On Business: The Next Plateau

By | Monday, August 04, 2014 2 comments
I first started running in the latter half of 2010. I spent the first three and a half decades of my life not running, so it was a bit of a change, but I liked the idea that I could get some good exercise without a huge cost involved. I mean, I already had a pair of sneakers; what more equipment do you need? So I put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and went out running for the first time, not having any real inkling what I could do.

I went maybe six or seven minutes, going the slowest you could possibly go and still be considered running (not jogging). I was exhausted. My legs ached and I could scarcely catch my breath. But I was determined to run in the big leagues; damn it, I wanted to complete a marathon. So I kept at it. Every week or two, I'd try to go a little further than I had before. And sure enough, I started to get better.

(Bear with me. I'll circle this back to comics.)

Eventually, I worked my way up to three and four mile runs. And I started having problems with my knees. I'd had some problems with my knees years before, but they were generally okay most of the time. It was only after I was getting into these longer runs that they would get sore. I discovered then that my feet roll to the outside just a bit when I walk/run, which forces my knee to bend slightly out of alignment. Fortunately, they make running shoes to correct for that.

I kept working on distances. Which meant more time outdoors. That six or seven minutes I was doing at first was becoming sixty and seventy minutes and, if I was still interested in a full marathon, I knew that would entail longer and longer times just for training. My fairly light skin needed can't handle that much time in the exposed sun, so I began shopping for high-SPF sunscreens.

One day, I came home from, I think, a twelve mile run. I had forgotten my keys and had to ring the doorbell. My S.O. let me in, only to gasp when she saw that I had two small streams of what looked like blood running down the front of my shirt. Sure enough, my nipples had been rubbed raw from my shirt; which would explain why the last mile of that run felt painful. It's actually a not uncommon problem with long-distance male runners, and some internet research quickly results in a number of solutions being available. Personally, I've found NipGuards (the actual brand name!) to be the most effective for me.

Once I get into the two-hour range for my runs, I really need to start thinking about hydration as well. I don't lose so much sweat in a typical hour/ninety minute run that I can't just drink some water when I'm finished, but when I get to 120 minutes, I've lost a lot of water, as well as salt. So at that point, I need to start carrying some Gatorade or something.
Then I get into the 16, 17, 18 mile runs. My shoes only correct so much for my feet rolling to one side, and I need a knee brace to provide additional support to my patella. I'm also burning through something like 3,000 calories at that point (basically, what a "normal" person burns through during an entire day) so I need to carry some additional nutrients beyond what you'll get with simple hydration.

All of which means that my original notion of just throwing some sneakers on and taking off doesn't happen at those higher levels. It's fine if I'm only doing a couple miles, but at various points in my progression as a runner, there's more and more preparation I need to do. I can't just throw on any ol' pair of shoes and run a marathon; before I take off, I need to put on sunscreen and NipGuards and a knee brace, and I need to carry Gatorade and some food... it's no longer as simple a task as it used to be.

In some respects, that's what creating comics is like. You can sit down and draw your little comic with little planning or preparation, and that's great. But if you're hoping to be in comics for the long haul, you need to do some preparation and planning. Maybe you don't need all of the pieces in place when you start, but every time you want to advance to the next level, you need to do more prep work. The folks who run marathon don't just go from two miles to twenty-six overnight, and they don't do it without planning. Even if they have the physical capability to run a great marathon, they're not going to do so without putting in some thought into what they're going to do in advance.

You can't just "go out and run" in the comics business and expect to be successful. Not only do you have to train, you have to go out being prepared. At least prepared enough for you to reach the next plateau.
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Anonymous said...

that was awesome.

what inspired this allegory? did you recently read a poorly-done comic by a noob?

Inspired more by my running. I'm training for my next marathon and just had to work through the "oh, I'll just go out and run" to "I need to do a fair amount of prep before I can run today" transition. I wound up with about a week and a half of really bad training runs as a result. In retrospect, I was just thinking that it was a period between committing to running a marathon and COMMITTING to run a marathon. It then struck me that holds true of nearly anything you really want to be successful at, including comics.