Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Setting Goals and Eating Cookies

And just like that, we are back to basics. 

I spent a lot of time over the last 7 days not doing a whole lot.  I mean, there's normal life, wife and kids, and the busy holiday season but in regards to fitness and running and overall health.  NADA.  Ok OK, I did sneak in a couple tiny runs on the trail over the weekend but SHUT UP I pretty much rested all week and besides, the weather was REDONK ;)

 What I learned from the last 7 days after Memphis was this:

1.) The Schlafly Christmas Ale is SO. GOOD. 
2.) The Blue Moon Mountain Abbey Ale is SO. GOOD.
3.) My couch in the living room is SO COMFY.
4.) My wife makes Christmas cookies (and everything else) that are SO. GOOD.
5.) My sweat pants are SO. COMFY.

....and that's it. 

Just kidding, about it being "it".  There was more.  But seriously though, it's good to take a week to reset after a long hard year of training and racing.  It is SO necessary to be able to unwind and know what you need to do in order to recharge.  In all of this physical manifestation of finding my "recharge", I made sure to stay mentally present.  I wasn't checked out.  It was a good week of mulling over details, dealing with a tiny bit of self-pity, allowing myself to FEEL disappointed (about Memphis, not the entire year), and then heading down the path of finding resolve and a renewed direction for the next steps.  It's a process, and I think I treated it fairly and properly as one. 

Every year around this time I get heavily introspective.  (Not pensive, or depressed... let's be clear)  It is a natural progression of review, regroup, and resolve.  It produces a framework for setting goals.  Plain and simple.  It's how my mind works.  Setting 'resolutions' isn't a new concept so I'm not trying to overly dramatize it, seriously. 

But I think there is something to be said for appropriately taking stock, REAL stock, of exactly where you sit in relation to last year and in relation to the year ahead. It's not just a new list, scribbled in pencil, that you can stick on the fridge on January 1st and hope for dear life to hang on long enough to feel validated in your effort to 'keep' your resolutions.  It's an honest process that hopefully produces raw, unedited MOTIVATION that will serve to fuel your next 12 months.  It's an admission before the MISSION. 

Here are the questions I ask every year, and it doesn't JUST relate to running. (Obviously... I'm not a robot, you guys ;)

1.)  What did I accomplish this year?
2.)  How do I FEEL about what I accomplished this year?
3.)  Do I have any regrets? If so, why? 
4.)  Who do I want to BE next year?
5.)  What do I want to accomplish, in being the person I want to be? (Specifically)
6.)   How am I going to accomplish what I WANT? (Lay out the details)
7.)   Who knows about this, and who will help me keep an extra eye on the prize?

'Resolution' has a formal definition that represents the concept of "...an intention made".  Do we INTEND to keep our resolutions?  DUH.  Yes, we do.  We always set out with the best of intentions.  But, intentions are empty without a real commitment.  Semantics?  I don't think so.  You know in your head and in your heart when you are merely intending, or considering, or 'tossing it around a bit'.  YOU know.  Maybe nobody else does, but you do. 

What I am suggesting is that we spend less time moaning over the resolutions abandoned and we instead begin to learn about ourselves enough to BUILD a framework and a foundation for the coming year that allows us to COMMIT, over and over again.  Be good to yourself, be true to yourself, but resolve to be a fighter this next year for the things you are truly committed to.

I love this time of year.  The possibilities are endless.  You can be unbreakable if you really WANT to be. 

What do you want to be?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Memphis Marathon: Bittersweet on Beale Street

It was a weekend to remember. 

I'm not sure I adequately know how to put this last weekend into words.  But, I'm going to try. It was incredible, scenic, adventurous, exciting, atmospheric, culminating, gritty, disappointing, pensive, introspective, celebratory.... not all at the same time, but, there was certainly a war of emotions going on and it was a battle that didn't need to be FOUGHT as much as it just needed to be FELT.

I went to Memphis on Friday and connected with my BFF and awesome training teamie, Laura.  We have been training hard with a lot of the same goals and supporting each other in the daily grind of trying to train and compete at the highest level we can.  It has been an incredible year and we've weathered a lot both on our own and together.  You need team mates to survive.  Period.  I have an incredible support system in my wonderful wife, kiddos, STL Slayers team mates here where I live, and a mix of long distance team mates who share in this love/battle with me. 

I picked up Laura and her dad up from the airport since I drove into Memphis and like true runners we NERDED out for the entire day.  Race expo, gear, fuel, course talk, weather, paces, plans... BBQ.  Memphis has some of the best BBQ in the world and it certainly did not disappoint.  Let's just say, carbs were certainly being LOADED and after a big dinner that night at the famous Marlowe's I was fueled as best I could be fueled.  It was time to relax for the night and get my mind straight for the task that was ahead of me.  There was a lot to think about. 

It has been an incredible year.  I already mentioned this, but it is so true.  I knew it would be tough to try and line up 2 hard-effort marathons with only 9wks between them, but I wanted to try.  I wanted the push...I wanted the results.  After an amazing day back in October, I was fired up and ready to put it all out there for another training block, another peak, and another chance at a Boston Qualifying time. (I need to run under 3:05... my PR in October was 3:06:26) 

The training block was OK.  Honestly, it really didn't go perfectly.  In fact, it was quite a bit less than ideal.  I am the first to admit this and I DID admit this to many people around me as I ramped up towards race day.  It is hard to be realistic AND resiliently optimistic at the exact same time.  Somewhere in there a dose of real honesty has to be clear.  I tried to be clear. 

Over the 9 weeks, I missed runs, skipped long runs because I was feeling weird tweeks and potential injuries, didn't build up my mileage to where it needed to be, and ended up getting semi-sick for the 8 days leading up to the race.  HOWEVER, those are not excuses and I refuse to let them be.  I DID train hard, I ran some good longer runs, I did some killer speed workouts with great results.... I thought that 3:05 fitness might just be there still.  I never actually PEAKED again...but I thought maybe my legs were still ready.  It wouldn't be until mid-race the next morning that I would know for sure.  Guys and gals, you NEVER know "for sure".  This is life.  But life demands that we try, and push, and pull either way, regardless of the clarity and confidence we so desperately want to possess before we commit.   I promised after my last race that I wouldn't let doubt and fear control me or my outcome on the next go-round.  So that's what I was determined to do.  One last massive effort to wrap up the year.  One last "all in" shot at going to Boston.

So after all that (and a decent night's sleep)... there I was... walking to the starting line.  I was decked in my Hammer Nutrition duds as always, and ready to go.  National anthem.... nervously jogging around... a fist bump and a smirk up to Laura.  She was starting in the Elite Coral right in front of me and theirs was the first wave to go.  GUN.  Elites were gone... 2 minutes til my go-time.  I watched them disappear down the road.  I said a prayer, took several deep breaths, and then BANG.... off we went. 

