Goals, Identity, And Self Care — Some Thoughts On What I’m Trying To Do In 2020

I don’t remember exactly where I saw this, maybe it was in the Netflix bio thing on Bill Gates, or maybe it was in a random interview of him I watched on youtube, but somewhere out there on the internet I heard Bill Gates say that no matter what, even if he hates it, he finishes every book he starts because he knows if he let himself quit one book, he’d quit them all.

This guy finishes ever book he starts.

This really resonated with me, not only because I too finish every book I start, but also because when I look at myself, I see things that at first appear to be goals, but are really part of my identity.

So does this guy

For example, I see myself as a person who, no matter what, reads 52 books a year. Its nonnegotiable. I do it, every year, and completing it has certainly become part of my self-identity.


This got me thinking about other things that I’d like to become part of my self-identity. If I internalized things about my exercise and food choices and my spiritual/intellectual life not as goals, but as things that make me who I am, what more could I accomplish? For example, if instead of saying “I’d like to run 2000 miles a year” I said “I run 2000 miles a year” what would that do to my fitness, and my self-identity as a serious runner?


Digging in to this question is what I am going to experiment with this year. Its part of a plan I’ve been working on to build a revised and updated middle aged 3.0 version of Sean. I’m still toying with what form this will take, exactly, but I’ll use 2020 to experiment with broadening my personal identity to include things like “I eat a plant-based diet” and “I run 2000 miles a year” and “I study Hebrew”.

In the last couple of years, I’ve moved away from personal updates on this blog, but I might bring it back this year. I’m excited for 2020, for experimenting, for learning, and for building a better version of myself. Maybe I’ll document it here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Milo and the Calf Hits 250,000: Top 25 Post and Pages

So this trusty old website just went over 250,000 hits. That’s nothing in the world of big internet, but for little old me and my eccentric tastes, it’s a lot. As has become my tradition, I figured I’d take a moment here to say thanks to everyone who has stopped by, and to note the twenty five most popular pages on this here thing.

  1. The Boston Qualifier Questionnaire: The Stories of Those Who’ve Qualified for the Boston Marathon

No surprise that the most popular part of this website remains on top. I’ve interviewed over 250 runners as part of this project and there’s no end in sight.*

Boston Qualifier Questionnaire Art

  1. About

A page explaining what the fuck is going on here remains popular with the confused and curious.


  1. Data Analysis of the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire

When the BQ(Q) project hit 200 entries I did some basic statistical analysis. This is really where you should start if you’re interested in qualifying for Boston.


  1. David Goggins Inspired Bodyweight Work Outs

A quick page collecting some body weight based works outs shared by the inspiring David Goggins. Helpful if you’re looking to spice up you pull up bar work.


  1. Fitness Habits of Disgraced Generals

Year after year people google the fitness habits of generals Generals McCrystal and Patreus.  This appears to be where they end up.


  1. S-Town’s John B. Mclemore: A Reading List

I was struck by the life of the man at the center of this ground breaking podcast and did a little post on his reading habits. Apparently other people were interested in this too.


  1. 2016: My Year In Books

This was the year I tried to read books that reflected the demographics of the U.S. I recapped all that here.


  1. The Runnable Bridges of New York City

I made a map of every bridge in New York City that you can run over. This was probably the most time intensive project I’ve done for Milo. Glad other people are using it.


  1. Milo of Croton

A research page of information on our main man, Milo of Croton. I suspect this page has featured in number of hastily written undergrad papers.

Milo and the Wolves

This one, by Maurice Falconet’s is probably my favorite of the lot.

  1. The Egoist on the Fixed Gear

Don’t be an asshole on your bike.


  1. 2015: My Year in Books

These year in books pages where I collect my short reviews of the books I’ve read are surprisingly popular.


  1. Divine Madness

A page collecting various resources on the so-called “running cult” Divine Madness. Of everything I have published, this page gets the most emails and responses from previous members and, astonishingly, people interested in joining.


  1. Running Heroes – The Six Women of the 1972 New York City Marathon

A short piece celebrating the women who disrupted the 72 NYCM and changed running forever.


  1. Weight and the Marathoner

A short piece discussing the controversial, but important topic, of the relationship between body weight and long distance running.


  1. 2014: My Year in books

Another year, another 52 books.


  1. Classical Sources for the Milo Stories

A page collecting the various myths and references to Milo of Croton in ancient sources


  1. Some Thoughts On the Early Days of Strength Training

Just what the title say, a brief recap of the very early history of modern strength training.


  1. The Hero Brought Low: Representatives of Milo in Art

Some thoughts on what our portrayals of Milo in art say about us.


