Meat

Gasp. A running post! I can’t remember the last time I wrote about running. You know the adage—don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. No one wants to read me spewing venom about my slow mile-pace, the dwindling distance of my long-run, the way I feel like I’m suffocating three miles in, so I kept it to myself.

At one point, this was a running blog. The title, Running, Writing & Other Stuff, set the order. Running first. That lasted a few months. I ran out of topics. There’s only so much you can write about running. That’s why Runner’s World magazine uses the same title for their January issue every single year—New Year, New You. There’s really nothing else to say. In my blog, I branched out, found new topics. I decided to rename my blog, because really, after those first few months, it’s always been about the other stuff.

Recently, a recurring thread on my blog has been iron. The iron in my blood, or the lack of it. This deficit has been on-going for fifteen months, although I didn’t learn about my deficiency until March. Until then, I assumed I had long-haul Covid-19, or a heart ailment or a brain tumor, or… Fortunately a blood test set me straight. Since then, I’ve been wrestling with an internal argument over whether I should give up my vegetarianism. Last week, I bit the bullet—or should I say I bit the beef. I’m now officially a carnivore.

So now I want to brag about yesterday’s run. A fast run, the fastest in more than a year. And brag I will, but not about my pace. About that, I’ll remain vague. Two years ago, I edited two dozen running stories into a book—Bad Ass: My Quest to become a Back Woods Trail Runner (and other obsessive goals). Ninety-nine cents from Amazon. Most of the stories can be read on this blog for free, but if you ever want to overdose on running stories…

I don’t necessarily endorse this book. I’m proud of the writing, it’s good. And a lot of the stories are funny in a self-deprecating way. But Bad Ass wasn’t written by me. The Jeff Cann who wrote that book is gone. About six months after I published my book, I got an email from a guy named Peter that started like this: I’m about halfway through your Bad Ass book, and I’m not sure I can finish it. Your attitude on pace and disparaging road running is exactly why people like me don’t go to group runs, are terrified to join the trail community, and don’t dare call ourselves runners.

Oops. Can I defend myself? I wrote many of those stories with raging Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Despite what you see on television and in the movies, OCD isn’t about organizing your closet. It’s about not being able to control your thoughts. And my thoughts made me judgmental. Of everyone and everything. I judged people who didn’t run but did yoga. I judged people who ran but didn’t do yoga (I did both). I judged people who watched TV, or liked sports, or ate casseroles, or drove SUVs, or cooked on a gas grill. And as Peter suggested, I judged people who ran on roads and not trails as losers. But mostly, I judged myself.

Like most runners in their fifties, my pace was slipping, and I beat myself up mercilessly about it. Those stories that Peter referenced, in many of them I lamented that I could no longer run an x:xx pace. Real runners run x:xx! I didn’t write those stories for Peter, because at the time, I didn’t think Peter was a real runner.

I don’t feel this way anymore. Mental health medication sometimes works, and when it does, it can be life-altering. Now, you’ll never here from me what I consider a respectable running pace. The point is to run—fast, slow, trails, roads, rain, shine. But for the past fifteen months, it’s all been slow, and it’s been hell. My low iron count left me with no gas in my tank—out of breath and feeling weak. It was hard to even enjoy running.

Running yesterday, my fifth day in a row eating meat, I started out fast. Actually, I always start out fast, but my heartbeat quickly accelerates, and I need to slow down to get it under control. At the half mile mark, I checked my pace. It was way under my normal pace. Almost a minute per mile under my normal pace. Five miles later, I still crushed it. I felt fast and fit. My best run since I don’t know when.

Is it the meat? Who knows? I won’t check my iron level again for a few more weeks. I worry that I’m building myself up for a let-down. Probably, my next run will feel like a normal run, I’ll suck wind, languish, die a slow death. But wow, that run yesterday felt magical. With luck and meat, I’m hoping for more of the same.

27 thoughts on “Meat

  1. I’m happy you are finding ways to combat your fatigue. But I’m even happier that you were able to take what seems like criticism and use it to self-reflect and adjust to a different perspective. Not everyone can do that. It is hard to find that people judge your writing in anyway below par.

    That I am not a runner of any kind means I would be an unlikely audience. But, as someone who tends to fall into the category of self-deprecating to the point of self-hatred, I feel sympathy for having those efforts castigated. Self-deprecating feels like being humble, or free of ego. When sometimes, I think it is a cry to the universe to prove us wrong. Tell us we’re not as bad as we think.

