Thursday, December 4, 2014

The F*&#ing Funk: Comfort Breeds Complacency

A F*&#ing Funk....It happens to all of us at different points in life.  That feeling of waking up and not giving a shit about anything.  Wanting to lay in bed all day and not move.  I hate it.  It's the bane of the existence of us Type A people.  The older I get the more I realize how easy it is for people to slip into jobs, routines, lifestyles, and relationships that they do just because it's what they have been doing.  We can all imagine plenty of story lines of boredom in life.  (I'm imagining Ed Norton at his boring desk job in Fight Club right now for some reason) I think it is inevitable.  It's when and what you do when you realize this funk that shows your character.  You have to find those big goals and aspirations to chase again.

Since my last personal blog post (those few Bring Back the Mile post took away some of my creative energy there for a while and still is to a degree. I have 1 big one left that will hopefully be ground breaking conversation for track and field and not the same old stupid complaining articles), a whole lot of nothing has happened in my life.  That statement may seem oximoronic, but several months have come and gone and I quite honestly don't know where the hell they went.  What was supposed to be a few weeks of rest from running, with just work without the burden of training, has turned into 3 months of dealing with a lingering hip injury and working a shitload of hours at work.  I have had no outlet for self expression though.  While all this extra work has meant more money in my pocket than I have ever had, but it's turned me apathetic and complacent.  For the first time in my life I realized that money can make you happy, but not satisfied.  It seems like being poor and scrounging by makes me hungrier and more eager to succeed.  I've known for years that I go stir crazy when I don't have an outlet and goal for my energy, but I am just now understanding how being still is terrible for my body and spirit.

What has really shaken me up recently, is the thought of getting stuck in this life.  Stuck making money doing something I don't have a true passion for, just because it's easy.  This life of getting up everyday without creating, expressing, or making an impact on people's lives is disheartening.  See running and coaching has always been a form of self expression for me.  It's way more than just a sport to me. It's a way that I live my life.  It's hard, it's fast, and a bit rebellious (and stupid) to still be chasing a childhood dream of Olympic Trials and Olympics at age 27 (nearly 28) without the major results one would expect from an athlete my age. But none the less it hasn't completely stopped me for some unknown reason.  Cause I know that if I make it, that I can truly have a positive impact on this sport and others that struggle with anxiety, depression, or rare disease.  In some weird screwed up way, it was way easier in years past to come back from one of my relapses with Wegener's Granulomatosis than it has been to get out of this mental depression.  See when you know you can't spend the time you know is necessary to be as elite at what you love, it's defeating and a heavy mental burden to deal with day and night.  For me, if I wasn't forced to be so caught up with work over the last 3 months, had more access to trainers and therapist, my lingering hip/groin injury would be long gone and I'd be back out there grinding towards my goals.  That's the life of a sub elite or a complacent worker stuck at a dead end job.  People, no matter their goals, have to work to pay the bills, but I have found myself working so much that I can't give passions or my personal life the time it needs.  This drives me to insanity especially when I sit and think about it, so the last 3 months I have just taken to not dealing with it by numbing out at night with loads of Budweiser and other prescription drugs.

Without running or another tangible goal in my face, I have a void in my life of excitement on a daily basis.  See when you are in peak fitness, training everyday brings a level of stimulation and exhilaration that can't be matched with desk jobs, drugs, and alcohol.  Pushing your body almost daily to its outer physical and mental limits brings unparalleled mental stimulation.  So to supplement that feeling I have found myself back to some of my old partying ways, carrying around 15 extra pounds and eating like shit.  I have come to the realization that all these bad habits are my way of chasing a feeling, chasing a high.  Though training to be an elite athlete and working a full time job is hard and a pain in the ass at times, it's exhilarating and gives me the sense of accomplishment at the end of a everyday.  In some ways, I understand now why some people resort to physical deformation or injury in times of depression and anxiety.  Anything to experience some kind of feeling or control, even if it is physical pain.  That's why it's so easy for me to slide into drug or alcohol use.  It's fun to be out on the town drinking the night away in all my favorite holes.  It's also incredibly easy to numb out and not have to deal with my mind that can't find its off switch.  The funny thing is I suffering from both anxiety and depression, 2 polar opposite mental conditions for myself.  One of over stimulation, the other feeling worthless and under-stimulated.  Both of these I am very susceptible to sliding between.  In August, I was over worked, over trained, racing and traveling, moving twice, flipping my beloved Toyota 4Runner, and buying a new car.  Then comes September, October and November with all work and no mental stimulation or physical expression, and now I am sitting in a funk on the edge of depression.

So what do you do when you find yourself stuck in a mental or physical funk?  Well there are 2 solutions.  One leads over the dark edge to depression, which happens more often than some people would like to admit.  The other is turning around and fighting for change, which is almost always the harder route to start, but the more fulfilling in the long run.  We all need that push from somewhere to make this happen.  For me it's finding ways to take back control of parts of my life and demand time for my passion.  I've also found a big leap or investment monetarily can help fuel that drive.  Nothing like having your back against the wall to help you come out swinging and make better decisions.  Make a drastic change in your life.  Quit a job, move to a new city, find a new career, help people, or go on a soul searching journey.  Do whatever you have to do to get yourself out of the F*&#king Funk or it will eat at your soul.  If you let it keep eating at you then you will fall off that cliff, and that's never a pretty ending.  So try and stop the slide before you find rock bottom.  Take back control of your life and do what makes you feel the most fulfilled, not what brings short term happiness.  Even if you aren't where you want to be right this minute, find a way to continually work for your goal, and that can help you find your happiness.  Remember All Hope is Gone!  You have been dealt a hand in life that is sometimes shitty, but it's up to you to crawl out and learn to be ok with the hand, and move on!