  1. Phil Coppess – Hero of Working Stuff Runners 

An appreciation of the always inspiring Coppess who was a world class talent who also held down a factory job and raised two daughters on his own.

Phil Coppess

Coppess on his way to a 2:10 win

  1. Alex Honnold, Free Soloing and the Viewers Guilt

A page of my thoughts on what it means to be an Alex Honnold fan. This was written years before Free Solo came out, but touches on many of the same issues.


  1. How I read 52 Books a Year.

A how-to illustrated with pictures from the Wire, the greatest television show of all time.


  1. Reflection on Martin Ginsburg

A short appreciation page for my law school professor, the husband of Ruth Bader Ginsburg


  1. The Barkley Marathons

A page with some thoughts and ideas on the Barkley Marathons, the worlds most insane foot race.


  1. Some Personal Reflections on Revs and New York in the 90s.

An appreciation of the great New York City Street Artists Cost and Revs.


  1. Steve Bannon: A Reading List

A page discussing the alleged influences on former Trump consigliere, Steve Bannon. Written back when Bannon was still an important figure (ah, 2017, we were so young)


Steve Bannon

Remember when this guy was important?

*A lot of individual BQ(Q) responses also would have made the top 25, but those can all be seen in this list of the Most View Responses to the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire.

On the Value of a Private Life

The way I remember it, we were in a bar in the lower Haight, day drinking on Bloomsday. I was ribbing Chris about the time he spent reading literature.  I was young and at the height of my sanctimonious leftist phase. I think my argument probably went something like, “its bourgeois to spend time reading literature when you could be reading revolutionary theory”… or something like that.

Chris was a bit older than me, much smarter, and much, much more well-read. Being the good-natured friend he was, he didn’t just tell me to just fuck off. Instead he said something along the lines of, “there is value in having a private life, a life of ideas and art that exists outside the market and outside politics. There’s a value to reading something beautiful just because it’s beautiful”.

Now to you, that may seem obvious. But to me it was a revelation. And the older I get, and the more demands are put on my time, the more important it is to me to protect that space, to continue to have that private life.

For many people I know, reading and reflection, art and music, have become luxuries they no longer have the time for. If we read, we read the twitter comments on the book; or we 2x the audio book on our run. If we listen, we listen in the background, while chasing after our kids, or doing the dishes.

I’d argue that this is a mistake. That we (and by “we” I mean “I”) need to take back a bit of time for the private life. For pursuits of depth that do not appear to have any utility. I think they do have utility. I think their depth and their unmonetizable nature make them uniquely important, and I think they make us better humans.

I realize this is easier said than done. I realize I am no longer a 22-year-old kid in a bar in San Francisco.

You’re not either.

I also realize that, as a reasonably successful dude, it is easier for me to say this that it is for others. And I realize that I cannot let the pursuit of a private life put an unreasonable burden on those around me. My wife cannot be asked to mind our children while I disappear to learn Greek. But finding the moments for reflect, however brief, and putting in the effort, however modest, to remove oneself from the daily scrum, if only briefly, if only to engage with a poem for fifteen minutes before bed, is, I think, worth it and worth protecting.

Michel Foucault

Quick Thought on Weight Loss

I’m trying to stay off twitter, but still want to write (and, apparently, share) my random thoughts. Here’s one:

Since my second kid was born, I’ve put on a little weight. Not a ton, but some. At the height of my running prowess, such as it was, I was about 170 pounds. These days I’m floating around in the low 190s. I’m six feet tall, so twenty five pounds is noticeable, but not life altering. My clothes still fit, but a bit snugger. My face is fuller,  but not pudgy. Horrifically, I can feel some jiggle when I run, but at least I can still run.

This is the current state of things:

Me. circa July 2018

I’m trying to reverse this. But with two kids and a demanding career, it isn’t easy. Most of the change has to happen not through my old stand by – high mileage, but instead through  my biggest challenge — controlling what I eat.

All of this is made even harder by the fact that I’m 43 years old now. Old enough that the metabolism is really starting to slow, and every poor food choice goes right to the gut.

So, I’m doing my best to follow the diet protocol described by Dr. Valter Longo. Its simple, its intuitive, and its showing some modest results.

It’s also leaving me hungry.

And that’s fine. I need to remember that if I’m eating a snack and two meals in a twelve hour window, that’s significantly less than I was eating before. And a body at rest likes to stay at rest. Once you get to 195 pounds, your body wants to stay at 195 pounds. Changes to that are going to be hard. They’re going to require some unpleasant hours when you’re not starving, but you could definitely eat.  I need to get through that, I need to find a new equilibrium. I need to be hungry.

