Friday, December 30, 2016

2016...The year that didn't work

Frustration, no focus, no motivation, contribute to an un-admirable year.



There was no way out. It was inevitable as years are concerned, that 2016 would be a frustrating one. After a tough 2015, there was considerable pressure for me to set new PR's, career improvement and developing new relationships. I struggled from the start. It seemed I was attempting to juggle a flaming stick, a knife and Hannibal Lecter all at the same time. All dangerous things! I found out the hard way that I'm at my best when I focus on one thing at a time. Lesson learned.

That wasn't the only problem I had. Over the years I've battled anxiety and depression. Since the beginning of 2015 something just hasn't felt right. Maybe the reality of turning 40 caught up to me? The pressure of keeping up with the Joneses? Whatever the case, it was clearly having an impact on my day-to-day life.

What's been tough on me this year, has been all the weddings. I can't recall a year where everyone and their third cousin got married. While I was happy for those who did, it also served as a hard dose of reality. I mentioned my struggles in regards to that angle in my life last year. Nothing happens overnight. If turtle had to get from point A to point B, it will get there...eventually.

In the meantime, it's apparently taken a toll on me socially. Perhaps I unintentionally drove people away, due to erratic behavior. Due to the pressure of keeping up with everyone and fitting in. Dealing with my social anxieties and insecurities. Whatever the case may be, I was not out and about as much as I've been in the past. Maybe I need to be a better friend in hopes of reinstating my self on guest lists?

In Previous years, I could be spotted in social circles...

But in 2016, I seemed to have disappeared...


Despite all the short comings of 2016, I'm already confident 2017 will be better! My plan is to focus on one thing at a time. Emotionally I'm doing better. Obviously, I got to lose weight before I turn into King Hippo. I've been down that road before, so I'm comfortable with it. As far as running is concerned, eventually I'll return to it. At this point I don't know when? When the time comes, I still have aspirations of running 100 miles and completing an Ironman.

With that said I hope everyone has a Happy (and better) New Year in 2017!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Finding The Missing Piece

Confronting the toughest challenge I've faced


"Although I laugh and act like a clown, beneath this mask I am wearing a frown..."

Earlier this year at a wedding reception, the table I was seated at was waiting for dinner to be served. During the wait I was told I looked bored. My response was something to the effect of, "It's been a busy day." What I didn't say was "I'm feeling sad...sad because there's been a missing piece to my life. I regret to say that I've never been in a long term relationship. At all!

I find myself in this position out of one word...fear. A fear that they would run if my only words were, "I have Asperger's Syndrome." Perhaps it's just a case of mental stage fright. Regardless, I've been afraid  to confront this topic for years. It seems I would have the courage to walk to the end of the diving board, but freak out when it was time to jump. Now that I'm over 40 years old, I feel the time has come to jump. At least try to.

Lets face it, I'm not getting younger. For each day that passes is another day I ask myself one question? Why? Why did I wind up on the spectrum the second I entered the world? Why was I given a life of weak social skills? Why has it taken me this long to finally have the courage to confront this?

The answer to the last question could be from a number of possibilities. It could be from running 7 marathons in the past 6 years. Challenging myself to run 40 miles on my 40th birthday. Did I mention the two 24 hour races I did over three weeks?

I've grown accustomed to the feeling that the other mans grass is always greener. The world of social media can some days be difficult. Sure I'm happy to see my friends celebrate milestones, i.e. engagements, weddings, birth of a child. However, there is a part of me that wonders if and when I'll experience those milestones. What's worse is the assumption that most people my age are married and have a family. Meanwhile, my status is the same as it was 20 years ago. It's enough to make me feel discouraged and to say "Improvement? What improvement?" To rub salt in the wounds, I'm seeing an upswing in engagements/marriages of folks in their 20's. Yup those born after the 76ers won their most recent championship.

                   When it comes to interpersonal relationships and the spectrum, discouragement has prevailed.

