Showing posts with label challenges. Show all posts
Showing posts with label challenges. Show all posts

Compassion and Fatigue in a Social Media World

Of late, I'm feeling a bit wiped.  I know this has a bit to do with the good ole work-life balance, but I'm also struggling with how I continue to engage with the world and the things that I fundamentally know and believe about the world and I would be curious to hear how others grapple meaningfully with these challenges.


Horrific Event Cycle

Breaking News!

Much of this happens as a result of the hyper-narrative of events.  What I mean by this is that for several years I've noticed there is a series of cycles around any major news story--especially those which are controversial or horrific that goes something like this:
  1. Horrible event happens.
  2. Immediately responses to horrific response that mix empathy, anger, and shock.
  3. Quickly followed by responses criticizing those people and how they responded, which often invoke shame, hypocrisy, and ignorance coupled with bigotry (knowing and caring about this group, but being ignorant of other groups--especially marginalized groups).
  4. Shortly followed by responses criticizing the critics and damning their insensitivity to the "real tragedy."
  5. A response by the critics about the insincere responses of the previous responders.  
  6. All of this then gets rolled into critics who provide a meta-commentary, which allows them to comment on larger issues.
  7. The meta-commentary then is reacted to by all the other critics as twisting words, reductive thinking or some other problem.
  8. These continue to spiral until another horrible thing happens at which point said commentaries, meta-commentaries, etc are folded into, evoked, or mocked because of the seriousness of the new thing.
Meanwhile, there is a never-ending round of "gotcha" and "told you so" memes that are generated and circulating are meant to purposely incite or offend various people, all in the name of freedom of expression and minimalizing complex and nuanced issues that require substantial thought and consideration.  All of this unfolds sometimes within hours, though usually days of the original event.

It's hard for me not to engage in various levels of commentary because they are often infused with ideologies or are clearly evoking similar past events.  Whether it's another terrorist attack, a mass-shooting in a public space, or even a manufactured story purposely meant to rile the dominant culture about a supposed threat to their power and prestige, they all come at us in series of articles, news clips, and memes that beg a response; that beg a need to identify inconsistencies, hypocrisies, and misinformation.  


Just Ignore It

IWISH I HAD

This cycle is exhausting to witness and partake in.  The media only enhances it with the outrage cycle to produce stories that aren't stories but still suck us in to discussing it (e.g. the Starbucks cup).    And it is hard to avoid engaging in it to some degree.  To remove one's self from social media doesn't work because it is still likely to be present in news stories, on the television news, and on one's news feeds.  To attempt any level of awareness in the world and to not be blasted by it, seems all but impossible.

I often hear people say, "Just ignore it."  In fact, I've lost several "Facebook friends" due to my failure to ignore the nature of their posts.  But I generally can't ignore it.  If I see something wrong--something that alienates or marginalizes already vulnerable populations, then I am compelled to say something.  I have trouble letting it slide as to me that seems to be a sign of my own bigotry.  That is, if I fundamentally believe in the humanity of all people, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, etc, then to chose to only speak up for groups that I more closely identify with seems to reject that idea outright.  I can't pick and choose; I'm either vigilant in supporting all groups to the best that I can, or I'm just playing favorites and that means reinforcing or refusing to confront my own innate bigotry.

There's also something about ignoring that I find disconcerting and impossible for me.  I know some of the nicest people can happily and purposely ignore something.  They will even say, "don't tell me about that" so that they can avoid cognitive dissonance around something in their lives (e.g. the horrific and unsanitary conditions of the animals we eat, the environmental and human degradation of the coffee we drink, the human abuse and exploitation of children and adults for other commodity items like clothes, diamonds, and chocolate).  It's very hard to turn off that switch for me and I don't want to turn of the switch per se.  I don't want to numb myself or allow myself to ignore it because so much harm is done in the world by our ability to ignore those things which we are not directly affected by.  


Ignoring Is a Privilege

Racism: The Elephant in the room

If I'm not African American, then I don't have to think about what it means to be black, the inherent inequalities at every step of the criminal justice system for African Americans, the numerous other social and cultural inequalities, and how that will impact me.  Therefore, when people on Facebook, especially police officers, openly mock, blame, or disregard often with inherent racist posts about #BlackLivesMatter, I get the privilege to ignore it, on the assumption that it is not my problem or it doesn't directly effect me.

If I'm not transgender, then I can ignore the various memes posted by typically hereotsexual men and women that mock Caitlyn Jenner or any transperson of any variety for that matter.  I can enjoy the mockery taking place.  I don't have to think about what it means to be trans in a culture that regularly kills people because they don't fit into a simplistic gender, sex, or sexuality system.  I get to laugh at the post; it doesn't increase my internalized fear for my safety every time I use a public bathroom.

