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Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Ask Me, I'll Answer
So normally I don't participate in these serial blog things. You know...where one person posts on a topic, and then tags a bunch of other people asking them to do the same. I think this one actually sounds pretty fun. I like sharing aspects of my life other than my running with you folks. It's hard sometimes when you have a themed blog. So here's the first batch of questions I received, in the order I received them.
1. Tavaris Jackson? Really?
I've got one better. Two words: Brett Favre.
2. How and why did you decide to become a lawyer?
When I started out in college, I didn't want to be one of those stupid freshmen that picked "undecided" as their major. So I picked math. I was good at math in high school. I didn't realize that math gets harder. Like...a lot harder. I did fine for about a year, but after around Calculus 3 (which is 3D Calculus by the way) I stopped being good at math.
I also really hate quitting things. Actually, I think it's more that I don't know how to quit things. My mom never let me quit anything that I started. That's the reason why at one point I was in soccer, basketball, karate, track, and some kind of art class all at the same time. Sometimes on the same night.
So I didn't change my major. I stuck it out and got a bachelors of science in math, which I haven't used since I graduated. While sticking it out, I started looking for other subjects that interested me and found the law.
What I hated about math is that there was only one answer, and I couldn't find it for the life of me. I did love the process of using reasoning to solve problems. In the law, you can use that same type of reasoning and come to two completely opposite viewpoint. There is no right answer. Everybody wins! Just like in youth soccer.
Right after college I went into law school, then took the bar exam to become a lawyer in Minnesota. I still love that being a lawyer, especially a litigator like me, is all about thinking creatively and making decisions on your toes. I also like that my job involves me talking pretty much all day. I never get tired of that.
I became a criminal lawyer by accident. When I studied criminal law in law school I absolutely hated it. There's not a lot to love really. On paper it looks like you deal with the most horrible people, and the most horrible situations imaginable. I told myself I'd never become a criminal lawyer.
Then over the summer of my first year of law school I volunteered at the public defender's office in St. Paul. I did it mostly because my career counselor said it was the best way to get courtroom experience. It is. The criminal justice system is vastly underfunded and overworked. So they'll let anyone with a pulse represent a criminal defendant. Within the first few minutes I was in a jail cell interviewing a sex offender. A few minutes later I made my very first court appearance on his behalf. Then a few minutes after that I stopped trembling in absolute terror.
The thing that you learn over time though is that of all the different areas of law, criminal law is actually the most satisfying to practice. Yes, the people involved do horrible things. Yes, most of your witnesses are hookers and coke heads. But most people don't do bad things because they are bad people. They make mistakes because they have bigger problems.
I also love the atmosphere of the criminal courtroom. Most lawyers are assholes. Okay...all lawyers are assholes. But criminal lawyers aren't as big of assholes. And the cases are fast and exciting. It's like the crack cocaine of the legal world. And I have an addictive personality. No wonder I fit in so well.
3. What is the best and worst part about being an only child?
I think the best part is that it gives you the skills to be self-reliant. Growing up I didn't have anyone around to talk to about my problems, or how to do things, or anything like that. I was kind of a shy kid growing up, so I never went to my parents with my problems. I figured out how to do everything on my own, from dealing with bullies, to making friends, to finding a date, to being an adult....everything. I'm a person of my own making, and that's given me a lot of confidence.
The worst part is being alone. It's not that I don't want to be alone sometimes. I actually prefer it. My wife calls it my need for "only child time". It's a big part of why I run so much. It's my only chance during my current life to be alone. But at the same time it's made my interactions with people difficult over my life. It was hard for me to make friends in school. I had to learn how to interact with kids a lot later than most kids did, so I was pretty socially awkward. Same thing with relationships. I've had to learn how to emotionally connect with someone. I've had to learn emotions like empathy. Bottom line, there's a lot of ways an only child can end up the weird kid. I don't think I completely escaped.
4. Are you planning on having any more kids? Why or why not?
My wife and I don't have firm plans on much of anything. We get along so well because we are both very go with the flow kind of people. We didn't plan to have Clara, and we're not planning to have any more kids. But if it happens, it will be awesome. I love kids.
If it doesn't, I'm fine with it. Overall I loved being an only child. I'm happy letting her be one too.
5. If you could only run in one minimal shoe for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
The Softstar Runamoc. Most of my running is on roads because I don't live near any trails. This is the best shoe I've found for road running. It's adequate on most trails. And I've heard it does fine in the winter too as long as you wear some socks.
6. Do you believe in God?
My grandma is a Lutheran pastor, so I grew up pretty active in the Lutheran faith. Then in high school I started researching other religions. Not because I doubted my own beliefs. I just found the subject interesting. I read holy texts like the Koran and the Tao De Ching. Also since I'm a recovering science nerd, I read a lot of Stephen Hawking in college. He writes a lot about whether or not science can prove God exists.
