My life over the past few weeks has been rather stupid busy, so I didn’t get to post my regular update (which would have been aptly entitled 56 Down 34 To Go). But, given my lack of running it wouldn’t have been much of an update anyway. In fact, the last few weeks has been a rather black mark on my otherwise great start to the year.
I’m opting to look on the positive side of things and realize that sometimes one needs to allow for these breaks. Still, I feel like kicking myself in the ass for not getting out for even a few short runs.
Fortunately I did manage to get out for a run today. And there is hope for the future: the remainder of the semester – while it will be busy – shouldn’t be as stupid busy as the last two weeks.
What does this mean? Well, it means I have zero excuse to get back on track. And so that is what I intend to do. We’re in the final few weeks of the 90 Day Fitness Challenge, and I plan to embrace each day of it with as much kick-ass-ery as I can.
When I was young I was rather fortunate in that I was exposed to computers early. I remember my brother and I creating short programs on the Commodore 64 that Canadian Tire had on display when it was first introduced, and thinking we were some sort of computer geniuses.
10 Print “Hello world”
20 Goto 10
Oh those were some wild and crazy times.
These days I spend my time coding far more interesting things. And when I get tired of coding, I spend my time figuring out how to make certain things on my computer work with other things on my computer. It’s what nerds do, I guess.
As an example, let me direct your attention to those shiny charts to the right that summarize my progress towards my Quest To 1000 km. While beautiful and information rich I can’t take credit for them. Sure, I’m the guy who’s updating a spreadsheet of data with each and every run, and I’m also the guy who spent some time filling that spreadsheet with formulas to aggregate and summarize those data, and I’m also the guy who selected a particular chart over another to visualize those aggregated and summarized results. But those shiny charts are really the result of the all-powerful and all-knowing Google.
The reason I tell you this is because several people have asked me how I created them. So for them, here’s the secret. First, I’m going to assume you’ve already created a spreadsheet of data using Google Docs. Select the data you wish to magically chartify. Google Docs will provide you with a selection of chart-tastic options. Pick one you find to be the swankiest, and for ease – create the chart in its own sheet.
To embed the chart in your blog, begin by clicking the Publish Chart button. You may receive a warning that states “Publishing this chart will require all sheets to be published.” Select OK, unless your data are so precious that you want to keep them hidden from the world.
You’ll next see a pop up that contains a bunch of computer-geek-speak. Depending on your blog type, you may be able to copy paste the Interactive Chart computer-geek-speak, or, as is the case for my blog, you may have to select the Image computer-geek-speak (using the available drop down list).
In either case, copy the appropriate computer-geek-speak. Mine looked something like this:
To finish embedding this in my blog, I simply created a Text Widget and placed it in the appropriate column. I then pasted the above computer-geek-speak into that widget1, hit save, and presto voila, a fancy pants shiny chart2.
I have a confession to make. A confession that is well overdue, and going on 4 years in the making.
At the strapping young age of 38, I am without a family doctor.
I’ll give you a moment to pick yourselves up off of the floor.
For years this was never a problem. I moved to Guelph back in the old time-y days of 1994. At the time whenever I needed a health care professional, I simply sauntered over to the Student Health Centre on campus. There I was fortunate enough to see some really great physicians; experts who saw me through coughs and colds, a crazy bout with pneumonia, stress related eczema, and crazy weight loss that would eventually be attributed to a hiatal hernia.
But the day that I graduated with my PhD was the day that I was no longer entitled to visit Student Health Services. After 16 years building a relationship with the awesome staff and doctors there, I was on my own.
So while I’m not sick, and before I absolutely am desperate for one because I start sprouting a horn or other unsightly blemish, I have decided that this must be the year that I find the doctor that’s right for me. Or, as is likely the case, whichever doctor happens to be accepting new patients.
This is where – hopefully – you can help. If any of you know of and can recommend a family doctor who might be willing to take me on as a patient, I’m all ears. Since I don’t drive, someone in the downtown area or near Stone Road Mall or campus would be super swell.