If I'm not Muslim, I don't have to think about what it means to belong to a world religion that like so many other religions, have people who are practicing some bastardized form of it and committing horrific acts in its name.  I don't have to constantly walk a line between faith but also communicating that "I'm not 'them', I swear" because people and news media's reductive thinking can't or chooses not to distinguish between terrorist organization and world religion.   I don't have to tattoo the American flag on my forehead to avoid questions being raised about whether I should be here, what kind of threat I represent, or what am I doing personally to prevent other Muslims from becoming terrorists, like I'm personally responsible and representative of all Muslims.   Instead, I can talk about deporting "them," torturing "them," or even nuking "them" like they are an infestation because I belong to a culture and government that has committed genocide on other peoples, so what's one more. 

Ignoring is a privilege afforded to those whose lives are not directly effected by whatever is being ignored (In truth, it does effect all of us as bigotry, injustice, and violence perpetrated upon one group opens up the opportunity for it to happen to all of us).  I don't sit well with knowing I have privilege based upon factors that society has deemed more valuable despite such privileges being entirely a matter of birth (e.g. race, ethnicity, class, gender, sex, sexuality, etc) and therefore, when there are ways I can address my own innate privilege, I do my best to do so.

But How to Engage?


That is the question I grapple with.  I don't want to dissent into a Bug's Bunny "Rabbit Season/Duck Season" debate but of course, it so often does happen.  I see a post or comment that is troubling, inaccurate, or misrepresents peoples or beliefs and I find it important to respond.  In truth, I'm trying to respond to the person, but often the nature of the post makes it clear, they are being purposefully incendiary; it's their American right, of course (insert commentary about who and when "Americans" get to assert such a right).  

I often respond often knowing the person who posted it will not listen, respond, or hear what I have to say and if they do, it's from a position of snark or just disregard.  I often try to be respectful in my tone (though I do fail at this).  Sometimes, I am met with the same respect or the person can identify with the concerns I raise.  However, even if this never happened, I'm still compelled to do it because others need to see it. 

I provide whatever response I do because I see the need for others who see that post to know that there is a different way; that there are alternatives.  I know it's important to voice a counter-view because, it has helped others seeing the same post better understand their own issues with the post or just to know there is an ally out there.  I regularly hear from people that appreciate me speaking up to something they were afraid to or unable to comment upon.  That this happens by being networked to the person posting the offensive content makes it all the more important because it means that post, regardless of its problematic content has actually helped others become more understanding and aware.  


There's Always Housekeeping


Friend Options on Facebook
The desire to delete "friends" or unfollow people who post such content is strong and I know many will do this or simply unfollow or block posts.  I am often tempted with these options, but I feel it is just another form of ignoring.  I don't have to see the bad stuff--I can block the content and not the person so I don't have to engage with it.  Inevitably, I will know it's still there, but I can continue with my blissful feed of posts filled with health advice, pop culture interests, and cute cat pics.  That just doesn't sit well with me.  It seems to me that if I don't have the tolerance to hear what they have to say at all, then I need to consider why be friends with them at all and why do I expect tolerance but do not give tolerance.

Deleting friends doesn't seem like an option either and it's not because I don't want to offend those people or fear that I will eventually end up with no friends.  Rather it's that I make conscious decisions to be "friends" with people and I recognize that they will definitely not like everything I post, I should not expect any less from them.  More important, these are good people.  Yes, they may post things that are problematic, but on the whole they are good people with family and friends, often doing many good things in the world (caring for loved ones, donating to charity, volunteering, etc).  That is, the issue I have with them is singular but they are multi-faceted.  Deleting them seems to be another form of reductive thinking that I don't want to participate in.  


Butttt....How Do YOU Deal?  

suggestion box

I've shared the above to give people a sense of what I'm doing and why, because I'm hoping there are others out there who have similar views and approaches.  I'm curious to hear about your tactics, ideas, and ways of negotiating being a compassionate human in all its forms while being challenged by the problematic and often vitriolic rhetoric in the form of posts, memes, and articles on your social networks. 

I certainly will continue to engage in the ways I find are best to do so.  I will also find a means of reconciling the need for breaks for mental care with the concern of my privilege to be able to break away from it.  But I am curious to know how others negotiate these challenges.  What tactics do you employ?  How do you often do you engage with content that you find problematic?  How do you engage with it?  How do you avoid burnout?  How do you survive burnout?  



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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The Hat Trick: 3 Masters Degrees

I just submitted my final project for my last class for my third (and probably not final) master's degree.  Funny enough, it is just under ten years ago that I started my first Master's Degree.  Having accomplished the aforementioned hat trick, I thought I would discuss a bit about the experiences and kernels of wisdom gleaned about the process.