Till Next Time!

All Hope is Gone

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Life on the Crazy Train

As with all my post, this post has taken on many twisted and complicated forms over the last few weeks.  Just like my life, its been a roller coaster of ideas and thoughts.  It originally started as a celebration and reflection, that quickly turned sour.  This post is a brief ride on the roller coaster ride of my life, where I have learned that I might be Just the Right Crazy.

Looking back on this season I wouldn't think that my best race could be traced back to April.  That's not what any championship minded athlete wants.  Going into the Blue Shoes Mile on April 12th  (held yearly at Furman University since 2007) this year I was naturally ready to prove that I was capable of competing on the Elite stage.  I had to fight tooth and nail to even be allowed into fast section.  Since I haven't posted a fast time in over 2 years, the meet director played hard ball.  After a lots emails and several favors called in I was finally allowed in the fast section finally and ready to prove I belonged.  It turned out to be a beautiful night and a fun race in front of friends and family.  I executed well and was able to run a Mile PR of 4:01.7.  While this was slightly bitter sweet that I missed the sub 4 min barrier, I knew I was on the right path, it was my first real PR in 2 years and I was excited for the coming months.... so I thought.

When momentum swings one way in life we always expect it to stay like that right?  I mean an object in motion is supposed to stay in motion right?  Or so I was taught in school.  Well, if you haven't personally learned this yet, life is that force that acts on the outside jet and momentum. Blue Shoes was supposed to be just a small stepping stone for the year, yet it has turned out to be my best performance thus far.  Looking back on the past several months strictly at training and racing schedule it would seem inexplicable how since early April that I haven't replicated or bettered that performance.  The performance that was supposed to be an early season test.  I mean I ran over 90 miles that week and was gearing up for upcoming steeplechase races.  Not really how you properly prepare for a mile.  Momentum can be just as quickly lost as it is gained.  Over the next several races I lost all that good momentum and found myself out of opportunities and out of USA Nationals.  But, luckily for me the Bring Back the Mile series has come to the rescue and given me the opportunities to continue to compete on the big stage for big prizes.  They have helped reignite that fire. All of these races are giving me a chance to paint my story and hopefully give me the opportunity to inspire more people.  

As I've mentioned here before, I have been struggling with anxiety and panic attacks since last July. In fact, my biggest challenge this year has not been physical like the last 2 years with my Wegener's relapses.  Physical is the easy part. Always has been. I am innately gifted at pushing my body to it's physical limits. Most good runners are. We teach our body's on a daily basis to ignore it's basic pain response. This year though has been a challenge to turn off my brain and relax.  Now, for a control freak this becomes a viscous cycle. I know I need to give my body and mind rest and relaxation, yet I know what I need to be doing training wise as an athlete. So, when I don't run it makes it worse, and when I do run during these spells it's shitty and not near my capabilities.

The months of May, June, July, and August have been a roller coaster both physically and emotionally.  I have had some of the best workouts of my life and I have also slipped into deep depression and crippling anxiety with my current life situation.  In the past month alone (in the middle of all the traveling, racing, training, and working) I have moved into the nastiest apartment that I have ever lived in (and I've lived in some dumps as many of you have visited), flipped my 4Runner for the final time (the Falcon is gone for good), and worked more hours this month than I have all summer.  Not necessarily ideal training and racing conditions.  It's these times that I have to remember to find my center in all the chaos. The lesson from all of this is that it doesn't matter how hard or good you are at pushing your body to it's limits, it's learning when to take a step back and know when to relax and stop forcing it.  I found out my breaking point this week.  I ran the worst race I have run all year, at the Michigan Mile in Flint, Michigan.  It's the first time I remember finishing last in a race in years.  My body reached that tipping point with stress.  Trying to find a new car, a new apartment, and a better way to manage my work schedule with my training schedule all while still working, training, and racing proved too much.  As my therapist warned me several weeks ago when this started... "You are on the fast track to finding your breaking point and ending up in the loony bin."  So friends, family, colleagues, and strangers be weary of your breaking point.  You never know how close you are to the edge until you cross it, especially in life on the Crazy Train..... To quote a few lines from the great Ozzy Osbourne..... All Aboard!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA

Mental wounds still screaming 
Driving me insane 
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train 
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train 

I know that things are going wrong for me 
You gotta listen to my words 
Mental wounds not healing 
Who and what's to blame 
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train 
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train

Grandma's Mile hear comes the Crazy Train to town!!

All Hope is Gone


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

All Hope is Always Gone

Some of you may know that I have a mantra of life "All Hope is Gone."  This is a philosophy that I stumbled upon over the last few years and has really hit home with me as I have dealt with the my struggles in life.  In fact it has meant so much to me that this past winter I had it inked across my chest with some beautiful roses to off set the phrase because I truly find beauty and freedom in the statement that so many people find depressing.  It's funny despite this phrase being plastered across my chest I often forget when life is going well and I am happy that I should still have my mantra right in front of me.

The past few months have been a lot of transition in my life once again.  It seems that everyone this time of year is dealing with these issues, whether you are going off to college for the first time, moving out own your own finally, starting your first job, etc... This time of year seems to always bread excitement, turmoil, anxiety and stress no matter what your move.  Not knowing what lies on the other side can be scary for many people, myself included.  But you have to embrace that change and take that step to get out of your comfort zone our you will probably never be able to chase your true dreams.  All Hope is Gone means that you have to be willing to accept the fact that you may fail and be happy with your journey and struggles no matter the outcome.  It is also about learning to find your center and your balance during the most chaotic times in your life.  You must become the eye of the storm.  Be the calm that is in the center or the storm will sweep you away.