I settled in just a bit, but not really.  It was about 53 degrees, WINDY, cloudy, dreary, and felt cold.  The ground was wet from the pouring rain from the day and night before.  We began winding through city streets and packing together in small clusters, even though the masses started to spread out a bit.  The first mile went in 7:00, which was right on target.  Miles 2, 3, and 4 went fairly quickly as I took my first Hammer Gel and was getting good fluids.  We were somewhere in the 28:15 range through 4 miles but it felt like it was much faster.  I was running fairly smoothly but my breathing was more heavy and elevated than it should be and I felt like I was laboring a bit too much for such an early point in the race.  Yes, we ran a couple sub 7's up front (.. a 6:53 and a 6:57 in there) but it was relative to the course and felt like the right effort level.  Although, NOTHING felt "right" to me... not even at that point.  I knew I wasn't quite myself, but I figured maybe I'd settle in and find a rhythm.

BEALE STREET.  The 5 mile mark goes right down the famous Beale Street and the crowds were actually very large at that point.  They were LOUD too, which is nice!  I saw Laura's dad and he was shooting Go-Pro footage as I pointed at him and kept motoring along.  We were flying a bit down the tightly wound cobblestone at that point but I had found another guy as tall as me to sit behind to help break some of the wind up front and I was just focused on sticking to his heels as best I could.  I hit the 10K mark right where I needed to be for splits, and rolled down a big hill with the river on my left.

Guys were starting to chat a bit, "Hey I'm Joe, I'm hoping for about 3:05... you?"  "Sweet, I'm Tim, yeah somewhere in there... we'll see!", "Ok cool...let's go.. good luck"  It's good to find people you can work with on the course.  It's good to relax and find a rhythm next to someone you KNOW has the same goal as you.  I said nothing.  I listened, labored, shook out my arms... but said nothing.  Then I turned on my music and put both ear buds in.  I needed something... I needed something to focus on and to help me stay relaxed.  Maybe I would find my groove. 

I didn't find my groove.  I went through the 8mi mark down the path by the zoo, and took my time through an aid station running very slowly getting fluids in and taking an Endurolyte capsule to get some sodium and electrolyes.  I tried to find a good flow after that and latched onto some guys running quickly down the hill out of that path area.  A mile clicked over at 7:19.... In October I didn't run a 7:19 mile until mile 25.  This was mile 9 and I knew I was in trouble.  I was in pretty heavy denial though and feeling like I could still possibly fight through it and find something special.  You don't make any decisions at mile 9.  You RUN and try to relax.

Then we ran through St. Jude's.  My goodness.  I tried hard to be PRESENT for this.  This was why we were here, after all.  They were loud, happy, many wrapped like little eskimos with beanies covering their cute little heads with little to no hair.  They loved it... I loved them back as best I could and tried to forget my seemingly unimportant "struggle" that was taking place. (compared to the the daily struggle these little angels endure)  And as quickly as I went through, I was OUT the other side and to the 10mi mark.  I hit 10mi in about 1:10:30, and again that was still "on pace".  That was right where I needed to be but I was FEELING IT.  I was hurting already.  Already?  What in the world..... I still had 10 miles before the "halfway point" at 20 miles where I should have ACTUALLY started hurting pretty good.   

I took another gel, swallowed hard, and fought my way up and down several rollers on a main through street.  Bands... cheering.... funny signs.... I've seen it all a hundred times but I could NOT connect with any of it.  I couldn't even connect with my own body.  I couldn't make my brain and my legs connect and at this point I was having a hard time even connecting my heart to the race.  I knew I wasn't focused anymore.  I didn't have that calm, smooth, effortless rhythm that I had back in October when I smirked my way past 18 miles and then crushed the rest with everything I had. 

I went through mile 12 with a 7:46 mile, and then the half-marathon point in about 1:34, high.  But, that 7:46 was a turning point.  7:46???  "What is going on.. what am I doing", I muttered to myself past sporadic and heavy breathing.   I saw a familiar face on the sidelines in Mark S., from St. Louis... he cheered and we made eye contact.  I had seen him on Beale street too and it was great to be in good company.  That gave me a tiny jolt at mile 12, again.  It was what I needed mentally, but my body simply couldn't respond.  I was walking now... WALKING, at mile 13.  Halfway.  Losing time.  Then the 3:10 pace group BLEW by me... I got a quick pep-talk from another STL face who passed me and said, "It's NOT OVER!!  It is NOT over Luke... let's GO!".  I tried to go with her... I picked up the pace and surged ahead, and immediately stopped to walk again.  I just... couldn't go.  I was mentally done, and physically losing steam very very fast.

At mile 14 I approached the aid station (right next to where I was parked).  I stopped in the middle of the road, both hands on my hips, looked at the ground, looked ahead, looked behind me, then back up the road.  It felt like I stood there for an eternity.  Then, as if my body was making the decision for me, I turned to my right and walked off the course.  I stood there on the sidewalk for a second, stunned.  I couldn't hear anything.  It was so quiet, or maybe I "went somewhere else" for a second and just shut the world out.  I stood bent over with my hands on my knees, staring at my shoes for about a full minute.  I stood up, walked across the road and starting walking up the sidewalk back towards the cut-through street to the start/finish area.  I was emotionally numb, physically spent, and freezing cold.  I had never abandoned a race before.  I had never "quit" ANYTHING... ever.  It was official now.  I was off the course and there was NO going back.  

I know I could have finished.... I could have slowed down, jogged, walked, SLOGGED to the finish line with my body temperature dropping and muscles tightening up.  But, I've done that before, and the result was a brutal near-4hr finish in the cold and an IT band injury that lasted for nearly 4 months.  I couldn't afford that...I didn't WANT that.  For the first time in a long time, "finishing" wasn't what the day was about.  I know I can finish anything I want to finish, and I had nothing to prove to myself.  I went all in.  I went for it.  I had a goal and I WENT. AFTER. IT.  That's all there is somedays.  I stopped trying to rationalize with myself internally and I just let myself FEEL.  I didn't know what to think...but I know what I FELT.  

I finally got into the stadium where the finish area was, wrapped myself in a space blanket and sat down on the infield grass.  My watch said 1:55, and was still ticking.  I let it go.  I just couldn't push "stop".  I knew Laura was out there on the course but had no idea how she was doing.  I waited, talked to a couple other people... and then fixed my eyes on the corner where marathoners were coming around and down the final straight away to the finish.  I watched the clock tick for an entire hour straight... my watch still running.  I won't publicly steal her thunder about the details of her race but I saw her fly around the corner, looked at the clock and saw her CRUUUSH  that finish line.  YES!!!  We hugged, and laughed, and I lamented for a second, but then we were on a mission to find her dad, keys, gear, phones and get WARM. 

It was an odd feeling to walk away from the race with NO result.  No time.  No finish.  No medal.  No nothing.  I could tell I had immediately started to repress it like it never happened at all.  I almost didn't believe that it HAD.  I didn't WANT to believe it.  But it was true.  It was a dose of honesty in the purest and most physically raw way.  It just, wasn't my day.   

