I am feeling ready! Excited with the progress in my training and still with a few more weeks to prepare. Dropped 35 lbs so far and will probably get rid of another 10 or so before the end of the year.
On January 1st 2014, 9am sharp, I will be starting the run from here: The end of Venice Beach Pier. Regardless of the weather or how hungover I may be from New Year’s Even celebration. I wish I will see many of my friends there running the first miles with me.
This run across the USA will start from Venice Beach Pier (Los Angeles) and end in South Beach (Miami) probably on April 10th. You can see updates, routes, videos, and news about it here at 100DaysOfMadness.com and also on my facebook page: http://facebook.com/100DaysOfMadness. I will be posting updates on twitter as well: #usa100run.
In the recent hit movie and book “The Hunger Games,” young heroine Katniss is tossed out into a computer-enhanced, forest-like setting and left to defend herself against the elements, as well as other young people intent on killing her. In her attempts to survive, Katniss uses a bow and arrow both to defend herself, and to kill animals for food. She cleverly charms and forms alliances with those who might help her. She escapes computer-generated brushfires and man-eating beasts alike. I’d hazard a guess that the Greek poet Homer would have concluded that Katniss was woman of “areté,” which to him described a person of the highest effectiveness, using all of his or her faculties (strength, bravery, wit, and deceptiveness), to achieve real results.
The word areté refers to a concept defined somewhat differently by various sources throughout time. Many would say areté means, quite simply, excellence. According to dictionary.com, this word of Greek origin is “the aggregate of qualities, as valor and virtue, making up good character.” Aristotle used the term as a measure of how well something or someone fulfills its intended use. Yet he also admitted that the definition of areté is not something that can be easily agreed-upon. Finally, in his book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” author Robert Pirsig uses areté as a synonym for “Quality.”
Personally, I equate the concept of areté to reaching your highest potential as a human being. In his book Way of the Peaceful Warrior, author Dan Millmann wrote a quote that while simple, says it all. When Socrates is talking to Dan about how lousy he is in many aspects of his life while being great at gymnastics, Socrates says “Do you know what’s the difference between me and you? You practice gymnastics, I practice everything!”
It is my opinion that far too many people in this life don’t strive for areté, but rather settle for mediocrity. They live in a world where “just okay,” is good enough. If they have a job that pays the bills, and if their basic needs are met, they are happy. But why not strive for more?
We live in a world that still values the specialists and experts and considers them more valuable. However, those people are also marked by patterns of partial-completeness. I was a specialist and my life took a new focus: Find out those gaps and holes in my culture and now I am filling them up one at a time.
Consider the idea of today’s average man: He goes to work every day for a large corporation that sees him not as a person, but as a number. He comes home and flips on the television, and watches whatever news stories Channel 4 or 7 or 12 has deemed relevant. He goes back out and eats dinner at whatever restaurant the television commercials steered him towards. Perhaps he plays softball with his drinking buddies, or maybe he takes his son to a movie. The next days he gets up and does it all again.
Now contrast this with a description from H.D.F. Kitto’s book “The Greeks,” referenced by Robert Persig in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” in a chapter about men pursuing excellence:
“The hero of the Odyssey is a great fighter, a wily schemer, a ready speaker, a man of stout heart and broad wisdom…. He can both build and sail a boat, drive a furrow as straight as anyone, beat a young braggart at throwing the discus, challenge the Pheacian youth at boxing, wrestling or running; flay, skin, cut up and cook an ox, and be moved to tears by a song. He is in fact an excellent all-rounder; he has surpassing areté.
“Areté implies a respect for the wholeness or oneness of life, and a consequent dislike of specialization. It implies a contempt for efficiency… or rather a much higher idea of efficiency, an efficiency which exists not in one department of life but in life itself.”
After reading about the story of John Francis and about monks that observe vows of silence, and seeing about that in the movie Eat Pray Love, I was intrigued and interested in the idea of not speaking. However I realized reading those same stories that it would impose a burden on those trying to communicate with me, and take patience and willingness required to understand signs and hints. It is not necessary.
Looking at a painting recently I was observing how the blank spaces, where you could actually see the blank canvas, devoid of any paint in it, helped form the resulting image. The same way, silence is not just space between ideas, silence itself is part of the communication and there is much that can be conveyed using silence.
I made a little experiment by talking less for a couple of days. Much less. While not talking all the time I could for the first time listen to the voice and internal conversations in my mind. Most of our adult lives we don’t really listen very well. We only listen long enough to determine weather the speaker’s ideas match our own. And when they do not, we stop listening and the mind would rush to construct an argument against what we believe the opposing opinion to be. The same when talking to myself! The mind races with thousands of ideas and little conversations and only when you notice you can silence those as well.
By not talking much I give myself permission to listen more, not to attack other’s ideas even when I don’t agree with them…. or perhaps especially when I don’t agree with them. By listening fully the speaker also feels free to speak fully their idea or position without fear of rebuttal in a way that I could not have imagined.
Not speaking much precludes any argument and makes me listen more. By talking less I make every word I say much more valuable and meaningful. There is also a direct correlation between how much I talk and how much I am willing to listen to.
