No one has ever accused me of posing an overabundance of Confidence. There have been glints, glimmers, and flashes, but at best I usually oscillate between cautiously optimistic and Fake It Til You Make It, with a heaping helping of Second Guessing thrown in for good measure.

Now the question  I have is, is it Fake it until you make it, or Fake it Til you make it or Fake it Till you make it?

By the way, there is absolutely no point to that last sentence and if I were a better writer, I’d just edit it out, but now that I’ve written it and then written about it, I just can’t seem to let go. Or writing about the sentence. OMG, what if I can’t finish this post because I’m stuck on this shit now?

Let’s get back to Serious for a minute.  Confidence is something you gain when you have successful outcomes and experiences.   And most of my life that was not the case.

Growing up in Humboldt Park, I got my butt kicked a lot for being a white kid in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood.  It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence when you know any stupid disagreement that kids have is gonna end up with someone starting a fight with you.

I remember being confident (or was it just cocky) in college.  Something changed somewhere during my time at NMSU.  When I first arrived I had confidence but by the end of my time there I lost my confidence.

And of course, any Modicum of Sureness after college was beaten out of me at my first job in Corporate America.

Even when good opportunities with lots of potential presented themselves, I would somehow either fuck them up myself or they would not match my perhaps disproportionate expectations.

I still don’t really have confidence so much as Bravado, or as it’s known by its scientific name: chutzpah.  At this age, my confidence is more just not having many fucks to give about things. I don’t back down and crumble when a friend doesn’t like something I say on Facebook.  I stand up for myself and defend myself better, though I willingly adapt my thinking upon receiving new factual information, like when I’m really being a jackass.

In a nutshell, I’ve become Bugs Bunny and that rabbit oozes confidence.

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Blogapalooza, Marathon Monday, Running Related

That Time I missed Qualifying for the Boston Marathon by 15 minutes

It’s the 2nd/4th Wednesday of the month and that means Blogapalooza where we are challenged to write a post and publish it in one hour. Here is this month’s challenge: “Write about a period or moment in your life when you were at your best.”  Here’s my take:

Ten years (and a few months) ago, I ran my best marathon time ever.  I was 36 years old and managed to pound out a 3:29:54 Finish Time at the Spirit of St Louis Marathon.  It was an interesting week especially since that same weekend the Cubs swept the Cardinals back in Chicago.  So it was a victory for all Chicagoans though obviously everyone was more into my success than those fleeting northsiders.

Training for a marathon during the Winter is rough enough under ordinary circumstances.  It’s dark when you wake up, dark when you get home from work and cold all throughout.  This season was extra demanding because my knees were hurting and I had gained some holiday weight.  Because of the January weather it was hard to get any kind of consistency going where training was concerned.  I couldn’t afford to miss any runs because I inadvertently started my training five weeks late.  On top of that, I decided to try a new training program, adding my own on the fly adjustments to make up for those missing weeks.  To make matters worse, I caught a terrible cold five days before the marathon.

The Sunday before this race, I had run the Shamrock Shuffle back home and also set a new personal best.  But then I caught a very bad cold.  I could feel it coming on Sunday evening and by Monday night, I had a full fledged virus running through my system.  How could I run a marathon?  I wasn’t able to get in the last few training runs of an already truncated training season.  I had worked very hard for this marathon, training in the cold, dark winter. Doing speed workouts during my lunch break when WFH and cross training with spin classes and weights.

This had all the makings of a Greek Tragedy waiting to unfold.  But I was registered to run the Spirit of St Louis on April 9, so I packed up my gear and headed down I-55.  I was staying with a friend from my undergrad days at Northeast Missouri State University.  Going to school there allowed me to get to know St Louis so well, which made it an excellent choice for a spring marathon.  (a free place to stay did tip the scale a bit!)

10502319_10203893351835621_4970538730843304457_nI wrote a really long write up about my marathon race story back in the days when I blogged by emailing friends my marathon stories.  The website I used is gone but I was able to find it using WaybackMachine so I’ll give a very abridged version by cutting to the chase.

Although the forecast was for cloudy and rainy, it turned out to be a sunny, windless day and I didn’t have any problems running.  The first half of the course was shared with half marathoners and I did my best to not go out too fast.

At Mile 20 I introduced myself to my new friend. His name is Kevin and he told me that we were on pace to do a 3:25 or so. I said to him, I think I’m gonna open it up a bit and see what I can do.  A gutsy move, especially since a Boston Qualification time (BQ*) was realistically out of the question. But the one thing I’ve learned that year is that even when you don’t have a prayer, you still have to take your shot. Otherwise you end up in your own personal purgatory.