I wouldn't have survived this experience without great company, encouragement, and relaxing perspective for the hours following the race as I said my goodbyes and drove the 4.5 hours back to St. Louis.  The weekend itself was a BLAST and it was a time I'll never ever forget.  I can't even describe how much it meant to me.     

It has been an incredible YEAR.  I cannot be more thankful to my wife Beth for being the ultimate wife, and RUNNER'S wife at that.  From making pasta on Friday nights because she knows I need Carbs, to understanding me being gone every Saturday morning until breakfast for long runs, to dealing with sick kids while I travel and race, to being an encouraging fire of love and understanding when I come home from a very disappointing experience..... I LOVE that woman more than words can describe and I wouldn't be where I am today without her support.  She is my rock. 

And to my team mates...  My other "rocks".   This year of running and banding together as STL Slayers, long distance pals, daily encouragers, listening ears, venting partners.... you make it POSSIBLE.  You make the passion that I have become a PURPOSE and you help me keep my dreams alive and on fire. 

And to my friends... you know I'm crazy.  Thanks for embracing it and keeping me grounded and connected. 

And to Hammer Nutrition.....  what a year.... just wait for next year :)

My 2015 Goals post is coming soon.... they've been written and waiting in the wings for over a month. 


LET'S....  GO. 



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stay Calm, Hammer on

It's COLD now.

Well November is headed for a close shortly here and winter temps have finally set in. It's been a decent last month or two of training, but certainly not ideal. I really have no complaints though. I'm doing what I love and I've been trying to ramp back up for another big 26.2 attempt in Memphis. 16 days. 16..... DAYS. I'm definitely dealing with some mechanical issues, even though fitness and speed are there. It's not something I can FIX before Memphis so I'm gonna be a taped up warrior come race day, and we'll see what I can throw down.

I know I still have work to do, so I don't want to talk TOO much about "next year" or allow myself to wind down just yet. But I will say that I am very excited for the things to come. VERY. I latched onto another level this year and I even caught a glimpse of what the level beyond that might look like. It's possible. Big things are possible. There's a lot I want to get out of next year and a lot of building and strengthening that needs to be done over the winter in order to have the kind of structure my body needs to support what's about to go down next year. I'll save my "goals" post for another time.

In the meantime, as the temps drop I've been heading indoors to get workouts in on the treadmill. There is a nice fitness center at the Four Seasons Hotel where I work and it is a great perk to be able to use the facilities as needed. I don't have MUCH time in the early AM's since I get to my desk at 7am, but I have ENOUGH time to get in a solid run, some work on the legs, core, etc... before I have to shut it down. I survived last winter almost exclusively indoors like this, and I'm prepared to do it again this year as well. There will be no excuse to arrive at February/March lacking strength when I have a full circuit of equipment at my finger tips.

Heading into Memphis in just a few short weeks I'm excited. I can't LIE and say I'm not a little anxious about the problems I'm having with my mechanics. There's always the "What if I get to mile 10 and my IT band lights up?", "What if my achilles is shot by the halfway mark?", "what if these last 3 weeks of wonkiness messed up my taper and I'm gonna feel like a slug on race day??". There's alwayyyyyyyyys these doubts. But, I had the same doubts before Cowbell and after having a stellar day out there I vowed to never again let those thoughts CONTROL me. I'm addressing them, but I'm staying as calm as I possibly can. STAY CALM. That's my mantra right now. There's nothing I can do about the little things that aren't perfect besides work on them, and then suck it up for race day.

I am EXCITED though, as I said. I'm ready to give it another shot and end my 2014 season by leaving it all out there. You just never know. I'll be proud of my year and focused on the next, either way.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thank you, may I have another (?)

Marathons are hard you guys.  That's why I'm doing another one right away (?)

It has been 3 weeks since I had the race of my life at Mo Cowbell.  There's really no way around it... marathons are HARD.  I'd love to be one of those guys that is out jogging and doing drills the day after a marathon and feeling great, but, I'm just not.  As quickly as I THINK I should be able to bounce back from a hard effort like that, I'm always a bit humbled for a few solid weeks after. 

My body has been bouncing back though.  Slowly but surely my legs feel more and more sure underneath me.  It feels like the rust has been washed off my joints a bit and I "remember" how to run again.  That's a tad dramatic but mentally speaking that's where I've been.  I took 8 days off after the race and then slowly started easing back in.  Low miles, low intensity, days off, lots of "rehab".

I knew going into the fall that I wanted more than 1 chance to run either a PR "A race", and/or a Boston Qualifier time at 3:05, so I put the St. Jude's Memphis Marathon on the calendar back in August.  You never know what your body is going to give you on race day and I wanted a plan B for for just in case Cowbell didn't go well. I wanted this race last year too but I signed up too late.  Its tough going into the winter "break" after a lousy race.  It feels like a "fail" and it's mentally hard to "thighburnate" (take time off) when you have to much junk to wade through up top.  So I put Memphis in my back pocket just in case.  But, Cowbell DID go well...it was as much of an A-race as I could have hoped for on that given day.  No, I didn't qualify for Boston, but I made a HUGE leap in the right direction and went into that 8 days of recover with a mental FIRE burning. (Even thinking into next year.... OH the things I have planned for NEXT year.. BWAHAHA)

Fast forward a few weeks.  I've been feeling out a few aches and pains but getting back into the training routine as best I can.  Working core almost every night is giving me a routine mindset and a focus on being strong and fit for a 2nd attempt at 26.2 here in 39 days.  HOLY COW MEMPHIS IS IN 39 DAYS.  Sorry... I'm good.  For real.

So what is the goal for Memphis?  Well, that's a great question considering the fact that I don't exactly know the answer quite yet.  I mean, on the one hand a BQ time is THE goal, right?  But on the other hand, running solid races, celebrating a big PR from October, and running it with great friends is what it's all about.  It really is and really should be.  I am realistic about what it means to have only 9wks between two hard efforts like that and I know that MY body may not have two A-race days in it in that time frame. 

BUT, didn't I also doubt what "my body had" before Cowbell too? Yep.  I did.  Mega doubt.  Annoying doubt.  Irrational and unprofessional doubt.  And that day was incredible.  You get where I'm going with this.  Why shouldn't my goal for Memphis be to have another incredible day, riding on the wings of lingering fitness and another mini-peak training block?  There's no reason why I can't.  So, without defining some sort of concrete, minutes and seconds goal for Memphis, I'd like to say that my goal is to manage my mind and body well until race day and do everything I can (the things I can control) to have another GOOD race. 

I can't define "Good race" as only being a PR.  For me this race has other factors and other nuances that I want to enjoy.  There's a team aspect to it and a newness in that I have never been to Memphis or run on this course before.  There will be lots to take in, lots to enjoy.  I want to ENJOY this sport, even during the long phases of intensity and desire to always be better and faster.  So, yes, you might find me with some game-face these next few weeks as I prepare again, but I hope more often than not you find me rocking the smirk of enjoyment in doing what I love to do.  More soon you guys...      