It was quite disturbing to notice how much chatter kept going on in my head after everyone stopped talking. Being more silent on the outside allowed me to notice how noisy I am on the inside. Drowning down this chatter will probably take a long time and may become one of the most rewarding changes in my life.
Silence is a bullshit filter
My whole life I’ve made a concerted effort to give people a fair shake and understand different points of view because I felt that everyone had something valuable to offer, but it turns out most of what they had to offer was complete bullshit. I was recently struck by the grim realization that I squandered a significant portion of my life listening to everyone’s bullshit. Until this point I regarded my willingness to hear out the opinions of others as a worthwhile quality, and the result is that I probably wasted a few years of my existence being open to people’s half-formed thoughts, asinine suggestions, and pointless, dumbfuck stories.
By not talking garbage I allow myself to not listen to garbage as well.
So from now on, if I keep behaving like I have been doing during the last week or so, you won’t catch me pissing away my finite time on earth listening to grossly uninformed political opinions, nonsense about celebrity couples, how good or bad certain cars are, and why a particular sports team might have a chance this year. You won’t retain my attention by talking about the weather, or how bad allergy season is going to be. I will not longer be talking about the current news that I believe are pointless anyway, or reviews of products I have no intention to have.
More rich patterns of communication
If you just try to answer each question of comment without using words, and then use words when necessary, that change alone is enough to impact radically the way you communicate. It will be a much richer way to talk (or not talk) to everyone. You learn to use your eyes a lot more, you smile a lot more as well, gestures become more varied and sophisticated, and sometimes even simple silence itself becomes a powerful answer.
This is the logo I believe represents my personal experience with this challenge.
This was the logo on the first run, from Miami to Los Angeles in 2010-2011:
- …you know exactly where one mile is from your front door… in every direction.
- …you separate your laundry in whites, colors, and tech.
- …you see another person running and get jealous.
- …when you see a sign on the highway telling how many miles an exit is and you think “I could run that”
- …a marathon is a training run.
- …26.2 sounds like an aid station.
- …instead of memorizing what street you need to turn right on, you need to remember what city the street is in.
- …half of the dishes you take out of your dishwasher are water bottles.
- …when you substitute (in conversation) hours ran, instead of miles ran…..
- …when you Change your Garmin to a Suunto because the Garmin only lasts 8 hours.
- …when duct tape becomes an option!
- …you spend three hours listening to a podcast about ultra running…entirely while running…and it wasn’t even your long run.
- …when you have to repeat the distance of your next race to everyone !
- …your long run involves a train ride to get home.
- …peeing in a toilet seems … unnatural.
- …when a dark moment lasts 20k or more and you’re fine with it.
- …you have more shoes than your girlfriend.
- …when you decide running dusk till dawn is a great idea.
- …when you apply super glue to your blisters so you can keep running.
- …you utter the words “only a 50″!
- …3-4 hour runs are recovery runs.
- …when you DNF at 83miles.
- …when you have to go to work for a rest.
- …when the gear for your training runs have to include toilet paper.
- …when you reply to the question “Are you insane?” with an unhesitating but casual “yes”.
- …you finish on a different day to the winner.
- …during the week you run to work. Work. Then run home from work… and the mileage is equal to or greater than a full marathon.
- …when you go for a run with an injury that would send a “normal” runner screaming for a doctor. You assume it will loosen up in 5 to 10 miles.
- …when a head lamp and extra batteries are part of you race gear, but the race starts at 8 am……
- …when you start your race shaved and when you finish you need to shave.
- …when you always prefix the word “marathon” with “only a”. As in:
“I was starting to get tired but there was only a marathon to go.”
“My preparation for the race didn’t go too well, in fact my longest training run was only a marathon.”
“I would have entered the race but it didn’t seem worth the hassle as it was only a marathon.”
- …when the morning papers have the results of a race that you are still running in!
Disclaimer: If you use any information from this article to do guerrilla camping, and you end up lost, hurt, robbed, raped, run over, fined or imprisoned, it’s your own damn fault! This info is here for entertainment purposes only and is not intended as recommendations on how to choose a camp site. Always obey all laws and regulations, and respect private property.
Having said that… Here is how to camp anywhere you please:
Your safety depends on nobody knowing where you are. Don’t post your exact precise updated location on the Internet in the open. Don’t ask permission to anyone. Make sure your location is not nearby houses or businesses. Listen carefully for dogs in the area while scouting a location. Don’t turn any lights on your camp. Cover yourself with the sleeping bag while using your phone or computer.
Mountain lions, coyotes, bears, wild pigs, poisonous snakes, spiders, scorpions, and drunk rednecks. All these are creatures you don’t want any contact with. Have some protection. No, I am not talking about condoms!
You want to be visible while on the road, but the moment you step out you want to be invisible. Stealthy Ninja! Take off reflecting vests, put on black or dark green clothes.
No tents in bright colors! No reflective devices on the tent or on the stroller. Buy dark colors or spray paint it.