Degree Breakdown

First, I should clarify what I have gotten.  Mostly because the first issue I'll be talking about is that not all Master's Degrees are equal in a variety of ways and it's important to note that my experience is not likely the same as other people who are pursuing degrees that are substantively different from the ones I've earned (e.g. biology, geography, etc).  Here they are:
  • Masters of American Studies at University of Massachusetts in Boston with a focus on gender and sexuality and popular culture.
  • Masters of Public Administration at Suffolk University with a focus on nonprofit organizations.
  • Masters of Education at University of Massachusetts in Boston with a concentration on Instructional Design

What led me down this course?

Most people go for a single Master's Degree, while others may end up with two by odd circumstances.  Yet I'm signing off on #3.  What am I thinking and why don't I just get a doctorates? All great questions and none of which I think I have a good straightforward answer.  To understand the Master's Degrees, one needs to understand the rest of my educational background.

When I entered into college, my plan was to become a high school history teacher after my mentor and all-around favorite teacher, Mr. Metropolis.  He was an inspiration to many and his class was intellectually intriguing.  In fact, that's what drew me to become a teacher was the draw to ideas, discussing them, relating them, and figuring them out.

Statue of Woman in Thinking Pose: Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/A_woman_thinking.jpg
A chance conversation with my adviser in the Honors Program, Dr. Pat Ould made me rethink the plan to go back and teach high school.  "You need to get your doctorate's degree," she declared with a sincerity and matter-of-fact tone that I still hear in my head today.  She quickly explained what it was all about and that given how excited and engaged I felt with the academic nature of college, that more degrees seemed obvious.  This made a lot of sense to me and thus, I re-shifted my focus toward attaining a doctorate and most likely teaching at the college level.  However, by the beginning of senior year, I was facing a bit of burn-out as a result of lots of work on my Honor's thesis and personal drama.  I realized that I wasn't ready for grad school and needed time off, so I got a job in the interim.

One side benefit of this job was tuition assistance for employees enrolled in a degree program.  The money would barely be enough to cover one or two courses a year in a graduate program at most.  However, if I took courses at my local community college, the money could go far.  I decided that since I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do for graduate school, I would go to community college and get an associate's degree (in criminal justice).  This choice did several things for me.  It staved off paying school loans (so long as you are enrolled in two courses or more, you do not have to pay your loans) and it helped me stay in an academic mindset until I was ready for graduate school.

Eventually, I realized that I had several different areas to pursue:  Media Studies, Writing, and Sex and Gender Studies.  Thus I applied to programs at Emerson College, Salem State College, and University of Massachusetts-Boston.  I got accepted to all three but for financial and just driving interest at the time, I went with UMASS Boston's Masters in American Studies, where I would focus on gender and sexuality.  It's still definitely one of the best decisions I made in my life.  The program was hard and kicked my ass regularly, but made me a much better critical thinker.

I barreled through the program in two years (which I did with all three degrees) and by the time I was finishing, I had shifted away from my first college job in an online retailer to working in youth residential programs.  The shift was significant especially as I thought about my next move.  I learned a lot about gender, sex, and sexuality over those two years and it had me thinking about how and what I could do with that learning.  Another degree made the most amount of sense because while the program was fantastic, it was also largely cerebral and abstract so I wanted some good technical skills to balance it out or at least apply what I learned in the program.  I applied to Suffolk University for a Master's in Public Administration and either Northeastern or Boston University for a Masters in Sociology (I forget which one).  I got into Suffolk University but not the other, so I went to Suffolk.

By contrast to UMASS, Suffolk University was disappointing.  It lacked the rigor and intellectual complexity that I was used to from UMASS.  However, I figured I would at least have a better sense of ways of how to work with the different systems in society to advocate for better understanding and appreciation around gender, sex, and sexuality.  While working this Master's Degree, I was witnessing another shift in my career.  Over the course of two years, I had turned into a full-time  part-time instructor at several colleges and universities in the Greater Boston area.  My involvement with this grew enough that by the time I was done with my Master's at Suffolk University, I turned to focusing on teaching and writing for a few years.

Then, I became the Coordinator of Instructional Design at North Shore Community College.  In acquiring the job, I realized that though I was qualified, I still needed a stronger background in education.  That is, there was much that I intuited from my experiences as instructor and student, but needed a bit more formal training and technical background to fill in gaps.  In looking for graduate schools this time around, I did not bother to search much.  With the new position, state colleges and universities were the best bet in terms of affordability and UMASS Boston has a Masters in Education with a concentration on Instructional Design that fit.

I do plan on getting a doctorate's degree, but I will start the search process next year with the goal of starting in 2015.  I have a few projects to get off the ground in the interim.

Professional vs. Academic Master Degrees

As I mentioned above, my American Studies Master's Degree was much more challenging than my Public Administration master's degree.  My Instructional Design master's wasn't much more challenging than the Public Administration degree.  The reason is that there tend to be (at least) two kinds of Master's Degree:  the Academic Master's Degree and the Professional Master's Degree.

