Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Struggling With Juggling

There are just a little more than thirteen weeks until the San Francisco Marathon. Three weeks after that is the Squamish 50K. I should be firmly entrenched in some serious base training, ready to begin a strength phase. I am not. I am struggling with juggling.

The last four weeks and the next nine are some of the busiest ever. Teaching and prepping classes, traveling, and marketing for the fall schedule seem to take huge focus and much energy. Add in Mason's track meets, a McKenzie feis, or Kim's recitals, AND trying to be a husband and all around nice guy...... Yikes. Fitting in productive runs is challenging, especially when there are so many opportunities to do otherwise.

So, what is the answer AND is the question so unique?

Let's take the second question first. Everyone is busy (just ask them). My issue is not unique. Everyone does some semblance of juggling their lives to meet the demands of everyone and everything in it. It becomes a matter of expectations and priorities. 

You (and I) might think that if these "races" are important I will find/make the time to train adequately to prepare. In the real world, however, there are only 24 hours in a day and only so much energy to fill them. Noted sports psychologist and author, Jim Loehr said, "energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of peak performance." So let's find me some energy.

The answer may be a focus on quality over quantity. It's entirely possible that last year's string of fifteen weeks of 70+ miles per week might not fit this time around. Less mileage means less time commitment, right? Of course, we're not factoring in the reality that I LOVE to run. It's my BEST time of the day. So less may not be more. Less may be less.

Of course, if I were "motivated" for these races, the time and energy might take care of themselves. With the right motivation, I'm all in, right? Maybe not. After nearly 500 races and close to 109,000 miles, I have learned two things: motivation is a moving target, and REAL motivation doesn't come from the race, it has to come from me.

So, maybe the answer lies in expectations. If expectations were lowered, I wouldn't feel as driven to train with the same amounts of vigor and commitment. I could look at these events as just that: events. Maybe I might even take a day off once in a while. 

Wait, wait, wait, I know how this goes. While I am completely able to consciously lower expectations today, I know that when I reach a/the starting line, I want to GO! Lowered expectations be damned. Then, and almost fifty years of running and racing tells me this, when my performance is disappointing, I'll be kicking my proverbial ass all the way home. That is not going to work. My ass is sore from self-kicking most of the time anyway.

So, what's the answer? I don't know but I feel a little better acknowledging that I have a problem (that's half the solving, right?). 

My name is Rich Sands and I am struggling with juggling.

I guess I'll go for a run.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Worst Race EVER, So I Kept Going Anyway

The start, where it's always okay.
Forty-Four years ago, I placed 14th in the Florida Relays Marathon. 2:58:24. Today, amazingly, I ran roughly the same time for a half marathon. And I'm not sure which makes me prouder.

In 1972, I had just run a very comfortable 1:50:00 twenty mile tune-up. It meant I was ready to run under 2:30. So, while 2:58 is an okay PR to have in my basket, I was neither proud, or happy about the race. Today, while I am embarrassed; borderline humiliated, I am also proud. Cliche time: proud that I finished.

It didn't begin well at all. Last night after a day in flip flops I noticed my left arch was bugging me. Not wanting to risk further issues, I contemplated not starting. But I did anyway. Upon arrival, I had wild stomach cramps. Hadn't noticed it when I awoke, it just sort of evolved. Two puke stops prior to the start and I thought I might be good to go.

But there was something just not right. Standing around, my heart rate was 115-120. Should have been 65-70 pre race. Immediately after what seemed like an easy enough 9:30 ish first mile, my HR is north of 170. Not a good sign. But I kept going anyway.
Me, #125 Circa 1972

I thought I settled in a bit in miles 2 and 3. Stomach still bugging me, but hey, my foot was alright. Then, it hit. The stomach went all off and any semblance of energy left my legs disappeared. I had bonked at like 3 miles!!!!! NO way! I could run through this. I hear about people who literally pull a Lazarus in the middle of a race. Why not me?

At mile 4, I took some water and immediately could not keep it down. "This is going to be a long ass 9 miles from here," I thought. So I decided to pack it in. I stepped off the trail and began walking back. I would do that two other times.

"Where are you going, stupid? You've felt plenty worse than this before? AND did you notice it's a long ass way back AND it's not your car, it's Brian's car and he won't be back for a long ass time." Argument 1; won (or maybe lost - ask me again tomorrow). So, I kept going anyway.

I thought the next four miles sucked. I mean, I never felt completely dead, but never got back anything close to a decent feeling. Some where around mile 8, my calves felt really tight and my right hamstring was cramping. "Really? Are we at the 22 mile mark of a marathon, here?" I began to look for every opportunity, to leave the course, catch the Light Rail and call it a day. Problem is the train is at least a mile away. So, I kept going anyway

Then it set in: the walking. My hamstrings didn't cramp when I walked, my stomach felt okay when I walked. So I would walk for roughly a minute, run for two. I began to notice that my mile splits were in the high 13's AND my heart rate was still sky high. It's going to be a long ass way. So, I kept going anyway.

Me, Angela and Brian. I am so blessed to have
wonderful family.
Somewhere after ten, I began looking for friendly people that might give me a ride to the finish (never actually ASKED anyone, I was just hoping someone would offer). Brian and Angela have surely finished by now and who really needs one more medal. I should just stop. So, I picked up the pace anyway. 

What I also noticed was the people running near me were not my usual racing cohorts. It was a much different crew. As each person passed by, I thought, "I will never not appreciate the back of the packers again." Each had their own saga, their own pain.

At 11, I was done. Completely. I could run some going downhill, but the ups seized and cramped my hamstring WAY beyond what was comfortable or even tolerable. But, there was only two miles to go AND in a mile, I would hit twelve and at that point, as my Mom used to say, "Anyone can run a mile." See? Sometimes math and a Mother's advice are counter productive. So I kept going anyway.

I couldn't drink, cuz I couldn't keep it down and I was now working on 2 and a half hours with no fuel. No wonder I was cramping, no wonder I was a little dizzy. And at twelve miles comes the big uphill, a bit more than a half of mile of nastily placed elevation. BUT anyone can run a mile, right Mom?  So I kept going anyway.

The finish was uneventful, except that I made it. Didn't look at the time, didn't stop my watch (and had removed my heart rate monitor back when I decided my HR was never coming down no matter how slow I ran/walked).

After finishing I must have looked like hell. I could not eat because I couldn't keep anything down. I couldn't drink for the same reason. I just wanted Scottie to beam me home. The train ride back to the start area was a dizzy, crampy, nauseated journey. Angie and Brian were patient saints. Several times a nice guy named Michael asked if I was alright. "No, but I'll be okay."

No comment.
I was given a medal at the finish. At the time, I was embarrassed to take it. Now, I'm kind of proud of it. This was my worst race EVER!!!!!!! (can't over exclamation point that). But I was kind of proud I had fought through and made it till the end. 

Please understand, what runners go through out there sometimes is often referred to as suffering. We don't suffer. People in third world countries suffer, people in the inner city suffer, military prisoners and people with cancer suffer. I never confuse the pain and discomfort of what I CHOOSE to do with suffering. 

I could rant about all of the mistakes I made, how I let 6 months of great weight loss go down the tubes during the winter. I could complain about a lot because I brought this on me. In August I will celebrate 50 years of being a runner, I've run over 108,000 miles and these 13.1 were some of the worst. Yeah, I could complain, but I'm not going to.

I'm going to keep on going anyway. 

Hug a back of the packer today. They deserve it.

Running Bucket List? Yeah, I've Still Got One.

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