Sunday, September 14, 2008

World of Hurt

On Friday I ran 8 miles for the first time since June. On Saturday I ran another 8 miles at Red Rock Canyon, 4,000 feet in the mountains. Today I ran 4 miles at Red Rock as fast as I could. This coming Saturday I will be competing in an 8 mile race at Mt. Charleston at 8,400feet. It will hurt. I will want to quit. i will question my sanity. But I will make it. Then, two weeks later, I will be running a half-marathon, 13.1 miles at Red Rock Canyon at elevations up to 4,700 feet.

All of that sounds crazy, excessive, one more indication of my impending mid-life crisis. Well, that's not the worst of it. Today I stumbled across this little baby:

The World of Hurt 34 mile Ultra-marathon. I am seriously considering doing it. It is on a dirt path, running through rugged desert terrain for a distance 8miles longer than a marathon and it takes place in 6 weeks. I could probably run a marathon in six weeks if I trained my ass off but an ultra-marathon?

Eight miles is the longest distance I've run since I sprained my ankle before the San Diego Marathon. My ankle is still not 100%. I am talking about more than quadrupling that distance in six weeks. I'm not even sure it can be done but damn if I don't want to try.

Why would I do such a thing? Because I need the challenge. Because safe is boring. I need to stretch myself and push myself beyond all previous limits. That's the only way I know to break the monotony, the redundancy, to add mystery back into my existence. Life must be more than work, eat, shit, sleep, repeat. No, being a father and a husband is not enough. No, working my nine-to-five is not enough. Even writing a novel is not enough. I've done all of that before and so have hundreds of thousands, millions of others. Only 3% of the population can run 13 miles. Less than 1% can run a marathon. I cannot imagine what the statistics must be for an ultra-marathon. They must be extraordinary. One in a thousand? One in ten thousand? One in a hundred thousand? One in a million? I want to be one of those.

Life must be extraordinary or it is a waste. That's why I write. I think that's why all of us do. I think that's what motivates all artists in fact. To live a life less ordinary. It is why I fought. It is why I train fighters. It is why I started my own business. And it is why I run. Because life must be about doing the extraordinary. It must be the type of life that demands impossible questions. Trust me, 34 miles of rugged terrain is going to force me to ask a lot of questions I never thought I'd ask and hopefully teach me a lot about myself.

Earlier this week Evan Tanner, former UFC middleweight champion, rode his motorcycle 100 miles out into the middle of the desert, ran out of gas, and died of heat exposure. According to his blog, Evan rode out there "where any type of equipment failure might cost him his life" because living life on the edge kept him sharp and made him feel alive. I only knew Evan for a very short time, he lived and trained for a several months at Hard Knocks Muay Thai which is the same gym I train out of. He began training for his big comeback the same time I did. We trained together once or twice, did some light-sparring, we are two different weight-classes so nothing serious. We never really spoke more than a few words to each other. He was a very solitary sort of guy. His comeback was not quite as successful as he would have liked. Neither was mine for that matter. Still, he never gave up.

I don't know what went through Evan's mind before the end, but I don't think it was regret. He lived his life to the fullest. He always challenged himself and pushed himself right up until the end. He could have died on his couch forty years from now having never done anything more than what every person he knew had done. His life could have been long and unspectacular. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure he would have rathered his life was long and spectacular as I hope mine will be, but given the choice between long and mundane and short and spectacular, I'm sure he would have chosen the latter. I certainly would. Even if the choice is between a safe comfortable existence and a World of Hurt.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Book Signing in Burbank

I interrupt my usual pontificating for this commercial announcement:

Sunday, December 7th at 2pm I will be at Dark Delicacies in Burbank California signing all of my recent releases including Hero, Orgy of Souls, Population Zero, and Succulent Prey. I will be joined by David Morrell author of First Blood and Rambo. If you're in the area I'd love to see you.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Redundency of Wisdom

I no longer get asked many questions that I don’t know the answers to. That’s how I can tell that I am getting old. I don’t have to run to other people very often to ask questions. People now run to me for answers. I suppose that this is what they call wisdom. If so, wisdom is boring. When your life has become so routine that there are no longer any perplexing mysteries, any confounding dilemmas, any unanswerable questions, that is my definition of a rut. I don’t want such simplicity in my life.

My life has relaxed into a predictable routine. It is filled with all the same challenges that I have faced so often that they are no longer challenging. They are minor inconveniences at best. When someone comes running to me with some problem that seems monumental to them but is commonplace to me, I can almost feel myself yawning inside as I repeat the same answers I have been repeating for years. But I have to pretend to be just as concerned as they are, to view their concerns as every bit the challenge that they do or else I am being insensitive. I can't wait until I am old enough where sensitivity to simple dilemmas is no longer required, when I can just dole out wisdom with all the boredom and disinterest that I feel. I can barely even sit through these breathless recitals of woes that have now become mundane to me before I am already interrupting them to provide the remedy. I feel like I can do both ends of most conversations. I already know what the other person is going to say, what they are going to ask, what I will say in response, and whether or not my advice will be heeded. I am bored.

I want to hear something new. I want to be challenged again. I want to be perplexed. I am sick of being asked the same questions so often that it no longer takes any effort to respond. I don’t have all the answers to life’s questions. But somehow, I have all the answers to my life’s questions. How did this happen? When did all the mystery and adventure drain out of my existence? Sure, I can sit and contemplate abstractions that will keep me perplexed and amazed for hours. What is the meaning of life? Is there a God? What is the nature of morality? But these are dilemmas that I seek out on my own. They are not questions that my life forces me to confront. My life no longer demands such questions of me and I suspect that most of our lives do not. Most of the questions in my life are of the “How am I going to pay my cable bill?” variety. They are questions like “Are you voting republican or democrat?” “How can I lose ten pounds in a month?” “How can I juggle my work life and my home life?” “What’s the best way to discipline a child?” “How can I make sure my kid gets good grades and gets into a good college?” “How do I let my wife know that she is loved and appreciated?” “How am I going to finish writing this novel?” “How am I going to sell this short story?” “How am I going to find time to go to the gym?” Questions that once seemed so baffling but are now painfully mundane. The answers roll effortlessly from my tongue. They may take aggravation and effort to do but I know they can be accomplished because I have done it all before. The biggest questions of my life have all been answered before.

This is why old people have so many answers. They have been doing the same shit for so long that there's just nothing new anymore. They've seen it all before. Their lives have become redundant. Well, I'm too fucking young for that! I'm too young for my life to be so fucking predictable. I'm too young for my biggest challenges to be the same damn challenges I have faced again and again for the past ten years. This year I ran four half-marathons, had two professional fights, wrote two novellas and one novel, started a business, and lost twenty pounds and still didn't do a single thing that I haven't done before. What tha fuck?

So, it is time to do something drastic. Even if I fall flat on my ass I am going to try something new. I am going to put myself into situations where I will be forced to ask questions of myself and my world that I have never had to ask before. I am going to do things I've never done before, even things that I am afraid to do. I am writing a non-fiction book for the first time this year, an opinion book, and I am shopping it to the major New York publishers. I am going to learn how to swim and sign up for a triathlon. I am considering running an ultra-marathon. I will be chairing a Horror Writers Convention for the first time next year, the first annual 2009 Las Vegas KillerCon. I am going to travel to cities and countries that I've never visited. I'm not going to do anything too outrageous like experiment with drugs or have sex with a man but, if I get the opportunity, I might just jump out of an airplane.