A good way to contrast this different is in the total work per course one expects.  In an academic program, a course usually has at minimum five or more books, minimum reading of 200 pages a week, and requires at least two papers, one of which is likely to be fifteen pages or longer.  The professional program typically has at most two books, requires less than 100 pages a week, and rarely includes more than ten-page paper.

Lance Eaton - Zombie version
Sometimes, this is what it takes to get through
an academic Master's degree.
The professional degree is typically easier and demands less of students, which for some is a winning endorsement.  However, that's where the degree is at its weakest.  In both professional programs, what I found most disappointing is the level of feedback.  If we take that term "Master" to mean anything, I would think it meant mastery of said subject matter.  But mastery is something that takes a lot of work and since we're talking about intellectual mastery, then it should follow that there should be intellectual rigor.

One's brain should get a serious workout.  However, that workout comes in two forms.  It comes in the form of being exposed to new information (reading, viewing, discussing newly exposed content) and it comes in the form of critically revising prior understandings about the content.  The key to this happening is offering up one's take and having it evaluated and criticized.  That is, critical feedback about how the student is making sense of the new content and progressing towards mastery of the topic is needed.  To some, this can feel like a brutal process wherein one funnels their energy, mind, and heart into (what he/she believes is) an awesome paper, only to have it returned with ample feedback that can feel negative (and even petty--and sometimes, that is true).  But the criticism feedback loop is essentially to pushing thinking and understanding of the subject by the student.  And it's this element--critical and articulate feedback--that I've found most lacking in professional Master's degrees.  It's just not there to the degree that I experienced it in the academic degree.

Why I found that so irksome is that particularly the contrast in what I was paying for my first Master's Degree (the academic one) and my second (the professional one), was substantial.  I paid triple the cost for a professional Master's Degree that gave me 1/3 the quality and intellectual return.

Thus, if I have one nugget of wisdom to bestow upon people looking for Master's Degrees, it would be to spend some time thinking about what kind of degree do you want.  Are you looking to be fundamentally challenged on a subject matter or merely for more professional opportunities?  More than anything else, that could significantly help you find a program that fits your needs most.

What have been your experiences with your Master's Degrees?  What did you like or dislike about them?



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 


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Tales of Running: What's in My Tool bag?

It's time to go for a run and you're thinking that about going for a long one.  What do you pack?  What's a must for you to have on any run?  Not just the physical goods but what's in that toolbox (ok, probably a bag since who runs with a box, right?)?  Well, I was thinking about what I need to pack both physically and mentally and here's what I came up with for my tool bag:

Physical Tools for Running

Vibrams five-finger shoes
Vibram five-finger shoesThey're a must for any run as I've said many a times here.  I find it hard to run otherwise.  

Content Belt
For lack of a better phrase, it is essentially a fanny pack.  But short of a backpack, there's not any other ways to carry extra items without weighing down your shorts/pants.  The belt holds tight to the waist and largely doesn't bother your form.  I've found that the one I have and sometimes also provide some back support depending on where I position the pack part and how tight I have the belt clip.

iPad Nano
Music is the tool that has gotten me past many a literal and metaphorical finish lines.  I have to wonder if the increase in running can be directly correlated to the increasing individual music machines (mp3 players) that are light, long-lasting, and rechargeable.  I tend not to fixate on one particular band or even genre but just an amalgam of music that I've found motivating over the years.  

Bandanna
I've tried hats and will use them if it a particularly sunny day but they are slightly irritating to my bald head.  By contrast, bandannas are perfect for keeping my head protected and soaking up the sweat.  Also, if tied correctly, the back part of the bandanna can become the low point for the sweat to exit from so that it drips down your back and not on your face.

Honey Stinger Chews
People use different fuels for the runs when they need to load up on some more carbs while logging in longer distances.  I like Honey Stinger Chews because they are tasty as well as organic.  Ultimately, anything will do and if I don't have Honey Stingers, I'll opt for whatever else is around.

A few bucks
I generally don't like to carry a water bottle during my runs.  They are distracting to me and I'm never likely to be able to carry as much as I need for a long run without seriously weighing me down.  Therefore, I carry about $5 on my in order to grab drinks on the go as well as back up money if something happens and I need to make a call.

Identification
Unless it's an official race that I registered for, I will typically carry my license and health insurance card on me in case something happens to me.  I know there are Road ID bracelets but one more thing to put on my wrists (see below) might be too much.

Basis
Basis watch for health monitoringMy Basis is a great tool as it gives me heart-rate and steps taken.  I've talked about it before and though it may be a bit ridiculous in tandem with the GPS watch below, I'm still inclined to run with both.  I'm sure the next generation of gadgets I get 2-3 years down the line will have them both combined.

GPS Watch
The GPS watch I have isn't great.  It takes usually 7-10 minutes to sync and sometimes, I'm know sure about its accuracy.  But it does give me a good sense of my distance and can help me keep track of my progress.