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

PR Day - 3:06:26

Wow.  Pretty much just, wow. 

This year culminated into one massive effort this last Sunday as I toed the line at the MO' Cowbell Marathon here in St. Charles, MO.  You know the story, you know the struggles, you know the anxiety-ridden ansty-pants I was leading up to this race.  I didn't have anything to PROVE really...but I had a lot that I wanted to accomplish, BADLY. I've talked about Boston Qualifier times (mine needs to be 3:05, I've talked about wanting to break 3:10, I've talked about just learning to be satisfied with the result if my effort level is 'everything I have'.  You KNOW the story.  I know the story.  Race day was upon me either way.....

I got to the starting line feeling fairly fresh, but uncertain of what my legs would really have. I think that's how we all feel, but, somehow taper time had made me feel out of touch with the effort level I would need to put out in order to really break through some barriers.  I spotted my friends and team mates towards the front of the pack and we 'hugged it out' hard.  I lined up with the 7-7:30/mi crews, closed my eyes and bowed my head for the National Anthem and then took a few big deep breaths as the horn sounded. 

The first 2-4 miles I was finding a rhythm and choosing what felt best.  I wanted a 1:35 half marathon to start (7:15 pace) and sitting behind a few tall runners and 'drafting' off their rhythm landed me right in that range.  First 5 splits in 7:12, 7:07, 7:11, 7:07, 7:08....  I started to feel a bit of a relaxed stride and I started to let go of the "I wonder if my legs have anything" and I started to latch onto "I wonder how MUCH my legs have of THIS, and I wonder how long I'll feel this decent".  It's a gamble and it's a game of mental trickery.  When the body feels good you want to GO... but with 21 miles left that's an insane plan.  So I settled in, shook out the arms, and relaxed everything.

Miles 6, 7, 8 went through New Town neighborhoods and was probably the most crowd-centric spot on the whole course.  The course also doubles back on itself and a small riverwalk type canal that cuts through the little city of Newtown seperates you from your friends who are coming out as you're headed 'back'.  I looked for buddies, pointed, yelled across the water... the crowd, photographers, etc.. forced my pace a little and those 3 miles went in 6:59, 6:58, 6:59.  Sub 7's and I wasn't working for it... I felt relaxed.  I felt fairly quick on my feet, and I felt like I was started to regain control of my body and what I was able to put out.  That's a great feeling. 

Miles 9, 10, 11 were interesting!  I saw Jeanne S. and Libby on the side cheering as I started a little climb at 9 before the only real "HILL" on the course, which is most of mile 10 as it climbs up a long outer-road grade.  I had spotted a professional looking girl up ahead who was running VERY smooth and even paced behind two guys who were setting her pace, so I moved up and latched onto their group, knowing the hill at 10 was right around the corner.  As we turned for the hill the two big guys dropped off and the girl I was following looked around, freaked out a bit, and yelled back to me "Did I miss it?! Did I miss the cutoff for the half??! I think I need to go back!"  I bounded up ahead of her and reassured her it was still ahead.  I patted my hip as if to say, "C'mon, let's go, stick with me up this hill and I'll get you to the finish line. (she was running the half marathon)  She settled in behind and next thing I knew we were all the way up the hill and rolling FAST down the other side.  I looked at my Garmin and current pace showed 6:40 so I motioned to her that I needed to back off and save it... but gave the high-five of "go go go!  Finish strong!".

I swooped down the huge hill around the corner and split off left onto the packed gravel Katy Trail as the other runners split right to finish the half marathon.  My race was just beginning.  I saw my Dad at mile 13 and he was shooting some pics but also waiting as planned to give me a handheld bottle filled with water and Perpetuem (by Hammer Nutrition).  That bottle was JUST what I needed.  My Dad yelled, "1:34, you're right on pace!  Let's go!".  I was still feeling pretty but I downed that bottle over the next 3 miles as I headed for 16 in.  Miles 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 went in 7:00, 6:54, 7:06, 7:05, 7:03. 

I was feeling strong but started to work.  I could see that I was 2.5 minutes ahead of my 3:10 pace bracelet and I KNEW I had a great shot.  I also knew I still had 10 miles left.  10 MILES.  I couldn't think about it.. I said outloud to myself in the middle of nowhere, all by myself, "Just get to 20.. you know you can run 4 miles, RELAX.. SAVE something for 20... this is YOUR DAY.  GO."  I played the surge game over the next 4 miles and kept finding myself running in the 6:50 range before I'd yell at myself to slow down.  I'd say, "NOT yet... save it" what seemed like 60 times in those 4 miles.

Miles 17, 18,19, 20 went in 7:00, 7:01, 7:07, 6:49.  What?  6:49?  Something was happening out there.  I was starting to feel the fatigue and I knew I was WORKING, but no matter how gassed I felt at any one point, I was still hitting splits and still rolling along fairly quickly.  20 miles in 2:20...I can do math.  I DID the math.  I was nearing 4 minutes ahead of 3:10 pace at this point.  Do the math right now yourself...... 3:10 minus 4 mintes meant ONE THING....  Boston was within reach.  It was at this point that I decided I needed to really go for it.  I could have relaxed and settled a bit this last 10k but I was in, I was committed, and I was ready to go waaaaay into the pain cave to try to snag a BQ that all of a sudden was right in my face and possibly within reach. 

I could feel the steady energy from that Perpetuem still in my legs but my mechanics were starting to really hurt at this point.  Joints, muscles, little things.. it all hurt.  I could feel a few spots that were potential cramps welling up every so slightly, but a quick brisk walk past a water table to chug 3 cups helped calm that down a bit.  I picked the pace back up and surprisingly STILL wasn't losing any time.  Miles 21, 22, 23 went in 7:10, 7:12, 7:09.... this is where I cramped bad last year and lost time.  That's ALL I could think about.  But something else was happening.  I was passing people left and right.  I was latching on, pulling away, looking back and they were gone.  At mile 23 I said outloud, "You can do this... you can run a 5k ANYDAY.. 5k left...

I hit 24 miles in 2:50.  Again, I did the math.  Holy COW it was still within reach.  2.2 miles in 15 minutes would be TOUGH to close out a marathon but I knew it was still possible.  I was laboring, grunting, wincing, grimacing... race face was in full affect.  All at once the day was catching up with my body and my 'engine' really went into the red zone at this point.  Everything in me wanted to stop, but MORE than everything in me knew that every second on the clock from this point in mattered.  Every stride... I took a couple deep breaths and tried to relax my form.  I felt myself speed up a bit...but it HURT.  Miles 24, 25 in 7:17, 7:20... the slowest miles of the day so far, but I hit the 1 mi to go mark in 2:58.  1 measley mile stood between me and 3:05... plus the .2 at the end, and let's be real for a second.. that .2 takes TIME.  I was starting to tunnel vision a bit.. tingly fingers, mini cramps in the calf...