    I may be channeling some issues in this reply. My apologies. It is in an earnest attempt to connect and hopefully ease the sting of what is a hard thing to take–criticism we might just possibly deserve. Dammit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, bear in mind that I’ve had a couple of years to absorb the criticism and also a complete shift in mindset from chemical correction. I was devastated when I got that email. I later got a fairly crappy review from the same guy (although he gave me 3 stars(?). Self-deprecating…. I think it’s in my nature to judge people and who better to judge than myself. Sometimes I think back to snippets of what it was like to be controlled by OCD and I’m astounded by it. I was so shocked when the medicine started taking it away, I couldn’t even figure out what changed.

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  2. I never judged others for their running pace. I am guilty of qualifying a “runner or not” kind of thing which came about when I did that Ragnar. There were those of us there that enjoyed running and those that joined for the social aspect and walked most of their legs. I could care less whether they ran or not but in previous and later runs that I did not participate in, I kind of rolled my eyes at their bountiful social media posts.
    My pace has suffered as well. And my distance. I struggle to be okay with it, and most days I am fine. I used to have a running friend who would say, “Just wait until you are 45. You’ll see. It’s not as easy anymore.” I HATED listening to his BS. I was so determined to prove him wrong. Turns out the mother f***er was right. I don’t run with him anymore – I don’t even know if he still running. But if he ever asks, I’ll never admit it. At least not to him. But yes, Jeff. It does get harder as I age.
    Glad you had a great run. Hopefully the meat and the iron continue to make you feel like a new runner. I had a good one yesterday after taking four days off. It does feel good to run faster and keeping the HR in check. Here’s hoping for some faster, longer, feel good runs for both of us in the future!

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    • I didn’t so much judge others on their pace, but myself and then that reflects on others because we run the same pace. If I’m a loser because I can’t run x:xx then I must think the next guy is too. The funny thing is that when the guy wrote e that email, I’d already had my mindset change, so I essentially agreed with him, I just needed someone like him to but it into words. There are people who prove those age naysayers wrong. Not me… but they’re out there. I think you’re at a really tricky spot for staying in shape with the ages of your family. I’m guessing your fitness improves when your kids start driving and can be more self sufficient. I know mine did,

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  3. Yay for feeling good while running! Whatever the reason!

    In my own experience, running – and thoughts about how to define a “runner” – is very ageist. When we’re younger, and fitter, we define “runner” far more stringently that when we’re older, slower, and more contemplative. I think of myself as a runner, but if I’m honest, much of the time I out trail “running” I’m hiking and/or taking photos, and enjoying myself far more than when I worried about pace/distance. I’m totally okay with not meeting some objective definition of “runner’ because after 46 years of running, I’m still out there moving, covering miles of trails, and that’s all that matters.

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    • Not only ageist, downright obnoxious. It can be hard to look into your not-so-distant past and see qualities you don’t like about yourself. Now I believe if a person considers themselves a runner then they are. And why is it any business of mine except we might have a shared interest. I’ll go out for a long run on Friday or Saturday and then I should have a good idea if that run was a fluke. I sure hope not. As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

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  4. Thanks for sharing honestly. Especially your thoughts about judgment. Like how you ended with the fact that you were judging yourself, because I think that’s always at the bottom of judging others, whether we know it or now. Nice share!

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  5. Wonder how much it’s placebo effect? Hope it’s not. And that some meat/more iron helps. Interesting, that part on the OCD. I learn a lot about things like that from your blog and appreciate the candor and no BS. Very approachable and real, and that’s not easy.

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  6. I’m with you on the running blog stuff, Jeff. I never wanted to write a fitness blog. Running is a big part of my life, so I write about it.

    I never felt the judg-y tone you talk about in your book, Jeff. I need to go back and give it another look. It’s hard to NOT compare your present (slower) times to previous ones. Something I am still working on.

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    • In both of my books, the judgement is mostly reserved for myself. Peter was projecting that judgement onto himself (for the most part). I’ve gotten much better at giving myself a break, which I truly need.

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  10. I typed a long comment and WP ate it🤦🏼‍♀️

    Short version… judge away, running has never given me any pleasure. I can walk pretty fast though.

    Glad the meat (or placebo effect) helped and you’re enjoying your runs again. Staying fit shouldn’t be a chore. We absolutely should enjoy whatever method we choose.

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