While I don’t doubt an apple a day keeps the doctor away, it’s probably prudent for me to get at least one checkup every now and then. I’m apparently not getting any younger.
A few weeks ago I was supposed to run my very first 50km Ultra Marathon. I trained, I trained, and I trained some more. I made sure to stretch, and I tried to do all this while balancing a bunch of other projects. I found the hours I spent in the office and in meetings increasing. I found the hours I spent in my own home relaxing and recharging decreasing. And I found that I was always telling myself that I’d catch up on rest after the next grant, the next paper, the next presentation, the next next thing.
In short, while I was productive and crossing stuff off of my list, I was also setting myself up for something.
And then something happened. It wasn’t anything severe. There was no broken bone. There was no muscle tear. I didn’t trip and impale myself on a branch. Nor did I get hit by a car. I didn’t spontaneously combust. I wasn’t immersed in a vat of boiling acid.
Simply put, the something was that my body decided to remind me that I am in fact not Superman. After 664 km since December 1, my right ankle decided that it just couldn’t handle another step. Stupid ankle. Stupid, stupid ankle.
I think at times I like to believe I am Superman. I don’t need to rest. I can do all of the things all of the time and then do even more because why wouldn’t I also try to do that while I’m doing all of these other things?
Long story short, I did not run the 50km Ultra Marathon. It wasn’t an easy decision either. I made the call on June 21st, the day before the race was set to be run. And I did it begrudgingly – knowing that in all other ways I was ready to crush my first Ultra Marathon. But having realized that I was limping as I walked to the office, I had to admit that running was the last thing I should be doing. Regardless, I felt like a giant wimp. My ankle didn’t hurt that much. I could probably run through the pain. I’m making a mountain out of a sore ankle.
But I was the only one saying that. Everyone else was saying I’d be stupid to run. And I knew this to be true. So I didn’t run. While I know it was the right thing to do, I’m still not completely comfortable with the decision. I know I could have crushed the Ultra, but I also know that I would have screwed my ankle for any other running this year.
So as of June 16th, Running and I are on a break. I love Running, but I have to accept that we’re just not getting along these days. It’s for the best really. In running’s absence, I’ve decided to rekindle my relationship with taking time off. As such, I’m currently writing this post on my first of five days off in a row.
I’m not sure if Superman took days off, but I have to say it feels pretty good.
Some of you may recall that I was planning on running 42.2 km of marathon-y goodness tomorrow. However, given that my training schedule has been weak at best, I’ve opted to run only 21.1 km.
I know, right? I’m sooooooooooo lazy.
Honestly, I do feel like a bit of a quitter making this change last-minute. I should have trained harder. I should have kept to my running schedule. I should have done a lot of things really.
But I didn’t.
And that’s life.
So instead, I’m going to enjoy the fact that I can run 21.1 km, because in the grand scheme of things, 21.1 km is more than 0 km. Also, I’m going to try to forgive myself just a little, what with my actually being human and mortal and not invincible. I sometimes think that I can do everything all of the time, and then get annoyed with myself for not performing up to some insane standard that I’ve created. Tomorrow, I’m just going to run the race and enjoy myself as much as I can. Because I should be able to run 21.1 km and feel proud of myself for doing so.
Take that stupid self-doubting self.
For those of you who want to follow along, the race starts at 8:30am. As per usual, I’ll be live streaming the race via RunKeeper. Feel free to tweet or message me as I run – your messages will be read to me. Note: I fully expect those messages to be uplifting, and inspiring, and hilarious, and in some cases, crude.
To message me as I run, either text me (for those of you who know my number), or simply send me a tweet (@thedangillis). Mom and Dad – if you want to send a message you can do so by texting me through your iPad. But keep the messages short, as only the first 80 or so are read to me.
