Crummy Today; Victorious Tomorrow

I didn’t run today, and I feel crummy about it. It was just a rainy, crummy day in New England when I woke up. Of course, it wasn’t raining at 5 AM when more than a few of my friends run. That’s a crazy time of day to do anything – even wake up – never mind go out for a run part of it. It wasn’t raining by quitting time, so I thought maybe I’d go for a quick 3-miles. But, it was humid and, DAMN, my watch had de-charged because I forgot to disconnect the bluetooth. So maybe I’ll hit the Planet Fitness Dreadmill.  Yeah, that didn’t happen either.

It’s times like this that reinforce why I worry about falling off track. It’s so damn easy to just go for three miles when you planned four, to just not run at all. Inertia does have a tendency to reinforce itself, and once my inertia of moving forward is broken its ridiculously easy to just let resting bodies rest.

I’ve got big plans, got stuff to do that just won’t get done unless I get up off my fat ass and do them. I’ve got 1500 miles to run this year, a marathon, a relay race with my daughter. I’m pretty sure I’m the most aerobically fit I have ever been, and yet my desire to just take a day off outweighs the opportunity to progress toward those goals.

I haven’t taken a day off in more than two weeks and only then because I ran almost 19 miles the day before. I went hard core yesterday: ran to my bootcamp workout where we worked core and legs, and back, then ran another 8-miles. I’m sore today…almost like I ran 18 miles. I went all out yesterday, and what I’ve found over the course of time is that full bore exercise will reap benefits, but will also knock me out. Hard to know what’s better for me: go full bore, get the benefits and risk the inertia, or risk mediocrity.

So, I feel crummy today, but I also feel like to get the gains I needed to push hard yesterday, and rest today. I’m sore everywhere I should be sore, but I’m sore because I worked muscles that aren’t used to being worked out. This is a good thing. Runners World says, rest helps strengthen your body, sharpen your focus, and reinvigorate your spirit so that you actually want to keep training.

Running daily breaks the body down. A break helps refocus, rejuvenate, recharge. I hope so, because right now I just feel crummy.

Tomorrow I rise, ready to take it on again. Inertia only wins if you let it; a body at rest tends to stay at rest. The question is which do you want to win more: inertia…or you? I’ve put too much work in not to get back at it; I’ve put too much work in to let inertia win. Crummy today; victorious tomorrow.

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Refuse to Contribute Story 3: Bill

One of the guys in my running club, someone I consider a friend, is a very good runner.  Earlier this year, he time qualified for the Boston Marathon, demolishing the minimum time by some -minutes or so. Then came out to run 5-miles the following day with the group on our weekly “fun run.”  I’ve seen him decide that he’s going to run home from somewhere, when his home is some 30-miles away, and complete the track with an average mile of 8:18 minutes.

He seems to live his personal life diving into interests and hobbies with more verve than I think most people dive into theirs. He’s into pinball, and computers so of course he’s got a pinball game replicator – load up just about any pinball came onto the console and play it. He bought a 30-year old truck on eBay.

I think it’s good to know and appreciate interesting people, because they’re the people I’ve found enrich my life the most.  And Bill is an interesting guy.

This weekend, he set out the goal of running the length of a local rail trail up and back twice – I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t on a whim, then it wasn’t a long held plan to do so. This is a total of roughly 34 miles, not a short jaunt in the woods.

His commentary?

“I did turn around at mile 29 and started heading back to the start, but I said “NO. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE HARD.” and I turned around and headed to Glenwood. Let things be hard. No matter what happens this week, I can always reflect that I ran 34 miles on Sunday.”

“This is supposed to be hard.” Pushing himself to run another 5 miles AFTER 29 MILES. It’s supposed to be hard to run 20 miles, 26.2 miles. After 29 miles and several hours (this took him 5 hours to complete by the way), he was willing himself to finish another 5-miles because it was hard.  I wasn’t going to run until I read that; afterward I got up and ran 13 miles BECAUSE I didn’t want to.

“Let things be hard.” Life isn’t easy. Life isn’t about taking the easy way to get things done. Life is about adventure, and growth, and pushing the boundaries of what you think you can do.  Let things be hard. If they’re hard, you’re growing. If they’re hard, you’re expanding your horizons. If things are hard, you are becoming your best you.