Last year I found the strength to inform everyone who knew me that I'm on the spectrum. I received a positive response and plenty of encouragement. I just wasn't ready to come forward with this shortcoming. I couldn't figure out where to turn for help. I was far too embarrassed to tell anyone other than my Mom. Even that wasn't easy. She did everything she could to get me on the right path. I knew the rest was up to me.

Unfortunately that's where I'd hit a dead end. In years past I've developed a crush on women who I felt looked beautiful and had a great personality. That's where I've turned into an ostrich and stick my head in the sand. It seemed I just couldn't muster enough courage to ask anyone out that I had met say through running. Even if I knew they were single. As for online dating, I'm not sure what sites are good and the ones to avoid. Sure it's for people looking to find that special someone. The thought of meeting a stranger for the first time throws me into freeze mode. The fear of striking out on the first date intimidates me. A situation such as this is what I dread. (Replace that dude with someone who has trouble making eye contact and struggling to have a conversation. Get the drift?)

There was a time when I reveled in the comfort of being alone. It was my safe haven. I did not have to feel the pain of experiencing my social weakness compared to everybody else. Lately, however being alone has me feeling downtrodden. Perhaps that's why I've been feeling unmotivated all year. There's been days where it's a struggle just to get out of bed. I have a hard time going out for a run more often. I haven't been in the best shape caused by not eating/sleeping right and gaining weight. If I hadn't run the 24 hour races, I might be a twin of King Hippo. I find myself in a constant struggle, like playing tug-o-war of life. I'm headed for the mud pit.

I may have a one way ticket to King Hippo land if I don't watch it...

I'm in control of my life, in the pilot seat so to speak. It's up to me to turn the tide. Socially I'm in better shape that I was in 10 years ago. I attribute that to everyone I met through running. Just in the past six years alone I've mostly broken out of the cocoon. I have one foot out, I just need to get one more. I understand my strengths and weaknesses to get an idea of my current state.

Strengths

  • Loyal
  • Caring
  • Dependable
  • Ambitious
  • Trustworthy
  • I've been told more than once that I'm "incredibly sweet"
  • Patient
  • Organized
  • Look at the positives more than the negatives
  • Don't get frustrated as much as I used to and show it on the outside

Weaknesses

  • Trouble making eye contact
  • Seldomly call people on the phone
  • Never been one to organize social gatherings
  • Struggle having conversations in noisy environments. (Loud bars)
  • May lack sex appeal??
  • Talk to myself frequently (Been doing that for as long as I can remember)
  • A personality that may seem a bit quirky
  • Inexperience with dating

To tie it all together, I haven't been myself lately. I'm not enjoying life the way that others are. It's like the one dark cloud in my life is overshadowing me. The stinging feeling from social media is just the tip of the ice berg. Sometimes before social gatherings, I get a feeling of nervousness. Never knowing if I'm gonna feel intimidated surrounded by a group of people with their loved ones. A feeling of being kind of an outcast so to speak.

Anyone in a relationship can tell you all about the benefits of one. Whether it's going on vacations together, walking and holding hands, smiles, laughs and above all the love for one another. I hope there will come a day when I can surprise someone with flowers. I'm sure 1-800-FLOWERS will as well to get more business.

I've gotten by all these years being single. Perhaps I was living on borrowed time. Lately it's taken a toll on me. I'm feeling frustrated, not happy, like there's no hope at all. The years of high school, college, the 20's and 30's are gone. I would hate for the 40's to be status quo. My brother and two step brothers are married and have children. In fact I became an uncle for the first time a few weeks ago. I couldn't of been any happier! Unfortunately it only eases the gloom temporarily.

The following is a poem based on one my uncle wrote in his book Sunday's Fools.

It's an empty feeling
sitting all alone by myself
wondering, hoping,
if the dark cloud above will disappear.
My future is uncertain.
Will I ever hold hands
with someone beautiful,
like a sunny day.
Until then I can only wait,
hope and pray.
That the fear will go away.

