I can make a mess like nobody’s business.

intense.

On June 28, I signed up for NYC’s portion of the Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run, an off-road mud run series with races across the country. At the time, October 3 (the date of the run) felt like a lifetime away. Sitting here on September 29 feels a little differently.

I had the option of choosing the 5K or the 10K course, and not being one to take the easy (perceived or otherwise) route for anything, I immediately chose 10K. Facebook confirms this, as my friends and I created an event in order to invite anyone we knew with an ounce of athleticism and/or an affinity for ruining clothing.

(June 28 at 11:58pm) Cait Knoll: 10K. BOOM.

From the official Mud Run site, the run is promised to include “Military-style Obstacles, Commanding cargo climbs, Wild water crossings, a post-race BBQ and awesome Tech Tee, and Mud, Mud and MORE MUD!”

mud butt.. similar to swamp ass

I’m wildly excited for this, and yet severely nervous. Running terrifies me because I can’t conquer it. While the calisthenics portion of this event will be right in my wheelhouse (refer to my liking to do push-ups until my arms go to mush), running has always been a thorny activity in my world.  Sprints? No problem. Getting my brain and breathing in the right place for 6+ miles? Yikes.

One of my favorite things about this whole event was finding out who in my life thinks the mud run sounds like an incredible time, as well as who “would literally rather do anything else in the world but that,” as one of my acquaintances so delicately put it.

she looks... happy.

At any rate, this endeavor is a real challenge, and I’m very much looking forward to testing myself, my body, and my willpower.

I am also looking forward to the BBQ.

Fading nostalgia for the near-recent past.

glorious.

I was able to trek back to Happy Valley this past weekend to tailgate,  catch a Penn State football game, and roar through some of my favorite local watering holes. A group of my friends and I were all able to finagle trains, planes and automobiles to get ourselves into town together for the first time in quite a while. It had been almost a year since I’d been to State College, and on my (alarmingly unsafe) return bus trip to NYC, I realized something personally shocking – State College doesn’t feel like home anymore.

I fell in love with State College in my second year of living there. I returned to my hometown of Pittsburgh only the summer after my freshman year. After that summer I moved myself permanently to Centre County. Without hesitation I can say I love Pittsburgh, but it’s a different kind of love, a familial kind almost. I was born and raised there, my family is still very much rooted there, and just driving through the city and surrounding suburbs is akin to putting on a favorite raggedy sweatshirt. Pittsburgh has always been a constant; State College was the first place I could call my own.

"united" doesn't do it justice.

The sports, the intensity, the sweeping willingness to always have a good time – those are only a few elements that make up my love for State College. In leaving my childhood home, I found a town in which I became me. Happy Valley embraced me, skidded my knee (in reality, tore my ACL, but that’s a story for a different time), built up my wind chill tolerance, and alternately forced me to sweat out thoughts and dreams over long, hazy summers.

During my PSU trip a year ago, my heart swelled to near burst when I stepped foot in downtown State College. I saw gaggles of friends and stayed on the couches of people who hadn’t yet graduated or moved on. It felt natural, it felt right. My trip this past weekend was altogether different – there were no impromptu reunions and no couches were available, as my friends finally did graduate and move on. I felt like a visitor; an alumni, not a resident.

Returning to NYC on Sunday night, I was simply excited. I’m not sure it felt like coming home, but it felt right all the same. I fell in and out of love with a small town in Pennsylvania, and now I’m flirting and dancing with a big city. There’s so much to learn, to try, to taste, to dig into, and I’m blown away by the prospect of it all.

hell of a view.

Refusing to go gently.

I’m sitting in my office, and sweat is running streams down my body. I’m trying not to move, but I can feel it trickling down my spine, semi-puddling under my forearms. Gross.

Sweating isn’t really my issue – it’s more of an overall sense of discontentment. I’ve hit a wall, and I despise this feeling, the feeling of burnout. I’m not sure where I read this so I can’t accredit the quote, but here’s the line: “Burnout is like a candle that once glowed brightly, began to flicker, and eventually extinguished.”

Word.

Burnout happens very notably to athletes (from tiny, overworked 11-year-old gymnasts to Hall of Fame-caliber ballplayers), but clearly burnout isn’t relegated only to the athletic arena. I think it’s particularly interesting that a kind of scale exists for measuring burnout (Maslach Burnout Inventory), as I’m not sure how you can quantify something so subjective. At any rate, the Maslach Burnout Inventory weighs the effects of emotional exhaustion and reduced sense of personal accomplishment based on ‘exhaustion’, ‘cynicism’, and ‘inefficacy’. Blah blah scientific terminology blah, but clearly people have been trying to get a handle on the mysterious, amorphous burnout for decades.

Why do we drift into apathy? How does it happen? When do people reach the point where their life force feels completely depleted?

For athletes, although it is not cut and dry, burnout is often more directly linked to physical exhaustion and whether the athlete is involved in a sport out of willingness or a feeling of entrapment. No surprise that athletes who feel like they have to be involved in a sport generally burnout quicker and/or more often than those who want to be involved.

Obligation versus choice. Maybe it’s a little more cut and dry than I first thought. I love a good fight, a tough assignment, a seemingly immovable object – but I want to willingly go after these things.

I think my favorite term I’ve come across in researching burnout is ‘flow’.  The opposite of apathy is flow. According to the world’s most respected online reference Wikipedia, “flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task.” (Tip of the cap to whoever penned that entry, actually. )

Seriously. Never.

Flow is what I’m striving toward, what I yearn for. To hell with burnout. Get away from my candle.