For the next few miles I ran either just under 8 minutes, if the course flattened out enough or 820s if we hit a hill.  At Mile 24 I confirmed what I had suspected a few miles earlier. If I were to walk, I would finish under 4 hours. While I could ease off and try to save something for the end, I realized that at this particular moment, whatever pace I achieved, however fast or slow I ran, that would be my new PR. I controlled my PR and in a small way my destiny.

Somewhere halfway between Mile 24 and Mile 25, on some highway underpass I’ll probably never see again, my watch showed I had been running for 3 hours and 15 minutes…the time I need to qualify for Boston at my age level. The marathon was 1.7 miles too long.

It didn’t matter. I felt strong, ran as fast as I could and the lactic acid meltdown never came. As I approached the finish line, I heard the announce encouraging the runners “if you hurry you can break 3:30”. It hadn’t occurred to me to go for any particular time once I realized I would set a new PR. I threw whatever I had left and pushed for the finish line.

Bending But Not Breaking

In a year that started out with great promise but quickly spiraled out of control, when at times it seemed my best just wasn’t good enough, I probably had no business running a marathon under the training conditions I experienced. Yet on Palm Sunday, the weekend when the St Louis Cardinals went to Chicago and were swept by the Cubs, the marathon gods graced me with a new PR of 3:29:54. I didn’t even have my best stuff, but it was apparently more than enough.



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5 quotes that resonate and have meaning for me

I have tons of quotes scattered throughout the harddrives of my computers.  When I kept a journal (both physical and electronic) I would sometimes put a quote at the top for stylistic affect.  There’s just something about a good quote that inspires and resonates with you.  Here are five quotes in no particular order that inspire me, cause me to well up in tears, or both.

Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone.
Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking.
Tim McMahon

I like this one because it’s kinda a d’oh!  in your face.  I rarely take chances, only calculated risks.  This quote is meant to remind me to go for it more often.

Your talent is God’s gift to you.
What you do with it is your gift back to God.
Leo Buscaglia

This was my mantra during the heyday of my running years.  I had enough raw talent to run marathons and set new Personal Bests.  I really tried to do my best but I feel like I didn’t always give back to God appropriately because I didn’t always eat right, or train properly.

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.
Anatole France 

I first heard this quote right after 9/11 and just before I ran my 4th marathon in 2001.  My three previous attempts to break a 4 hour marathon were unsuccessful and as you can imagine everyone was in a bit of a funk. I think this quote along with some cool tunes from Five for Fighting got me that 3:45 PR.

Obstacles don’t have to stop you.
If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up.
Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.
Michael Jordan

This quote inspired me to keep trying to find a way to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I’ve never qualified but technically I haven’t given up yet either.

This next quote is technically two quotes but they go together because they are from the same Mary Schmich column written just before we invaded Iraq.  [Ms Schmich is a bit of a curmudgeon these days but she was and still is a prolific writer]:

There’s nothing wrong with overachieving, if that means reaching beyond what you’ve done or what other people think you can do. But the farther you reach, the farther you have to fall. You will get bruised….

Life’s rejections make some people bitter and hard. They make other people wiser and more open. You choose.  –Mary Schmich.

The quote resonates with me because at the time a good friend commended me on my determination, persistence and resolve.  From my point of view, I hadn’t tried hard enough.  After all, I failed to get what I wanted.  But that’s the thing about perspective: it really does depend on how you look at it.

“Truthfully, I think it was great that you pursued her to the extent that you did. You may feel silly, because no matter how hard you tried, you didn’t end up with the prize.” my friend said obviously referring to a romantic liaison that didn’t materialize.  “But you didn’t give up and that was something I really respect about your personality.”

At the time it seemed those initial setbacks  made all the setbacks still to come that much more painful.  But in reality, they were developing a Mental Toughness inside of me that has helped me persevere in tough times and choose wisdom and openness more often than bitter and hard.

Thanks Mary.


Tonight’s post is brought to you as part of ChicagoNow’s monthly Blogapalooza exercise when all ChicagoNow bloggers come together to write about the same topic in one hour.

Tonight’s topic from our fearless leader, Jimmy Greenfield:

“Share your favorite quote (or quotes) — from a philosopher, author, comedian, politician, friend, family member, movie, whoever — and write in detail about why it resonates and has meaning for you.”