If you are like me then you have found yourself swept off that edge more than a few times by that storm.  This is when drugs, alcohol, and destructive behavior can lead you into those dark depths of the human mind and spirit.  I have currently found myself there.  The last few weeks of my life I have found myself out of control and out of my center of calm. I let myself get swept up in the chaos of life taking a shit on me and my family.  Mistakes begin to happen when I find myself strung out emotionally and physically.  In the last 2 weeks alone I have found myself in the nastiest place I have ever lived, with a landlord how is impossible to get in touch with to fix any of the broken things in the apartment (toilet, sink, shower, doors that don't lock, etc...), flipped my 4runner in my shitty driveway (that's flip number 2 for those who are counting- which finally totaled my baby), and dropped a tire of the rental car off the driveway.  All of this has lead to a lack of sleep, frustrated living circumstances, and horrible athletic training.  As I have stated before, when things begin to get in the way of my dream chasing as a runner, I get really worked up, angry and vengeful.  This stress has manifested itself into my body to where I now have nagging injuries, horrible training sessions, and a body that is just worn out.

Despite all of this I managed to run one of the happiest races of the season this past weekend in Pittsburgh at the Liberty Mile.  Being back in the pack of elite milers reminded me that I belonged there.  Despite horrible training for nearly a month, lack of sleep, and a car wreck 2 days before the race, I was able to kick with some of the best milers in the country.  I had many of them on the ropes until the final 100m, but that's when I believe the past month of stress finally caught up with me.  Which makes me laugh.  Initially I was mad because I had a great opportunity to finish 4th behind 3 of the best middle distance runners in the country, but then I realized how much shit I had put up with in the last few weeks and I laughed because I knew that had I been fresh and prepared better it would have been a different race.  What was also beautiful about the race was I ran without fear for the first time all season and was so caught up in the amazing atmosphere that the people at Bring Back the Mile and the Liberty Mile set up for us.  I lined up not knowing what my body could handle, but I didn't care I was going to help put on the show.  All Hope was Gone!  Whatever my body could handle I was going to dish out and I was happy with what I was able to accomplish because so many times in the last few weeks, including today even, I have wanted so bad to end my season.  But I refuse to let this storm throw me off course.

No matter how far off course you find yourself or how deep in you find yourself in (it doesn't get much worse than having to find a new place to live and a new car all in the same week) you have to try and find your center of peace in the chaos.   Realizing that there is no cause for all of the bad things and no one to blame will help you release those demons and find that peace with whatever shit storm life wants to blow your way.  I wish I could stand here in front of you and tell you that I had beat this battle, but we all struggle and we all can find inspiration in others around us.  Don't forget your dreams and fight like hell!

All Hope is Gone,


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Be you! I'm an Entertainer!

As big of an asshole as I can be at times, I've remembered I like to entertain people.  There are days where I think I might have missed my calling as a musician on stage.  But regardless of that, I have always enjoyed being the loud offensive guy in the room.  It's just who I am.  In fact so many of my friends over the years have referred to me as the most publicly offensive person they know.  My loud mouth seems to find the nearest small child or elderly couple when I am shouting something obscene.  It never fails.  Being loud and obnoxious has been known to get me into some trouble over the years, but luckily I never got beat up too bad or bit off more than I could chew (which still surprises me to this day).  I am more thankful for my friends that pulled me out or bailed me out by stepping in as I get older.  A lot of these incidents have been on my mind lately for some reason.  I think that as my body adjust to all the crazy anti anxiety drugs I slowly find parts of myself that have been missing or been dormant.  So in that light I encourage everyone to be who they are, don't try to be anything else!

We all have our own identities.  They can even change amongst different groups of people or different groups of friends.  Each group has it's own delicate dynamic that each person fills, but this shouldn't ever prevent you from being you!  Your personality might clash with others at times, but that's one of the things that I have learned growing up, some people just aren't gonna get along no matter what the situation.  So you mind as well be you and be happier!

Social media and the internet has made it increasingly easier for people to truly express themselves (for good or bad).  Which makes it increasingly harder for people to carve out their own identity.  At times it seems as if every personality has been taken already.  But we are all our own unique set of chemicals that can interact with the world in a unique way so be patient and find your way.  With all the information and technology at our finger tips use your skills and personality to present yourself to the world and show your beautiful story.

 I have recently found my loud, obnoxious self again and I couldn't be more excited.  He was the guy that had a chip on his shoulder, the guy that backed down from no one, the guy that called people out, the guy that got in people's faces, and last but not least the guy that would say about anything to get a weird awkward laugh from people!  At the end of the day this is all for my entertainment and for those around me.  I love making people think, and I love making people laugh.  I will go to any length to get under someone's skin and make them really question something they think is true.  I also have no problem making and absolute ass out of myself to make others around me laugh.  I miss laughing.  It's something that has been missing in my life a lot recently and something that I need to work to spread.  Laughing and excitement can give people a reason to laugh and give people a reason to care.

That's what I strive for in my own running career.  Regardless of what races I ever win or lose I want to put on a show again.  I miss being at the front of races making them interesting and entertaining people in the stands.  I am excited to be back in some races where I will have the chance to be an entertainer and be me again!  Our sport of track and field is slowly dying and it needs characters that aren't boring and aren't afraid to stir the pot.  If more athletes made more noise and stood for something other than "hardwork" or "talent" then the sport might stand a chance at making a few more people care.  Find your cause, find your story and tell it in whatever your form of expression!  Inspire the next generation and this sport may stand a chance....  But you can't do it holed up in the woods 10 months a year and out of the "public eye" (message board, internet, social media...etc)

We all have shitty rough times in our lives that change us in certain ways forever, but we don't need to forget about all the different things that we have been during our lives.  Those identities help create who your are, so don't leave them all behind.  If you have found yourself unhappy and in a funk try to remember those times that you had when everything just flowed and you didn't have to think.  Those are the times you need to strive to recreate and be yourself totally lost in the moment!

