The silver linings of failure

There are silver linings in those clouds.

One of the challenges of living in the middle of the country is that my opportunities to go to the places I love – namely, the mountains – are far fewer than I’d like. I envy my friends in western states where mountain adventures can be had in the span of a day trip, or maybe a few hours by car for multi-day outings.

For me, it’s planned weeks and months in advance, saving up money, getting time off from work approved, and all the logistical challenges that come with it. Being from a lower elevation doesn’t help my cause when I get there. In any case, I have to make the most of things when I finally get away.

And I guess that’s what irks me about my last trip, that it ended a mere 800 vertical feet from a lone summit on what was otherwise a perfect day in the mountains. The weather, the route conditions, pretty much objective variable out there, was in my favor. And yet I got stopped short because the one thing I didn’t do – prepare well enough physically – bit me in the ass.

A return trip this year was out. Too many car repair bills, not enough cash flow. Middle class ain’t what it used to be. So this failure gets to stick in my craw for a while, maybe as much as a year.

I suppose there are plenty of adventures to be had close to home. But summer in the Southern Plains is not that inviting. Blazing hot temps, high humidity and plenty of bugs. There’s no cool of the alpine air to which I can escape, no splashing in an ocean nearby. Just hundreds of miles of baking earth in the Sun Belt.

I got home a little ticked off. It was great to see friends and family, and really, any time in the mountains is worthwhile, even if it’s hard, uncomfortable, or ultimately leads to less than what was planned. I spent four hours driving from my campsite to civilization, and another 10 hours from Denver to home. Plenty of time to think about the whole mess.

And therein lies the silver lining. I knew my conditioning wasn’t up to snuff. I could do something about that. So as soon as I got back, I got to work. And worked harder. More miles on the road. Bigger effort in the gym. Getting outside in the heat and tackling it head-on. I sucked on the trail, so I was going to make myself pay for it now so I wouldn’t suck later.

In about two weeks, I’ll be starting a training cycle for fall races. Looking back on the last few weeks, and the improvements I’ve already seen, I may just enter that 12-week cycle better prepared than I have in years. Which means come November, I might not suck at all.

So there it is. Failing to plan begets failure in execution. But failure in execution can be a great motivator for the tasks to come.

Bob Doucette

On fitness, motivation and beating the indoor curmudgeon

Under a bridge on a misty, cold-weather run. Beautifully dreary.

Under a bridge on a misty, cold-weather run. Beautifully dreary.

You can call this a Sunday confessional.

Generally speaking, there are two types of people. The first kind is the type who cannot sit still. They’re the ones who get bored easily. They want to do stuff. They want to be moving, acting, getting out there and shredding it until their body says, “No mas!”

The second kind of is the type who doesn’t mind chilling out. Grabbing some quality couch time. These are the kind of folks who can (and do) participate in Netflix binge-watching. Those AMC marathons? Yep, regular participants. They don’t mind getting out and doing things, but the Svengali-like power of the Lay-Z-Boy has much sway over this bunch.

Count me among the latter.

Say what? You may be thinking. But yes, it’s true.

I’d rather be among the former, just because it would make doing the things I enjoy – the hard things, mind you – that much easier. It would never be a debate if I was going to do another season of marathon training. It would be a done deal, barring injury, of course. Weather would never deter me. The temptation of watching “The Godfather” for the millionth time would be too weak to prevent me from doing more stuff outside.

Unfortunately, I’m not that guy.

There are a lot of great things about being able to chill. You don’t sweat the small things. You keep cool in stressful times. Restlessness is more easily controlled.

But inertia is a powerful thing, especially when your inertia is, well, static. It’s a lot easier to stay moving if you’re already moving. Getting going when you’re at full-stop is more physically taxing and mentally daunting.

That’s a problem we have here in the U.S. in general, where overeating and sitting still can be empirically measured. Every year, we’re reminded how much more obese the country is becoming. My home state of Oklahoma is a top-10 state in the nation when it comes to obesity rates; Colorado was recently ranked No. 2 in being the least obese (Montana is the leanest). And yet, with about 20 percent of its population considered obese, Colorado’s population is more obese now than Oklahoma was back in the 1990s. So that No. 2 ranking has a big Catch-22.

Clearly inactivity is not good, and it poses a particular challenge to people who gravitate toward sitting still.

Here is what that struggle looks like: Yesterday, the weather outside was crappy. The temperatures were in the mid-30s and it was rainy. I needed to get out and run. Keep in mind, I’m not a treadmill guy. I need to be outside, if for no other reason than to fight off the boredom that comes to mounting a machine and going nowhere.

My inside curmudgeon was ready to pack it in. I didn’t have anything to prove, and Sunday’s forecast looked much better. “Just bag it,” inside curmudgeon whispered in my ear. “Tomorrow is another day.”

And I was down with that. But there was still daylight left. It wasn’t that windy. And that rain? More like a fine mist.

“Get up,” outdoor curmudgeon said. “Get your run gear on, put on a ballcap and pound out a few miles. Make it five. You’ve run in worse. Much worse. Don’t be  wuss!”

These two battled it out for a couple hours as the afternoon wore on. The merits were weighed, and outdoor curmudgeon won out. No one else was out, but that was OK. The riverside trails were all mine. There was some beauty to the dreariness. Five miles later, I can say I didn’t regret a second of it.

If you’re the first type of person I mentioned earlier, God bless you. This dilemma rarely confronts you. If you’re within the second group, take heart. It might take a little more to knock you out of the couch-induced sloth, but you can do it. Consider each battle an exercise in growth, with each victory making it easier to transition from couch potato to human dynamo.

Bob Doucette