Remember just over a week ago when I met Natasha? And then remember how I held Natasha like we were age-old friends? And remember how I promised there’d be video?
Well, dear readers, I am happy to say that a video is ready for your entertainment. I think the video gives you a general sense of how freaked out I was, but I’m also amazed at how well I held myself together given how much I was screaming on the inside. I’m not saying that I deserve an Oscar for my performance, but I’m also not saying that I don’t.
A huge thanks again to everyone who helped me deal with my fear. Thank you to so many of you for coming out or supporting me via the Twitter. Thank you to everyone who donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association. And an extra huge thanks to Jasper Tey for filming the event. Not only did he manage to capture how much I was shaking, he spliced together – in my opinion – a really entertaining mini-documentary of the occasion. You sir are kick-ass awesome.
And now without further ado, I give you Dan And Natasha, A Love Story With 10 Legs.
Today I am going to willingly allow a spider to crawl on me. Let me write that again because it still seems surreal. I am going to willingly allow a spider to crawl on me. A real, living, breathing, man-eating spider. Crawling. On me. Me!
Clearly this may be my last post ever, as I fully expect to be murdered in a cold-blooded spidery way; my life force carefully sucked from my core, leaving nothing but a husk of the man I once was. It was nice knowing all y’all.
For those interested in witnessing my untimely demise, drop by the Atrium on campus at 5pm. I’ll be raising money for the Canadian Mental Health Association – so bring your loonies and toonies. If you can’t be here in person, please consider donating here.
I’ll do my best to live-tweet the event. If I can, I’ll try to set up a live video feed as well. And yes, there will be pictures – I need to have photographic evidence of all of the stupid things I do.
Wish me luck. Better yet, drop by with some scotch. I’m going to need some after this is over.
Fear – it can be debilitating, or it can be the ultimate motivator.
Several years ago – when I was in my early twenties1 - I faced the first of the two irrational fears I had known my entire life; my fear of heights. Before that random day back when I was still an innocent2 twenty-something, I lived in fear of all things that separated me from the safety of terra firma. Ladders, trees, balconies, planes – all were the same in that they all reminded me that I wasn’t safe, and any tiny slip would surely see me falling to a painful and bloody death.
I was rather melodramatic back then.
Things changed one day when I was 20ish. I had joined a friend at her parent’s cottage. It was a beautiful summer day and we’d decided to go out in the canoe. Eventually we paddled our way to a cliff and three twenty-somethings who were thoughtlessly, carelessly, and without any sense of safety or their impending death, hurtling themselves into the water below. With every leap, my stomach sank, my panic increased. With every leap, I expected to see a body float to the surface of the water, lifeless, broken, leaving family and friends with an empty ache where once a vibrant life had been.
Of course that didn’t happen.
What happened was worse. Far worse.
“Let’s join them” my friend said/demanded.
I’m sure all colour drained from my face. For whatever reason I followed my friend to the top of the cliff – at least 30 feet above the water. Thirty feet of danger. Thirty feet that separated me from my untimely and painful, awful death.
I watched as each of the three twenty-somethings we met continued to climb the cliffs and run face first at death – mocking his ability to snap them like twigs. I watched as my friend followed suit, unaware that she was tempting fate.
I stood at the top of the cliff, frozen. My mind raced – calculating distances and speeds necessary to clear the rocks that jutted below the edge of the cliff. I worried about the impact. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to make the jump – that I’d trip, or worse, not leap far enough. I worried I’d sink too quickly, smashing my head or legs or body or all of the above. I worried that I’d gasp for air the second I was underwater, filling my lungs with the murky water that lay below. I worried.
And I worried.
And I worried some more.
I’m sure thirty minutes passed but it could easily have been an eternity. My heart was in my throat. My mouth was dry. My body felt weak. I was light headed. I inched my way to the edge, peering over. I took a step back and breathed. My head was spinning. I took a few more steps back. I turned and approached the edge again, tracing out the steps I would need to take to jump to what would inevitably be my death. I breathed. I turned again, this time walking a few steps farther from the edge. Again I traced my steps. And again. And again. Then I traced my steps by running – stopping before I got to the edge.
