I for one am looking forward to talking about something else. Like, did you know they’re doing a live action Jetsons? Why?

Like every other year, the last week before Tough Mudder absorbs all other thought. I’ve become a broken record. Talking about much else would be disingenuous, because I’m not thinking about an array of topics. I’ve got tunnel vision that’s concentrated on how I’m gonna get up those hills.

I’m thinking about what to eat and when to eat what. While common knowledge says that carbo loading is the way to go, I’m borderline petrified of getting constipated and having to navigate the course with a food baby as the monkey on my back. It’s a trap for sure. If your body isn’t used to certain types of food, why vary things up before the race in the hopes of getting a slight boost? I know that I’ll have shit all chances of sleeping the night before, so adding any kind of indigestion is a fool’s errand. Keep it simple, proteins, fibre and small amounts of complex carbs. Then fill in the gaps before the race with excessive pre-workout. I’ll practically fly up St Louis Moonstone.

I’ve kind of divided life into PM and AM (Pre Mudder and After Mudder respectively) and for the most part I’ve pushed everything after the race out of my head. One nagging issue though is footwear. There’s no way my shoes will be operable post race. My beloved Saucony Excursion TR8 GTXs. I bought a pair a few years back and found them to be the most comfortable running shoes I’d ever owned. So of course I got another pair once they were done. It took work and Google-Fu. I searched across the world and found a pair close to home in Edmonton. Paid way too much, but it was worth it not to mess with what my feet were used to. I’m no stranger to foot pain, which has a habit of becoming knee pain all too easily. So the path of least resistance was best paved with becoming a creature of habit. This year, the shoes are nowhere to be found. I’ve looked. I’ll have to figure out what about them worked and seek the next best thing. That’s a job for my Sunday hangover.

Tonight is all about stretching and foam rolling. In other words, a torture session. It’ll hurt like fuck now, but anything I do beforehand will only ease pressure on the day. Why is it that myofascial release is so goddamn painful? Somehow pressing dense foam into my muscles feels like a stabbing. The foam roller will deal with my IT bands, thighs, calves, groin, glutes and rotator cuffs, while a lacrosse ball can get into those hard to reach spots on the upper body. Is this boring you? Good, it’s gonna be even worse for me. I have no idea how real athletes deal with this stuff on a regular basis. Those fucking Supple Leopards. Staying limber seems to be a full-time commitment. I can’t imagine how much time you’d have to devote to keeping the machine running well if your body was the tool of your trade. Last year it was so easy. I had benefits that covered regular athletic therapy. I just offset the work and knowledge onto those who knew best. Maybe I can convince myself that doing it on my own makes it worth more or something. Am I that gullible?

Two sleeps, then it’s here. I’ll be able to remember what my life was like when it had nuance. Maybe I’ll learn from walking a mile in some different shoes.

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My ex told me she couldn’t hang out any more. She said as an empath, it was dangerous to spend time with narcissists. That hurt, but I felt better once I realised she was talking about me.

It took two words for my eyes to widen like saucers. The future was rife with possibility and hope.

“Healthy narcissism” she said.

I’m starting to think that 6 sessions later, my therapist has developed an idea of how I tick. Therapy is something I’ve always sought, if only to have someone who knows how to guide the endless salvoes of thoughts I shot in their direction. It took a little searching to find the right one, but she gets me and it’s helping. She doesn’t clamp down on tangential thought, but she knows how to taper it, curve it back towards meaningful discourse. This many sessions in, she’s managed to pull a bunch of threads together in order to form a tapestry. My life and admissions have been spread out in front of her and she references them with valid citation. She’s drawing inferences and backing things up, helping me interpret why I might think in certain ways based on past experiences and attitudes. In short, it’s helping me to get a greater image of how I came to be the “me” I represent. What motivates me, inhibits me and why?

I’m a mess of competing impulses at the moment. This Tough Mudder thing is looming I’m having trouble looking outside or past it. Why? Well as we’ve ascertained, I’ve been plagued with shitty body image issues for years, stemming from being a fat kid and retaining the cognitive grooves that left for my mind to tread on repeat. I started working out when I was 14, so as a 28 year old I’ve spent literally half my life pushing towards creating meaningful change. I’ve come from steps to bounds and now I’m driving myself to o’erleap literal obstacles on a 20km course. For years I’ve looked in the mirror and seen disappointment, imagined potential and left drained by the chasm between expectations and reality. It’s driven reality deeper into those cognitive grooves I formed at a young age, making it harder to see the positive aspects in my reflection. When your self-perception sinks, it’s hard to look at yourself with a level head.

Because of the endless drudgery of unrealistic desires, I’ve constantly reached for physical goals. The training mentality at its core is easy: Just keep working harder. That I can do, so every time I mentally hold the chalice of victory aloft, it tells me that I’ve ascended my expectations. I’m getting closer to the “me” I want to be. I’ve been seeing this progression and each time I surpass a goal, it fills me with self worth. It puts further distance between myself and those cognitive grooves I’ve tried to leave in the distance. It tells me that it’s okay to try, that I don’t need to be bound by this weight any more.