Aaron
To be continued...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

40 for 40. A vision that became a reality...

The sound of an alarm early in the morning is one most of us don't like to hear. I spent the past few months preparing for it. At 3:30 AM on the morning of November 13, 2014 the moment had arrived. It was time. Grab breakfast, take a quick shower, put on my gear, gathered all my belongings and head off to Somerville.

I had first thought of this endeavor 4 1/2 years ago. I realized my 40th birthday fell on a Thursday. The idea suddenly hit me. Run 40 miles on the Casey's 4 mile course, why not? To my knowledge it had never been done before. If there was an opportunity to be a trail blazer, this was it. No turning back.

I arrived around 5:45 AM, feeling relived the weather forecast called for 50 degrees under sunny skies. The time of the season was just right, not being in the dead of winter and summer. Finally the clock struck 6 AM. It was show time!

Laps 1 & 2

                                          Just before the run began, normally when I'm still in bed

The first loop was approximately 1.3 miles. This was to get the distance to come out to 40 even. If I had run 10 full loops, I'd finish somewhere in the 42 mile range. I was great full to have some company as well. Joining me was Tinamarie Sanborn, Bradley Harris, Brian Cullinan, Whitney Downum and Ellen Nason. It was really cool to have a mix of both SRR members and coworkers. By the end of lap 1, I ditched my jacket and pants as it warmed up (enough for me anyway). Lap 2 was actually the first full loop on the Casey's course. I ran at a comfortable pace, maybe a little fast for my liking. I figured it was from getting caught up in the conversations. Although Culla and Bradley dropped off to get ready for work we met up with Sean Miller on Albion St. Before I knew it 5.5 miles were in the book.

Clockwise, Culla, Bradley, Tinamarie, me, Whitney, Ellen
Second lap

Lap 3

I ran with Sean for this one. It was a good opportunity to learn more about the world of ultras. Who better to ask from someone who has run 3 100 milers this year alone! My goal is to run that distance in 2016. I got a better understanding about proper pacing and hydration. Oh and he told me about a 135 mile race in Death Valley he wants to do. You must submit a resume showing you're capable of competing in it to gain entry. If anyone is crazy enough, Sean's the one.


Lap 4

Sean headed off to work, so I ran most of it solo. This was a perfect time to slow my pace down a bit. As I got to Magoun Square, I was greeted by some of my coworkers. They made the trip from Acton into Somerville to cheer me on! To take the time to come and do that, it means a lot! When I got to Pearl St. I met up with Barbara Grandberg to complete the lap.
                                 My awesome coworkers, Shannon, Brian, Samantha (above)
Jackie and Kylie (Below)

Lap 5

Continuing with Barbara, we were having a conversation about training. I remember asking how she fits all those miles each day? Her response, "retirement is great." The cheering section was still present in Magoun Sq, as we stopped briefly to chat. As I was heading down Liberty St, I felt like I tweaked something in my left calf. (Remember that later) I didn't feel concerned it would slow me down and felt confident enough to fight through it. Before I knew it, the lap concluded. At the completion of each lap, I refuel with hydration and food I kept in the back of my car. The fact I was able to park along Dana St, which runs parallel to McGrath Highway was key. No refuel station, no 40 for 40!

Lap 6

Barbara and I made our way over Winter Hill and through the cheer section. Just before Ball Sq. Tina Tobey met up with us. She was with her daughter Madeline, who was having an adventurous day to say the least. :-) Tina celebrated her 40th birthday by running in the New York Marathon the week before. While we were on Lowell St, some workers in a truck spotted me and noticed they'd seen me all over town. I told them I was running 40 for my 40th b-day and they thought it was cool. Then a woman spotted a happy birthday sign on Maddie's stroller and asked who's birthday it was? I said it was mine and she mentioned it was her 50th. Which will be my birthday in 10 years. Making our way down Medford St, I heard someone shout my name. It was Mary Davis, a longtime coworker and a dear friend. She stopped in Somerville between meetings. That's awesome! We chatted briefly and continued on. Lap 6 complete, 22 down, 18 to go.
With Mary Davis, I love her!