"All hope is gone"


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Walking through Hell for Happiness

Damn, I seriously can't believe that it has been one year this week that I ran away from Rock Hill, SC and moved back to Boone, NC!  So much over the last year has changed, yet everything is eerily similar.  Looking back it was the 2nd best decision I've made in my adult life (the first was coming to grad school at App State).  While the year has been full of some super highs and low lows, I am so happy to be living where I feel I truly belong right now.  Regardless of what else happens this year with my running, my personal life, and career, I know that I will be able to look back on this move in the future and say that this move was the right decision in pursuit of my dreams.

Over the past few weeks I have done a lot of reflecting (which isn't always very good for my anxiety), but it's hard not to when I look back at where I came from a year ago.  One year ago at this time I had just finishing living the single worst month of my life (which is a hard list to top these days).  I had just finished up my 4th round of chemotherapy, was battling depression, had decided (for the 2nd year in a row) that my body couldn't handle running at the elite level, hated my situation and surroundings in Rock Hill, lost one of my high school and running mentors (Coach J, I still miss your kind words of encouragement and I will continue train to be your Olympic Hero regardless of whether I succeed), was pill popping and drinking just to get through the day and attempt to sleep.  I also started to develop anxiety because of all of the unhappiness, tension and toxicity that I was living in and around.  Needless to say, I was a certified wreck of a person.  I was in desperate need to do something to get me out of this situation and start healing, both mentally and physically.

I don't know how I have done it time and time again, but I slowly drag myself up off the matt and start swinging again.  I was certainly a long way off from being healthy, but I was determined to get out of my shit whole situation continuing to spiral out of control.  Looking back at some of the thoughts and lyrics wrote down during this time are seriously disturbing.  I stumbled upon this one the other day that I had jotted down at some point during this time

"Do you know what it's like to not be able to live in your own head?
Your thoughts are corrupt and you can't trust yourself
I'm stuck in my own living hell, that I always create"

Obviously, these are uplifting words!  But they tell a very surreal story of where my headspace was at during these times.  During times like these I find it helpful to write down ideas and thoughts because of the extreme raw emotion that is readily available to create art.  Many or all of these may never see the light of day, but many of them have potentials for songs or poems given the proper attention (for those of you that don't know I also dabble in music and have played guitar since I was 13).  Picking up and reading these lyrics can instantly transform me back to the time and places they were written.  They have helped preserve some of my emotions during critical pivot points in my life.

So when I arrived in Boone I was an absolute walking disaster and in desperate need of some relief from life!  Once this tiny town hidden in the Blue Ridge Mountains came to the rescue.  I will forever be indebted to my friends that helped make it possible (Brian Graves, Chris Moen, Sody, & Mark Sullivan).  Graves found me a job working at Westglow Resort and Spa and the boys let me sleep on the couch and share rooms while I gathered some cash and slowly pieced my life together over the summer of 2013.  For almost a year now Moen has not just been living with me, but sharing a room with me!  Wow!

The summer and rest of the year hasn't been all uphill though, and quickly came to a near deathly climax with my first real panic attack and being diagnosed with server anxiety, and depression.  The remainder of the year has been a roller coaster ride of wins and loses personally.  My life (and most people's live's) doesn't ever run in a linear fashion and the winter and spring have had their fair share of dark and light times.  Including problems as recent as a month ago.  Now though no matter the crisis, I am in a happy physical place now.  I live in a place and with people that I can breathe in and relax, even if just a just a small bit.  My situation here have brought many challenges, but that's life and what makes life worth living.  This is the point of this particular blog.

No matter your current situation, you have to fight to find your happiness.  It is sometimes impossible for that happiness to even remain in the same places and come from the same things.  You have to listen, learn, grow and search to find your happy place.  I am warning you though, it's hard to find, but that doesn't mean that you need to shy away.  Learn to find happiness in chasing and pursuing dreams and goals.  In fact, when you are chasing your goals you might find yourself sitting in your own personal hell.  If so, that means you are probably on the right path!  It means that your journey is worth something.  It means that your goals matter to you.  It means your life has passion and meaning.  It means you may have failed, but the real happiness and winning comes from continuing sit and chase through hell regardless of the outcome or possibility of failure!

So chase like hell, fight like hell, and live with passion!

"All Hope is Gone"

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Genuine Human Interaction

*Warning this particular blog has some rather raw and personal information, of which some I have only shared with a very small number of people.  This blog is a raw look into Genuine Human Interactions.

Somewhere on one of my countless cold, isolated winter runs I stumbled upon a phrase to describe my interactions with my inner circle (people that are blood family or emotional family).  The new phrase, "Genuine Human Interaction" (GHI), struck me like a ton of bricks one day and it's been near impossible to keep off my mind (gotta love the mind of anxiety driven freak).  Most people are guarded to one extent or another, otherwise you would spend countless hours opening up all your wounds and trials to complete strangers.  This could make trips to Wal-Mart rather awkward!  But GHI is much more than just being honest  around people, it's about being able to communicate freely.  Meaning that you can discuss intense topics like emotions, life, mortality, relationships etc... and share and listen uninhibited.  In fact you often find yourself thinking allowed through thoughts, instead of thinking them through your head before they come out.   
Working and running alone as much as I have over the winter, has left me a bit isolated from society and some good ole GHI.  I have been craving that stimulating feeling I can only get when I am unguarded and free.  This is one thing that has been hard for me to admit to myself.  I have always been comfortable being alone and taken huge pride in being able to fix and control my own problems.  During many of these tough years I have prescribed to the thought of the only real help is self help, meaning you have to want to fix something or it won't get fixed.  Through all of my many ups and downs I have always been able to pull myself together and once again get back on track to meeting my life goals.  