I spoke with him at one point in the past week and he was reflecting on a recent run. He couldn’t understand why people would run a hill, stop and walk for a half-minute and then run again. “Just keep pushing,” or something to that effect. “I run behind them and keep pushing silently.” I know why they do that, I *DO* that. Or I did. Since that conversation, I’ve had his words in the back of my head at each point I encounter a hill and I imagine him sidling up behind me, staying there, willing me to keep going.  I’ve not stopped since.

Bill is an interesting guy. I’ve never once had a negative conversation with him. He’s a survivor, and he is one of the few people I know who consistently pushes those around him to be better, through both example and word.

Do something today BECAUSE it’s hard. Not EVEN THOUGH it’s hard. BECAUSE it’s hard. Don’t give yourself an excuse not to do it, because it’s supposed to be hard. When it’s done, no matter what else happens, you’ll be able to look back and know you’ve accomplished it.

Today Was A Good Day

There was a moment today, there were a few of us tracking one of the guys in our running group as he was attempting a Boston Marathon qualifying time (BQ) for next year, when it really fully occurred to me.  There we were, every few minutes, checking on Bill’s progress in the Providence Marathon, commenting on the ridiculous pacing. No other reason to be cheering for this guy other than the fact that we know him.

And that’s when it occurred to me. I was volunteering with a group of people who make time in their lives to compete, and who join others for accountability and for companionship. It occurred to me that I care about this guy and his sometimes weird foibles because, like the other people I run with, he’s got a good heart, he’s a good guy, and we all share a common interest in running.

I ran a small 5k that my running group was timing. I didn’t run a particularly good race, but it was good enough for 5th place and an age group win. I’ve never actually won a race before and an AG win is about as good as it gets for me.  My squad celebrated with some goofy pictures.

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Caption: “No! Pants stay on!”

We had a fun time, told goofy stories, and celebrated.

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Another post on the club page celebrated a second members’ BQ time today.  Still another celebrated a third club member’s win in another race- Pack Monadnock 10 Miler – with a roster of other club members to run.  Just a ridiculously supportive group of people, thrown together for the sole reason we like to pursue a common hobby, but who are actually supportive of each other.  It’s not often, indeed I think it’s a special thing, when disparate groups of people come together around a common pursuit and support each other in doing what they set out to do.  I think about my half marathon in March when one of the club members taking pictures saw me coming at mile 13, got visibly intense and excited for me and yelled me on – she was excited for me because I was that close to the goal I had articulated of finishing in under 1:50:00.  I finished in 1:49, something I credit in part to seeing her there yelling for me – it was just enough to kick me in the pants enough to find just a little more in the tank.

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Now, here’s the important thing: not one of those posts were from the person who actually DID the thing of some note – it was only after someone else cheered and crowed about the performance did the individual say something.  There were no “I BQ’d today!” posts, there was a post about the journey from surviving advanced cancer and setting this day as a goal after it had been previously mentioned and even then it was about the journey: if couldn’t be farther away from a “lookit me” post.

There are so many inspirational people and things all around if you just take a few moments to look.  For me, it’s the Bills and Karens of the world, who worked hard, struggled, and pushed to get their goals. It’s also the folks that come out to volunteer and time races and share in others’ celebrations. Why wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with people with odd quirks, foibles, and personalities who work hard and are there to celebrate for you when you succeed?

I’ve said before that I actually don’t find running fun, or enjoyable. That’s true. I’ve said I run so I can run, that I like being able to do it. That’s also true. Today was the day I realized that I like it for the community. The accountability, the friendship, and the community.

So, we move on. I’m planning my first marathon, I know someone else who is going to run his first. I’ve cheered for a runner who literally finished last in his first marathon. Why wouldn’t you surround yourself with such people?

When Not In Rome…

Over the past year, year and a half or so, I’ve been tracking my daily miles run. Looking back at this week last year, I ran 9.5 miles all week.  There’s a couple of reasons for that: First, my convalescence from doing three laps at the FIT Challenge – my muscles were basically stone for the week following, it was ugly – and second, we were in Italy for the week and I was more interested in sight seeing and drinking wine than I was in running.