Lap 7

The three four of us continued onward. The Magoun crew was still there going strong. I mentioned that I probably killed production at work for a day, but no one seemed to mind. Barbara turned off on Cedar St. I thanked her for running with me since the tail end of lap 4. We continued on and as we were passing Sound Bites, I spotted my mom for the first time. She was having lunch with some friends and planned to watch/cheer from there. It wouldn't be the last time we'd cross paths. At the junction of Broadway and Liberty, Tina and Maddie bid adieu. I had run 24 miles at that point and was feeling good. For the first time since lap 4 I was flying solo. That didn't last long though. On Medford St, I was joined by my coworker Katy Nowoswiat. She'll be running her first marathon on April 20 for The Children's Hospital Team. Incidentally I hit marathon distance not long after she joined in.
24 Miles in with Maddie


Lap 8

I was telling Katy all about Winter Hill and how it made Heartbreak Hill look like a bunny slope. She didn't disagree. I stopped briefly to say hi to my mom at Soundbites and gave an update about the run. I was then joined by my coworkers Annie Hurwitz and Meagan Spencer. As we made our way along Morrison Ave, a car pulled alongside. It was officer Dan McGinty. He was on duty later in the day, but had enough time to run a couple miles. I hit 31 miles at the completion.
Annie & Meagan

 Officer Dan (blue shirt)

31 Miles down and looking laid back

Lap 9

Bex's baby

As soon as lap 8 completed, I was greeted by the welcoming committee of The Fintz, Urvi and Bex. Fintzy brought his daughter Raven, and Bex with her newborn. We waited a little bit for Erin Morin to arrive. In the meantime Dan ran back to his car to get ready for work. Erin joined the party with her son Keagen and it was go time. I was a little concerned the longer wait would cause me to cramp up. Fortunately it wasn't the case, as I tackled Winter Hill with relative ease. Katy dropped off at Magoun Sq, but shortly after Nichole Bukowski joined in. We came into Ball Sq. and Sound Bites and took some photos with my mom. I told everyone that I put my mom through labor 40 years ago, and now she gets to watch me go through labor. Well slightly different. Annie and Meagan departed as we pressed on ahead. On Liberty St, we took a slight detour down Hall Ave. Nichole's new home was being refurbished, and had a port-o-john in the driveway. At that point I ran 33 miles. It was also when my Garmin decided to call it a day. Now I didn't have the luxury of knowing what my pace was. With 7 miles to go, I trusted my instincts and went on feel. I hoped it would make it the distance, but that proved to be wishful thinking. Anyhow, we rejoined the course and finished the lap. 1 more to go!
 Leading the charge through Ball Sq.

 Mom, my biggest supporter for 40 years!

Thanks to Tina for making the signs

Pit stop. Nichole, Erin, Keagen (in stroller), Urvi


Lap 10

Before the final lap. I don't look too tired, eh?

The moment I had been thinking about for some time was finally here. Just one lap and mission accomplished! I said goodbye to Urvi and Erin and was joined by Anthony White. I had a bad feeling my legs were feeling tired. I was right. All I had in me was a fast walk and nothing more. Oh and my left calf? It was shot to shit and cramped up. Fortunately I had Anthony and Nichole to keep my spirits up. I made my way over Winter Hill for the final time. Around the rail road bridge on Broadway, My coach Brett Johnston met me. I told him it was my final lap. He was thrilled how far I've come. I saw my mom outside Sound Bites and told her my left leg was done. Told her not to worry and I'd see her at the finish. Nichole ran over to her new home and I thanked her for running with me. Brett departed on Cedar, and it was Anthony and myself from there to the finish. By the time we got to Pearl St, around where I figured the 4 mile mark on the loop was, I asked Anthony how long we'd been running? He told me 1:07, which was actually faster than I thought I was going. As we came down Pearl, I could see the final turn getting closer. There it was a left on Dana St. and the finish was dead ahead. I picked my pace up slightly as I approached the footbridge, and then it was all she wrote! I did it! I crossed the finish to the delight of my mom, who was there waiting for me. Also there to witness the finish was Urvi, Emma Kosciak, and my moms friends The Boyle's. I set out just after 6AM and finished around 4:50 PM. Just shy of 11 hours altogether, but the actual time I spent running was estimated to be under 10 hours. Not bad at all, considering my previous high was 35.75 in 12 hours two years ago.
Last lap, Anthony, Brett, Nichole. Clearly I was in rough shape.