I have slowly noticed, especially over the last few years, how guarded I have become, even with friends and family.   Several times in my life I have had to cope with major tragedies which has caused me to grow up in certain ways a lot sooner than many of my peers.  Coping with all of these events, has jaded me deeply.  It as cost me countless friendships and relationships. Some of them my fault, others the product of growing up and learning.   I have hurt people that I should have trusted and been betrayed by people that I thought were friends.  If there is one underlying theme in all of my short coming with friends and family, it is that how people handle tragedy and adversity shows true inner characters.  I made a promise to myself during my original fight with Wegener's Granulomatosis, after I got dumped by a girlfriend the night before I was supposed to have the surgery that would eventually allow me to be diagnosed, that I would no longer keep people in my life that cannot stand up to adversity.  I have also been guilty of shoving people away that have been there, out of my own stupidity, selfishness, and ignorance.  I have been bad about associating certain time periods in life with certain people.  In an effort to escape those troubling time periods I have fleeted from friends and hurt some of them in ways that I truly never understood.  Now I wish I could  say that after all these years that I would have learned how to be a better person, but we never know what the future holds.  I've also have still been guilty of thinking some people have more empathy and compassion as human beings than they end up having.  But that's the beauty in life, still being able to grow and learn from our mistakes.  Whenever we are knocked down by life or people, we dust ourselves off and keep plugging away.  To quote Rocky Balboa "Life isn't about who can hit the hardest. It's about who can get hit the hardest and keep getting back up."  We can learn from these experiences of being hurt, or doing the hurting and try to grow as people, so that next time we can make better decisions. 

This is where I believe GHI can be a powerful tool.  If you have friends or family that you can be free and honest with and who can be free and honest with you, then you have a chance to learn in many situations of adversity and daily life.  The uniqueness about these kind of relationships is the people's ability to love and care about each other regardless of their faults.  Now this may sound like it has to be a significant other, but I have learned that close friends and life partners can come in all different shapes and sizes.  There are things that significant others, regardless of how truly connected you are, just aren't going to talk about, so you have to have outlets of the same sex (or possibly opposite sex if you have a same sex partner).   

This is one difference I feel like I have had this year as opposed to past years of struggle.  I have reconnected, and stronger than ever I might add, with my former teammate and now roommate Chris Moen as well as having a partner to share life with in Ryanna Henderson.  Both of these 2 have provided unwavering support and friendship during my roller coaster of a year.  They have listened to countless hours of my babble and bullshit as well as provided inspiration for me to become a better person.  Moen and I truly have some of the most stimulating intellectual conversations I have ever experienced.  He manages to blow my mind at least 2 or 3 times a week with different statements or thoughts.  He has taught me this amazing new skill of thinking out loud unadulterated.  It allows the mind to process information and learn through discussion.  Over the winter in Moen's absence I genuinely missed our discussions, that can pop up out of the most unexpected places.  Our discussions couldn't be possible if either of us held back and kept up barriers.  I swear some days the 2 of us have discussions that change the world.  Moen is right in that you learn a lot by living with someone, and I have truly learned to love his energy that he brings to this world.  

My relationship with Ryanna has been full of many tough times, but ultimately what drew us together and keeps us together is how much we care about each other, despite both of our faults.  If you know either of us at all, then you know that we both avoided being together or ever wanting to be together.  But that's one of the joys in life is finding gems like her where you least expect it.  I truly believe our relationship couldn't have started and continued any other way than it has.  But through our shit show of lives (and there have been a lot) we both have wanted to be there for the other person to provide whatever they need, be it silence and a hug or just someone to talk to.  This was never more evident to me when Ryanna made a point to come down to my last chemotherapy infusion back in May last year.  That's not something easy to sit through, yet there she was the whole day and into the day after which was always the worse day.  Those 48 hours together though were some of the most raw and human feelings I have ever experienced.  Without having someone like her that I could truly be free and genuine with, those times could have been much darker.  As someone who likes to fight his personal battles privately, it was a huge step for me to be able to share that day with her.  We truly couldn't appreciate each other and our relationship had it not been for both of our previous ones.  That's why we never could have been together before both of us were ready to love and let the other into our beautifully dysfunctional lives.  

These are just 2 of the examples of some of the biggest impacts on my life over the last year.  Of course there are others that aren't mentioned that have extended their selves and allowed each of our lives to be touched in some way or another.  I encourage everyone to try and figure out who you can be honest and open with and make those life long connections.  Life will unfortunately catch up with all of us at some point and it pays to have family and friends that you can genuinely trust.  You never know when those people could help save your life.  My hope through this blog in particular is to challenge you to sort through your close friends and family and find people that you can learn from and grow with.   I know figuring this out has given way to some truly happy moments in my life.

