My distance-running story: the bridge from past to present, Part 3

Sometimes lessons have to be learned more than once, or in more than one context. Or they may be learned incompletely or only in retrospect. There may be many fallow years where little learning at all seems to take place. All of these played a role in my experiences across the years with longer, slower mileage-based running versus shorter, more intense training. Now things have come full circle with the chance to try again and tie it all together.
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

I cannot now remember the exact reasons why my running began tailing off after college. It wasn’t any single thing, but a number of them. It wasn’t the fact that I was no longer competing, because I had continued running for another three or four years on my own after my first and only university cross-country season as a freshman.

Maybe in part it was the fact that, not long after graduating, I had embarked on my first serious love relationship. But beyond the overwhelming nature of the “new life experience” that the relationship represented for me, I was exploring other new things in-depth at the same time: Eastern philosophy and alternative consciousness, meditation, yoga, organic gardening, the idea of appropriate-scale “small is beautiful” technologies, and so forth. (This was the early 1980s just after the flowering of these movements in the 1960s and 70s.) All of this impacted my drive and motivation for other pursuits.

Then there was the new network of friends and acquaintances I was introduced to through the relationship. As well, without a clear career direction to pursue after college, despite a degree in business (for me, a fallback since I did not know what I wanted to do), I felt buffeted about. To make ends meet, I took a fairly physical job for a couple of summers and the intervening year working as a golf course greenskeeper, which siphoned off some of the physical energy required for a discipline like running.

After that, I got a job in computer operations that lasted the better part of a year, with a huge manufacturer in the area, running room-sized laser printers that spit out incessant financial, inventory, and other reports for the company bigwigs and other white-collar corporate drones, and that paid fairly well. However, it required working third shift, which played havoc with my schedule and put a damper on my energy levels. After a full week off from the job at one point, I felt so much better physically when back on a normal daily wake/sleep cycle that I realized third shift was detrimental to my health, and I needed to make a change.

Partway through this stint, then, I decided to go back to the university for classes in computer programming. The idea was to take advantage of my natural facility with computers — still a relatively new thing at the time — to springboard into a new career like a co-worker I was friendly with, who was avidly pursuing a burgeoning interest in programming. This way I would be able to lift myself up and out of the looming specter of what could otherwise become a future of corporate dronedom, just like that of the company hacks my stacks of laser-printer output fed.

Unfortunately, the added schedule of university courses loaded me down more, both physically and mentally, of course. After a single semester I couldn’t endure the grind any longer, and lost interest.

Read moreMy distance-running story: the bridge from past to present, Part 3

My distance-running story: the bridge from past to present, Part 2

The initial flush of success that I experienced my first, and only, season running competitively in college turned out not to be worth it, at least on my terms. I quit the team but kept running on my own, and explored longer runs for the exhilaration and satisfaction of it. I also got in great shape, though I had nothing to show for it outwardly. But that was okay by me.
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

My freshman year in college, I managed to pull off an accomplishment that I was perhaps more proud of than anything I had achieved previously, competition-wise. Paralleling earlier events when I made the high school varsity cross-country team my freshman year (covered here), the same thing occurred when I made 7th and last man on the university varsity cross-country team. This time it was as a walk-on, beating out all the other college freshmen, most of whom had some kind of partial running scholarship.

But it wasn’t because I was any better than them, really. My inborn talent was decent, but except for two or three out of the eight freshmen — one of whom was a walk-on as well — based on our previous competitive results in high school, while fairly close to the others in ability, I was perhaps not quite at the same level.

Whereas on my high school team the previous year I was one of the unelected de facto workout leaders who tended to set the tone by example — unfortunately helping beat most of us into the ground on interval workouts — on the university team it was just the opposite. My body just couldn’t take all the hard-effort, collegiate-level training that the other runners could, even most of the freshmen, so I started sandbagging in workouts when needed just to survive.

By this time, I had learned enough to know when my body’s capacity to absorb punishment was being exceeded, and when to back off and take an easy day with a slow recovery run. But since that wasn’t fully possible in the university team situation, at least to the degree I really needed, some days I would just lag behind as much as I could, whatever the workout for the day might be.