40 miles done!

Another doozie...at the finish


After I finished I relaxed for a bit. Emma insisted I put warmer clothes on, which I eventually gave in. I said goodbye to mom and thanked her as always for being there for me. I went over to Anthony's to wash up, change and have dinner. We headed over to Casey's just before 7. We drove by the runners making their way to the start for the 7:15 run. I waved to them as we passed by, and some shouted out my name.

We met Urvi at Casey's and hung out until the crew returned. We they did, I was greeted with high fives and happy birthdays. Asked how I was feeling, my slandered response was "like I ran 40 miles!" After enjoying some birthday beers and catching up, it was time for the cake. It was huge! Enough to feed every single member in the club. I was serenaded with happy birthday and blew out the many candles. I briefly thanked everyone for their support. I mentioned that any goal is possible as long as you believe in yourself and believe you can do it. Sadly Jesse Morrow had to miss the days festivities due to a work commitment. He certainly was there in spirit.
The birthday cake and thanking everyone

Prior to 40 for 40, I never had a standout moment in my running career that people always talk about. I don't stand a chance of ever qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I'm not fast enough to earn top 3's in my age group. It's the most frustrating feeling. There's plenty of accomplished runners in SRR, believe me I'd love to be in their shoes for a day. November 13, 2014 was my day. Since then some folks have told me that they may be interested taking the challenge for their 40th, 35th etc. I think that's great and would love to be there if they do indeed. Did I mention that I'm now a Casey's record holder? Yup, right next to the fastest male and female. It took patience and moments of frustration, but the spotlight finally shined on me. Four years in the making.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Go The Distance

"Go the distance!" - Field of Dreams
 In less than 48 hours the mission of 40 for 40 will be underway! I've spent the past 2 months rehearsing. When the sun rises Thursday morning, so does the curtain.

Now for the game plan.

After some calculating, I've determined 10 full loops puts me in the 42 mile range. To rectify this, I devised an opening loop. Following completion, I will then run the full coarse  9 times. After each loop, I'll stop at my car to refuel. As for pacing, I'd like to run say the first 10 miles in the 15 min range. Eventually progress into 14:30-50's. I know it seems agonizingly slow. However, from my on coarse long runs, if I go too fast the first 20, the second half I'll be in Barney Rubble trouble!

Interested in tagging along? You're more then welcome! I figure to start around 6 AM and hope to finish by late afternoon. Maybe I'll have enough time for a quick shower afterwords. I do plan on coming to Casey's following the run for a beer or two. The latest weather forecast calls for sun with a high of about 50. :-)

Finally, a big thank you to everyone that has given me encouragement and support for this endeavor!! It really means so much to me! I just think of it as a run for the people. A way to say thanks to everyone who has helped make my life the past 5 years a better one.

See you Thursday!

Aaron

Monday, October 27, 2014

When The Thrill Is Gone...

Here’s an update on my training for the 40 for 40 run on November 13. On Saturday I ran 24 miles on the Casey’s course all at goal pace. (Even paused for a moment to free a kid’s ball stuck in a tree) Each mile was a combination of running and walking with the intention of staying within a 30 second range.  My legs were feeling a little tired at the end, but felt good enough to continue for another loop. I’ll see how this week’s on course long run goes in terms of adjusting the pace, or keeping it the same.


