Saturday Spotlight- Michael Bauer

Name: Michael Bauer
Nicknames: Mike or Bauer
Age: 35
Hometown: East Patchogue, NY
Current Town: Holtsville, NY
Occupation: Sr. Data Analyst at Sedgwick
Marital Status: Single

When Lou first approached me about being Warrior of the Week, I was a bit shocked. I have been an official member of Selden Hills for less than a year, most of it either avoiding the hills to train or not being able to run due to injury. But by the time I accepted this honor, I realized that there is still a story to tell. This is despite such a short history with all of the Warriors and with running in general, as I’ve only been running for less than two years.

Unlike most of these spotlights where we start with the positive, I’m going to do the opposite and start with something kind of shocking, ending on a good note. There is a reason for it and you will understand by the end of my story. I have always believed that honesty is the best policy and if I’m being honest with myself, I need to say this upfront.

I’m not sure if I fit in at Selden Hills.

Every time I come to the hills, despite those who know me saying hi, talking for a little, or just seeing how things are, I always feel like I’m impeding on turf where I might not belong. Now before anyone thinks of that as insulting, please don’t. In my mind, I have this same feeling with any group, no matter what the level of friendship, respect, or comradery is or how long I’ve been there. For example, in 2016, I joined a group of crazy Mets fans called The 7 Line Army. I’ve traveled to Port St. Lucie, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Phoenix, and Washington DC with this group (and will be in Toronto with them this week) and consider some of them not just my best friends, but also my family. Despite all of that, there are times I’m with them and I just don’t feel comfortable. There is a legitimate reason for this and it has nothing to do with the actions of anyone… except myself.

When I was in college, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. This is something I have not talked about in a very long time, mostly due to the general taboo that comes with talking about anxiety and depression. Even my best friends know very little about how deep it goes, but know something isn’t perfectly right. However, I’ve become more convinced that a story like this need to shared, no matter how difficult it is to talk about. The numbers don’t lie and they are staggering. I have always held out hope that being more open and honest about these topics would lead to more understanding and maybe, just maybe save more lives than anyone would want to believe.

I know the first thought through most of my friend’s heads when I would talk about it then was, “Wait, you have what?” It was kind of a shock at first, since I tend to be very outgoing. The problem is that I tend to hit this wall at some point and I just need to not be near anyone. When I was in high school and college, and mostly through my twenties, this usually led to frustration, acting out, and what we termed the “Bauer Blowup”. With more maturity, I’ve learned to control some pieces of it, but I guarantee that any party I’m at will involve me retreating somewhere to just get away.

I may never know exactly what caused this, but I have a pretty good guess of when it started. As a kid, I was that social loser that every school has. You know what I mean, the kid you targeted first with the “Kick Me” signs, dumped pencil shavings on, and just otherwise bullied. The guy in high school that would be standing by himself during “Sadie Hawkins Line Dancing day” in gym class as the girls start pairing up with themselves. When we had a bomb scare the week of Columbine in 1999, I was the teenager that fit the description. At times, I was beyond depressed, even to the point where the school had to step in and make sure I wasn’t going to commit suicide. To this day, I still know if I took those thoughts seriously.

As an aside, when I was in first grade, this private school I was in had the genius idea of putting me in third grade for math and something else. After a week of that experiment, they just decided I belonged in second grade. From experience, I can tell you right now, I would never subject any kid to being skipped ahead unless you knew for sure that the child would never enter public school, like I had to after sixth grade. That’s when the majority of the above happened.

I always tried to find something to keep me focused outside of work or the classroom. After college until 2014, that was a trading card game called Magic the Gathering. I won’t bore you with details, but much like I am with running, I was very competitive with myself. I always had to get better and it led to multiple anxiety attacks, a very bad attitude, and countless numbers of blowups. Despite some great vacations to Las Vegas, Miami, Puerto Rico, and two cruises, this game was doing more damage to me than it was doing good. It took one incident at a local event for me to finally realize this and I knew it was time to get out.

The problem was that in 2014, this was almost my entire social life. I still had some other gaming that I did, but I knew it was not going to last. It took until 2016 for me to join two very important groups. The first was The 7 Line Army, a very fun group I will discuss more later this week. The second was Hoptron Running Club.

My cousin recommended that I join a dodgeball group that meets in Patchouge, ran by Dave Ludin. Dave saw me getting in better shape and suggested I join him for a 5K on any Tuesday night. Now, I wasn’t a runner. The last races I did were in 2014 with times barely under 40 minutes, if I didn’t get taken to the finish via ambulance after blowing out my ankle in a pothole. But for some reason, I went anyway and tried running. The first time out, I must have walked half the time. But I came back the next week. I maybe only walked a third of the time. Within a month and a half, I could finish the entire thing without walking. The running bug had hit and wasn’t letting go. With every run I did, I saw my times getting better and better. The first time I hit under 30 minutes for a race, I nearly broke down in disbelief. I started feeling like I had to try racing every single week, which led to some very questionable decision making and one very annoying Baker’s Cyst that finally forced me to stop running for a while in December, but not before finally being able to clock in at under 8 minutes a mile for an entire race, a mark I hope I will eventually get back to.

My debut in the hills came in June 2017 after meeting a few Warriors after back to back races at Nissequogue River’s Sunest in the Park 5K and the Bay Shore YMCA 5K. I still remember meeting Lou LaFleur with the open invite to the hills. At this point, I had been running for seven months and never more than four miles. My first time there, I ran the unofficial 5K course and it kicked my ass. But again, for some reason, I came back for more. My first time trying the 10K course, I missed a turn and only completed about 5.75 miles. Two weeks later, early in August 2017, I finally finished the course. I took a break after that to train my first half marathon, with the thinking that I needed to stay to flat terrain. I tried coming back after that, but got forced to stop running due to that knee injury. At the very least, I would try to make an appearance when I could, just to say hi or hang out during that frigid year end party. I’ve finally gotten back to running consistently during the month of May and will be there for all my long runs as I train for my first full marathon. Hopefully it doesn’t rain that weekend in Patchogue again.

I know I put a lot out there and hopefully I ended on that good note I wanted to. The running community has been amazing and much more than I ever imagined. In particular, the Hoptron Running Club has been there to celebrate my highs and pick me up during my running lows when I needed it the most. So a thank you for all the support and advice, both past and future, goes to the following (and I hope I don’t forget anyone): Robyn Hiller McGee, Ed Paquette, Dave Ludin, Melissa Lynn, David Northridge, Brian Kieffer, Graceann Leupp Kieffer, Kenny Janosick, Matt Sirotkin, Joseph James, Mikey Allen, Jaime Allen, Rafa Molina, Tiffany Bowman.

I look forward to meeting more of you at the hills or any of the many races on the island.