Sunday, June 07, 2015

Inspiration

I'm inspired. Well at least I'm trying to be. Between now at the TARC Summer Classic 50k, the race which marks my 1 year anniversary into the world of trail ultras, I will be penning my thoughts, those things that flow so freely one the trails, in this blog.  There will be no training plan, no calendar of workouts for someone to load into an app. Rather there will be a record of my activities, and a longer weekly post related to general thoughts. Lots of short posts with the "whats" of the training week, along with the occasional longer one explaining the "why". My hope is that readers, especially those looking to find something in themselves to reinvigorate their running, might see familiar patterns and recognizable thoughts. And as patterns emerge, perhaps the industrious ones might even try to shape their own training behaviors in a similar manner. Who knows.

So as a way to kick it off, let me share some a I've had over time, the one that led me from a burnt out triathlete back to a happy and healthy runner.

Rewiring your brain

Running well does not equal running fast. Running well is running efficiently. It's enjoying the running. It's understand that running enhances your life. I am a long time athlete, and over the years the obsession has become times, splits, heart rate, heart zones, time in zone, periodization, blocks, macrocycles, mesocycles, microcycles, leading to placing and podiums. I'm moderately talented, so these were not pipe dreams. They were and are things that really happen. And they are addictive. I've never really experienced the "yeah I got my win, so now I can slow down and enjoy things." It's a cruel master you are serving when you become strictly results oriented because you will lose. It's not an if, but a when. And as you struggle to fight that which you know is inevitable, it becomes work not play. And you get tired. And cranky. And angry. And difficult. And injured. And done.

It was not always this way. As a kid I loved to run. I couldn't drive until 16, and couldn't ride a bike until age 10, so how did I get out of my neighborhood and explore? On foot. And they were great adventures, and the reward was in the doing. Last May I did Ragnar Cape Cod with a group of strangers. It was not a fast team. But it was awesome. For the first time in decades the act of doing was all that was required for happiness. That moment set me on this current course. And the first and most important step along this course was the realization that I needed to rewire my brain. Slow down. Go as slow as possible, and then slow down some more. Stop. Walk. Take pictures.  If you're a life long competitor this is the hardest part of the transformation. It takes a very long time and it is so easy to fool yourself and backslide.  My first ultra embodied the struggle. As slowly and methodically as I had been training, once the race started I took off like a shot. It wasn't until mile 8 or so when the running gods slapped the sh-t out of me by sending me sprawling and bloody to the ground that I got the message. Slow your a-- down. Look at your feet. If you don't watch the ground you'll end up on it. It's a life analogy really. Nothing good comes out of looking too far ahead. Pay attention to where you are and live the moment. And NEVER turn around and look behind you. Never unless you are coming to a full stop on top of a mountain and simply wish to savor how far you've come.

This is how I started. I will slow down. I must slow down. I must forget speed entirely. If it comes back eventually (*spoiler alert, there have been random speed sightings recently) it is not because I am training for speed, but because I love being outside and moving and am doing so with a moderate amount of frequency and a bit of purpose.