That didn't shake my beliefs or anything. I just don't think that one religion has a monopoly on the truth. The truth is something much bigger. So I don't believe in God in the way that Christians do. He's not a dude sitting up in the sky hanging out with his kid Jesus. I think of God as the relationship of the universe to itself. He is the universe and the laws within which it functions. I don't pretend to be able to understand what he is, what he does, and why he does it. I think that most religions, except possibly the Eastern ones, are pretty arrogant for thinking they've figured him out.
7. Boxers or briefs?
Boxers. Though I did experiment with commando for a couple of weeks. I'm not sure what the appeal is. Briefs are for douchebags.
8. What's the best thing about being a dad?
I've never loved anyone or anything as much as I love my daughter. The greatest thing about being a dad is loving someone like that.
9. Does your wife really hate barefoot running?
My wife has gone from complete and utter contempt of barefoot running to passive acceptance. She told me that she knows I'm not going to stop barefoot running. She understands why I do it. She knows I'm really passionate about it. And who is she to be critical of something I'm passionate about. Would she want me to be like that about something she's passionate about.
That doesn't mean she's supportive of it. She's just not going to stand in the way of my goals.
10. What's the worst nightmare you ever had?
It was pretty much a flashback to the day my dad died. I don't remember much of it. But I remember dreaming that I drove to my mom's house, got out of my car, and started up my driveway. My dad was standing on the driveway. I tried to run to him and hug him and I couldn't. I woke up crying.
Hey...you asked for it.
11. What was the happiest day of your life and why?
The day my daughter was born. Actually the day was pretty crazy. It's a good story too. The day before Clara was born I was at the St. Paul Curling Club getting an intro to curling lesson. I had decided to be on a curling league with some buddies. Mostly as an excuse to drink beer on a Monday.
I got home and went to sleep, and my wife woke me up at around 3am because she was having contractions. I drove 45 minutes to her mom's house to pick up her mom while she puked in a bucket next to me in our Ford Escape. Pleasant. For both of us. Then we drove another half hour to get to the hospital in St. Paul. Not exactly the mad rush you see on the movies.
My wife was in horrible labor pain for a good 9 hours before she asked for an epidural. I knew she was a tough lady, but now I know she's one tough S.O.B. After she got an epidural, the first thing she said was, "Hey look, The Price is Right is on! Excellent!" Yeah...the drugs were working now!
She had Clara very shortly thereafter. I held Clara for about an hour, and then I actually went to a job interview. It was a position at one of the most well-known criminal defense law firms in the state. I would have made a shitload of money. I turned it down on the spot.
The funny thing is that I had every intention of taking the job if offered to me before Clara was born. The very first time I held her, I said to myself, "This little person WILL be the most important thing in my life." As a prosecutor, I'll never make six figures, but I'll always be home at 5pm. If I had taken that job, I would make well over six figures, and I'd always be working. Some things are more important than money.
It was the happiest day of my life because it's so amazing how quickly your life can change. Clara wouldn't sleep in her crib that night, so I held her the entire night. I didn't sleep a wink. It's amazing that I had known her for less than a day and already loved her so much. Crazy awesome stuff...
12. Your biggest running mentor/role model?
Christopher McDougall. He's the one who convinced me that, despite being a lanky giant, I could be a runner. Before I read "Born to Run", I didn't think I could run a marathon. After I read it, I believed I could run an ultra marathon. Pretty inspiring stuff.
13. How old were you when you became taller than your mom?
My mom is pretty tall. She's 5'10". So I didn't pass her up until middle school. I think I was in 7th or 8th grade. I actually was pretty average height until high school, when I turned into a human bean stalk.
14. Why are you so tall?
Midgets like you ask me that all the time :)
Both of my extended families are tall. My uncle is 6'4". My dad was 6'2". I was supposed to be at least 6'8", possibly even break the 7 foot mark. I wanted to be a fighter pilot when I was younger though, and I wouldn't have been able to fit in the cockpit. So I actually tried to stunt my growth for a few years by drinking a lot of caffeine. Didn't work very well did it? And I still can't be a fighter pilot because I'm fricking blind. I can't even see the big "E".
15. Have you ever stood next to a tree and noticed that you're taller than the tree?
Are you still too short to ride theme park rides? How does it feel to shop at Gap Kids in your twenties? Do people ever step on you because you're out of their line of sight? Happens to me a lot...stepping on people that is :)
I am taller than many trees. Tree was actually one of my nicknames when I played soccer.
16. Has anyone ever asked you "How's the weather up there?" And did you want to punch them in the face?
No one likes it when you beat up small people. It's like kicking a little dog. You want to, but it's just not cricket.