Till Next Time,

B Hudg
All Hope is Gone

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reflections and Savages

This post in particular has been painful, fearful, relieving, challenging, and enlightening.  I have been thinking back over the last 2 years as I ready myself to start my outdoor track campaign to once again.  This year has been a long journey once again full of extreme highs and lows.  I have experienced triumph, brokenness, love, heartache, betrayal, new friends and tightened friendships.  All while fighting through my own personal demons and body to get it ready for the rigors of an outdoor track season.  It's easy to forget in these upcoming races why we spent all fall and winter logging miles on miles, often in hellish wind, rain, and snow.  No matter how tough you feel out there training, racing has a way of separating out the mentally tough.  It's such a shame that at times we don't get the best out of ourselves in races because we are mentally afraid to take a big risk for that often illusive big reward.
Most track runners spend all fall and winter long dreaming about outdoor track season.  It's how we get through the long cold winter months every single year. But now that outdoor is upon us, I have found myself in a whirlwind of emotions this week.  I shouldn't be and it's absolutely irrational to be.  I'm in better shape than I've ever been, mentally stronger than ever, yet my confidence is still a roller coaster. Some days I revival in the fight and I'm ready to take on the world.  Tuesday for example during my workout no matter how tough it got I kept squeezing and refusing to give up no matter how tired I got. Yet one race rejection email this week took the wind out of my sails and has made me question why I even try to compete at the elite level.  
Not having a big name coach (Snyder isn’t there yet but he will be) or agent, and having been on the shelf for over 2 years now, it makes it difficult to get into a lot of races.  For those of you that don’t understand the workings of track and field, I haven’t put up a credible time in over 2 years, so meet directors aren't willing to give me the benefit of the doubt anymore or take a chance on giving me a spot on the starting line.  Despite my story and stubbornness to win again, I can't find many willing to take a chance so I can finally earn my day.  This rejection brings out my savage mode (credit to my boy Kevin Schwab and more on this in a minute).  I completely understand the reasons behind my rejections.  Track and field is a small sport with super competitive fields at the elite level.  Often times sections of races are limited to 15 people or less.  So those spots are precious and have to be earned.  My day will come soon I know, but till then all my work this year seems futile till it all pays off and pop the big one.
Now to lessons on savage mode from my boy Kevin Schwab.  When Kevin moved up to Blowing Rock to join Zap Fitness this past fall, he and I immediately hit it off.  On one of the first runs I did with him at Watauga River Road I remember a discussion about how getting drunk and screwing around often brings out the savage mode in some of us.  Others may think that sounds absolutely ludicrous, but getting drunk and waking up hungover with a run standing in front of you can toughen you up!  Now this isn’t a key element to successful training or racing at all, but sometimes for some of us it’s an absolute necessity to unwind from the stress and strain of training.  I knew from that first run Schwab would be one of my wrecking crew boys (those of us who are willing to take big chances for, big rewards and throw caution to the wind all for the sake of nothing more than a good story sometimes).  This can mean getting absolutely outrageously drunk, like a uncaged savage animal released on the world with no limits.  This seems so contradictory to how you would assume runners blow off stem.  Often times people assume most of us runners get a lot of stress relief from running.  But I know for myself running is the exact opposite.
Running has not been an outlet for me since I was first diagnosed with my rare auto-immune disease Wegener’s Granulomatosis.  Track and field is my sport, so running is my training and that’s how I look at it.  It’s incredibly simple and pure.  All of my passion and energy goes into my sport.  So if I want to relax or relieve stress, running is not my outlet. Music, friends, and outrages nights (either by myself or with my wrecking crew) are how I blow off steam and unwind.  Training at our level (especially with a 40 hour a week job) takes a lot of emotional and physical energy to survive day-to-day.  This is when savage mode takes over.    He gets angry and refuses to let things wreck his training and goals!  That same savage also rears its head when I feel disrespected and counted against.  That’s why I can no longer be afraid and let the savage out every time I step on the track!  Since none of us never know when we might have to hang up the spikes, cheers to throwing caution to the wind and chasing big dreams!


“All Hope is Gone”

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chasing Confidence

I know its been a while since the last post.  In fact it's been way too long.  Those of you that know me know I have a lot to say and never shut the hell up, which is part of the reason it takes me so long in between blog post.  I can't decide where I want to go next.  I need to find a time each week to just sit down and write because when I do that the best material seems to come out.  Since my last posting I have finally taken that first step on the track.  It was a whirlwind of a weekend filled with a plethora of emotions.  Anyone that has lined up for a race knows many of these emotions: fear, doubt, anxiety, nervousness, excitement, joy, etc...  All of these generally combine into the fuel that helps come race time.  But some of these emotions can be utter devastating to performance.

Doubt and fear are the enemies of distance runners and athletes everywhere.  They defeat you before the gun ever goes off.  We all have had these emotions at one time or another but how you control them shapes your performance.  I have throughout my career as an athlete always welcomed these emotions.  They mean that racing is important and is a reminder of what is on the line.  If there is no fear or nerves then you are not competing, you are out for a fun stroll on a beautiful morning.  Competing to better yourself or your opponents, is why we all race.  I have to be honest with myself and everyone.  Over the last few years I have slowly lost bits and pieces of any self confidence I had in my abilities as an athlete.  This is akin to a boxer getting in the ring thinking is going to lose.  And if that is his mentality then he will surely get his ass handed to him by his opponent.  Which is absolutely what happened to me at the JDL Camel City 3k and many races over the past few years.  

