Saturday, December 29, 2012

Framing the Mind: addicted runner goes through detox

This is either useless drivel, or a turning point in my life. I haven't a fuckin' clue which one though. Maybe they're not even mutually exclusive.
I sit here in my home, at the kitchen table, watching snow come down onto the horse pasture. Sipping coffee as I nurse this week’s second hangover.

I decided I wanted to take a break from running. Not because I felt burned out, or was suffering an injury, but because it was partially consuming me. I hadn’t totally immersed myself in my running, but rather used it as a distraction from the notion that my life had yet again coasted to a standstill. Somehow, I want to assure you that I’m not depressed by this. I smiled as I thought to myself, “Hey, at least you’re aware of it. Many people aren’t so lucky.” Of all the places to do so, this point is as good as any as I pause in my dawdling through life. I had this idea. I’d remove the quiet hum of running that filled this otherwise quiet period in my life. My ears needed to ring with silence. I needed to eliminate the only distraction so that I can hear what my heart is saying.

It was also a challenge- a real challenge. Since getting the “running bug” about 4 years ago, I’ve never truly taken time off. I’ve done “easy” weeks of 20 miles, or done long bike rides or hikes to replace runs. I’ve heard fellow endurance athletes talking about doing things out of their comfort zone to spice things up. Usually, this involves some other form of endurance training. How creative. That seems akin to an alcoholic switching from beer to liquor(which I wouldn’t recommend. Better pop another aspirin), or a smoker switching from cigarettes to cigars. Let’s not kid ourselves. Many of us think that simply running far makes you a valuable person. It doesn’t hurt, but I wouldn’t say it helps much either. Running, for me, is seldom filled with hardship because I love it. We've all heard stories of addicts turning to endurance sports as a healthy, legal alternative to whatever scumbaggery they've involved themselves in. If I don't keep running, perhaps I'll do it in reverse. It's both a good and bad thing that I seem to have a low tolerance for most stimuli.

I ended 2011 with a last-ditch effort to crack the elusive 100-mile week. I ran 120 miles in the final 6 days of the year. Essentially, I decided to try the opposite this time. Sloth-a-thon. Running 20 miles a day for 6 days was my way of proving to myself that I can do something if I set my mind to it. I took time out of my life to do what I like doing. Not all that creative, is it?

There’s also the training factor. I firmly believe that a 16 week training plan is going to prep me for Umstead. I seem to be able to get into shape relatively quickly. I’ve always been a procrastinator, and maybe my body is as well. I run high mileage for too long, and I get burned out. I take care of myself and focus on quality for short-term, and I reach my typical upper end of my abilities. Last Summer, I felt better about my fitness 6 weeks before the Tahoe 100, and feel as though I was back near base fitness when the big day came.

Now that I’ve babbled about the “why,” I’ll tell you how it went. The first few days were actually kind of nice. I thought, “I should get out for a run,” then I remembered that had I let myself off the hook. So I kicked back, read a book, went for a walk, or whatever. I then started to get bored. I’d see my flashy New Balance 1600s and want to get out for a road run. I’d trip over my inov-8 trailrocs and want to find a hilly trail. I found something else to do. Split wood. Give my car a long-overdue cleaning out and oil change. Go Christmas shopping. Drink Beer. After 10 days of not running, what I was hoping for finally happened. The noise stopped, and I was able to think a bit more clearly about my life.

I realized that my work situation wasn’t going to change on it’s own. Nobody was going to stroll by the pool, notice me, the odd-looking exercise instructor, and know right then and there that I was the next big thing in the lucrative and satisfying field of…whatever, I don’t know. We are the result of our actions, not our intentions. This dude explains it well.

Something turned on inside my mind. I picked up my phone and made calls. I got online and did research. I called friends from college to pick their brains. As I write this, I’m in the process of dropping back into school. I’ve got a couple semesters of prerequisite classes to do, some observation hours to complete, and a GRE test to study for. Enough wishing for things to fix themselves. I’ve been afraid to admit what I really want to do, because of a fear of failure. It’s easy to shrug things off and say we never really wanted them when we don’t fully commit. I’m usually pretty relaxed and let the little things slide. My life is not a little thing to me anymore.

A few phone calls. A couple forms. Yet another financial aid paper filled out. Small steps to build up steam. The goal: A doctorate in Physical Therapy.  Would this have happened, had I not broken the trance I was in? Maybe. Maybe not. Many of my friends have simply transitioned from undergrad to graduate(or from undergrad to career) in a seemingly seemless way, keeping on the grind and going after what they want. My hat is certainly tipped to them, especially since I seem to struggle. I imagine it’s my tendency to over think. If I can clear out the clutter in my mind and get things done, I’d bet that anyone else can too.

This took me several days to write. I started with negative thoughts: Underemployed, Barely utilizing my education, too much free time with only my hobbyjogging to focus on.

I ended with positive thoughts: I work in a rehab hospital(a perfect place to learn before grad school), I have time to go to school, and I'm more inspired than ever. Spending some time in the working world and a clinical setting has made me value education.

ISU, Pocatello Idaho
Will this be my home next year?