Look for a location that is hidden from the road and from houses. Trees, bushes, rocks, even just an inclination on the terrain may be enough. I used spray paint to make a camouflage pattern on the outer layer of my tent.
These are some places I camped on during my travels:
- Casino parking lot, Biloxi MS
- Edge of airport runway, Smithfield TX
- Cemetery, Pensacola FL
- Golf club, Llano TX
- Orange grove, Lake Placid FL
- Oil field, Braveland TX
- Abandoned building, McCamey TX
- Under a city’s welcome sign
- Salt lake near El Paso
- Mohave Wildlife Preserve
Remember the real meaning of signs:
Private property = Welcome!
No trespassing = Welcome!
Keep out = Welcome!
Beware of dog = Keep out!
I bring two tarps. In good weather they stay on the ground folded in half to provide cushioning against little rocks and thorns that could puncture the air mattress.
I use an ultra compact air mattress and I don’t inflate it too much. Feels better that way.
Better find camp during the last half hour before sunset. After sunset you still have about 30 minutes of good light to set up camp. In desolate areas leave any time but if there is any question about safety I would prefer to lift camp and leave while still dark.
So I set up camp, take a towel bath, eat, and get inside my sleeping bag in less than an hour.
Sometimes you can’t bring the stroller all the way to the camp site. Usually when there is a fence to jump. I just leave the stroller folded on a ditch, behind bushes, anywhere I can hide it.
I have a backpack on the stroller with all I need so I just have to take the backpack out. Very simple.
Draw a circle of piss around your camp to tell all other animals that this is your territory for the moment. 🙂
Before: Couch potato, 235 lbs, low energy, feeling old.
After: Athlete, 175 lbs, high energy, feeling at least 10 years younger.
This will sound like one of those obnoxious advertisings for questionable diet products we can see on TV after midnight. But the contrast is so sharp and noticeable that I can’t avoid writing about it.
By the time I decided to run across the country in late August 2010, my weight was hovering around 235 lbs. In addition to that I was snoring a lot, had very low energy, and was feeling my age. I was so out of shape that the first day of training I couldn’t run more than a quarter mile!
A couple of years ago I visited a very well known plastic surgeon in the Boston area to learn about how I could lose the weight and get in shape with the use of a credit card. Of course he was happy to help me and explained that he would first perform an extensive amount of liposuction. But then I would have a significant amount of lose skin that would have to be reduced by an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) and a gynecomastia (breast reduction for men). The total recovery time for all that would be some six weeks or more, and the total cost would be around 26 thousand dollars!
In addition to that I would have to be very careful with my diet for months in order to not regain the weight I just lost. I would need to work out to reshape by body considerably because I would have a relatively lean mid-body while my arms, legs, and neck would still be showing some fat. In general I would still be a bit round around the edges.
By running like I am doing I already lost all that weight that would be sucked out of my body by liposuction, plus some. Because I did it along the course of several weeks my skin had the opportunity to flex back in size to some extent and I am thinking that I will be able to avoid the abdominoplasty altogether! The breasts are also reducing and I am quite confident that I will not require a gynecomastia.
After finishing this run I will do plenty of body work to increase some upper body and that will get me exactly at the shape I want. Without surgeries, without the incredible expense, without guilt about eating or drinking the things I like the most.
Above all I already mentioned, I am really feeling a level of energy and enthusiasm I didn’t have since I was maybe in my 20’s. It is truly like as if in these four months of running I got some 10… maybe 15 years younger!
I started this run with a set of yellow shirts size XL. In Houston I switched to size L. Since El Paso I am already wearing shirts size M. So far I dropped some 50lbs, and I believe that during these last 3 weeks of running between Phoenix and Los Angeles another 10 lbs or so will be gone.
Oh, and one last thing: There was some concern expressed by friends about stress injuries or other consequences of working out so much, so often, for so long. So far none of that happened. My body recovers faster than it used to. My immune system seems to be working at it’s best. I don’t even take any pain medicine. Not even Ibuprofen!
Yes, I took some pictures of me before starting and I will take some pictures after I finish in Los Angeles. And yes I will post those before and after pictures here. They will show how much my body changed.
In regards to how much my mind changed and how much happier I am… Pictures can’t even begin to tell how much!
If you see the hashers running their trails, if you pay attention to their extravagant clothing (or lack of it), if you focus on the large quantities of beer consumed, or even the occasional lewdness and frequent potty mouths, you may actually miss the point.
Hashing is a mixture of athleticism and sociability, hedonism and hard work. But most of all, it is an escape from “normal” life. An opportunity to behave like a child, to vent your frustrations, to behave outside of the norms you are used to and do it all in an environment where you are confident nobody will be judgmental towards you, and all that is said and done can be just blamed on the beer.
I think many people that hash are there to relieve stress. And what a good stress reliever it is! After participating in some of their trails and circles and parties I am very sure I found one of the tribes I can feel part of.
The hashers also have shown a great amount of hospitality similar to what you find among couch surfers. They have been hosting me, assisting in every way imaginable during this challenge, and I have been making lots of great friends this way.