There was too much shmeeze on the pavement to roller ski. ("Shmeeze" is my contribution to the list of fifty Inuit words for snow.) There wasn't enough snow to ski on for real either. All I could do was build my insulating blanket of winter fat.
I was struggling with Dunlap's Disease: My belly dun laps over my belt. While my Internet surfing chair groaned under the strain, I stumbled across an item in Runner's World that suggested a running streak from Thanksgiving Day until New Year's Day. The only criteria was one mile per day. I looked at myself in the mirror and said, "Hola, el gordo. Let's go streaking!"
We were out of vino as Turkey Day dawned. The house commander said this was vital for her Thanksgiving meal. So, I ran one mile to the liquor store with my dog. Not open. Inauspicious beginning. I was bummed. The dog was thrilled.
For the next 11 days, my dog met me in the pre-dawn basement and patiently waited for me to tie my laces. Apparently a middle-aged guy pulling on tights is the Duluth version of Pavlov. On our out-and-back routes, he'd lag behind going away and pull like we were skijoring on the way home. I'm pretty sure there was a powerful dog magnet in his food dish.
It snowed on Day 19 and I added skiing to the streak. The goal was to run for 41 days in a row, so I continued that, but did "two-a-days" that included skiing for 13 of them. Who would think I'd find the motivation to work out twice? Amazing. The dog certainly wasn't expecting to be with me on more than half the days. And he's truly streaking since he's technically naked.
So, I made it to New Year's Day. I gave myself a pat on the back and had some thoughts bubble up through my hangover while I ran on the first day of 2013.
The minimum is better than nothing. Once I had a few days of streaking under my belt, the desire to keep going easily outweighed the mental burden of getting out the door. Why? Because the minimum was easily achievable: one mile. Even in the pre-dawn glow of a headlamp, with a dog on a leash and snow on the ground, I can do that in ten minutes. It took me longer to get ready than to actually run. And that's okay because ...
Getting out the door usually leads to running more than the minimum. On 23 days of the streak, I did run the minimum. So for more than half the time, I was just checking off the box. I felt goofy for doing the minimum. But, in 30 years of keeping a log, I never put more hours into a December. Ever. I wasn't shooting for a big month. I was shooting for tiny daily increments. The big monthly total was a by-product.
I kept the streak going into January. I allowed myself to count skiing. By continuing this small focus, I've put more hours into January 2013 than any month since 2005. In ten years, I only have two other months this full.
It's the first mental trick that's worked for me in many years. After several years, you run out of ways to motivate yourself. I'm surprised this is working. I've tried weight loss goals. Hours per week goals. I've dedicated marathons to charity fund-raising. Nothing has been as successful as allowing myself the slack of a tiny minimum, but executed on a daily basis. I'm such a genius. (I hope I don't have to wait another 30 years for my next great idea.)
Streaking works for other things, too. It's working for me in sit-ups and pull-ups. I'm writing more words per week now that I've made a goal of only 250 words a day. I've lost eight pounds in the new year. My wife is now campaigning for me to do a minimum number of chores per day. Whoa, take it easy, lady. I've got limits.
So I respect the streak. It keeps me looking forward. Today was Day 103.
The snow's holding up nice and the mysterious power of the streak pulled me into the parking lot at Snowflake in Duluth. I got in a pleasant 5K of skate skiing.
Maybe if I keep going I can be like Mark Covert from California who has run every day since 23 July 1968. That's 16,296 days. Who knows? Check back with me in 44 years.
Eric Chandler, of Duluth, Minnesota, completed his 10th Birkie this past February. While fully clothed. You're welcome.