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Blogapalooza, Life Lessons

How I met my wife

In the spring of 2009, my running friends and I went down to St Louis to run a marathon. I was having some physical issues so I just signed up for the half, while my friends were committed to the full.

At the time it was just another half marathon. Having run the St Louis Marathon in 2006, 2007 and 2008, I had signed up thinking that I would do the half as a practice run for the 2009 Kenosha marathon a few weeks later. I didn’t know at the time that my left knee had a lacerated meniscus. I also didn’t know at the time that my fiance didn’t love me and would experience cold feet.

The signs were there all along had I looked at them with open eyes. We had gone skiing in Salt Lake City in February and it was more stressful than fun. When Easter came, we split time between our two families and it was a burden. She really wanted to stay at her folks and I think she realized that if we remained together, holidays would be split between the two families.

The weekend after Easter was the trip to St Louis. She didn’t want to drive down in my old car which had bad brakes. But she also didn’t want to take her brand new car because “her parents had helped her purchase it” and “they did not want to put extra mileage on it.” We got into an argument about it and she wouldn’t return my calls. I ended up going to St Louis without her.

I asked my friends who were going down there if we could hitch a ride in exchange for gas money. I hitched a ride with B to St Louis and got a ride home from another of our running coven. when we got back to Chicago, my friend dropped me off and I knew, before opening the door, that she had moved on. On the drive home, I read a book my best friend Brian loaned me called Old Man’s War.   It was not only a well-needed distraction but also a lifesaver.

My friends dropped me off early Sunday evening. I walked into my condo and there was a box with all my stuff. She had taken the mixer that we had bought together.  That confirmed what I had refused to accept the days before: our story was over.

Spring ended and summer arrived. My 40th birthday came and went. A few friends helped me celebrate while more chose to be busy and unavailable. Most years, my birthday clashes with Mother’s Day and that’s usually an understandable obstacle. However, this particular year, Mother’s Day was the following weekend. I also had to go on a trip to Hong Kong for work which came at the absolute worse time in my life. However, I recall seeing the in-flight movie: Yes Man. Between John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and Jim Carrey’s Yes Man, my life would change that summer.

So I was feeling like a loser. I was 40 years old, my fiance had run out on me and many of my so-called friends wouldn’t even come to my birthday gathering.  To add insult to injury, some random jerk threw a rock at my car on Cinco de Mayo and cracked the windshield.

It was a very dark time in my life. But the fighter/survivor in me took over. The book I had read on the drive was about an old man who gets a new body and a new lease on life. And the movie Yes Man is about a guy who cannot say no to new opportunities.

So the weekend of July 4th, and I was out in the suburbs staying with a friend who had just purchased her home. We were supposed to hang out that weekend and take in Naperville Ribfest. However, my anxiety about the suburbs started kicking in, so I had to return home.

I went to this gathering of a different group of friends. As it would happen, a friend of a friend invited a few of us to a Red Neck, White Trash Fourth of July Party. Actually, Kathy invited Jema, who then invited me and others. Ordinarily, I might never have gone to this event since I was not explicitly invited and twice removed from the host. But I decided to go because of the premise of Yes Man: don’t say no to any opportunity.  Luckily so did Nightingale, my future wife.

Because you see, Jema also invited Nightingale, the sister of her college roommate and as luck would have it, Nightingale had a friend who was celebrating a birthday and was planning to go to Carol’s Pub that evening. Carol’s happened to be a hop, skip and a jump from the Red Neck, White Trash Fourth of July Party.

My favorite movie is Field of Dreams and there is a line from it that goes like this:

There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens it’s self up for a few seconds to show you what’s possible.

If I had not come back from the suburbs early, or if another friend who wanted to meet for a drink hadn’t canceled 11th hour or if I had gone to a different BBQ, I would not have met Nightingale. If she hadn’t decided to take Jema up on her invite, or it her friend decided to celebrate her birthday in the south loop instead of Uptown…

A lot of things clicked into place that July 4th, 2009. It really truly was as if all the cosmic tumblers of the universe clicked into place and created a possibility.

When Sig Other 1.0 left me, I knew nothing but defeat. After meeting Nightingale, I’ve known nothing but victory.


Once a month, for Blogapalooz-Hour, we are given a topic at 9pm and have one hour to write about it. You post at 10pm, no matter what. This month’s topic is, “Write about a great challenge faced. By you. By someone else. By an entity. At any point in the past or in the future.” Here’s my take.

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