Mental Tools for Running

Always one more step.
It's a mantra I have readily accessible, particularly when I know I'm having or going to have a rough run.  I simply tell myself repeatedly and almost exclusively to all other thoughts, "There is always one more step you CAN take."  And there usually is.

All this is profit.
I coined this phrase when ran the marathon back in October.  It \ means that once you've pasted a distance that you haven't done before (or past the distance that you had originally planned to do), that every step after that is purely beneficial and supremely rewarding.  As someone who used to hate running, this is a profound concept for me.  I never ran more than I had to and usually did my best to get around even that.  So finding myself in a place where I want to go further than before is profit of all sorts.

Projecting running when not running.
Particularly when I'm gearing up for a big race where I want to achieve a new distance or new time, I make sure to spend a lot of time in the weeks leading up to picture myself running and in doing so, feel the muscles throughout my body.  I have also talked about this in a previous post as well of trying to get my mind and body preparing before the actual run.  Training the mind can help to train and prepare the body for the challenge that awaits you in any run.  

Setting markers for walks.
This is something that many people do not always value or understand especially when running long distances; planning and taking time to walk.  Granted, this is not relevant if you are trying to win a race against others.  But I'm talking about us who are largely just racing ourselves.  Particularly when it comes to half-marathons or longer, I usually get out about 4-5 miles and then use the water stops as a time to hydrate and walk for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  While some people feel this might threaten a personal best, I find that time and again, it has helped me achieve a personal best.  First, it breaks up the running into smaller chunks that are easier for me and my body to handle.  It also alleviates inner stress of thinking about how many miles to go before I can comfortably stop, even if it's only for a minute. Finally, it keeps me from having to stop outright.  Many  people run until their body is so worn they can't keep going or they get progressively slower.  By planning your walks, you better care for your body which helps get you to the end quicker and healthier.  

A high and a low mark for success
I try to set a range for my finished time.  The low-goal which is something I think is feasible but still requires me to give it a solid effort.  The high-goal is something I aspire to and may not achieve in this run but having it in my sights gets me mentally ready to achieve it some day.


Thinking cup - Image Source: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3023/2808468566_6d19c9e090_o.jpg
Thoughts for Running
I often try to prepare a few things to think about on my run.  Though even when I don't have them, I usually find them.  It's a great opportunity to get lost in thoughts and problem solving or reflecting.  This also helps the time go by quicker as you try to figure out something in your head.


Tools that Don't Accompany Me on My Run

Phone
I see many people use their phones in versatile ways, but I'm not at a point where I enjoy taking my phone with me (unless I find it absolutely necessary).  The distraction to take photos of scenic landscape or check my email and messages is also a bit too strong and would take from the run itself.


So what's in your tool bag?




Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

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Tales of Running: The Two Demons I Run With

Whenever I take up a run, be it a 3 mile trot down the street or a marathon, I always have to face down a demon.  I call it, the Doubt Demon.  Even though I have now run over 550 miles this year and seen great improvement over the last two years as well as found an absolute love of running, I still have to face down the Doubt Demon every time I get ready to run.

Cthulhu - Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/62/Cthulhu_and_R'lyeh.jpg
This is probably what my
Doubt Demon looks like
So who is the Doubt Demon?  The Doubt Demon has been with me for decades.  I couldn't say exactly when the Doubt Demon first appeared but it was likely born around my later elementary and middle school years.  It was here that the physical differences between my peers and me became most evident.  Besides being overweight, I was also a "late-bloomer".  Historically, I had a record of coming in dead last with every run at practice I've ever attended (or close thereto).  Thus, when it came to athletics, there was little self-confidence and a whole lot of doubt and it was here that the Doubt Demon was born.  (The demon has shown its head in other walks of life, but there are different origin stories for those areas).

The Doubt Demon is a sneaky bastard.  It finds ways to disrupt and distort my view and at times, even convinces me that I shouldn't run.  The Doubt Demon has regularly interfered with my running.  It tells me that I don't have enough time to do the run I want to do (and thus shouldn't run at all) or that I'm not running as fast as others so why bother or that going to the race today is just a waste of time.  It tells me that I'm too slow or that because I didn't run the speed that I did last time that I should just give up, because clearly, I suck.  It tells me that it's too cold or too hot or too perfect weather to go for a run.

What sucks about the Doubt Demon is that it stays perched on your shoulder throughout a run.  It's often the Doubt Demon I'm battling with throughout the longer runs to keep a steady pace or just to finish.  It taunts and mocks me as others past me or I see my time is not where it is supposed to be.  It ignores that I've just run 10 miles and ridicules me for not running mile 11 at my best.  It's a pernicious bastard that feeds on insecurities and does everything it can do to convince me to stop.  When I turn the corner and see that hill that I wasn't expecting, it says that I'm too tired, too out of breath, or just too damn lazy to make it up there.  It finds those little aches within my body and exploits them in histrionic fashion to convince me that I should not go one step further.