I kept glancing at my watch and seeing it tick by.. 3:03... 3:04... it slipped past 3:05 as I saw the last turn towards the last 400 meters in sight.  I rounded the corner, saw the finishing banner and starting to sprint. Every last shred of what I had was now in play.. my left quad and calf immediately cramped hard, so I compensated and grit my teeth.  Then my right hamstring went.. locked up.. I somehow ran through it, saw my Dad.. saw the clock..through a blurred haze I saw 3:06 and knew I had really smashed this one.  I hit the finish line and sort of collapsed into some volunteers arms as they helped me walk over to the side.  Big hugs from John B. and my Dad as I immediately started to mentally celebrate what had just happened. 

The morning was a bit of a blur...but, there was also a new-found clarity to it.  I realized that I had more control over my outcome than I was giving my mind and body credit for.  I realized that you can't deny the months and months of work that goes into this even when doubt creeps in those last few weeks before race day.  I realized that every cycle is going to have small pains, tweeks, freakouts, etc... but it is only when you're able to get to the starting line with a plan, a focus, and a willingness to push to a place you've never been before that great things can happen. 

It was a breakthrough day.... but I'm still not done yet. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Calm your SPLITS

It's Monday morning, 13 days out from race day.  *Insert silent, internal freakout*

Just kidding.  I'm not freaking out.  It is officially "taper time" but I'm hoping to not fall off the train like what tends to happen during this time.  Let's be honest, I'd LOVE to consider myself a "veteran" at this point.  I'd love to say that I'm past the internal freakouts, that I'm past the mental war of thinking my body isn't ready, etc..  I AM a veteran, I've been doing this a long time, but there are mental aspects that are nearly unavoidable when you prepare to put your body through what it is about to go through.  But for the most part, business as usual today as I start the next 2 weeks of taper.

I was MEGA inspired this weekend.  Between watching our American distance runners crush it around the country and being present in spirit for my good friends and team mates while they crushed it, I had no option but to be filled with joy and pride!  When you train with people (even long distance) all year long, it is such a rush to see them do well and set the bar high.  It gives me courage and hope that I will be able to produce the kind of result I'm hoping for on race day.  Soooo, what AM I hoping for on race day?  GREAT QUESTION.

I'm not necessarily prepared to publicly proclaim every aspect of what I'm hoping for on race day, BUT, there are some specifics that I think are going to be very important when I get rolling on that Sunday morning.  Let's talk it out:

1.) My first 13.1 mile split need to allow room for a negative split. PERIOD.  I get caught up in the race moments just like everyone else, and with a flat marathon it's easy to go out thinking, "Hey, I'll just bank some time up front and even if I suffer on the back half I'll still come out ahead.  WRONG. It doesn't work that way.  Last year at this race I ran 1:36 for the opening half and lost a bunch of time between 23-26 with cramps. I think 1:36 is a great first half for me, so that's my goal again this year.

2.) My thought process on true MP (Marathon pace) needs to back UP a bit.  All year I've had 6:50 on the brain for MP.  I believe it's real, I know it's in my body, I know that would give me a sub 3 hour marathon, or close.  BUT, according to how I trained this year and what I truly believe my body is capable of right NOW, an MP of 7:10-7:15 is more reasonable and attainable. Afterall, if my above statement of 1:36 first half is true, 7:15 pace gets me a 1:35 first half.  I need to realize that and honor that, and NOT go out the first half in 1:32 (which my body is VERY capable of doing)  It's hard, but dying out there at mile 20 is MUCH harder, and I'd obviously like to keep suffering to a minimum :) 

3.) My mindset at the start needs to be joyful, calm, and PATIENT.  I get too serious.  I get too tense.  I clinch my jaw and stare off into the distance like I'm about to murder somebody.  I think this is a raw aspect of mental preparation, but, it doesn't lend itself to a relaxed settling of the mind and body from the start.  For a 5k where it's 18 minutes of pure madness, sure... get  your warrior paint on.  But I know personally, for ME, I need to stop and smell the roses a bit.  Like, literally I might find some roses and actually stop before the gun goes off to smell them.  You get the picture.

4.)  My nutrition needs to be realistic and SPOT ON.   I know what works.  I've been using Hammer Nutrition products for almost a decade now on and off, and certainly 100% this last year, and I KNOW what works for me.  I have a fueling plan, and I need to be real about it and not think I can 'go without' for any extended period of time during race day.  It needs to be consistent and it needs to be a huge focus if I'm going to avoid losing time to cramps late in the race.

That's about it... I need a top 4 to focus on instead of drowning in constant introspection during race day.  I know all the little marathon do's and don'ts, but I think having a core block of top focuses will help.  And from the one and only Josh Cox (50k American Record Holder, US Marathoner), his advice rings true and simple in my head: "When you feel good early in the race DON'T pick up the pace". 

Alrighty then, my 'splits' have been calmed and my plan has been set.  Now it's time to be sane and under control these next two weeks.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Joy Stealers, Beware

The last few weeks have been really good, in a lot of ways.  Training is going well overall and I'm managing the Tweaks and Freaks as best I can as we lead up to race day.  38 days... to be exact.  It's amazing how there always seems to be so much time left in the training block right up until you realize there's NO TIME LEFT in the training block.  The summer whizzed by so fast.  It's been a great summer so far, and I've enjoyed the 'juggle struggle' of managing life, kids, work, and training.  It has been challenging trying to manage finances after my wife lost her job but she's back to working (thank you God) and we are getting closer to getting back on our feet during this transition.

I don't want to dwell on the physical side of things too much, but, there are some very real challenges to trying to run at a high level. (relative to what I've done in the past)  This week I've been sick with whatever nasty head cold the kids and wife had.  That's just LIFE.  The kids pile on when I get home from work and there's no way to avoid the slobbery kisses and playtime.  That's just a fact.  And I SO don't hate it... I love those munchkins.  So I'm not stressing about it.  Fitness is high, and even though I feel like a snot-factory my head is still 'in the game'. 

On another note, my foot issues seemingly have finally faded away for the most part.  Phew.  Now my achilles is lit up a little bit (as it always does the last 3rd of the training cycle) but I'm taping it and managing my workouts to not flare it up anymore.  I've raced with tendinitis before and I'm prepared to do it again.  I'm trying hard to stay OUT of my own head in this area, honestly.  One day at a time. 

On the training side, I'm two 20-milers into the cycle with at least 1 more to go before I taper in 3 weeks.  I've had one 20 that was a SLOG and one in the pouring rain that felt incredible.  This year I feel like I'm running with a higher level of calm (mental maturity?), in general.  Maybe it's just patience while I'm out there but I've definitely made a conscious effort to reign it in a bit mid-run.  It hasn't been a perfect cycle but miles are increasing, long runs are up to 20, speed work has been happening every Tuesday since March, etc...  I'm putting the pieces together as best I know how and as best I can fit it into the busy dad life.