Each of my relapses with my Wegener's Granulomatosis (and subsequent comebacks over the past 2 years) have proven both callousing and devastating to my confidence and ego.  On one hand I have traveled and crawled back from the darkest depths of my own inner hell.  Naturally a guy that has stared the possibility of death in the face 3 times now and told him to f**k off, would have loads of self-confidence.  This resolve and hard-headedness has given me the knowledge that I can survive whatever dark places my life and goals take me, but has also chipped away at my risk taking skills on the track.  Each time I feel like I have put more and more on the line to get back and in turn makes me feel I have much more to lose by failure.  I have become so cautious to really putting myself out there like I have been capable of so many times over the years.  I was never too afraid to put myself in races and in situations where I might fail, but over the last 2 seasons I have been truly afraid to try and fail because of what I feel I have invested.  Realizing and admitting this to myself has been just as equally devastating and destructive to my confidence on the track.  In high school and college I thrived on competition.  I was never satisfied, always wanted to win and was willing to make you or myself reach your limits to beat me.  Some of my fondest memories of my entire career are chasing down people in relays, or doubling or tripling at meets to score big points, which helped change the tides of meets.  I wanted to win, not just for me but for my teammates, coaches, family, friends, and fans.  I wanted the baton when it matter and the meet or race was on the line.  The thrill of winning cannot be matched by any other feeling I know.

So now I have to put myself back together piece by piece.  The physical part is slowly coming with training, but my mental edge has a long way to go.  I know I have all the pieces somewhere inside my head, but like a puzzle they have to be put back together piece by piece.  Several things have begun to help me on my journey.  Just like an addict, the first step was truly admitting to myself I had a problem.  For me, that took me finding rock bottom again mentally in December and January.  The mind is a wonderful and dangerous place.  It's funny that during this time I was able to find a darker place emotionally than 2 of my trips through chemotherapy.  Here I am chasing my dream, in the place I love, yet I had lost almost all of my sanity and confidence.  It took talking to my awesome chemo infusion nurse, when down for a check up, to realize that I really needed help emotionally if I was going to get out of this spiral.  I had to not just want to change but had to find the help to change.

All of us have doubt's at times.  Especially during times of struggle, stress, heartache and injury.  So how do you get it back or develop it?  Over the years I have been around a lot of elite athletes.  One thing I have noticed is all of the super successful athletes have extreme confidence in their abilities.  Which is what we all need to learn.  It starts with baby steps.  Finding words or phrases that can get you through a tough day or a tough workout can be one way to kick start the program.  My recent phrases have been "don't puss out" and "unleash."  One run at a time, one day at a time, one interval at a time.  You keep fighting like hell and before you know it you will begin to trust your abilities.  If I aim to tell a story with my running and my life, being weak and fearful on race day isn't what want to say. That's one of the points of this blog. There is more to me (and many other athletes) than a person that runs in circles with big dreams and goals.  I want to be a testament to what talent and will power in each of us can achieve.  We can't be afraid to unlock those desires and talents and chase them to the edge of our sanity.  If you can find that mental edge and desire anything is possible.  You have to be the one that wants to find out how bad you really want something and how far you are willing to go to get it! So dream big and chase hard because All Hope is Gone!


Monday, January 27, 2014

This Loud Noise in my Head

So it's taken me 2 weeks to be able to decide about what to write about. I have so many ideas it's incredibly hard for my noisy brain to be able to filter it all. When I realized this I realized I had my next topic. In the theme of being me and being real I have some confessions to make about problems that I have kept quiet about.

Despite being a very loud and outgoing person I often put up fronts to keep people at bay and very unwilling let out personal information. This has been a protective facade brought about from years of struggling through life with health issues, heart break, humility, stress, and to a degree my upbringing. Growing up in South Carolina you often have to wear different hats around different people. And heaven forbid you accidentally get caught wearing the wrong hat (or a 666 Energy shirt). So naturally I got very good at this, especially as I grew older. This facade has worked so flawlessly at times I have been shocked by some people's impression of me. But I guess that's the whole point of it. Anyways, I have often hidden deep pain and struggle from many of you. I actually get some sort of sick twisted pleasure from being able to tell people I am doing great when in reality I am falling apart physically, emotionally, or both. This trait has also lent me a powerful tool in separating out true friends from the fake in this crazy life I live!

Over the last 2 years many of you are aware (or not) that I have suffered 2 relapses with my rare auto immune disease Wegeners Gratulomatosis. Both of these relapses have occurred while I was living back in Rock Hill after spending nearly 3 years in Boone and other places. Having to move back home as a 25 year away from all my friends and the place that made me happy broke me apart emotionally. But I am also willing to do whatever it takes to continue my running career and be as good as I know I can be. Even if this means loses my sanity. Which has eventually happened.

Fast forward to this past July and all this turmoil in life finally added up and I suffered my first panic attack.  While walking up the stairs at work I collapsed and couldn't breathe.  For someone who was trying to make a 3rd come back as a distance runner I shouldn't have been out of breath walking up a flight of stairs.  Over the previous few weeks I had had some symptoms that I thought were another sign of a possible flair up with my Wegener's, but little did I know that many of the same symptoms (chest tightness, numbness in my limps, headaches) are also symptoms of panic attacks.  So anyways I immediately called my Mom and her and Dad drove up and got me and took me to the hospital in Charlotte.  I was speechless the whole drive (which is completely unlike my loud foul mouth self).  My mind had pretty much decided that I was dying.  The Dr had told me back in May that if the rounds of chemo didn't work then he didn't really know what else to do.  So I had convinced myself that I was legitimately heading to a final stay in the hospital and would more than likely be spending months there not hours.  Well after a bunch of test and the ER talking with my Dr they released me.

