Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Acceptance and a Good Run

I should be studying right now. I have a chemistry test in less than 12 hours. I'll get to it after I purge some other thoughts.

I had a good tempo run with Alex today at a Fort Custer Recreation area. It was Alex's longest run ever and a decent tempo effort for me. We arrived at the trail at 9:00am, feeling adventurous and ready to explore a new area. I was hoping to get a mid-distance tempo run in in preparation for the North Country 50, alex was shooting for his longest run. We're two very different runners(this was a topic of discussion during our run), but we manage to play off of each other's strengths pretty well. The 17 miles went pretty well, other than my usual lack of planning. I hadn't eaten much for breakfast, and only brought water to drink. I had raisins and leftover GU from my last long run adventure, but didn't want to tap into that until at least the second loop. We hadn't planned for much heat or humidity, but the last hour or so of the run had temperatures nearing 90 degrees and the air was thick in the swampy trails.

This is the part of the run where a trained racehorse of a mid-distance specialist begins to differ from a "play it by ear" ultrarunner. We both wanted to be done and out of the uncomfortable heat, but Alex employed a "the faster you run, the faster you're done" logic and I simply went into survival mode. I maintained the same pace we had been holding all morning; he probably quickened the pace by about 20 seconds per mile or more. I think ultrarunning has engrained in me a "self preservation" characteristic that always leaves a little in the tank for later. Some may call this laziness. In my case, its probably true. I could barely match Alex's speed, but I felt like I could have slowed down and kept going. It may not even have been a difference in fitness, but perhaps just a difference in how our brains are wired. He knows, based on previous experience, that he can run fast. I know that I can run for extended periods if I conserve energy. Im hoping that continuing to run with those who are faster than me teaches me to set pain aside and do what my body is capable of doing. Since I haven't heard of many camels being genetically altered to become racehorses, this may never happen. We finished the run, wiped what sweat we could off of us, and headed for some locally grown vegan cuisine at a nice eatery...or maybe engorged ourselves on McDonalds and hit the memory is fuzzy.

This run taught me alot. I realized that running slow and long will not make me fast. Its going to take a lot of work to bring me to the level at which I desire to run. Its humbling to know that Im not a good runner, and this run brought me back down to earth. I can get there, but I think more experience and a considerable amount of hard work will be necessary for me to cruise the trails with the efficiency I dream about.

I suppose I shouldn't be so hard on myself, but its the way I've always been and I can't help but compare myself to others(despite my efforts not to). I know Im a good person with potential, so my self loathing does have its limits. I feel proud that I've only been running for 4 years, and last year was my first ultra(50k) and half-ironman. Human nature shows us that it's normal to always want more, and to attempt greater things. Its just important to keep things in perspective. Accepting that the processes involved in life don't always show progress immediately is important, and Im trying to learn that patience.

I feel a little better now. Back to the books.


  1. I've been a slow runner all my life. 30 years ago, when I was running cross country in high school, I was always the last one on the team over the finish line, and sometimes girls that walked part of the way beat me. When my coach tried to speed me up a little, I resisted because it hurt and I was afraid of pain.

    I'm still slow -- and I don't have dreams of being fast, I'm not that kind of runner/person -- but I was reading Dean Karnaze's book a few years ago (Ultramarathon Man)and he said something like once he realized it was only pain, he could just go on forever, it seemed.

    After reading that, something went click for me, after many years of being afraid of pain, and I have been more willing to accept pain and realize that it won't hurt me. Mostly this has paid off in Kung Fu training, and getting me to like hills while running.

    Just thought I'd share because your post made me think of these things.

  2. Thanks for the humbling post, Jesse. You speak too highly of me. In other news, I think my Biochemistry B.S. should help us with the genetic altering....