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Someone once insinuated that I'm addicted to running. I just googled "insinuate" to check the spelling. Well, I ran twice this week, and it was only because I was invited to. Didn't really feel like it, and I wanted to see if my hip flexor twinge would go away with rest. It did not.

13 miles this week. Boom!

No rambling about motivation, boredom, or metaphors for how my boring life is similar to my boring running? Surely, this can't be all.

It is.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

(nearly)Every Day, I'm Shufflin'

Goal for the week: Run every day. Let's see how it went, shall we?

5 miles - No watch, just a jog around the block to shake my legs out. Legs felt zippy on the flat pavement.

5 miles - Road run with three tempo miles in the middle. 6:45, 6:35, 6:06, shuffle home. I've come to the realization that I prefer workouts(hills, tempo, trackwork, etc.) to easy jogging. I know how to run slow. Working toward running fast makes me feel like I'm doing something more worthwhile.

10 miles - 5 mile warmup on the xc ski trails. Might as well. No snow on them. Found rooty, technical hill that took a little less than 90 seconds to sprint up. 7 repeats on it, with the downhill as the rest period. 3 mile cooldown back to the car.

6 miles. Night of no sleep. Up sweating all night, and not in a good, "recreational" way. Easy run to the bank and back.

4 miles at the state park with Sam before work.

4 hours of water exercise classes.

8(ish)miles - 1.5 miles to the track with Jeremiah, some warmup laps, then a floater workout. 200m(200m float), 400m(400m float), 800m(400m float), 1200m(400m jog), 800m(400m float), 400m(200m jog), 2x200 sprints. 1.5 back to house. Not a ball-buster since we had no watches. A good reintroduction for Dr. C into the training grind.

12 miles/fartlek - Cutdown 6 mile warmup. Dropped pace steadily from 7:50 to 6:50, then stopped a moment to stretch a bum hip flexor. 6 mile return trip was alternating easy and hard miles. 6:10, 7:00, 5:50, 7:05, 5:48, 8:00. I should be doing longer stuff, but my local trails are a 25minute drive, and the 38degree/rain combo just blows ass. Grinding out a workout was more appealing than a long slow run with numb junk. Must by new tights or electric underpants.

Just like the Detroit Lions, I managed to fall short at the last possible moment Is that even accurate? My sports knowledge is based on scrolling through facebook. My hip flexor is acting up ever so slightly, and [list of excuses to be edited in later]

50 miles. Fifty miles. 80.4672 kilometers. cincuenta millas. matter how I say it, it does not imply "100 mile training." Oh well.

As the year comes to a close...

It's funny to think that I've landed in nearly the same spot as I did 1 year ago. Not somewhere different, but an eerily groundhog day-like sameness. Back at home and underemployed, fantacizing about adventure after half a year of doing what I felt is right for me. Instead of feeling like it's out of my system, I only want more. Another year has gone by, and I'm back where I started. Maybe I can't run on treadmills because I'm already on one. I don't mean to sound pathetic or self-loathing. I've done things that have made me incredibly happy. I'm still happy. I seem to go back and fourth between thinking way too much and thinking too little.

The Umstead 100 is the first weekend in April. A 4 month training period will be good considering that I'm coming from a period of relative fitness(40-70 miles a week consistently, and some solid leg speed). It presents an interesting situation. I'm in decent shape now. I'm not sure if it's my tendnency toward self-sabotage, but I'm thinking of doing a long, speedy run to get it out of my system. This could be followed by a week of real rest, then the start of training. Sort of like plowing a field to cultivate new crops. Whatever. If I feel the urge, I'll burn it down to start anew. My gut tells me that since I've run long already(embarassingly long), I've got the base to cover 100 "easy" miles. What I need is the strength to cover them faster. That will require focusing on speed over distance, not just distance. The hardest part about that will be trusting myself when my weekly mileage looks abysmal compared to that of my fellow ultrarunners.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Snow Grew the Fire

22 miles - Not as long as I intended, but hey. Should have left from home to do my "lighthouse run" to Pere Marquette beach and back, but opted to stay off the busy, foggy highway. Paved bikepath to the beach, then 3 loops of stairs at Kruse Park. The stairs woke up my sluggish legs. 7:45ish pace on the way out, and bit quicker on the way back. Final three miles before cooldown were 7:05, 6:55, and 5:58. At least the stairs and tempo-paced final miles slightly compensated for the short distance.

Run roads to sand. Touch water. Contemplate Swimming. Turn around.

AM - 5 mile cruise around the house. Thought about making yesterday and today back-to-back long days, then I didn't. Cool story, right? Not quite time to pound out miles yet.

I came across this peice a few months ago, and it really inspired me (on Bernd Heinrich). I'm not this caliber of runner by any means, but Dr. Heinrichs approach, described in more detail in his book Why We Run, showed me that there is room to perform when I call upon my body to do so(given enough notice to train) without doing the typical ultrarunner thing of training for years with little voluntary rest. Heinrich's book is also filled with long sentences(made longer with parenthetical notation) that somehow avoid being run-ons, just like this blog! What truly inspired me was that this man had a passion for running and competing, but also for other things. Running is a means to an end. If something is going to feel like a job, it had better provide some useful stuff(money, helping people, nudity, etc.)

