than because I drank the night before. But this isn’t about why I used to drink. This is about that I don’t drink anymore. Sometime last summer Robin AKA thetattooedteetotaler posted the cover of This Naked Mind to her Instagram. I put a copy onto my iPad and promptly forgot about it. And then a few months later I woke up, hung over, and decided that I don’t want to anymore. So I read This Naked Mind and I quit drinking. I don’t know if I could have done it without the book. I’ve “quit” in the past: I got most of the way through “sober February” 2017, but not as far through as 2016; I got a late start to “sober January” 2015, but managed to stretch it a bit into February. Each time I desobered with the intention of moderation, which would last a week or two. My last drink was on January 1, 2018. I’m not sure I wanted to quit entirely. I’m still not sure. I do know that I quit cold-turkey (not recommended given the amount I drank and for how long I’d drank) and had no side effects, and I have zero desire to have a drink. Zip. Nadda. Well, not no side effects. I used to be pretty easily irritated; these past weeks I have given few fucks about anything other than my relationships and my running. I used to have G.I. issues that I chalked up to diet and genetics; they’re mostly gone. I used to spend 10 hours in bed each night and was always tired. Now I get six or seven of restful sleep and feel fine. I could write a lot about this book, its affect on me, my journey, get all preachy, start using crap terms like “journey”…. I’d rather not. There’s one point in the book that stands out that’s worth putting here, one that I used to wrestle with a lot: Does the idea of never drinking again bother you? That question is like an onion. I used to believe drinking made me feel better. Now I understand that my drinking made me feel awful when I wasn’t drinking. There’s a significant difference there. Maybe I’ll drink again but I currently have no desire to. At all.
On the early evening of Saturday, May 6, 2017 I poured myself a stiff gin + tonic to keep me company while I made dinner. Then I opened a bottle of red wine to go with dinner (for the antioxidants obviously). The bottle finished I went to bed but couldn’t sleep. After tossing and turning for an hour or two I got up and poured a few fingers (fist?) of Johnny Walker Black, which I took to bed with a book. I finished (the blend, not the book) and finally fell asleep. A few hours later, I was at Queen Elizabeth Park. Three hours and 34 minutes later I was on West Pender just east of Bute crossing the finish line of my first marathon. I wanted to run 3:29. Maybe if I hadn’t had a dozen drinks the night before, and the night before that, and before that…I would have. I don’t know. But I’m going to find out. My body is finally getting healthy, although it’s not coming along quite as quickly as I had wanted. I was looking forward to a sober second look at the BMO Marathon, but this week I took stock of time and training, and decided to downgrade to the half. And I’m fine with that. I have two big PR goals for 2018, and clear eyes set on those.
Sapiens seemed fitting to follow Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (except for the hurry part), not to mention that they both go by three names. Astrophysics talks about how we got here, and then Sapiens talks about what we’ve done since we got here. Which is basically just ruin everything. It’s not a happy book, in spite of the (rather failed) attempt to inject a happiness principle into the work in the second last chapter while at the same time attempting an argument that history should be concerned with happiness. I was not convinced. This book started great and then went steadily downhill. I appreciate that he labels capitalism a religion, less so his praise of it. The author’s abject cynicism builds throughout the book, culminating with his trepidation around genetic engineering and AI. I get that humans are awful but I don’t think I needed the last three-quarters of this book’s (rarely substantiated) opinion to get me to awfuller.
Pacific Road Runners First Half half marathon week. It started out pretty great. Physiotherapist suggested I stick to the trails for a bit. I opted for some hill work on the Avison Trail, and on Wednesday in the rain at the trail peak where it crosses the Causeway I found a $100 bill dropped no doubt by some poor well-heeled (oxymorons ftw) tourist. Friday and a 13.5 KM round-trip to Forerunners on Main to pick up my race package. My legs felt great. Saturday morning, my cold still above neck I went for a short shake out. My recovering right knee and left shin both felt great. Race morning I jogged down to the start line at the Roundhouse in Yaletown, checked my bag and made my way to the start corral with 10 minutes until gun. The corral was crowded as to be expected, when dude next to me pulls his shorts to the side and takes a piss on the ground then casually moves a few feet forward. Gross dude. Humans are awful. Guy behind me says, “Been racing for 40 years I’ve never seen that before.” (Waiting for race photos to be posted; if I can find him and I’m sure it’s him some shaming may ensue.)