Would I be able to jump far enough? Would I have enough speed? Enough momentum? Enough courage?
I stood about 15 feet from the edge of the cliff, mentally planning my moves. And then my body was moving – pushing forward despite what my brain was saying. I heard nothing but the rush of blood in my ears, the sound of my breathing. With each step the edge drew nearer; death drew nearer. I kept running. I kept running.
And then I was leaping.
And then I was flying.
And then I was falling.
It took only seconds. It took a lifetime.
The water engulfed me, swallowed me. In a heartbeat my body instinctively forced itself to the surface. To air. To life.
Because I was alive. And I was screaming. And I was huge. And I was humbled, and on the verge of tears, and I was happy to be alive. Because I was alive.
This Friday – March 1st – I’m taking on my last irrational fear. And I’m going to get over it. Because fear won’t determine what I can’t do. Fear will be my fuel.
For those in the area, join me in the Science Complex Atrium (at the University of Guelph) at 5pm and watch as I conquer my fear of spiders. I’ll be raising money for the Canadian Mental Health Association, and hopefully leaving the building a fearless man. For those who wish to donate but can’t make it to campus, click here.
Dear readers, this post is to inform you that I am about to do something really stupid. Again.
I know, I know. I get myself into stupid situations all of the time. How is this any different?
Well in this case I might die. Literally. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of melodrama, but in theory it could happen. Whatever does come of my next challenge, I’m not going to be the same man I am today so in some sense the current version of myself is going to be dead. The hope is that the current version of me will be replaced with a new and improved, stronger and more kick-ass version.
That or I’ll turn into a blubbering pathetic half man.
Regardless – I will be changed.
You see, thanks to the Twitter I’m about to tackle my last irrational fear. I had two. I used to be afraid of heights. That is, I was afraid of heights until I jumped off a 30 foot cliff. Now only one irrational fear remains, and if you’ve been reading along you’ll already know what that is. That’s correct, folks – I’m about to go one on one with my fear of all things eight legged. This will be an epic battle of good and evil. I’ll leave you to decide who fights for which side. Hint – spiders are evil incarnate, and I’m made with pure wholesome wholesomeness and the most innocent of innocence1.
With this impending battle in mind it should be obvious that the probability of me turning into a quivering mass of half man is non-trivial. As evidence, you should be aware that my heart skipped several beats while looking for an image for this post. Not because I purposely googled spiders, but because by googling fear I inevitably ended up with random photos of eight legged creepers mixed in with other fear related images. Excuse me while I GAH.
So when will this epic battle happen? The plan is to conquer my fear sometime during the eve of March 1, 2013. And for those curious, I will have all of this filmed for your entertainment. You’ll either observe the birth of a man without fear, or watch as my psyche is broken into a million little pieces. Either way – the entertainment factor should be through the roof.
Of course, given the potential entertainment value of this endeavour, I’ve decided to turn this into some sort of charity event. Details about this will follow as soon as I figure them out.
In the meantime, I’m going to try to forget all the images of spiders I just saw on Google. GAH.
Special thanks – I think – to Morgan Jackson (@BioInFocus), Nichelle Lomas, and Andrew Young for helping to arrange this. Morgan is a PhD student, Nichelle is doing grad work in the same lab, and Andrew has already completed his degree. For whatever reason the three of them enjoy spiders. I assume this means that the spiders have already taken control of their brain stems. That’s what spiders do, right?
To Dr. Beth – know that I’m not joining their side. I’m only doing this so that I might infiltrate their ranks and take them down from within. If I die, remember me as a sexy sexy patriot and avenge my death.