I feel like it's hard to respond with anything other than "I'm so busy" or "It's just really BUSY right now".  That's just an auto-response that flows out of us even when we aren't paying attention.  And, let's be real... it's true.  But, it's never NOT busy.  It's always going to be busy, for the rest of my life.  This is adulthood, this is fatherhood, this is being a professional at work, this is trying to be as professional of an athlete as I can.  This is it.  We need to stop dwelling on how real the struggle is and start banking on how real the joy is.  The JOY in these things is very real too.  In fact, it's often times sitting in the shadow of struggle that we are allowing to dim our day(s).  It's exhausting being around people that never allow the joys in their life to WIN over the struggles, and so help me if I ever become like that. 

So I won't.  I won't do it.  I won't let the 'struggle' win.  It's too easy that way.  It's the LAZY, selfish route.  I love running.  Why?  Because in a zillion ways it brings me JOY.  I'm on a mission to rid myself of the things/people/thoughts/habits that steal my joy.  Period. 

Joy stealers...beware.           


Monday, August 11, 2014

Tweeks and freaks

Well I made it. (...through another week)

The last 2 weeks of training seems like it's lasted for 2 MONTHS.  It's been odd, I'm not going to lie. It has been GOOD as well on many different levels, but I've had to adjust my thinking a bit to see it properly. 

The latter half of the summer training cycle always brings about it's fair share of aches and pains but this time around I almost feel like each week I have something new to deal with.  I got over (mostly) the issues in my feet, IT band, etc... but this last week my achilles/soleus lit up like a torch after the long workout on Tuesday.  It's the same achilles that has caused issues in the past.  Just out of nowhere though, even though I felt like I was being smart and doing the right things. (long warmups, controlled workout, long cooldown, etc...)

There's a part of me that feels discouraged when I feel tweeks like this, and my mind automatically goes down the path of "OMG I'M INJURED" when I start to feel these things.  But this week I tried to address what I was feeling as a natural symptom of what I was putting my body through instead of immediately victimizing myself and throwing myself headlong into a bowl of icecream to wallow.  (Not that THAT'S my usual method, but still)  I took Wednesday off when it was supposed to be a double-day and I stayed calm about it, for the most part.  I ran easy on Thursday, staying calm when I felt achy heading out the door.  I knew my 20-miler was looming on Saturday and I HAD to give my body a chance to cool down.  

Well, it DID cool down.  I can't say I ran the best feeling 20-miler on Saturday though, because that would be a straight up lie.  It felt pretty terrible, but my taped up achilles held up nicely, so that was a plus.  It was about halfway through that run that I really had to say to myself, "Dude, stop acting like you're gonna accomplish your goals and train with intensity without having aches and pains.  It's just not going to happen... get OVER yourself"  It was a moment of clarity.  A moment of calm in the midst of a run that was whipping my BUTT.  The whole run really was a mental breakthrough of realizing that running on tired legs doesn't mean I'm doing anything wrong...it means I'm training my body RIGHT.  

In the midst of internalizing the freakouts I've been having lately, I think there ARE some legitimate questions that I should be asking and answering.  Is there a glaring reason I'm having these physical issues?  Am I doing something wrong?  I am doing too much?  Too fast?  The wrong method? The wrong plan?  All of it has to be at least looked into I think.  And I'll be the first to admit... I've struggled over the years with doing too many workouts at a pace that is faster than what it should be. (...given where a more reasonable pace should be for ME on days that aren't "workouts" and should be taken easy)  I have tried to address that this year and dial it back.  I've been working on pace/effort like it's my JERB, actually. 

Here's a fact:  It just takes ONE workout that pushes your body a little bit and you can be achy, lit up, or even injured.  It just takes ONE.  For real.  It's not always an accumulation of dumb decisions that causes the aches and pains, and I think that's a common and annoying misconception.  You can blog all you want about what method is the BEST method but everybody is different and every BODY is different.   I need to STAY the course and ignore the BS.   I need to acknowledge that what I'm doing everyday with my body is difficult.  I need to be at peace with the fact that with high intensity goals comes higher risks.  Calculated risks, yes, but not every risk is 100% in my control.  I WANT to do this... everyday!  This is the journey I am choosing, and the ups and downs of this journey just come with the territory.  I can either accept them and deal with them like a professional or I can be a whiney little victimized amateur with my attitude.  I choose to be better... for me.       

54 days until raceday #1.  My spreadsheet of checkboxes is a little over halfway completed.  All I can do is put my head down, keep my chin up, and live his thing 1 week... 1 day... 1 workout at a time, as honestly as I can.

Monday, July 21, 2014

It's Possible

Something happened...and I don't know WHAT it was. But it was good. 

The last week of training has been probably the best, most interesting, most thought-provoking week I've had all year.  Outside of getting my miles up over 50 for the week (with 2 rest days) I feel like something happened.  Some sort of synapse-related, lungs/legs THING happened this week.  I've been really working this year to build speed and get my body to latch onto the next level, and this is something that mentally I'm slightly angsty about, given the little aches and pains I've been managing in the foot/other areas of my legs over the last month or so. 

There has been such a mental push this year to MAKE it to Boston.  I mean, I've been trying since I was 17, but this year feels different.  A BQ time (3:05, 7:01 pace) is something I feel is well within my reach, but it is a PUSH.  There's no way around it.  There's no way for my body to get there without making changes.  It is not enough anymore to just put in a training cycle at easy run pace and rely on long slow runs to get me over the hump.  It's just.. not.  I've never been a believer that your legs will magically do something for you on race day that you haven't learned how to do (or at least very close to it ) in training, over and over again.  I guess my style tends to link up more with the concepts of "race simulation" type runs that get your head and legs wrapped around the idea and FEEL of running faster, comfortably.  It is working for me, both mentally and physically.  But there's obviously a drawback to that, and it's the risk of getting injured.  And that's something I've wrestled with over the last 5 years pretty heavily. (both in theory, and in physical consquences of dealing with injuries) 

So what HAPPENED this week? Well, Wednesdays are my typical double-day with 5 miles in the AM and 5 miles in the PM.  It's a great aerobic day of teaching the legs to recover but also to run in the heat of the afternoon while they are tired.  My first 5 in the AM felt fine, and I took it easy.  But in the afternoon something was firing in the legs that I couldn't ignore.  First mile in 6:45, which was reasonable given the climb to get out of my neighborhood.  But once that ticked over I found another gear, and another, and another.  I knew I was pushing hard but I felt like I was in control.  I wasn't DYING.  I wasn't in oxygen debt.  I was just, hauling.  The last two miles were both sub 5:55 pace, and that's something that has never happened during a training run before.  Ever.  College included. 