So this week I’m determined to make some mileage gains against “year ago Mo,” but there is one slight complication: while I’m recovering quite nicely from the DOMS resulting from FIT, thank you very much, I tweaked myself a few weeks back at To Hale and Back – my butt is really giving it to me. More specifically I’m pretty sure I’m battling through a little something called Piriformis Syndrome (either that or hip cancer…these Internet diagnoses can be a little touch and go).

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The most recent Sneakerama Fun Run.  Bonus points if you can find me.  Photo Credit: Lisa Genatossio

It was letting up by the time I started FIT, but I could feel by butt radiating pain not too long into it.  It was low key most of the previous week, zinged me pretty good at the Thursday night Sneakerama Fun Run, but evened out for Saturday after resting on Friday.  Even the next day after FIT at Jay Lyons, it was bothering me – not quite as much as the stiffness in my leg muscles over all, but it was still there.  Who knew that running another 70-miles with a joint that was screaming about a repetitive use injury would exacerbate things?

It really kicked in last night at my running club’s group run – normally I’ll bang out 5 (last week 7!) miles, but this time I just did 4.  A day after running a 7:40 5k with sore muscles, I couldn’t get much beyond a 9:30+ pace.  It was ugly crying hot-mess all the way.  Tonight I banged out 3.7 at a very similar pace, limping all the way.  If anyone saw a 90-year old running around the Wachusett Reservoir this evening, that was me.  Small victories though: where a year ago I scraped by with 9.5 miles on the entire week, I hit 10.8 today.  Of course, I’m also not vacationing in Italy this week – so it’s truly a mixed bag with a net negative.

The stretches outlined in the link above combined with a heating pad and some analgesic cream seems to be having the desired effect. I do have to say that a nice hot heating pad on your butt is a not-unpleasant experience.

I’ve been playing with signing up for a long trail race or half marathon against doing nothing on Saturday.  After my run this evening, I was pretty much decided that “doing nothing” was going to win, but with some stretching and this heating pad I may reconsider, but I have to do it quickly – the half marathon registration window closes tomorrow and it looks like there may only be 11 or so more slots available.  Decisions, decisions.

I mean this heating pad is off the chain.

What I’m particularly happy with is that while I’ve been in a considerable amount of pain, I have been able to keep going; perhaps not as long nor as far as I would prefer, but I’ve been able to go.  I spent six, maybe 7 weeks on ice last year due to injury and I was still able to hit my running goal for the year. It is on that I set my goal for this year, but that requires that I stay healthy.  28-29 miles a week for 52-weeks.  Miss a week means amortizing 30 miles across the remaining weeks.  I can’t afford to lose time.

I know from my heart monitor data that I’m basically maintaining cardiovascular on the past couple of runs – not much exertion…can’t get moving fast enough to get my heart rate up high enough, long enough, but maintenance will suffice for the time being.  Maintaining means I’m not losing ground and that’s the next best thing to gaining ground.

I’ve forgotten how nice a warm heating pad feels.  And on your butt too?  Sublime. How have I not thought of this before now?

Well, I’m going to head to bed and hope that tomorrow morning enough of my aches and pains and dings and dents have given way so I can get a few miles in before work.  If I can’t be in Italy, I may as well run, right?

Races vs. Miles

In 2016, I ran 66 races.  It started as a stretch goal, and built as I went along.  I built a plan of 46 races for my 46 years, but I hit race 46 in August, and went from there.

For the first half of the year, the majority of races were 5ks.  Twice, I ran three races in a weekend.  It seemed pretty badass at the time.

My real mission there was to keep reinforcing my newfound interest in fitness.  Have a race/fitness plan, and work it.  In response to a friend asking me why, I said I was the youngest I was ever going to be.  And thus I did it.

I took few chances.  The Ragnar Relay in May 2016 was a bit of a chance in that I was saying I’ll run 16 miles in 24 hours, something I’d never done, but other than that it wasn’t a stretch goal  The real goal was getting the number in.  That would require being injury free.  And I was.

In October, I ran my first half marathon after an entire week of preparation.

I lost exactly no races to injury.  None.