Sitting in Dr. Brown's office the following week I was still convinced that I wasn't getting better and had made a turn for the worse after some semi promising feelings in June.  When Dr Brown told me that all my blood work was beyond normal and that he thought that I was suffering from anxiety and panic attacks.  Which was a huge relief and a different scare all together.   So he prescribed some Anti-Anxiety meds and sent me on my way.  Those first few months on them proved very trying emotionally.  As I physically got better I was emotionally checked out.  I just didn't give a damn about things that normally bother me.  I also seemed oblivious to many normal social cues.  Some days I would be out running trying to pound my body back into some kind of shape again and I'd find myself walking for absolutely no reason.  I just couldn't find that fire inside me to do anything.  So many normal things just didn't interest me.  This took a toll on some of my relationships.  Luckily I have finally surrounded myself with the right people that understand my struggles and are there through it all no matter how much I have pushed on them.  As a person that has grown up with skinny man's complex and always had this fire burning in the pit of my stomach to be great at whatever it is I do, it was hard for me to adjust to this care free Brandon.

I wish that I could say things have been all fine and dandy since acclimating to the drugs, but the reality is that my body has adjusted to them over time and I am at that cross roads of taking higher doses or figuring out how to control this anxiety that builds up inside me.  Spending much of the winter so far alone in the cold mountains of Boone has fostered some of that anxiety again.  I am my own worst enemy.  It has been incredibly humbling and scary to learn that the things that have made me a semi successful athlete are also the things that could ultimately be my down fall of health.  No longer do simple things roll of my back like they used to.  They like to plant themselves in my mind and fester.  Many would think that running would release a lot of these demons, but in fact its the exact opposite.  If I am having anxiety issues it leads me to having worse runs because I can't breathe and know my body doesn't feel right, which in turns causes more anxiety.  It's a vicious circle.  Which lead to another panic attack on a long run in the snow in early January.

Many have questioned my recent tattoo of "All hope is gone" as being very dark and grim.  When in reality for me it is beautiful.  I've had to learn the hard way that my life isn't going to be easy, ever.  Finding strength in hopelessness means that I am learning on a daily basis on how to accept groundlessness (the fact that life isn't stable and secure).  Things happen that are out of our control, and there isn't always going to be a hand to help you up, you have to learn how pick yourself up and deal with the situations right in front of you.  Sitting around hoping and wishing for things to be better isn't living and appreciating each moment and the journey to your unknown destination!  We all have to learn to relax in the day to day struggles of life.

Till Next Time,

All Hope is Gone

Monday, January 6, 2014

Why now? Why so loud?

To whoever wants to listen,

So I have been playing around with the idea of a blog for several years now. Over the last several years I've read some blogs by runners and nonrunners that I've enjoyed. I've always felt that I have had something to say but struggled with a way to say it.  For those of you that know me, you know I'm a loud and super opinionated person.  It's hard for me to keep my mouth shut, and over the years it has gotten me in my fair share of trouble. Ive always had this strong urge to fight for what I think is right and speak up if I think others or myself are being treated unfair or misrepresented. That's why I'm writing this blog. I feel that runners get a bad rap. We have done it to ourselves quite honestly. We spend much of the year holed up going to bed early and training like a mad man. This lifestyle isn't glamorous but it doesn't have to be so mundane and boring to fans. Most runners have been taught to do the talking with their feet and be humble. Well that creates a lot of boring interviews and a lot of boring athletes. We can't all be like Bill Belichick. The sport needs more people like Usian Bolt, Nick Symmonds, and Ezekiel Kemboi that entertain people on and off the track.

With that being said, too many runners don't aim to stand for something or tell a story.  I feel Prefonatine was great at this. He not only aimed to win, and win with style at that, he aimed to impress and tell a story. He stood for something. Everyone in this sport works hard. Everyone at the elite level is talented. What are you going to do to be different and separate yourself from every other athlete out there. Winning alone will no longer do that. You are seeing that with top athletes without sponsorships. And I know this fact has been beaten to death recently in the running community but most still aren't getting the hint. Elites need to figure out the story they wish tell and then find a way to tell it. Much like an artist chooses their different mediums, runners need to find their idenity and find a way to express it.

I have come realize in the last few years that my feet aren't portraying the story I wish to say. Through circumstances outside of my control (2 unfortunately timed relapses with my auto immune disease wegeners granulomatosis) I have trained my ass off for 2 years with almost zero results. So once again I am in the process of trying to pound my body into submission so that I can tell this story, the difference is this time I'm not just going to let me feet talk. I am going to use my other wonderful talent of gab to spread this story. This is what I want to say:

I am BHudg
As much as I try to fight it, it is who I am!
I'm a runner, a fighter, a lover, a hater, a teacher, a coach, a drunk, an addict a bitter old stubborn ass, a musician, a big kid, and above all else a life liver!
Over the last few years I have tried to quit being all the things above at one point or another. I have quit running, twice actually, I have stopped fighting, I have given up on love and shut myself off from the world. I have tried to be a kinder more gently person who forgives easier, I have wanted to walk away from being a teacher and coach of students. I have tried to give up alcohol and drugs. And I have even tried to find peace and stop living a roller coaster life like I do, full of drastic turns. But through all these changes and attempts I have learned that I cannot fight who I am any longer. I do all these things incredibly well. So why try to be something I am not? I have to do things my way, play by my rules, and live my way. I have found peace in realizing that I am who I am because of all these things, so why fight them! Embrace them and live life! As cliché as that sounds I've learned that working hard, doing what's right does not guarantee success and that life for people like me is going to be full of incredible highs and incredibly dark lows. So ride the roller coaster with passion and see where the journey takes you.

So that's who I am. This blog has no boundaries, much like my mouth doesn't know when to shut up. So I will cover whatever I want, say what I want, unfiltered!  I am tired of trying to say things on a nice quite way! That's just not me! Till next time!

All hope is gone!