Thing is, we’re looking to define exactly what runs through my head when I’m at a low point. When I feel like shit and see shit in the mirror, what words surface? What do I tell myself? What does it sound like at those moments when I hate myself, when I tell myself that the way that I feel is indicative of who I am not just to myself, but to everyone. Right now, that’s hard. It may sound vain, but I’m happy with what I see in the mirror. I don’t feel smug, but confident. I know that I’m standing taller than I did, finding it easier to smile back at people on the street. I’m looking good, feeling good and through this haze of contentment it’s hard to put myself into the opposite haze, the fog of self-doubt.

This vanity is a new development. When I look in the mirror and realise I can see musculature in my arms, cheek bones, or those weird lines that come down from your hip bones, I feel a surge of surprise and validation. It’s strange, alien, but wonderful. I catch myself and for just a second, face micro-displacement. Is that really me? It must be, because there’s nobody else in this elevator. On the other hand, I’ve got such a deep seated opposition to vanity that I’m pricked by pangs of guilt. Isn’t vanity predicated on a compensation for personality? It’s not important how you look, people won’t like you for that. You’ve gotta be an interesting person, a good person. Focus on who you are and let people see that. I’m still listening to the words of a 14 year old, the needle is stuck in that cognitive groove and playing on repeat. I’m 28, logic tells me my 14 year old self is a fucking idiot (as most 14 years olds are. The worst age), but the wily little shit has a tenacious emotional grip. Part of me is overjoyed with how I look and the other part is convinced that makes me a terrible human. I’m being pulled in two opposing directions and it’s hard to shake them both off to walk free. I want to feel confident and feel okay about it. That’s not a huge ask, right?

Then those magical words: “Healthy narcisissm.”

You have my attention.

Failing anything, “don’t die” is a very powerful motivation mantra.

I’m getting excited, peeps. Tough Mudder is under 2 weeks away. It’s that nervous excitement where thrill and fear combine into suspense. I can’t wait to do it and for it to be over. Having bought the tickets months and months ago, the fact that a looming deadline is almost here brings trepidation and a fuzzy feeling in my guts. I want it to be Tough Mudder now, while simultaneously dreading how inadequate my training has been.

Yes, I’ve been training. No, it doesn’t feel like I’ve pushed it enough. Yes I’ve been watching what I’ve been eating. No, I haven’t developed the ability to photosynthesise and levitate. I’ve been doing personal training at the wellness centre across the road, but I still haven’t shifted that damned recursive knee injury that’s been floating on the periphery for the last few years. It’s not detrimental to anything, but more important than getting through is crossing the finish line without incurring a bunch of injuries that’d make the wellness centre see dollar signs. It’s the distance that’s got me fearful. 10-12 miles is around 18-20 km. The only other time I jogged that far, I gained the aforementioned damned recursive knee injury. I intended to keep up regular jogging, but after a few slightly more than niggling pains, I pulled back on the war effort.

So now I’ve got near 20km to jog and a lack of preparation. Can I rely on gear to compensate? I’ve got a knee brace coming my way (thanks benefits) that should help keep joints aligned. My shoes though? They’re garbage. They’re indoor cross trainers. Zero heel support, lightweight with no grip. How’re they supposed to guide me along uneven terrain, rocks and roots across my path? I’m gonna be slippin’ and sliding like a 60s summer fun toy fit for the whole family. Actually, that does sound many types of neat. Still, hard to slide uphill. So I’ve gotta find new shoes, albeit new shoes that’re gonna get ruined immediately with mud. Are there stores that specialise in dumpy stuff that’s made to get wrecked? Thrift store it up?

I’m proud of my simian heritage and given the chance, I love being the human embodiment of our monkey ancestry. I adore climbing and hanging off things. The obstacles that’re focused on upper body stuff are the defining reasons I’m so excited. Everyone who’s done a Tough Mudder before tells me that it’s all about teamwork. Less competitive and more about helping everyone get over that line. You’ll stay behind and help out strangers they sayYou’re gonna need your team mates to lift you up. Great, because with 5 people, we’re right at the number of a perfect giant robot fighting squad. It’s the stuff dream teams are made of.

My team hasn’t sorted a costume idea yet, but if we’re getting soaked, covered in mud, dunked in ice and electrocuted (dumb. “Mental fortitude” is one thing, but this is just torture. My least favourite thing about the event), we’re gonna want lightweight stuff that’ll let our skin breathe. I finished my last mud run in pyjamas, but it was small potatoes in comparison. Two laps around a 6km course. This is a bigger, longer run. The average time is around 3 hours and I’m without the smarts on how to dress myself. Once again my lack of clothing knowledge pits me uselessly hurling myself against a bunch of objects without wisdom to guide me.

So many things, barely enough time to prep for them. The running thing is a lost cause. Hopefully these stumps that keep me upright can hold out without dying out. Hopefully whatever I’ve done will be enough. Hopefully the event skews more fun and less douchey than I’ve imagined. Hopefully my team can carry each other to the end. Hopefully whatever mess of fear and excitement swirling around in my guts is enough to propel me along that course. Something has to, and it’s either that or creating an elaborate harness that dangles a literal carrot above my head.