As Dr. Peter Attia said somewhere, if our ancestors couldn’t perform complex tasks while hungry, we wouldn’t be here today. I’m trying to remember that while I write this memo on an empty stomach.

How I Meditate

Life has been a chaotic mess of work, family obligations, failed fitness routines, and unfinished books. Time to refocus the mind and body on the things that matter the most to me, time to begin again a meditation practice. The practice is simple. Routinizing it, prioritizing it, those are the hard things.

This is how I do it.

I set a timer, or a meditation app, for the desired amount of time. Right now, its ten minutes, soon fifteen, then twenty, then perhaps longer. If I don’t have time for ten minutes, I’ll do five. Something is always better than nothing at all.

I sit comfortably, in a chair, on a cushion, or on the floor. With my eyes open I take three or four deep breaths, in through the mouth, out through the nose. I set my attention to be present, to be here now.

I close my eyes and begin breathing normally again, in and out, in and out.

I attempt to notice the sounds around me without judgement or concern. There, a siren, there, a car. They’re just there. Neither helping or impeding my practice. Just there.

I perform a “body scan” wherein I start from my head and move down my body noticing its state. Does my shoulder hurt (it usually does) Is my back tight? My feet tired? I notice this aspects of my body. They’re just there. Neither helping or impeding my practice. Just there.

Then I try to focus on my breath. In and out, in and out. I count my breaths one on the in, two on the out, three on the in, four on the out, five on the in, six on the out, seven on the in, eight on the out, nine on the in, ten on the out.

Then again.

My mind wanders, it always does. I get hung up on the car, or the ache in my shoulder. I don’t make it to ten breaths. I don’t make it to four.

As soon as I notice my mind wandering, I start again.

I do this, over and over until the timer goes off.

Almost always, I feel better afterward. I try to remember that feeling the next time I am making an excuse for not meditating. The process isn’t hard, remembering how important it can be is. Be Here Now

Back In The Saddle (And Top Posts for 2017)

I took a pretty extended break from posting here, and wondered, really, if it was something I was even going to do anymore. But I miss writing for no other reason than the joy of it, I miss chronicling my ups and downs in fitness and life, and I miss sharing the many many stories you send me about qualifying for Boston.

So, I’m back.

To celebrate, here are the top posts and pages for 2017

1. The Boston Qualifier Questionnaire – no surprise here, the page collecting the hundreds of stories runners have shared of their journeys to the Boston Qualifying Time remains the number one page.

2. Data Analysis of the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire – my analysis of the data on how you get a BQ.

3. About – the perennial favorite i.e. the what the fuck is going on here page.

4. David Goggins Inspired Body weight Work Outs – a collection of body weight work outs inspired by navy seal and all around bad ass David Goggins.

5. S-Town’s John B. Mclemore: A Reading List – a collection of all the books cited by John B in the incredible podcast S-Town.

6. 2016: My Year in Books – an overview of everything I read in 2016 (2017 coming soon!)

7. Fitness Habits of Disgraced Generals – a light hearted post on the fitness regimes of Generals Paterues and McCrystal

8. Milo of Croton – A resource page on the ancient greek wrestler for whom this silly project is named.

9. How I read 52 Books a Year – A guide to reading more.

10. The BQ(Q) Sage Canaday – Pro runner and all around nice guy Sage Canaday shares his story of the first time he qualified for Boston

Reset: diet

Here is what my blood tests, DNA tests, and time on the toilet all tell me:

  • If not entirely allergic to, I am at least highly sensitive to dairy and gluten
  • I gain weight easily, especially when eating a diet high in saturated fats.
  • I need significantly more fiber than i get on the diet I have become used to.

With all this in mind, I will very likely do well on a diet high in fruits and vegetables, with some meat and fish, and little to no gluten or dairy.

In theory, these guidelines are easy to follow and not particularly restrictive. But in practice, I have found modifying my diet to be an enormous challenge. Like many, I eat not only for survival, but socially, and (dare I say it?) for comfort. Coming to the point where I eat the salad at the dinner party, but skip the cured meats, or turn to a cup of tea (and not a bag of chips) to calm me after a stressful day is, and probably always will be, hard. That isn’t an excuse to not try to be more present in my food making decisions. There’s no need to be doctrinaire (and in fact, doctrinate may be unhelpful) but it is important to be thoughtful, avoiding the bad and favoring the good.

Attention to my diet is likely to be the health struggle of my life. Given the time, I’d work out all day. Exercise has always been a joy to me. But food, food is something else, something harder,