Failure Is An Option, Or Why You'll Always Be A Loser And That's OK: Recovering Fatass SoundtrackS

A weekly look at the iPod of a regular dude trying to run himself out of an early grave.


I really borked it all up this week. Feel my shame and enjoy a playlist that should get you through six miles.

"On With The Show," Motley Crue

This is a picture of my training schedule. I like to cross things off—I make lists for the grocery store and have a panic attack when I forget to bring a pen—it's satisfying. You may notice a giant red "F" sullying an otherwise (mostly) proudly crossed-off-in-blue calendar. I did a stupid thing last week: I didn't make a new playlist. It's counter to everything I've believed in since starting this training program and I deserved the absolutely miserable and personally embarrassing performance I had as a result.

I am running a half-marathon in about one month. I started training for it a month early in January. The actual program, which I found via search term "half marathon training schedule," incrementally builds your endurance until race day with regular running days and one "long run" each week (along with random, bullshit cross-training days that I did, like, once). Last Friday, according to my schedule, was "race day." Only it wasn't. I intentionally scheduled in a month buffer for a number of reasons: to build in time for any screw ups, sicknesses, reversions back to lazy, good-for-nothing layabout. But mostly I did it because I wanted to know for sure I could actually do the half-marathon before running in an official race. I don't know why, but that was important to me. Like a safety net or something.

"A Poor Man's Memory," Explosions In The Sky

The way I tailored the schedule, I made my weekly long run Friday and would sort of ritualistically make a new playlist for each week and then recycle it for the regular runs the following week. Instead of making a playlist this week, though, I re-used playlists from my six and seven mile runs. It was a disaster. It was probably a little bit laziness, but also my plan for the actual race is to cull the best songs from previous lists for one Mega Voltron Half-Marathon Playlist. I didn't want to ruin that and another completely distinct two-and-a-half hour playlist is tough to come up with. So I fudged it.

And did it ever fudge me, right in the ass. There was no juice to this run. Almost immediately the wind and hills were beating me down. Every step felt like I was running in place. Which reminds me. People who run in place are the worst. They are an improbably more-annoying subset of Runner who run in the street and then whoa! red light. Let me keep running in place so I can SHOW YOU HOW SERIOUS I AM ABOUT FITNESS AS I RUN IN ONE SPOT FOR 30 SECONDS LIKE A FUCKING LUNATIC, SERIOUSLY WOULD YOU LOOK AT ME RIGHT NOW? keep my heart rate up. Guess what, hot shots? I run and then stop and then my heart rate probably drops or something—I don't know all the science behind it—and then I have to build it back up again. You know how hard that is? It's easy to keep motoring along when you're already warmed up. I try to challenge myself. That's just me, though, I'm Sisyphus.

"Everything Evil," Coheed & Cambria

Annnnnnnnyway, the run was really bad. I was supposed to run 13.1 miles and one mile in I was already like a full minute slower than usual even though I felt like I was running hard. Windy, hilly and my music wasn't doing anything for me, I was strug-g-ling and couldn't get out of my own head. Usually I can zone out for at least a portion of a run, but I just spent an hour and half straight running and thinking about how terribly it was all going.

There are basically two loops in my neighborhood that if done together are about four miles. So I figured If I do that three times, boom: half-marathon. The first time I went up one of the bigger hills all I could think about was how I'd have to do this twice more. After running a whole shitload more in between each climb.

With that pleasant thought on my brain's front page the whole time, I stopped after two loops. At first I tried walking. Then I tried running after having walked. And then I gave up. I was so, just, pissed off at myself. Even if I had walked for other long runs, I had never not finished. Hell, two weeks before I ran 12 miles no problem. I mean, not no problem, I was running for like two-and-a-quarter hours; it was terrible. But I did it without walking. This was just a mile and change more. 10, 11 minutes more! And I couldn't even get through nine miles this time.

"The Ghost of Tom Joad," Rage Against The Machine

I know what you're thinking: Hey Mr. I Say I'm Not A Runner, you seemed pretty bummed about not running well. Hate to break it to you, but you sound like a Runner. First of all, don't you ever talk to me like that again. Second of all, it's not that it was a bad run, it's that I failed to meet a goal. This particular goal is to run a half-marathon—which, yes, does involve running, an astute observation on your part, Mr. Likes To Point Out Ostensible Inconsistencies—and I failed spectacularly. I don't always plan on adhering to a strict schedule for a half-marathon, but I am doing that right now because my goal is to run a half-marathon. I failed in a way that makes me concerned I won't ever be able to do it.

"The Pharmacist," Hot Rod Circuit

My theory, alongside the shitty playlist decision, is there is something problematic with the training schedule. They tell you to taper down your running before a big race to keep your legs fresh or something. I ran 12 miles, then the next week my long run was 5 miles. Then the week leading up to the half marathon I ran 6 miles total (two miles Monday, Wednesday and Thursday). Then I was supposed to run 13.1 Friday.

I think for me, I liked the rhythm and predictability of building off of the previous week. I knew I'd have no problem running 12 miles because I had just done 11 last week, and 11 was no problem because I had just done 10, and so on. But the week before what should have been race day, it was like vacation. Then "race day" was like the first Monday back at work after vacation.

Since tapering is another Runner's scam, I am re-booting at nine miles. This will bring me right to race week on a plan that makes actual sense. I will just increase by a mile each week and the week after my 12 mile run, I will run the actual race. Stupid Runners trying to get all scientific about this stuff. It's just running, guys.

"Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down," Interpol

There's a lot about me that has changed from years past both physically and mentally and I think sometimes it really throws people. Including those closest to me. They see me acting (a little), and looking (a lot) differently than I had for the longest time and assume I have undergone this huge drastic change in personality. This is not true. I still love to not do anything at all. Like, love it. An awesome Saturday is laying on the couch watching baseball and then falling asleep to golf in the mid-afternoon. Wake up, make a nice (easy) dinner, grab some wine and watch a film. In that scenario I have probably traveled 100 steps total all day, mostly to eat. I would be OK with it if that's what heaven turned out to be.

"King Medicine," Jets To Brazil

Thinking I had morphed into some crazy workout dude, my wife got me a personal trainer for Valentine's Day, even though I've said a million times "I have no interest in working out with a personal trainer." It was a mess. Here's the thing: we're not real big Valentine's Day people. We'll do dinner and get a fancy (read: more than $15) bottle of wine, but we don't typically do big gifts. Also, we are big jokesters. So when she told me she got me a personal trainer I laughed at her. When she continued on, I said "OK, good one." When she pressed even further, I doubled-down. "Seriously what did you get me? I know it's not a personal trainer because that is literally the worst gift you could possibly think of for me. So, really, what did you get me? Honestly, that we be like me getting you tickets to a Yankee game or something."

[total silence, indescribably hurt face].

Too far. She actually got me a personal trainer. I felt kind of bad for being so over the top, I really did think she was just kidding, and then I got kind of mad myself because I know I have made my thoughts on the subject perfectly clear. So, we kind of got into a fight about it but on the plus side, my wife got an unexpected personal trainer gift.

"Mr. November," The National

I have tunnel vision and it's the only way any of this stuff works for me. I need to do one thing and just focus on it and really do the shit out of it. I can't be doing running and then lifting weights and whatever else everyone tells you to do. Diversify you workout! Switch it up so your muscles don't get used to the workout.

Sorry, no. If my muscles get bored working out, well join the club, assholes. We've been waiting for you. At this point in my life, I have no interest in pumping my lats or doing sick biceps curls or whatever else it is people do to pretend they are not just full body masturbating. And I'm really not interested in hearing all the health benefits. I'm a dude running. That's really all I can handle right now. When I get to the point where I get back from a run and I don't want to go to sleep with my sweaty and nauseatingly acrid clothes still on my beaten down body because it's just easier goddammit, then maybe I'll check it out. Maybe.

"The Rat," The Walkmen

"About A Girl," Nirvana

I have the Nike+ app on my phone. It's solid. It integrates pretty seamlessly with the music app and keeps track of time and distance on a pretty map with like heat-sensing markers to show your speed along the way. It also talks to you. Every mile it tells you you've run another mile and gives the total time and average pace. There are other things I think that I have disabled like random cheering and other supportive urgings from Nike People Famous For Being Athletic. These people also chime in once your run is finished: "Wow! That was your fastest 5K ever!" That kind of stuff. Sonya Richards Ross told me how awesome I was yesterday. I don't know if an update is looming but Lance Armstrong is also on the app. Congratulating you for not being a bullying shit while running your "longest run ever!"

"Alive," Pearl Jam

My neighborhood is beautiful. There are huge parks and plenty of trails that make me forget every single day that I technically live in a city. While the trails are approximately 95 percent people walking dogs in idyllic tranquility, they are also 5 percent hobo havens. You very rarely actually see them, but you do see signs they've been there. As an expert pretend-to-be-Tracker, you pick up on things. Dutch Masters wrappers, burned stuff, makeshift shelters. These are all signs that people are, you know, living in the woods.

I never worry about the hobos unless I am running. Generally speaking, I think I could hold my own against a hobo. I mean, I eat on the regular and get plenty of sleep and am otherwise not a vagrant, but I worry that when I'm running I'll be too gassed to protect myself. Like, what if the hobo decides he wants my iPhone and I've been running for over an hour? It makes me think: what if I ever ran into orcs while tracking the hobbits? Could I hang? Real me and fictional hobbit-tracking me have a crisis of confidence in the Forests Of Van Cortlandt: A six-part epic movie.

"These Days," Nico

"No Easy Way Out," Robert Tepper

This song came on and it was much, much lower than the rest of the songs I had been enjoying. At first I was pissed, but then I realized this was probably a built-in safety feature, not unlike the treadmill cutoff-at-60-minutes thing. Too much Robert Tepper can be a health risk.

Detective Rey Curtis: [Motions to workout gear-wearing corpse, whose head appears to have exploded, a classic sign of TMT*] Our guy says it happened while he was running by. Said it was like that movie. [notices iPod next to body, still playing] Where the guy's head explodes. [picks up headphones: ♫...there's no shortcut hooooome...♫]

Detective Lennie Briscoe: Whaddya suppose he's runnin' from?

Curtis: Think he was just running for fitness, Lennie. [shuts off iPod]

Briscoe: Looks like death got a head start.

If I could be completely serious for a second, though: if this doesn't get you to at least walk with a little bounce in your step, I'm sorry that you have no feet. [shifts gears four-hundred-and-seventy-five times].

"Bury Your Head," Saosin

"No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future," Titus Andronicus

I didn't actually get to listen to this as it was the last song on the 7 mile list and I quit well before getting there, but the "You'll always be a loser" anthem coupled with the head-bopping beat is perfectly cut off by lead singer Patrick Stickles's gravel-crammed "and that's OK" and makes for a weirdly satisfying pump-up song.

It's OK to be a loser. That sounds insane because we're obsessed with comparing ourselves to each other, but it's not. There is literally not a single perfect person on the planet. Not the guy running in place at a stop light, not the woman lifting weights and not me. But especially not the guy running in place at a stop light. Jesus, get over yourself. I didn't run 13.1 miles when I was supposed to, but my head didn't explode. My dog still lost her mind when I walked through the door. My wife came home from work unscathed. The world did not end. I still have time to meet my goal.

I didn't run 13.1 miles; I ran nine. And that's OK.

*Too much Tepper.