At the end of last year I came close to completing my goal of running 1000 km in 12 months. As can be expected, close didn’t sit well with me. In fact, it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
Fast forward to now – and might I add holy hell, how is January over already? - and things seem to be back on track. You see dear readers, not being one to rest on my laurels I have once again issued myself the challenge to run 1000 km in a 365 day period. And because I’m all about one-upping myself – even in situations where the thing I am one-upping hasn’t even been crossed off my list thereby making it one-uppable – I have also upped that challenge to attempt to run 1610 km (1000 miles) in 12 months.
But first thing’s first. One thousand kilometres – I’m after you.
What’s my tally so far? Well, if I include the month of December – which I’m going to because it’s my game and I make the rules – also because I get to capture the awesome mileage that went into training for the Goofy Race – I have already managed to cross off 352 km. That’s slightly more than 35% of my 1000 km goal in 2 months.
Not too bad, if I do say so myself.
Given that I have the 30 km Around the Bay, the Toronto GoodLife Marathon, and the Niagara 50 km Ultra Marathon coming up, I think – I hope – I’ll easily be able to knock the 1000 km running challenge off of my list. Which means I’ll have set myself up to attempt the one-upping challenge of 1610 km in 12 months. Because really, why would I stop at 1000 when I can go for 1610 km?
So now that the Goofy challenge is over, I’ve found myself spending the last few days relaxing, getting massages, visiting the chiropractor, eating, eating some more, and, well, eating1. While none of these things are bad, except for maybe the extreme laziness and gluttony I’ve adopted as a lifestyle2, I’ve realized that I need a new adventure.
Sadly, I’m not exactly sure what it’s going to be.
I assume it will involve travel in February – possibly to London or Costa Rica or insert the name of some fancy place I’ve never been here. It may, perhaps, involve an ultra marathon3 in June. Or more skydiving or edge-walking in the summer. Or perhaps it’ll be something I haven’t yet thought of.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I’m wanderlusting and I have no particular thing to focus those wanderlusting energies on.
And so I leave it to you, dear readers, what should I do next? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
1 I guess I’ve also been working.
2 Some of my favourite deadly sins, in case anyone asks.
3 For those not in the know, an ultra marathon is anything longer than the typical 42.2 km required for a full marathon.
This may sound weird but I feel like I haven’t been running in ages.
I was getting a massage tonight, and while my hamstrings were being put through the paces I actually wondered aloud Holy hell, why are my hamstrings so sensitive tonight?
My massage therapist put on his Are you kidding me? face and I realized how dumb my wonderings were. After all, he has been treating me throughout the Goofy training process so he was fully aware of the demands it made on the body, and exactly what I was doing this past weekend. Strangely, it apparently slipped my mind.
I may jump on the treadmill tomorrow as I do feel like I’ve neglected it over the past 11 days or so. Granted, I should probably wait until I get some new shoes. My current runners have seen enough miles and enough races that I can safely say they are ready for decommission. In fact, since December 1 I’ve logged over 330 km in my current runners. Crazy!
Anyway, I’ll leave the decision to run until tomorrow morning. I may run. I may not. It’ll be a surprise. Perhaps sitting on my butt is exactly what the doctor ordered. Of course, I won’t be siting on my butt for long – there’s training to do for my next race. Which race is that? I’m not sure yet. But I do know there’s always another race.
After a day filled with meetings, teaching, report writing, and other such academic pursuits, I’m wiped.
At least, this is usually the case. Fortunately today was not a day filled only with meetings, teaching, report writing, and other such academic pursuits. You see dear readers, it was also filled with yoga with my friend Dr. Mark, a 30 minute interview with a local company that garnered me two shiny new 50 dollar bills, and an hour-long massage.
Yoga with Mark, an hour-long massage, and $100?!
If you’re thinking Holy hell, that sounds like a most excellent day, you would be correct.
The best part – after a massage and yoga it almost feels as if my entire body is jello – but in the good relaxed kind of way, not the jiggly kind of way. Nothing hurts. Nothing aches. I feel bendy. I feel über relaxed. This is how I should end every day. Maybe tapering for Goofy won’t be as stressful on me as I first thought.