The Thrill Is Gone

Over the past eight years I've had my share of great accomplishments in races. This includes seven marathons and many PR's. Along the way I made numerous friends and gained more confidence. However since the middle of 2012, I've seen a decline in PR's. After coming off a big year in 2011, I knew deep down it would be a tough act to follow. At the time a PR was the only thing I felt that could keep me relevant. I knew I didn't posses the talent that could gain entry into The Boston Marathon via qualification. (Not even close) Nor did I have the speed to earn top 3's in my age group. Having Asperger's, I was rather insecure about that. Kind of like being in a movie, but if you blink your eye, you miss my part.

I was also frustrated over my struggles to full fill some goals I wanted to accomplish. Among them were, a race longer than a mile at a sub 7 minute pace. A sub 1:50 1/2 marathon and a sub 4hr marathon. I sensed my window of opportunity was closing. Closing fast! At the start of the year I wanted to try once more to achieve my goal in a half this fall. I knew I needed to train at a high level over the summer to make that happen. I struggled, I was stressed. It seemed I was drawing dead for every hand of cards I played. I came to the realization that running wasn't fun anymore. By September I made the decision not to run the half marathon scheduled for last week. It was time to embark on a new journey.

An Ultra Vision

I've discovered a potential strength I might have. Run at a slower pace, but for longer distance. I began to see more room for opportunity to grow. Then it hit me, I want to focus on ultra marathon's. With that said, I'm announcing my retirement from racing 5k's through half marathon's for the foreseeable future. I'll still run some of those distances here and there. Just not the same way I have in the past. This summer I'm considering running in the 24 Hour Around The Lake as an endurance test. I'm hoping it could be a build up to run 100 miles in the future. Imagine in ten years from now if I achieved the triple crown of endurance sports. The Boston Marathon (check), a 100 miler, and a Iron Man triathlon. For now I'll focus on getting ready for my 40 mile run and take it from there.


A Special Shout Out

I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for a great group of people that gave me three years of memories I'll never forget. During my long runs I thought about the great experiences I had while a member of The Run for Research team. Believe me It hasn't been the same since I left. Miss you folks!
2011 Runners Council
That's it for now. 40 for 40...2 weeks!!



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Spectrum Road Is A Lonely One...Or Is It?

On World Autism Awareness Day in April I made the decision to share a fact about my life that I kept a secret for years. For the first time I revealed that I have Asperger syndrome.  The biggest challenge for me has been social interaction. I have come a long way from my childhood days. I’d stand at the end of my driveway hoping my neighbors would invite me over to play when I saw them playing in the yard. In those days, I was never comfortable just dropping in.

Today I no longer feel I need to be hand held or rely on one person that I'm comfortable with to act as my security blanket. Within the past 10 years I've made more strides socially than I've ever imagined. All because of one thing, running. To be brief, I took great interest to challenge myself to finish a marathon. Figuring it to be a one time thing, I have currently run 7. Mostly because of the relationships that I've built from the running community in the past 5 years.

Now I'd like to give something back to the community as a way to say thanks. On November 13, I'll attempt to run Casey's course 10 times!! Why am I doing this exactly? I suppose the time has come to let the cat out of the bag as it were. My 40th birthday is November 13. If you're keeping score, it falls on a Thursday. Every Thursday evening my running club (Somerville Road Runners) hosts a free run. The distance is 4.06 miles and if you do the math, the total is 40+ miles.  Call it 40 for 40. This was something I thought of a few years ago. I said to myself "Why not?" I don't figure a surprise party is coming my way. So I'll celebrate in a way that's unique and different.

For the record I'll be starting the run early in the morning . It figures to take the better part of the day to complete. I will definitely have updates in future posts of how my training is coming along and my game plan. As of now I just wanted to get the word out. 40 for 40, November 13. Stay tuned...