Was it maybe a bit unsafe?  YES.  I felt guilty about it actually.  I felt like there was no way I WASN'T going to pay for that in some way. I felt like I was setting a bad example.  I felt like it was unnecessary... but I couldn't ignore what was happening. My legs felt invincible.  There was still gas in the tank even.  I was shocked.  It felt weird to be laughing at myself (outloud) and awkwardly fist-pumping, alone on some random neighborhood side-street where I finished up.  And it was then that I uttered out loud the words that have stuck with me all week:  "I guess it's possible".  I rode the high for the rest of that evening.  I guess it's possible.  It's possible to not see light at the end of the tunnel for weeks on end of nose-to-the-grind training and injury freakouts, and then all in one moment come shooting out of the tunnel like an out of control rocket with a smirk that won't go away. 

This last Saturday I put in 15 miles at 6:50 pace, which was another distance/pace season best and certainly a best over the last SEVERAL years.  I think I still had those 4, simple, intoxicating words filling just about every breath.  I guess it's possible.  It is now.  I know it is.  Did I wake up this morning with doubts?  YUP.  Sure did.  That's what it means to be a human, and to wrestle with the day to day fears and struggles.  But I got out the door, with a bit more pep in my step to start this new week, knowing that if I can just manage the balance for the remainder of these 11 weeks I have a real shot at doing something special in the marathon this year.  And if that doesn't happen, at least I can say I laid it ALL out there and did everything in my power to ready myself for the task.  No regrets.

It IS possible.   

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Benevolently Letting Others Gawk

Patience BRO, I said to myself...

It's been a decent last 10 days or so since I raced on the 4th of July.  The foot seems to be healing but is still THERE (which is good, because I need it).  No, the oddly tight and little tender top of the foot is still THERE.  I can still run and put miles in with no discomfort, but after runs it gets a little iffy.  I'm working through it slowly and starting to ramp back up this last week.  SWEET.  Tad bit of mental mojo coming back too.  Double days, calories for miles, getting lean....Even good runs after injury symptoms feel doubtful and non-satisfying sometimes though, so it's good to have some fire back. 

Life in the Hammer Nutrition lane is going really well.  I'm loving the products and even more I'm loving the people I'm connecting with that I get to share these products WITH.  There's nothing like getting to be a part of the very beginning of people's running/athlete lives as they find themselves and latch onto the fire that they see burning in others around them.  It's intoxicating!  It's refreshing.  It's amazing.  It's good to remember what it was like when everything was new, and it's even more important to seek out that energy in yourself again.  New and REnew, err'day. 

Life in the kiddos lane is CUTE.  It's just straight up TOO cute to handle most days.  My man-ovaries are dying lately.  Exploding.  "Ess-pwoding", as my daughter would say.  These kids know more about running, exercise, and being active on a daily basis than I ever did at their age, I love that.  I love that they are into it and inquisitive and they see it around them everyday.   

"Dad, are you gonna take a WUN?  Are you?  Are you taking a WUN wight noww?? Ven why are you wearing vose WUNNING shorts and not a SHIRT onnn?".    

"Well dad is going to BBQ in these shorts because.....well... because... because they are really comfortable.. and... because daddy can wear whatever he wants to wear, right?!?  Yeah, I JUST WANT TO OK".    ..............  and it's THIS face that gets you.. EVERY. TIME.

So much of our time is spent on trying to find what is NEXT, and trying to plan for it so that whatever is next doesn't surprise us and catch us off gaurd.  We want that.  We want that control and that stability.  But there's something to be said for seeking to enjoy what is NOW, and to enjoy what is happening TODAY.  Don't get me wrong, there's a huge piece of my life that is planning/organizing/dreaming/wanting/longing.  It's who I am. 

But, that little face over there on the yoga mat is gonna be in highschool someday and I'll be wrecked if I miss out on her, and on NOW because I'm wearing my "next" blinders.  And that little protective snuggler-dude brother.... I've gotta be IN IT with them.  I can't just pray for bedtime to come quickly so I can eat an entire pizza in peace. (although thinking back to a time on JULY 14th, 2014 when that happened.... yikes.)   NO way man.  Somebody slap the crap outta me if I ever start to get that way.  These kids ARE my life.  *que Scottish Braveheart accent*  "I want ta LEVV" 

This MAY have been the most dis-joined blog post of all time, but, its what was on my mind, so pretty much DEAL WITH IT.  I mean, "Blog" stands for "Benevolently Letting Others Gawk", so, gawk away at my disjointed blog. 

Also I should probably figure out what blog really means.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Firecracker 5K - Race Report

Firecracker 5K - O'Fallon, MO
Time: 18:00 (PR, previous 18:11)
Pace: 5:48
Place: 3rd in 20-29 AG
Overall: 8th out of 1111

Wow, fun morning! I had doubts going into this one after a lackluster last 2 weeks and feeling some discomfort in a few areas of the foot/legs. I didn't know what to expect.  I've been building this whole spring towards a 5K PR and the biggest speed base I could muster going into this fall's 3:05 BQ attempt(s), and up until I started dealing with this foot issue I had been ON TRACK to hit it.   

I showed up at the Firecracker 5K in O'Fallon and got in a nice 1.5mi warm up.  My legs felt good but it's hard to tell until you really start pushing some days.  We took off at the gun and the front pack of runners I was in immediately split from the rest of the field. I felt smooth, relaxed and strong and settled in. I glanced at my current pace and we landed at right about 5:40 pace, but it felt like exactly what I needed to be doing.  I had put in mile repeats at that range earlier this spring and it felt familiar.  First mile was 5:41 and we rounded a corner and shot down a side street.

There were 3 guys running the 10K that were loping along at about 5:45 pace making it look stupid easy so I relaxed my form and tucked in behind them for a good pull up a nasty little incline. Mile 2, 5:45... my breathing was labored at this point and I was starting to really push and dig. The course went up a long slow grade at the 2.6 mile mark then turned around and came back down and onto the warning track inside the ballpark. (finish was at home plate) Mile 3, 6:03, GAH, pushing up that incline took a few seconds away. I sprinted around the warning track and down the 3rd base line as hard as I could to dip sub-18.... I thought I might have a shot at it and I could just FEEL like I was close.  I  was watching the clock all the way as I rounded the corner.... 17:56, :57...:58.. :59... I punched my watch and leaned across the mat and when I gathered myself the watch said 18:00. FLAT. EVEN. I hoped for a chip time of sub 18 but that was it.. official time 18:00.  Super stoked for a PR of 11 seconds from my high school days.  After I gathered myself I got in about 2.5 more miles of cool down back and forth to the car to get my Hammer gear on and get settled in for food and awards.

It was a real treat getting something positive out of my body, given the last few weeks.  It was such a relief to push and get a level of performance and response out of my legs and lungs that I don't often get.  The body goes in ups and downs and has aches and pains. But, it doesn't do us any good to doubt ourselves and all the work we put in. I felt strong... and I loved being out there racing at what felt like a high intensity, but still under control.  Now it's time to move forward into the next phase of training, building a bit of volume and stretching out that pace on the track to 10k and half marathon pace work.  One day at a time... eyes fixed on the fall. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

"Life, bro..."