Anyway, I think I’m about done for today. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go pour myself into bed.
Despite knowing that my last long run before the big race this coming weekend was due to an epic eating failure on my part, and knowing full well that I need to take the next 5 days to rest my legs, I spent the bulk of the day annoyed with myself for being so stupid yesterday. Not only that, but a significant portion of my thoughts were devoted to an internal debate:
Evil Dan: You should run today to make up for yesterday’s failure. I mean really, it’s the only way to redeem yourself. Otherwise you’re just a great big wuss-bag who let a potential yarfing, weakness, and dizziness get in the way of you and a full run. I mean, really – unless you’re dead you should have kept running.
Not-Evil-At-All Dan (spoken all whisper like): I don’t think that’s a good idea. And I really didn’t feel well.
Not-So-Evil Dan: No! No matter how fat and gross and lazy you feel right now – no running. Okay, no more than 12 km. I mean you do feel fat and gross and lazy after all.
Evil Dan(laughing snidely): Pffffft. Twelve kilometres? That’s not even a challenge. You might as well not even run if you’re only going to do 12. You really should run at least a half-marathon, otherwise you’re just half-ass’ing it. In fact, for being a suck about it, you should probably run at least 24.
Not-Evil-At-All Dan(the rage quietly building): Um, who said I was being a suck?
Evil Dan: Oh, you’re totally being a suck about it. You’re not even willing to do 12.
Not-So-Evil Dan: Ya, no kidding. Wuss.
Not-Evil-At-All Dan(the Hulk rage building): NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP! I’m in charge here. You two – shut it. Now you – Gillis – go eat something. And while you’re at it, drink some water.
[Not-So-Evil Dan and Evil Dan make a hasty exit, while Not-Evil-At-All Dan pumps his hulk-sized chest in victory.]
Yes, there are apparently at least 3 versions of my conscience. Two of them are clearly on the wicked side of the spectrum, the other not so much. That version – the latter of the 3 – is like the Hulk. At first he’s all quiet like and such, but push him too far and he erupts in a green-Hulk like rage. Of course all of this goes on in my head unbeknownst to those around me.
And so this went, all day, as if on repeat. Every time the Hulk had to burst forth and kick those other two versions of myself to the curb, they would slowly creep back when I was distracted by such things as reading a PhD thesis, finishing one grant proposal, working on another, or attending meetings. They really are persistant little bastards. Fortunately I stuck to my guns – that is, the Hulk version of me kept the upper hand.
Now I just have to keep doing this for the rest of the week as I rest for the big race. Sadly, this is far easier said than done.
SOOOOOOO, apparently that old saying You are what you eat is true.
How do I know this?
Well today I had to jump on the treadmill to run my last long race before I head to Florida for the Goofy Race. Given that I wanted to run a 30+ km run, you’d assume that I would have planned appropriately. And for the most part I did.
I slept an appropriate length of time. I stretched. I went for a massage. I relaxed. I visualized the run; seeing mile after mile pass as I ran until the necessary distance was covered. And I ate.
Oh wait. No I didn’t.
Of course, I didn’t realize this until shortly after jumping on the treadmill. Within 4 miles I realized something was off. I felt wobbly. I felt a bit yarfy. Actually, I felt a lot yarfy. Strangely, my legs felt strong, and my breathing felt strong, but at the same time I felt weak – really weak. I pondered if it was my mind playing tricks on me, but I soon realized it wasn’t some sort of mind game. I was pale – really pale. And the more I ran the more I felt like I was going to yarf.
Fortunately I didn’t yarf. I did manage to push out another 4 miles, eventually stopping at 8. It wasn’t pretty – I looked like a bag-o-smashed-hammers – but I did it.
So, getting back to the old saying, you might be wondering what I ate today.
The answer to that is simple. I ate a big bag of stupid.