Hail my running brothers and sisters! Today was a beautiful morning to go for a nice long run…unless you’re me. I had one of THOSE days. The kind of day we runners share amongst ourselves, but never with the newbies, so we don’t scare them off or discourage them. It was that day when my legs feel like lead except for those times when every step feels like a pinch to my calves. It was that day that my allergies rolled over me like a flood so that every breath was a wet, raspy gasp for mother-loving oxygen. It was that day I knew that my sure pick for the winner of the tournament on my bracket would come crashing down all the while flashing their number 1 seed as it fell to the bottom (Thanks a f-ing lot, Kansas). It was that day that when every bit of work and personal guilt pushed its way to the front of my brain and shoved down any sense of discipline and determination. It was that day when every negative thought needled at my will till my only option was to turn around and call it a day. Yes, it was that day.
Now I’ve had bad runs before where all I wanted to do was quit, but I pushed on, hated myself, and finished. Days like today are rare for me. The aches, the pains, the soreness, and the allergies are all things that I have to suffer through on occasion for years of bad living, weak genes, and bad karma. The mental stuff is harder for me to handle. Thanks to the psych classes I had in college and the endless years of psycho-babble TV shows that I’ve watched, I usually have a pretty good handle on my mental state. Still, I’m subject to bouts of melancholy that can stop me dead in my tracks and turn me into a useless lump. My usual treatment is to turn up the angry music, watch some overly violent movies, and carpet bomb my melancholy with waves of anger and self-righteous Hollywood violence. Sometimes if my blahs are particularly strong, I’ll buffer the anger therapy with some dark, gritty comic violence. Under this prescription, I’ll roll out of my funk in a matter of days. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have that kind of time. I have a half-marathon to run in 1 week, and I need to finish my training strong for the race.
Before I go any further, I need to apologize to my friends and co-workers as they will suffer the most this week. I’m sure most of you reading this post so far are expecting from the title and the tone of the post that I will be trying a different tactic to screw my head back on to my shoulders, like positive reinforcement and self-reflection, religious fever, or even just being nice. Some of you expecting the upset, after a string of upsets this weekend (Thanks a darn lot, Vandy and Villanova), might consider that I would instead go the mental-flagellation route on the analogy that the junkyard dog that gets kicked comes back meaner and badder than ever (Also known as the Rocky Balboa training cycle…i.e. get beat up, train to some motivating music, come back and beat up Russians and guys with mohawks).
Instead I’m going with option C. Option C is a ego rebuilding tool of last resort due to the harm to me and those around me. It is a weapon when properly deployed leaves an impression of myself that people believe is the real me. I assure you, it is not (at least not at the level that I have to employ). In order to fix my head and get ready for my race, I must unleash Arrogant Joel. Now some of you who may know me are reading this and wondering…this isn’t Arrogant Joel already? Sadly no. One of things that I love about running is the confidence that it instills in me and the knowledge that if I train harder, I can still achieve better results. I try to be cool about it and self-deprecating, but my enthusiasm often bubbles over in somewhat un-humble tones. Seriously though, I was a slob, and running has made me better person physically and spiritually. I just want to pay it forward and help other people feel that way. Sadly, my frame of reference is me, and whenever I talk about how good I feel (trying to inspire, I swear), it sounds conceited. I’m not stupid, I know other people are faster than me, stronger than me, and other people have lost more weight than me (and some in a shorter time), but I’m still proud of what I’ve done.
Arrogant Joel is a whole other level. Think of Barney from How I Met Your Mother, and Reggie Miller playing the Knicks, and you get the idea. He is a gigantic A-hole, overly confident in his abilities (without much basis for thinking so), and completely willing to share his Awesomeness with those less-awesome (After all, if you can’t be awesome, at least you’ll know what it looks like. That’s right…me, baby. ;p) . He is a trash-talking, self-centered douchehat that will sacrifice any semblance of decorum and politeness (A gracious winner is a crying loser after I’m done with him). He will push himself to win at all costs, short of cheating, but his faith and over-estimation of his abilities leaves no other acceptable outcome than Flawless Victory (as if there were any other). The one exception to this rule is that he doesn’t get to come home. My patient, loving and beautiful wife has made it abundantly clear that Guy is not allowed or tolerated in this house. So he has to stay on the field…or at the office. So once again, my friends and staff, I’m sorry. I really am. But I have a race to run, and I need that gigantic A-hole to do it. Later kids!