In 2017 I decided to change up.  Last year I found myself focused on the NUMBER of races, and I got those in.  Hell, I destroyed the goal by 150%.  This year I decided on miles.  Training miles.  Racing miles.  Whatever.  I promised myself I would try things I could fail at.  In January, I DNF’d for the very first time, but it was gratifying.

I COULD have finished, but there was a Nor’Easter blowing in.  It took me twice as long to drive home as it did to drive there.  The trail was covered in ice and snow.  The better part of valor, though, was to say, I’m out.

Sure, this year I’ve run 5ks.  Did pretty good at them too!  But this was the year I was doing distance.  On January 1, I ran a 5-Mile Race.  Then 15k, a combination 13.1, , 10 miler…a 50k…that this time I did finish.  A Ragnar Ultra team.  It’s been amazing.

Last weekend I ran the hardest race I’ve ever run.  It was truly a race that I wasn’t sure that I would be able to finish (One of my goals for the year was to do things I wasn’t sure I’d finish).  6000′ of elevation gain over 31+ miles.  4/5 stars difficulty, technical, and the like.  It was no joke.

I completed it.  My second ultramarathon this year…my second ultramarathon ever.  It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t competitive, it wasn’t pretty.  But I finished.

But I broke my foot.

This past week has been tough.  I’ve been largely sedentary, my toe hurts like a mother.  I mean, bad.  I’ve been to the E/R, I’ve been to the hospital, I’ve had no less than 7 X-rays on it, I’m scheduled for a CT scan and surgery next week.  It’s FUBAR and bad.  That race will cost me no less than 3 more races.  I insist it was 100% the right decision to push through and complete the race, but I’m disappointed that I can’t work my plan.

My friends all had wonderful and kind things to say to me about my race total goal last year.  By the end, I was dismissing their kind words with disclaimers such as “they’re mostly 5k’s…” or “my time wasn’t that good…”

Boy was I wrong, and here’s why.  You have to maintain health and physical ability to be able to run a race total goal.  My 2017 goal was miles – I’m likely to hit that goal, even though I’m likely to wind up out of commission for a month.  If I had taken a month out of my running schedule last year, I may not have hit my goal – July 2016 represented no less than 11 races alone.

66 races in a calendar year – more than 70 if I was holding to my February-January year – was a feat not because of the difficulty of the race, but because of the difficulty of staying healthy over that period of time.

As I now nurse my foot, and pinkie toe the size of my thumb that’s preventing me from participating my favorite races – a Spartan race and a fundraising triathlon – I have to remind myself that yeah, 66 races is pretty badass.

With my one race last Saturday, I equalled 10 of my 2016 races – One 50k vs. 10-5k’s, but they’re different races with different skill sets.  My goal this year is mileage, but the importance of acknowledging what’s been accomplished remains huge.  I’m racking up miles this year – and I’ll be hitting hit more than ever once I’m recovered –  but one can rack up a lot of miles pretty quickly.  To hit X number of races over a year requires stamina, but also staying power.

Lesson learned.  Staying power, doing those weekly 5k every Saturday is important.  It means you’ve made it through another week.  That you’ve outlasted everyone else sleeping in.

The number, then, is just as important as the mileage.  Don’t belittle your accomplishments, no matter how small.  There’s a lot that goes into every single one.  Take none of it for granted.

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 26

28 Days of Inspiration

Cliff Young

He didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to be able to run a 544 mile ultra-marathon.  Hell, he was a potato farmer – what did he know about endurance running?  He showed up one day at the starting line of an 875K race and won.

In fact, he took significant time off the world record for similar races.  He was 61-years old in 1983 when he won this race.  Take a look at my times this year, I haven’t come close to winning a solo race of any distance. He didn’t just win, he CRUSHED it.  544-miles at aged 61.  I’ve spent the past year running races, slowly building up distance from a 5k in February to a half-marathon in October.  I’ve run training runs, pushed myself as much as I can.  Cliff Young ran the inaugural  Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra-marathon…and won.  I must be a loser – I’ve been running my butt off this year and I’m struggling to get mediocre times on some fairly modest courses.

The lore will have you believe he’d never run, just strolled up to the starting line – oblivious to the challenge ahead of him – wearing overalls and rubber boots.  A real naif.  He didn’t understand ultra running so he didn’t know he was supposed to run for 18 hours and sleep for 6.  A great story to be sure.  But incomplete at best, and misleading at worst. Take a look at the video below.