So what do I do with this demon?  How do I fight off the barrage of negativity emanating from the Doubt Demon?  How do I keep going despite its preying on my weakness?   I invite in the Other Demon.

Who is the Other Demon?  I hesitate to call it the Rage Demon or the Anger Demon.  Maybe I should try the Tempered Demon?  The Other Demon is the focused and channeled energy that I feel coursing throughout my body.  It's fueled by both the good and the bad in my life.  It's a balanced energy, taking all that has been and is within me and channeling it into my running.  I know the power of fueling my runs with happy thoughts.  I also know that anger can be a great focus for channeling energy to.  Combined, these two make a powerful force to push myself to further heights and conquer the Doubt Demon.  The best way I can describe this is as I approached the finish line for the marathon, it was the Other Demon that drove me.  During this final push, my emotions ran the gamut from grunting and growling to weeping and laughing.  It blazed within me and despite the exhaustion, it drove me through the finish line.  

The Other Demon seems to be a bit of everything but its most valuable resource is the strength and power it feeds into me. Sometimes, it comes of its own volition and sometimes, I must summon it. However, it doesn't show up without a reason.  The Other Demon needs to confront or focus on something.  That something is usually the Doubt Demon.  

I know when the Other Demon is present.  I feel energy coursing through me, even if I'm far into the race and should be exhausted.  When it arrives, it often feels like a weight being lifted from my shoulders or the blinders have been removed.  On occasion, when it's through a rough patch, the Other Demon's presence is so palpable that I find myself grunting (almost growling) to make my way through it.  When the Other Demon is present, the Doubt Demon has no chance.  It shrivels up like a raisin and all but disappears.

But the nature of the Doubt Demon is never to entirely disappear and it is likely to veer its ugly head again (and again).  However, knowing that I have the Other Demon within me helps me defeat the Doubt Demons more times than not.  It won't always be there when I need it, but it continues to show up to squelch the Doubt Demon's attempts.    

To be clear, none of this is to suggest that I've got mounds of rage and anger within me to fuel my runs.  I'm not running on rage by any means and I think this is the part that not many people can get.   There is much in this world that we can find upsetting, frustrating, trying, etc.   Coupled with this is a culture that doesn't allow for easy express or outlets for such emotion.  So yes, I can see how people might read it as such.  But the Other Demon is a mixture of positive and negative elements of life.  And rather than let those negative things eat away at me as it does so many other people (and take away from my general sunny-disposition), I channel them into something positive.  I use them to squelch other negative things (That makes a certain sense, right?  A negative neutralizes another negative mathematically).

I imagine that many other people have their Doubt Demons.  How do you keep them at bay?  What tactics do you have in slaying the Demon?

Note:  This is metaphor.  Please spare me any communication questioning my grasp on reality.



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Tales of Running: Battle Won and on the Path to Victory, or My Amazing 30K

I'm still awed by my performance that the 30K run I did on Sunday, September 29, 2013.  Maybe that sounds a bit conceited.  I don't mean it to be.  My mind is still reeling from the accomplishment.  That I could do a 30K still shocks me even though I did it last year.  But that I did the run today in a personal record time that I didn't think I could do, just leaves me awestruck.

Image: Lance holding finishing medal.
I should mention that I cried twice during this run.  I couldn't help it and truth be told, I didn't want to stop it.  I've talked about crying while running before.  It's just something I do.  Somewhere between the physical exhaustion and the mental realization that I am doing something that for much of my life I thought was not only crazy to do but beyond my ability, I'm overwhelmed with the fact that I am not only doing it, but actually enjoying it.  And so the tears of joys and the heavy sobs are signs of pride.  

I have much to be proud about in my running of late.  The last few races that I've actually done, I've had great success.  I had to skip the Wicked Half Marathon from last week because of other obligations, but I did manage to have a hard run this week.  I ran 6.5 miles at a 9-minute mile pace.  I know that will never break any levels of success.  But much of the summer, my runs of 45 minutes or longer were somewhere between 9:30-10:00 minute miles.  I sometimes would do better if it was a road race, but my own runs, never really dipped below that.  However, this past week, I destroyed that record.  

Great as this was, it was a shadow of the 30K accomplishment.  Last year, I suffered through this run. I did it but it was harsh and I walked significant chunks of it.  I also opted for the Sunrise start, concerned that I would be so far behind that the race would end before I did.  I came in at 3 hours 39 minutes.  I was and am proud of completing it.  After doing it, it opened up the consideration to do a marathon and has led me down the path to where I am today.  