AM - Splitting wood for 3 hours, then hauling it up to the house. Then a bike ride to get coffee, where I sit here writing this. I sat on a log and drank a beer in the middle of a cold, sunny afternoon, thinking about all I have left to do, and just sort of breathed a sigh of relief. Most people would love to be right where I am. In more ways than one, I love it too.

PM - Ya caught me. I slept until 11am. There was no PM. See AM for PM. I'm in a delightful, yet unproductive mood. I have a sudden feeling of wind leaving my sails, but simultaneously am enjoying it. I think I'll focus on other stuff for a couple weeks, and run when I please.

Just the exercise classes today.

7 miles - A loop at Hoffmaster. Felt like a train wreck today. Once my lunch of two bowls of salad and two bowls of potato soup descended a little, I got into a groove. I did, however, feel like I hadn't run in a month, and not in a good way. I carried a couple 40lb grain bags out to the barn a couple days ago, and decided to lunge them out there, what with my fresh legs and all. Bad idea. Still hurts.

27 miles - Road tripped it to the great white North with Jeff for his long run to prep for the Yankee Springs 50k. M-20 Trailhead near Hesperia. 2:25 out, 2:18 back. A few inches of fresh snow made for a really great run. We packed more than necessary(clothing, gear, food, water, headlight, fancy biodegradable toilet paper) for the sake of preparedness, and to keep the pace slow and easy. Nothing incredibly steep, but not flat. Typical Michigan singletrack. The quiet trail was wonderful. I missed the sound of ear-ringing silence that comes from an oak-filled forest with fresh snow covering everything. During a time when I seem to lack motivation, this run was a blessing. It's not about races or blogs or gear or belt buckles. These times outside are more precious than any pretentious pants accesory. Running will likely never be my job, but that doesn't mean that I can't be passionate about it.

0 miles. Moved furniture for a few hours, then spent some time with the family. I actually felt better today than before yesterday. If I were in training mode, I'd say, "I feel good after that run, I'd better do a shakeout and take advantage of the opportunity to train." Since that's not until February, I say, "I feel good after a long run. Not feeling like shit is cool. Pass the beer." I suppose there isn't much of a difference, really.

61 miles for the week. I only ran 4 days. That's kind of dumb, isn't it? Oh well.

Where the hell did my whole "miles per week" fixation come from? When I'm not thinking about anything, my inner monologue sometimes sounds like "22 plus 5 plus 7...shit."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Week Sauce

11 miles- Met up with Abbey for an easy 10 miler around GVSU's campus. A few hills, but generally flat road route. Hit the campus trail system on the river. Great run.

8 miles - 3 hours worth of exercise. Rode my bike to the state park, then an hour and twenty minutes in the dunes. Taped my ski poles to my bike so I could work my upper body too. Just not in the mood for a "real" run I guess. Pushed through 28 degrees and wind to try to fight the yearly cycle of "wow, I'm in the same funk as last year already." Time flies.

3 hours of exercise classes in the evening. Really helped get the aches out.

3 miles. 3 measely miles. No energy today. 1.5 miles in each direction from home. Thought of contingency plans in the event of feeling like this for an extended period. Then, I realized that I should either stop being a bitch or just quit. Got down to my usual cruising pace of 7:15. Can't explain this dip in morale lately.

AM - 7 miles - Warmup from the river to the local high school track. I'm assuming it's open to the public, due to the fence being quite scalable. 10x400, 200m slow jog recovery. 400m seems a bit short, even for my standards, but I wanted some variety. Some longer shenanigans planned for later this week have me seeking balance.

PM - Water classes. I'm a cross training machine! Don't mess with the dude who trains with seniors and pregnant ladies for a living.

8 miles - I have no idea here, just a guess. Stayed moving for 1:20, but felt slow and sluggish. Made sure I stayed on the hills. Overslept by, say, 4 hours and never really woke up all day. Sat on the beach and pondered life for a while afterward. Can't help but wonder what exactly I'm doing wrong.

cero. Family functions.

13 miles - Jeremiah and I did a loop and a half at Luton Park. He's on the rebound from some time off, and we're trying to re-gro the mojo. It's a great park with some small but plentiful hills. A change of scenery and time with a good friend. Not a thing wrong with that.

50 miles on the week. Reminds me that I can be relatively unfocused for now, but still run decent mileage. After some thought, I've decided to keep the mileage low(50-60/week max) until January. A 16 week training plan will suffice as long as I can stay in shape. "Training" for 6-7 months is half a year or more, and that, friends, is more than this slacker can handle. Running is a hobby, and not a job. You don't have to know me long to know how I feel about jobs. I'm about due for my monthly long run, and I'm looking forward to it.

I've noticed something.

Stressing about mileage
-barely(but occassionally) run over 70 miles/week
-feel like shit
-run when I don't want to
-no increase in performance

Not stressing about mileage
-barely(but occassionally) run over 70 miles/week
-feel good
-run when I feel good
-PR for shorter distances
-Easily cover longer distances