"Life, bro..."   

I've said this approximately 467 times in the last month... to chicks, dudes, kids, doesn't matter.  It's been kind of a weird month.  My training has ramped up and I've never been MORE mentally sure of what I want and what I need to do to get it.  My body is saying, "YES PLEASE", but at the same time I've had a rough last 2 weeks with some nagging foot pain.  I think it's either tendinitis on the top section, or a small bout of metatarsalgia.  Either way, the last 10 days has been anxiety ridden and a little bit of a patience tester.  I'm back at it today, and I feel like I might be out of the woods and headed in the right direction.  One day at a time. 

I've been using this opportunity of some "down" time to put in some strength training and work on core/upper body strength.  My goal this summer is have a body that doesn't look like a 12 year old boy.  I mean, that's a reasonable goal I think, right?  Honestly, I just want to put the effort and energy I have into SOMETHING while I haven't been able to run, and strengthening my core and and upper body has been fun.  I wanna be lean.... but is '..and mean' too much to ask for?

Life outside of running is WHACK too.  Some GOOD things first though: Last week I celebrated my 7 year Anniversary with my beautiful wife, the LIGHT in my life.  What a ride it's been, and what a joy it is to have that ONE person beside you for it that you absolutely can't live a second without.  That's love people, and I am sooo lucky to have her in my corner, on my team, in my life, and entwined in all my fibers from now until forever.

The whack part of life comes when you least expect it.  Liiiiike, 1 hour before this pic was taken, wifey found out she's losing her job.  I know it will work out, and God's plan is WAY perfect, and mine sucks.... so, I'll wait for His to reveal itself.  I'm proud of my wife for the hard work she's put in over the last 10 years and I'm excited to see what comes up.  We had a day or two of attitude adjustments to make, I won't even lie about it.  I was straight up angry.  Annoyed.  Frustrated.  Short-tempered.  Short-sighted.  All of it.  It happens to everyone.  I had to be open with myself about it.  I try so hard to surround myself with only positive people who bring out the best in me and give me great perspective... but I was now feeling like the whiner, and it did NOT feel good.  I had to own it, accept it, and make a conscious choice to move forward with a better attitude.  You know what that is?  That's everyday life... bro.

A few days before she lost her job she said something that we'd realize on our Anniversary would play itself out ironically:

 "When life hands you lemons, trade those suckers in for limes and make some margaritas!"
...I'm putting salt on the rim this week.  Lookout.  It's about to get real.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Finding Fuel

The last couple weeks have been very interesting and both exhausting and exhilarating.  I'm not used to being out of my element or "down in the dumps" for very long, but after dealing with my grandmother's death last weekend in a very personal and profound way I found myself in a bit of a daze.  I was angry...but not really sure why.  I was uncharacteristically very short tempered and impatient.  I was tired, just physically and emotionally drained. 

I think I have a subconscious way of motivating myself that rarely gets challenged or disrupted.  Grief disrupts everything.  All processes that function in my mind and body on a regular basis got a red-light and it was VERY odd for me.  My mantra is "GO", and it was not translating into action.  Now being nearly a week out from that and having some closure at the funeral I've found myself reflecting on how I process the things that happen in my life.  I am used to being in control, having a plan, pushing through it... but I think there are times when I need to be ok with being a little bit emotionally out of control.  Not 'train wreck" out of control, just not gripping the reigns so tightly all the time trying to sit tall and wise in the wretchedly bumpy wagon seat of life.  

When it comes to training lately, I haven't had to dig very deep to find my next shred of motivation.  This spring has been one of the best training cycles to start the year that I've had in a long time.  Maybe it's just time, maybe I'm being more consistent, maybe it's my body maturing a bit.  I'm not entirely sure but I do know that I haven't had ANY lapses in "What's next?" motivation.  NONE.  I'm not finding myself in a place of feeling lost, and I know all too well that can easily happen. 

Taking a look deeper I think this is maybe the happiest I've been while training hard in a long time too. (The happiest just in this sport, not life in general)  I love this...I am enjoying it to the fullest every day, and the 'every day' doesn't feel like a grind.  If you're having a hard time finding your next bit of mental fuel it's time to get back to basics.  It's time to process the mountain that you've made it into and get back to that feeling of trying to hold back a smirk while you're sailing along without a care in the world.  It's time to toss the watch in the drawer, put on some tunes and legs the body get back to what they do best.  It doesn't mean to not have a plan.  Hell, I sometimes live and die by the "plan".  But I think it means that in order to feel freedom and accomplishment to the fullest during training, you have to first enjoy what you're doing, and then be ok with a deviation from that plan as necessary.  "Know thyself" isn't just some Shakespearean-blurted warm fuzzy.  It can be one of the most rewarding ways of living in the day to day push for mental and physical motivation.   

Things get in the way.  Life gets in the way.  Everyone jokes by saying, "The struggle is real" almost like a "first world problems" type tongue-in-cheek swagger, but let's be real.... the struggle IS real.  I want it to be real! I want it to be real enough that it makes me FEEL something.  If it wasn't real we'd all be jogging around at our full potential with nowhere to go and nothing to fuel us.  I have untapped potential that needs fuel every single day... life-changing, adapting, powerful adrenaline-inducing fuel. 

We can't stop pushing to find what fuels us or we will become a mere shell of ourselves, and the winds of "whatever" will be overjoyed to wisk us away into a numb oblivion. 


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I'm back... with a vengeance

Well hello there.  It's been a while... nearly 4 years, exactly ;)  I haven't been very prolific in this blog world but that's about to change.  A lot has happened in my life over the last few years, so instead of spending gobs of time rehashing every step I took to get here, allow me to summarize for your reading pleasure:

Highlights from my last 4 years:

  • -Well, I'm still running hard, training hard, racing, trying to qualify for Boston (hence the blog name) and generally more hungry than ever to improve and to be competitive in the sport!  Running, CHECK.
  • -This year I got sponsored by Hammer Nutrition and I'm PUMPED to be on their team.

  • -I have two lovely young children.  Isaac is now 5, tall and skinny (like his daddy) and Ava is 2 and energetic! 
  • I've switched jobs twice, and now currently I'm happily employed at the Four Seasons Hotel here in St. Louis as Purchasing Manager, and doing a variety of things. 
  • Still living in St. Louis, still in Valley Park, still working on my house and trying to be a manly-man-fix-it-boy.  Still failing at one of those things.
  • I've been fairly consistent on Twitter and Facebook and have enjoyed working with different groups of newbie runners in training for various races. (Love the first-timers especially!) 
  • I eat a lot of cheddar brats and I enjoy a sudsy brew on the regular....CARBS. 
Ok, well that about does it... you're officially caught up and now a semi-expert on my life. This was just a little swan dive back into the blog-o-sphere so I will do much better in the near future about putting out updates and generally more well-written pieces.  I love to write and in all seriousness I hope whatever I write finds a way to fuel you and encourage you. 

Plain and simple.