My training has been weak with these two injuries and I was expecting this to be a slow race. I really wanted to be around 1:45 but was prepared to be close to 1:50. What I hadn’t considered, and really should have known considering the hours and KMs I’ve put on the segments, is that this is a very fast course, and the weather was perfect for a race. I’d written on my arm some somewhat ambitious distance times and was pretty happy to reach 10 KM about 30 second ahead of pace. Then disaster. Into 14 KM just past Siwash Rock, I still don’t know what happened but I had a little stumble. It felt like the inside of my knee gave out, or I twisted it, or I don’t know what. But it hurt a lot. I kept going. I don’t know if I would have if it had been just another day on the Seawall; I wanted to finish the race. I fought through the pain and kept going the last 7 KM with a sprint to the finish and crossed the line at 1:43:04 chip time.
Within minutes of finishing I could barely walk. Now 24 hours later and it’s still pretty bad. The pain kept me up all night and no amount of ice pack, heat pack, Advil, or Voltaren seems to do much. My physiotherapist said no running this week after the race. That’s fine because I can’t. I’m signed up for the West Van 10 KM in three weeks, and now 12 weeks out from the BMO Marathon. I think both are in serious jeopardy.
We could have a debate about whether or not a graphic novel count as “a book” for the sake of reading 95 or 52 books in a year but there doesn’t seem to be much debate amongst the #95Books crowd whether poetry books count, and I’ve read and “counted” chapbooks that took a lot less time and effort to read than Mercy on Me. I even “read” and counted a collection of concrete poetry (Clean Sails). Though, I did not count Christian Bök’s MCV. I had to draw the line somewhere. And speaking of drawing lines, I really enjoyed Kleist’s visual biography of Nick Cave. I consider myself a Cave fan, though reading Mercy had forced me to confront the fact that I’m rather thin on Birthday Party knowledge, which has piqued my interest to revisit. I’m also now curious about Kleist’s Johnny Cash book (ahem, graphic novel), although I doubt any Cash biography is going to better Cash. Also, and no surprise, I learned that Cave is kind of a dick. I suspected, but don’t think I cared before. I don’t think I care now. I like his music and as a grown up I’m capable of separating his art from his inreallifeness. But I admit that most of what I know and like is contemporary to when I started listening to him i.e., Grinderman and late 2000s Bad Seeds. I went as far back as Murder Ballads because you have to. But aside from the appearance of “Higgs Boson Blues” Kleist’s Cave biography doesn’t cross the millennium. But for me to complain about that would be like complaining that Cash doesn’t focus enough on the American Recordings stuff. But for different reasons.
I went to physiotherapy this week for a check in on my knee and while there I mentioned in passing that I was having a pain in my left shin, which turns out to be medial tibial stress syndrome, which is just the fancy word for shin splints, which apparently if not properly cared for could lead to a stress fracture, which has forced me to reconsider the timeline of some of my 2018 goals. Burn the whiches. Dr. Physio believes that I’ve aggravated my left calf by (consciously or subconsciously) compensating for my right knee, and the treatment is more exercises and less running. Suffice it to say, very frustrating with less than a month until the First Half half marathon. Suffice it to also say, I will not be running a sub 1:30 half marathon on February 11. Also throws a wrench on the sub 3:15 BMO Marathon training plan. Other than that it’s been a great week.
Sitting in YVR waiting to board KLM to Prague by way of Amsterdam for a week and a half in the Czech Republic and I’m optimistic that I’ll finish Lerner on the plane. But I also have the new issues of Playboy and The New Yorker. So we’ll see. I’m way behind. I think at this time last year I was in the 30s for books read. Mind you I read a lot of poetry and so far this year I think that I’ve read none. I have a few on the to read pile. I think that The Hatred of Poetry is the shortest book I’ve read so far in 2017. If your reading recollection is better than my writing recollection then feel free to correct me. PS — the YVR Wifi is awful.
It still feels as though the BMO was yesterday. Feels is probably the wrong word, because I think that my body has mostly recovered. I just find it strange to think that it was ten days ago. I haven’t been running quite as intensely, or as often, or as far, but they’ve been relatively quick. Quick for me. I’m looking forward to running around Prague and maybe Brno, and then when I get back I have four weeks before the Scotiabank Half, and I’ll rather ambitiously shooting for a 1:39, which would be a full seven minutes off my race PR. If Strava is to be believed, I did 1:41 in training for the BMO, and 1:41 in the first half of the BMO. So it seems within the realm of possibilities.