Read moreMy distance-running story: the bridge from past to present, Part 2

My distance-running story: the bridge from past to present, Part 1

Most of my competitive years in high school and college were a time of learning how to train on my own. Simultaneously, I was coping with several different coaches along the way, most of whom did not have a very good idea of what they were doing. It made for a career of ups and downs and unfulfilled potential, yet also fun times and hard-won training wisdom learned along the way.
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Despite always having loved running for its own sake (see The Earth at My Feet for the story), I was so motivated by achievement and competition when I was younger and competing in high school and college that it sometimes worked to my detriment. Often, I went into competitions having “left my race on the training track,” so to speak.

I was well aware of the value of longer, slower, “mileage”-based training (i.e., what is sometimes termed LSD or “long, slow distance”) to lay a distance base, to be complemented by faster interval-based workouts — either concurrently or later in the training cycle. However, once the competitive season got underway, I/we (my teammates as well) still often overdid the latter at the expense of the former.

This was not entirely of my own choosing, since too much hard track-interval work was thrust upon the distance runners by coaches who didn’t know any better. However, even had I been entirely on my own, I still would probably have overdone it to some degree.

In high school — this being the era of the 1970s when 100 miles per week for national and world-class runners became the holy grail of training — I put in as much mileage as I reasonably could, given my teenage, still-maturing body. At that time I was averaging about 50 miles per week over the course of the entire year, but the weekly mileage distribution was bimodal. I piled on more miles in the off-seasons when training on my own, at least 60 and sometimes 70 or 80 miles per week. But during the competitive seasons (about two and a half to three months each for cross-country in the fall, and track in the spring) I could only manage about 40 miles.

Read moreMy distance-running story: the bridge from past to present, Part 1

Emerging online after 15 years of radio silence, Part 3

Why would one stay away from public participation on the internet for so long, after having been so active before that? Why begin writing again online now? The time had come.
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

An inner imperative for absence

Introversion and peaceful time away

With the internet having increasingly become a roiling and turbid fishbowl, what a lot of the preceding reasons for opting out covered in Part 2 really boil down to is my personality type as a serious introvert. Once I went to the sidelines, it didn’t take long to begin luxuriating in being out of the spotlight.

The internet is a curious double-edged sword if you’re an introvert. On the one hand, with a website or blog you can write and post from the sanctuary of your own home, while still interacting with people from a distance. On the face of it, this is less demanding and stressful than doing so in person. While I do okay in my personal life dealing with people one-on-one whom I don’t know, still, as an introvert, it is always going to be somewhat stressful unless it takes place in an intimate atmosphere with close friends you implicitly trust.

However… with conversations in person, at least people you don’t know tend to demonstrate basic politeness. The internet, on the other hand, seems to invite people to sound off with unbridled opinions and untempered emotions. This inevitably leads to conflict and people just itching to shoot down another person’s statements.

Getting out of practice with conflict. Conflict is something most introverts do not like. With email forums and then the Beyond Veg website, over time I learned to develop a thick skin and not take things too personally. But doing so isn’t a once-and-done thing if you’re an introvert — it doesn’t come naturally, at least not in my case. It’s something that’s an ongoing discipline or practice, as is simply being in the public eye more, and knowing how to handle yourself.

If you’re not keeping a “skill” sharp, you get rusty at it. As I got out of practice being on the sidelines for months and then years, the inertia of staying there took on a momentum of its own. Now that I am “putting myself back out there” online again, I’m attempting to do so in a more quiet, personal way. This is not to say that I am always one to avoid conflict. Push me far enough, and if the arena is something I am knowledgable about, I will respond with as much ammunition as called for. Respectfully so, in most cases, but with no holds barred intellectually.

