by Bryan

Last night, I took out my Nike+ and ran 10K. I’m not training for a marathon — despite some talk of it earlier in the year, I missed the application deadline — but I wanted to kill the last of the “obviously attainable distances” (5K, 5 miles, 10K) while I’m still in the honeymoon phase with my new toy. Plus, I’m fairly sure I had never run a 10K before, even though I ran cross country in high school, and ran 5 miles last week without a problem. A 10K is less than 1.5 miles beyond that, so I figured what the heck? I had a minor cold earlier in the week so I had more or less been in the house since Sunday. I mapped out my route during the day on the Nike website, which has Google Maps built in, and relaxed/carbo loaded for a half an hour when I got home before setting out toward the Queensboro Bridge.

I realize this may not be interesting to someone like Rafe, who could run 6 miles and not even realize it, but I’m getting to the point of the story. Actually, here’s the point of the story: I should listen to myself, because I very often know what I’m talking about.

We’ll fast forward through the run, which was pleasant because it was the first cool day in a while that I had gone running. Quite intentionally, the middle parts of the run took me through some of the dingier areas of Western Queens — specifically, Queens Plaza and the bridge — which encouraged me not to stop even if I felt like it. Quite unintentionally, a very creepy Radiohead song (Climbing Up The Walls) came on as I was running there, which gave the whole thing a post-apocalyptic feel. Or, I should say, a more post-apocalyptic feel than normal, because outer Queens Plaza feels all “Escape From New York” on the best days. Soon enough, though, I was running along the East River and huffing and puffing my way back home. The legs are there, but the lungs are not — the result of too many long-winded conversations with Bob over the past several years.

When I passed through Astoria Park at the 9K mark on the river side, I passed a group of people who looked like they were staring into a tree behind me, so I craned my neck to see what had drawn their attention. There was nothing in the tree, but just to the side of the tree, sitting on top of a lightpost, was a hawk the size of an iMac staring bemusedly right back at them. Both parties seemed to be determining which one was more out of place. I would have stopped if my run was a bit shorter, but I was so close to home, I had to keep going. And then I was done.

As soon as I got inside, I saw that I had a message from my friend Brad, who was grilling at his house, a five-minute walk away. Did I want to come? I said yes and immediately regretted my decision, just because I didn’t want to walk over there. I scarfed down a banana, some walnuts and a protein shake, took a shower, and thought I’d be happier staying on the couch, watching my recently-purchased The Bourne Identity on my recently-repaired PS2, and eating whatever pasta was left in the apartment. Turns out I was out of pasta, and since I said I would go, I went. It was fun, and I ate two chicken sandwiches, a piece of corn on the cob and a salad like they were nothing and, at 10:30, headed back home. I thought that I would have a small snack back at my apartment and go to sleep. I was wrong.

A sidenote: despite my jubilant, already-linked-once post from the other day about marathoners/runners using exercise as an excuse to eat enormous amounts of food, I don’t actually need an excuse/a motivation/a physiological requirement to stuff myself silly. I can already eat non-stop and get away with it. Two years ago, I was unemployed, more or less sedentary, and could handily outeat my 6’2″, 240-lb. roommate. I weighed maybe five pounds more than I do now. My metabolism is generally haywire (in a good way), and for that I can do nothing other than thank Dr. J. As you’ll see in the following picture, I’m not exactly alone:


(note: this is probably the best picture of all four of us ever taken.)
(note II: it’s much better when WordPress doesn’t cut me off)

… so really, I’m used to it by now. And last night, I thought I had eaten a decent amount of food for a normal day (I had), and I got in bed and tried to go to sleep. And… nothing.

Do you know any insomniacs? I used to be one. Here’s what you think when you can’t sleep: “I can’t sleep, I don’t know why, I’ll never be able to sleep again. If I could just stop thinking, I could sleep, but I can’t stop thinking. Okay, time to stop thinking. (One minute passes.) Shit. I can’t sleep.” And repeat, basically until infinity. Or at least it used to be for me. Now, usually, I can pinpoint the solution after only an hour or so of that soul-crushing feeling — and it is positively, horribly soul-crushing, “the grand ‘fuck you’ of life” — and it’s usually one of five things:

1) Listening to music
This calms me down considerably when there’s really nothing wrong. Jazz. Always jazz.

2) Cleaning up
Sometimes I just have that nagging feeling that things aren’t quite right, and I can’t put my finger on it. I’ll think, “It couldn’t be that this place is a mess, could it? Nah,” and I’ll stick with that line of thinking for about an hour before getting up, putting a few things away, and realizing, “That WAS it, stupid.”

3) Writing
Harder now that my computer’s broken, but when I have a real problem, it always seems far less daunting after I confront it directly.

4) Working out
Sometimes a few pushups tires me out in no time after an otherwise lazy day.

5) Eating
By far the most effective method, but I’ve saved it for last for a reason. A fairly obvious reason.

Around 1 a.m., after bouts of watching TV, reading The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated, playing video games and doing all those things three more times, I finally got out of bed and starting to clean up WITH music on (double-whammy!). I felt better, but not tired. So I went out and had a couple of swigs of milk. And I felt a little better. Then I had another banana. A little better yet. And then I did a little math to myself: If I burned 713 calories (as my little toy said I did), I probably needed to eat a LOT more than I had eaten if my body was going to be happy. And happy body = sleep. So I ate a peanut butter sandwich. And a large amount of crackers. And before you know it, I was eating everything in the apartment that wasn’t nailed down. I think I ate a towel.

What I realized is that when I do serious exercise, my body (like those in my family) becomes an absolute freaking furnace. After everything I ate, I could feel it get gobbled up by my stomach, which would demand, Homer Simpson-style: “More.” It was remarkable. I have generally gotten into the habit of eating less than I can, simply because I feel sluggish if I eat a ton, even if I don’t put on any weight. This is not surprising. But that notion fooled me last night: I needed calories, calories, calories, calories, and my body, smarter than my brain, wasn’t sleeping without them. The evening finally ended after I emptied a can of Hearty Vegetable and Pasta Chunky Soup into my stomach, and my eyelids started to droop. The game was finally over, and I wobbled back to bed, before I could think, “‘Boy, I hope this wo—’,” I was out.

So, I see two solutions here: 1) buy pasta, which will greatly simplify this process and 2) when in doubt, eat, eat, eat, because I can handle it. It may seem unnatural, but I guess it’s the right thing to do. Anyway, that’s what I’m up to… so, er, how are you?