17. Are you pregnant?
I must be showing or something.
18. White or wheat?
I dislike grain. But if forced to eat it...wheat.
19. What should the US's stance be on foreign policy?
I'd like to see us go back to foreign policy prior to WWI. We don't mess with other people's business if they don't mess with ours. I'm not sure when we became the world's babysitter slash maid, but I don't like it. We have enough problems at home.
20. What benefits have you noticed in switching to barefoot from the standard forefoot strike?
Here's one thing I want to point out. A lot of shoddies think that the forefoot strike is the magic bullet that makes barefoot running so great. So they think they'll get all the benefits of barefoot running just by switching to some toe shoes. I would say that it's inconclusive whether a forefoot strike in and of itself has any benefits. As it says right on the Harvard Barefoot Study website: "no study has shown that heel striking contributes more to injury than forefoot striking". There is actually a study that found that all forefoot striking seemed to do was to shift injuries from the knees and hips to the ankles and calves.
What barefoot running does for you isn't as simple as a change in footstrike. It's about proprioception, or your awareness of how your body is moving through space. That gives you a multitude of benefits. It certainly gives you a forefoot strike, which although not necessarily better for you, is more efficient. It helps you land softer, thus putting less stress on your muscles and joints. It clues you in to problems with your form so that they don't develop into injury. It puts you more in tune with your bodies limitations with respect to speed and distance.
So the difference I've noticed is that I'm less fatigued when I run. I end a run feeling less beat up. I enjoy my running more. And I feel more connected to the world around me. No shoes will give you that experience. Not even close.
21. Do you still like the law, and if not, what would you rather be doing?
I both love it and hate it at the same time. I still love the mental challenge of the law. I love arguing my case to a court or a jury. I love meeting new people and helping them out with their problems.
I dislike the little things about practicing law that kind of wear on you after a while. I don't like always being lied to by defendants and witnesses. I dislike that I have to pass judgment on people in order to advocate my point, and speak badly about them in court. I dislike that a large part of being a good prosecutor is being a gigantic asshole. Things like that.
But would I rather be doing something else? I'm not so sure. I have a feeling that any desire I have to do something else is kind of "grass is greener" thinking. I'm fine being a prosecutor for the rest of my life. There are aspects of my job I'd love to change. I'd like to be doing something more collaborative and less contentious. I'd like to be able to work from home more often. But I don't think I want to change careers.
The only thing I could think of wanting to do as an alternative career would be something involving barefoot running. I don't know that I want to be a traveling barefoot dude like Jason and Ted and Ken Bob though. I don't know what that career looks like yet, or if it will ever happen. Right now I just enjoy helping people enjoy barefoot running more in whatever way I can.
22. What is it with male barefoot runners and kilts?
Well I'm not as in to the whole kilt thing as some of my other male barefoot friends are. I will wear one occasionally, but I don't swear by them or anything.
I honestly never considered a kilt until Jason Robillard reviewed a Sport Kilt for his blog a little over a year ago. He swore that it was head and shoulders above shorts in terms of down-under comfort. I'm willing to try anything once. And it really is ridiculously comfortable.
It's also ridiculously goofy looking. But I think that because barefoot runners care so little about what other people think, they are more likely to wear a kilt despite what other people might say.
I'd also point out that plenty of female runners wear kilts too. They just look way hotter in them.
My friend Vanessa Runs...the hottest Canadian I know.
23. What strategies do you use to get through the "pain cave" and other challenging moments?
The strategy that I find the most helpful is to break an endurance event into chunks that are manageable for me at a particular moment, and to make those chunks my immediate goal. During my first marathon, when I really hit the wall I adjusted my goal from "finish the race" to "make it to the next aid station". Then when I got to the aid station, I would reward myself by walking and recovering for my next aid station. During my 50K last week, by mile 20 I was breaking the remaining 11 miles into 2-3 mile increments. I find if you focus on those smaller goals instead of the ultimate goal of finishing a grueling race that you gain confidence and find something else to focus on besides being in pain.
I also find it helps to adjust the terms by which you complete a race where you're in a lot of pain. For example, during a marathon I ran in Honolulu, I started out obsessing over a certain finishing time. When I hit the wall at around mile 22 I could have pushed through at the same pace and had a dreadful time. Instead I told myself that I was going to adjust my goal to just finishing comfortably. During my 50K, after mile 28 when my legs started telling me they didn't want to go any further, I allowed myself to walk the remaining miles if I needed to do so. I didn't, but having the option allowed me to relax.
24. If someone asks you a dumb question and no one is around, do you hear it?
What was that? :)
25. Why are you wearing minimal shoes in your blog photo?
They go with the cape.
Do you have a question you'd like to ask me? I will answer anything, no exceptions. Post your questions as a comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will answer all of your questions in a later blog post.