April 27, 2018

Like a Sharp Knife Into the Back of My Leg

Running In the Red Zone - Heart Race at Xterra race

Being a runner has its advantages. You can pretty much do it anywhere. City streets, mountain ridges, country roads. You can even do it on a cruise ship.

Then there are the disadvantages. One being the lingering tendency toward obsessive compulsive disorder. Like the need to monitor everything possible under the sun. You know, like distance run, elevation gained, resting heart rate, max heart rate, calories, hydration, cadence, weight, pace and sleep, among other meaningless metrics.

A couple weeks ago I kind of threw all this in the toilet and went out a ran in a 15k (9.3 mile) Xterra race in San Diego. I was supposed to do a 50 mile race on the east coast the same weekend but cancelled on account of a snow storm in the forecast. As I was driving to the race I started to think about how fast I could run it, given I only needed to run 18.6% of the 50 mile distance I was supposed to run. Fast I remember thinking.

I started in the front of the pack and quickly found myself running at a pace I haven’t run since...uhm….high school? But it felt so awesome! I was flying down this single track trail with all these young speedsters. The adrenaline was pumping through my veins like nitro glycerin into a dragster. Sparks were surely flying behind me. Then I glanced at heart rate. 178 bpm!

I don’t think I’ve run over 170 bpm in several years, the last time being when I injured my Achilles tendon and spent months on the road to recovery. But this was different, I thought, as I pounded down the trail. This was a race! So after a couple of miles battling it out with other runners I simply stopped looking at my heart rate.

Around mile 6 and 7 things were going amazing and I started passing other runners. Then it happened. It was like a knife going into the back of my leg. Sharp, sudden and serious. I immediately started walking, preying it was just a simple cramp.

No such luck. Oh, well, I thought as I walked the next two miles. Sometimes things happen for a reason. Especially when being a bonehead.  

April 22, 2018

Running Through the Ups and Downs - Repost

(Original post March 2012. Still 100% relevant) 

The last couple weeks I stumbled upon a certain realization about running, maybe even about life. Whether you are a runner or not, take heart, because you might see some parallels in your own world.

There are days when I feel invincible. The miles, the hours, the hills I put in week after week, make me feel strong. They build me up, encourage me to push the envelope a little further. They give me the confidence to reach a little higher.

And there are days when I feel beaten down. The miles, the hours and hills, they cut right through my strength, they make me feel weak. They break me down, entice me to give up. They take away my passion to persevere through the challenges I face.

It’s not like this is a big epiphany. Maybe the opposite, kind of an unwritten rule that we store in the back of our mind and don’t pay attention to. A rule that says don’t get too comfortable when you feel you’re on top of the world, because it won’t be long until you will feel the world on your shoulders.

I suppose it’s as simple as the yin and yang. Opposing states, like any contrary forces in the natural world, are not only interdependent, they need each other to exist. Hot and cold, fire and water, female and male. Strong and weak. Can I feel strong if I have not felt weak? Can I be strong if I am never weak?

Training is a big part of being a runner. At its core training breaks you down, then it builds you back up, stronger than before. Week after week, month after month. The cycle continues. Some people naturally wonder, why submit yourself to such a rigor? Isn’t there more to life? Sometimes I ask myself that question, usually when I feel broken down.

In writing this I’m reminded of a lecture Master Kan gave his young disciple in the television series Kung Fu. Addressing the young student, the master explains the purpose of the hardship the student must endure to be a Shaolin priest.

Master Kan:

"You must prepare yourself for what lies ahead
in your chosen role as priest.
The nature of wind, and fire, and ice.
The frailty of the human condition in hunger, and thirst and fatigue.
The predatory instincts of living things.
The greed and vanity buried in the hearts of men.
You must be prepared to survive through all of this.
These graceful movements you now perform,
along with all the rigors and disciplines your masters impose upon you,
will help you develop the inner strength, that which we call Chi.
And when you come to meet your greatest test, your highest challenges,
when you call upon your chi, it will not desert you."

The more I learn, the more I’ve come to realize that running through the ups and downs is, in itself, the ultimate test of endurance, the real challenge that stands between me and inner strength.

April 6, 2018

Fair Weather Runner

Ok. I'm putting it out there. For the first time I chose NOT to run a race due to forecasted weather conditions. I admit it. I'm falling on my sword now...and feeling its sharp edge puncture my weakened resolve...yet kind of enjoying it.

I was signed up for the Bull Run Run this weekend in Virginia of all places. Plane tickets were purchased, rental car booked. But as the day fast approached, I wasn't feeling it. Then I looked at the weather forecast. 20 to 30 degrees, rain and snow on race day. Wait, isn't it spring time? There was a time when the thought of flying across the country to run in the rain and snow would have had some appeal. Not anymore. I've done my fair share of races in rain and snow, and I have to say it kind of sucks to run in either. This would be a perspective firmly solidified after last years Bighorn 100, UTMB, or even final assault.

Experience has its benefits.