So far as I can tell, he really WASN’T a runner and he really WAS a farmer.

But this wasn’t his first attempt; he didn’t just show up and decide to run.  Perhaps in 1982 when he attempted a 1,000 mile effort one could argue he had no clue – after all then he had only trained for a few months.  Upon failing half way through he wrote he and his support team were inexperienced.  You don’t just stroll up to a starting line in work boots and spend 6 days running a 550-mile race without having done SOME work.  In this case he had been training.  He knew the challenge before him.  He had a plan and he worked that plan.

Merriam-Webster defines “Inspiration” as “something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone.” I tend to think watching the results of another’s hard work and effort toward a goal is far more inspirational than hearing a story that’s been sanitized, cleaned up and repackaged.  Cliff was ridiculously inspirational but not because he showed up one day out of the blue and laid waste to a field of other runners en route to finishing an ultra-marathon, but because he worked his ass off as a 60-year old to position himself to be able to do that.

He wasn’t some rube fresh off the farm who decided to run an endurance course because he had time on his calendar.  He planned this.  He worked for this.  It’s unlikely that a 61-year old man is going to win an ultra marathon, but that’s the inspirational part of it. He worked and trained.  We don’t need to embellish the story; we don’t have to make up or gloss over the reality.  The facts are remarkable on their own.

Be inspired because he had a goal, worked his ass off for it and made it happen.  There’s nothing inspirational about flukes or luck; there’s everything inspirational about someone deciding they’ve got a goal that they’re going to make happen. Cliff’s story makes for a great tell, but bear in mind his wasn’t the story of unexpected glory, his was the story of hard work paying off.

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 21

Patrick Downes & Jessica Kensky and Adrianne Haslet-Davis 

On April 15, 2013 their lives changed.  While at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, then recently married and Boston area natives, Patrick and Jessica were there to enjoy the day.  It was that day they became victims of the Tsarnaev brothers first bomb in their bombing attack.

It was that day Adrianne fell victim to the second bomb in the attack, opening her eyes to find her left ankle and foot missing. A professional dancer, she was looking at her life’s work and direction irrevocably changed in an instant

This year they demonstrated ridiculous resilience when Patrick became the first marathon bombing survivor to come back to the race and finish it on foot.  Through it all, Patrick and Jessica have stayed together and become stronger.  Three years after the attacks, Jessica is still undergoing surgeries. He’s lost a leg.  She’s a double amputee.  This is still a fresh wound for them both. Adrianne also lost a leg and took up running because of her injuries – not in spite of them.

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Patrick raising his arm to approach the finish line.  From the NY Daily News.

Patrick didn’t know it, but he finished the race at just about the time the bombs first went off that fateful day completing the race in 5:56:46

“[When I first started] learning how to use the blade, I made a pact with myself that I would at least try to run. I [thought], ‘Gosh, this blade is so difficult to use,’ so I decided to make it a challenge that I would overcome.” Adrianne Haslet-Davis 

Adrianne too was at the 2015 Boston Marathon, as a dance performer at the finish line.  This year it took her about 10-hours to run her race. Less than a year after the bombing, she performed on Dancing with the Stars.  From the beginning she knew she was in for a challenge.  She accepted it, and worked on advancing.  She did not quit.

Neither were runners previously but have used their life experience.  All of them could have easily succumbed to the ease of “giving up.”  They could have easily have made excuses for themselves, to feel sorry for their condition, to allow themselves to hate the Tsanaevs for what had happened to them.

When you focus on hate, you don’t allow yourself to grow, to change, to rise above.  All three of these people have risen to become more powerful, more inspirational than they were before.  Patrick was running to raise money – $250,000 – to fully endow a scholarship for disabled students.  Adrianne was running to raise money for Limbs for Life, a charity for providing prosthetics for those who cannot afford them.

There is nothing routine about completing a marathon.  There is nothing routine about experiencing life changing circumstances, and resolving to accept the challenge.  There is nothing routine about accomplishing goals and then setting them higher.  It takes mental fortitude, resilience, and commitment.  And ANYONE can do it, but not everyone does.