But today was glorious for me.  I nailed this race beyond what I thought possible.  On Facebook, I said that I'd aim for 3 hours 20 minutes, but I had hoped for 3 hours 10 minutes.  I came in at 3 hours and 55 seconds.  I carved 39 minutes off my run in the last year.  In fact, at the 13.1 mile point in the race, I was around 2:06, which means I even shaved 3 minutes off my best half-marathon time.  The significance there is that I have shaved off 35 minutes from my half-marathon time.  This is important because I think one of my own goals in the next year or two is to get under the 2 hour mark for the half marathon and it's clear that it is definitely an achievable goal.

Digital watch time:  3:00:56 hours; 18.99 miles
30K = about 18.6 miles
GPS watch isn't entirely acurate
I had contemplated doing the Sunrise start again, but decided I would start with the other runners and aim for under 11 minute miles (which was the cut off point between the regular start time and the sunrise runners).  It was clearly the right decision.

There are many thoughts and experiences surrounding this run for me.  Some of which are clear such as watching the lead pack of runners past by at several points in the race (there were several places where doubling back occurred).  They glided by me at a pace I will never know but every time they did past by me I did find my step pick up and found the strength to push a bit more through the race.  I'm not envious of them for their skills--I'm often in awe of them.  And though I will never know their speed, I do get the distanced and determined look in their eyes as they move their bodies.  There's the herd of people I regularly jockeyed with throughout the race.  Many who pushed me and many whom I pushed, getting ahead, falling behind, going step for step, none of whom I know, but all of whom I'm thankful for.

I did the right things for this race again.  I spent a lot of the week leading up to it, visualizing and running hard in my mind.  I rest up and fueled up well in the morning.  I stretched and gave my mind the inner peace to prepare for the trek.

But one tactic that I haven't talked much about but have taken advantage of is receiving reiki the day before my runs.  In fact, I've had regular sessions of reiki from Mindful Reiki Healing and it has had a wonderful calming and centering effect that has worked wonders with the mind-game that makes up much of running.  Receiving reiki in itself is a rewarding and peaceful experience.  However, in conjunction with such physical challenges, I have found it gives me something else to call upon and center me as the running continues and my mental capacity diminishes.

In all, the run was a great accomplishment that I'm still smiling about.  It gives me a lot of hope for the marathon (in 3 weeks) and is quite rewarding to see the work paying off.  I have one more half marathon before the big race which I'm looking forward to (again, sentences like that still make me laugh and think "Who are you?").



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33 Years and My first 30K

I turned 33 this week.  With any luck, hope, effort, and technology, I'm at the 1/3 point of my life.  Totally optimistic, deciding that I'll live to 99.  But at least I have goals, right?  As birthdays go, it was enjoyable.  Those close to me celebrated it in different ways--showing their affection, care, and love.  I've not been big on birthday nor age for that matter, because it never really means much beyond tracking when I was born.  But if this were to be the 1/3 point (or hell, even the half-way point, I'd take that as well), I'm pretty happy with it.
Lance Eaton's time on his first 30K.

I treated myself to a race for my 33rd birthday.  A 30K race (close to 19 miles). I did the Nahant 30K.  My race results can be found here and while I am pretty much far in the rear of the group.  I'm ok with that.  I did it and there's only getting better from here is how I see it. Today's run was put on by the North Shore Striders, who were very cool and has me thinking I might need to join them in the near future.

I started this running shtick in July, 2011.  By winter, I had participated in 3 runs. All of which I found to be quite rewarding and enjoyable.  As the late spring circled around, I thought more and more about working my way up to a half-marathon.  Given that last fall, I was getting up to the 7 mile mark, I thought it was a reasonable goal.  Little did I know I would exceed it.  So I started running and blogging about my running.  My original high-water mark for the year was going to be the 25K Around the Cape on Labor Day.  But in the midst of making plans for the fall, I happened to come across the 30K.  I thought--what's 5 more kilometers (well, the unqualified answer to that is about 50 minutes).  It was rough, but I'm pretty happy I did it (ask my body tomorrow--hahahaha).  

So how did the race play out?  

Initially good.  The weather was great (cool and warmed up by race's end).   Unlike the 25K, I took to pacing myself immediately.  Nothing more than 10-11 minute miles.  Overall, this helped except where I largely fell apart at the last 3rd of the race.


Lance Eaton after his first 30K
The race took us along Nahant Beach and ultimately into Nahant and all about.   What I liked about the race was that it was one of those where you go out to a certain point and then back, roughly along the same route.  This helped with tracking and determining what kind of terrain lay ahead on the way back.  The path was also clearly marked and had many people along the way to direct you.  This coupled with 3 toilet stops and lots of drinking table, I felt the North Shore Striders did an awesome job supporting their runners.  And of course, the path was absolutely beautiful at times.  There are some great scenic views in Nahant and I will have to return to enjoy them more.

