Who am I?

[Brief background. While in Scotland on a trail run in May of 2015 I fell and hit my left knee HARD on a rock.  Ended up with a big cut and nothing else….so I thought.  Since then the pain in my knee has been creeping up in intensity to the point of causing me to limp in the mornings or stop in the middle of my runs.  Over the last two months I finally did something about, seeing the orthopedist, getting an MRI, and having a surgical consult.  This post is about the next step psychologically, not physiologically]

She stated firmly, “Nobody wants to read a blog post about an injury”.  Like most things I realized Bridget was right (thats why I’ll marry her).  So instead of writing about acquiring a potentially life changing injury, I’ll write about the prospect of losing a significant part of my life.  Thats inspiring, right?

The last couple months my Strava page is beginning to look like that of a technophobe.  As my kudos numbers atrophy away I wonder what other people think.  Are they thinking that I’m doing “secret training” (pre-Strava, called training).  I imagine once a week, on a group run people asking aloud, “What happened to Matt Laye”.  However, in reality its more like off of Strava out of mind and thats the crux of my problem.  Without running, who am I?

I secretly hope that my cartilage is superhuman and unlike those of others which are incapable of repairing themselves, but deep done I am starting to come to grasp with my own mortality in a purely running sense.  Bone on bone lack of cartilage does not repair itself, it breaks down until you need a repair.  At the moment all repairs are temporary despite some amazing treatments being developed. I imagine no number of second opinions will make me insured for experimental treatments reserved for multi-million dollar athletes and those who live moment to movement with excruciating pain.  So, I’m again faced with the question, without running, what do I do?

Now that I live in Boise I have a number of ways to reinvent myself.  Amazing mountain biking trails, skiing 15 miles from my front door, rock climbing 20 minutes away, and even a triathlon scene that is welcoming and down to earth.  But on a day like today when I get back from work tired and beat down its always a run that beats that beer in the fridge (at least initially).  For the last 20 plus years its on the trail and the road on my two feet which helps troubles, seasons, and time pass effortlessly.  Its comforting, its familiar, so its not just who am I or what will I do that I ask, but what will I become.

I’m fascinated by self-improvement.  Devouring books like “The Willpower Instinct”, “The Power of Habit”, and “Mindset”. I listen to podcasts about happiness, so called deconstructing world class performers, and improving my teaching constantly in my ears.  So I know a beginners mindset is a good thing.  Trying new things, stretching yourself, and even failing all make you stronger. But yet even thinking about letting go of running, of that massively important part of my ego, source of happiness, friendships and successes, is downright terrifying regardless of the benefits I fully know and truly believe await me.

Filling the void left by running is so much more than finding a competitive outlet.  As my high school coach Brian Davis said, “running is not a sport, its a lifestyle” and its been my lifestyle for so long.  Hence if I was a runner, who am I now, and more importantly who will I become.  I know that feeling a void left by running includes try to come to grasp with Matt Laye the non-runner and coming up with a better blog subtitle than “Adventures in non-running by a scientist”.  For now know that I’m not secret training offline.

 

Why “Running Too Much May Be as Bad as Sitting Around” is BS

Its not a surprise that people are confused about the best medical practices to improve health.  Whether the recommendations are for diet or exercise it seems that every 3 months there is a contradicting advice from the medical community.  Eat eggs, don’t eat eggs, high carb diet, low carb diet (I still don’t know the right answer to that one).

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My (Failed) High Fat Low Carb Diet Experiment

There I was in my general physician’s examination room trying to explain why I was eating copious amount of bacon, cheese, and avocado and wanting a more a more advanced cholesterol test to show that it wasn’t really doing me harm. It wasn’t going well to say the least. I think the word “moderation” make more appearances that standing ovations at a State of the Union address.   How did I get here I thought to myself? Continue reading

Head Case

Well, well, I can’t say I’m surprised.  I think this is the 4th blog I’ve started and almost the 4th that I quit.  But I’m not quitting, not yet. It’s not like I forgot to blog.  I thought about it a lot, but it’s hard to blog about running when you are not doing it.  I mean who wants to hear me whining about not running? Even my mom doesn’t want to read that*.

So let’s briefly summarize.  Coming off a marathon PR at Boston and a solid 50 miler at IAT I was preparing to run Western States. By the end of May I stopped running because of an upper hamstring injury….until about two weeks ago.  Okay that’s the simple story, and being injured is actually a lot more work than not being injured (I know this yet I still choose to neglect relatively easy preventative things).  I’ve actually been asked about my hamstring injury by several people and I know several more people that have had a similar infliction, so perhaps what I have to say could be useful…to someone…at sometime.  Hopefully it won’t be you.  I will write in a little more detail about what worked for me in my next post, but for now….

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The National Walkers and Runners Health Studies

Its generic to say that running has shaped my life.  From my choice of undergraduate school and education to where I choose to call home to what dictates my social calendar running is always present.   My high school coach said, “Running is not a sport, its a lifestyle” and I’ve taken it to the point that is also shaped my career choices.

As an undergraduate I was inspired to study exercise biology in hopes of understanding how to train better.  Since then the quest for the understanding the physiology behind performance has morphed to understanding the physiology behind disease, with exercise remaining the prominent perturbation of choice.  In trying to understand how exercise protects against chronic disease I have studied molecular and physiological responses in anything from Drosophila (fruit flies) to humans.  Still I am most excited by the clinical literature highlighting exercises beneficial effects in chronic disease prevention. My PhD mentor and I wrote a massive review article entitled “Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases” highlighting 35 different diseases in which the prevalence is decreased in physically active people, a document that I immensely proud.  Much of the data used in that article is from epidemiological studies, such as the Framingham or Harvard Nurses cohort.  One such epidemiology study that I am particularly fond of is the The National Walkers’ and Runners’ Health Studies. Continue reading