Read moreEmerging online after 15 years of radio silence, Part 3

Emerging online after 15 years of radio silence, Part 2

Just when the controversial Beyond Vegetarianism website I had created in the late 1990s was enjoying success — at least on my own terms — I “dropped out.” And this, just as the web itself was undergoing rapid expansion. Rather than branching out into something different or simply taking a temporary breather, I withdrew from public participation instead, for 15 years, as it was to turn out. Why? Here are the reasons.
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

As mentioned in the conclusion to part one, at the time I decided to pull back from public participation on the internet around the year 2000, the Beyond Vegetarianism (a.k.a. Beyond Veg) website that I had created a few years before had more or less accomplished my original goals for it. Other sites with allied views were now joining in to add their voices to the mix, which provided more momentum in raising awareness of the paleo vs. vegan dietary issues we had helped spearhead. It was good to see this unfolding.

The initial reason why I opted out

Gradual onset of repetitive stress injury

While the influence the website was having in its corner of the internet was satisfying, I wasn’t thinking about that as a reason for moving on at the time I dropped offline. I hadn’t really stopped that long to assess where we were at in our trajectory. That came more in retrospect in helping to support my decision. At the time, I just wanted to find the solution to a case of repetitive stress injury (RSI) I had been dealing with for a while prior to Beyond Veg, but that had gradually become more and more serious.

Read moreEmerging online after 15 years of radio silence, Part 2

Emerging online after 15 years of radio silence, Part 1

In the late 1990s, I launched a controversial website — Beyond Vegetarianism — that was at or near ground zero for both the vegetarian and paleo diet movements on the early web. Why would someone who formerly had much to say disappear from the internet for 15 years? Especially at a time when the website was going strong, and just as the paleo movement it had helped publicize was gathering real momentum?
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
The first several sections of Part 1 here are a retrospective partly for people who knew, or knew of, me “back when” as the guy who created BeyondVeg.com and who was allied with the early paleo diet movement online. These sections provide perspective on my motivations at the time, which were often misinterpreted, and tie up some loose ends. When I eventually dropped off the scene at the time, it was done without much of an explanation, if any.
For those without close familiarity with vegetarianism and paleo diet, these initial sections should help give an idea of what the “veggie vs. paleo” landscape of the times was like, and the role Beyond Veg served, as I saw it.
Whatever your familiarity with any of this, though, if you’d prefer to skip the initial retrospective sections, you can jump to the main part of the story here, recounting the “prequel” years leading up to Beyond Veg, its formation and growth, and then the aftermath.

The “Beyond Veg” website I started in the early days of the web established its position then by drawing a few different lines in the sand that provoked controversy. First, by publishing the earliest widely referenced debunkings of vegetarianism’s claim (at that time) of being the original human diet. This we accomplished by also being the first online to translate and present in plain English the findings of peer-reviewed science on paleoanthropology and human evolution as they pertained to diet.

My motivation was not debunking for debunking’s sake, but because I myself had been misled into believing the above claim. And, following advice based on it had delayed my recovery from health problems by a few years. Perhaps I might help others avoid the troubles I had undergone and not also lose months or years to inferior health — time they could not get back.

I also wanted to set the scientific record straight. While many if not most in the vegetarian movement probably did not base their adherence to the diet primarily on the belief that humans’ biological dietary adaptation was originally vegetarian and presumably supported by evolution (or the Bible, some believed), still, it was part of the “canon,” more or less. At the least, vegetarianism’s status as more whole and “natural” than the indiscriminate standard American mixed diet was usually a selling point. And it was true it was more natural in terms of its inclusion of a large proportion of whole plant foods — if one also ignored its omission of meat. So Beyond Veg’s debunking of that omission as unnatural and less whole did not sit well, at all.

Read moreEmerging online after 15 years of radio silence, Part 1

“Think Outside the Box” blog: beginnings

Note: “Think Outside the Box” in the post title refers to the name of the blog here before it was changed to “Hermit Spirit.”

After fifteen years with no personal presence on the internet, events over the last year or two have pushed me into gearing up to become active again. It has been a “long time gone,” as well as a long time reaching a turning point where the time feels right and I’m now ready to surface online again beyond just lurker mode.

Read more“Think Outside the Box” blog: beginnings

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