The two most challenging parts about the race were the downhills and the one section of dirty path with rocks.  Downhill is brutal in the Vibrams and I've yet to find a way to adjust to it (particularly later in the race).  I actually like uphills because it's easier to move upward with the shoes.  But also at one point in the race, there is a stretch of about 1/3 mile where there was a dirty path and rocks (which we had to go over twice).

I did a smart thing for this run and joined the Sunrise Start group (they start 1 hour ahead of the regular race, largely, because they are likely to be the back of the herd runners).  I liked getting the early start and not feeling like I was so far behind the other runners (even though I was).  It was also nice because I was surrounded by people who were more likely to be closer to my speed level; so if I began using one as a marker, I wasn't about to be blown away by them or burn myself our in keeping up.

Somewhere around the 2.5 hour mark for me, the first place runner came sprinting by (or what felt like sprinting by).  My gawd did he look amazing.  Long strides, sculpted body, wild beard, moving almost effortlessly at a pace that had him out of my sight within moments.  An awesome sight to behold at mile 12 (or 13--I forget).   I'm pretty sure he won--other runners who eventually caught up to me were easily a mile behind him, it seemed.  I will never be that guy--this I know.  But there is an honor in knowing that regardless, I still managed to do the same course as him (probably at twice the time).

All in all, it was a grueling race towards the end, but one I'm glad I showed up for and did.  It makes me wonder what I'll take on next.



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Tales of 9 Runs: One Miss--One Hit

So this week I was supposed to run a 5 miler on the 4th of July.  I woke up Wednesday morning and it was raining.  Not hard, but I really didn't feel the need to spend my 4th of July getting soggy.  So I skipped out and did a workout in my apartment (which was substantially more than what the run would have been, so I feel vindicated.  Interestingly though, this will still be Tales of 9 Runs because I'm doing a follow up half-marathon in October--which by the way, I'm doing this with a team and we're looking for additional runners, if you're interested--let me know!  Truth be told, I'll probably do a few more runs along the way.  It's great fun (and still crazy-weird to feel that way).

Beyond the skipped run, I do have good news to report.  Despite my concern about hitting a wall, I had another personal record.  On Friday, I set out and ran 9.4 miles.  I don't want to say it was an easy run--none of this has been easy.  But I felt capable and confident with completing it.  I got some good advice and reminders from my friend Winston that made a substantial difference.  I also brought a few bucks with me and bought a drink at a point along the way that I knew I would need to start hydrating.  I also took my own advice and got out early before it got too hot.  It was warming up well by the end of my run, but the first half was cool and shady.

Winston reminded me what I had somehow forgot:  to go slow.  I've gotten excited about running and some of that generated into me wanting to take off from the gate, but I needed (and continued to need) to be deliberate, particularly in the first half of the run.  So today, I made sure I was running 10 minute miles, had my energy bites, and found my way to hydration.  It all came together quite well and I was able to get to 9.4 miles with little hassle.  With just about 2 months, I'm at the 2/3's mark (9.4 out of 15.4 miles), so I think that puts me in good shape so long as I stay consistent and steady with the running, slow down, hydrate, and plan well.



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Tales of 9 Runs: Plateaus...or Calling for Some Running Advice

So I had what I'm starting to think is a plateau in running.  I'm really hoping it's not and that I just need to plan better both with hydration and time of day (avoiding the heat of the day), but I'll throw this one out there to see if I can solicit any advice from the universe at large.

I was trekking along today and making actually good time (9 minute miles) but hit the wall at mile 3.  It was rather hot out already at 9am and continuing on, just seemed a bad idea.  I started to walk back home.  About a mile back, I decided to run at least one more mile.  I pushed myself on this mile and managed to come in under 8 minutes which was probably the saving grace of the whole running today.  But overall, I'm feeling like the 8.4 mile mark has become a wall or plateau that I can't seem to surpass.  I know this has to do with several things that I need to work better with:

Hydration  

 I'm good with the pre-hydration.  But during is hard.  I hate carrying a water bottle, it's just distracting.  I have a camel-pack and think I'm going to have to pull it out.  I just hate the idea of having to carry more junk.  What about planting drinks along the route?  Anyone ever do that?  Drive the route ahead of time and put bottle water at particular (hidden) points?  The other option I'm considering is to just bring some bucks with me and buy a drink along the way.  Other ideas?

Diet and Weight

I haven't hit the weightloss that I usually do when I've gotten into a regular routine as of yet.  I know this means I have to more normalize my food routine, plan out my meals better, and get back to logging my foods.  I'm hope that a 10 pound different will start to have palpable changes in the overall progress.

Footwear

I love my Vibrams, but are there any other large guys (225+ pounds) out there who have plateaued or find they can't run past a certain distance.  I doubt it is the shoes, but I'm putting it out there just in case I'm missing something.

Pacing

When trying to build out miles, how does one adjust their pacing or add one miles, once beyond the 5+ miles rate?

What do others do to overcome plateaus?



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