Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Competitve Tourist

The Boston Marathon was held yesterday, Monday April 21, 2014 otherwise known as Patriot's Day.  Thoughts, good wishes and a safe trip abound all over the country, the world and the Internet.  The coverage was not exclusive to the marathon but included so much more, the victims and stories from last year, the people of Boston (Bostonians), and the resiliency of the city itself.  I like to think it served as a subtle reminder to all runners that whenever you sign up to compete in a "destination race" please try to absorb and enjoy the "destination!"
In my own athletic career (even in casual travels) I have lost focus on where I was, what I was seeing or what I was experiencing.  I would lock myself in a hotel room, eat and rest until race time....race....return back to the room to recover then travel home.  My life in the ultra community has changed that, certainly people in my inner circle have been major influences as well (Heather, Jeff K, Dr. T and Tracy). 
In Raleigh, North Carolina at Umstead (my first 100 miler) racers and crews had an aura of one big family running 100 miles.  Everyone flashed a smile, shouted words of encouragement and made you feel like you were running around at home.  How did we experience Raleigh?  We walked around Duke University (crashed a luncheon on Coach K's court), UNC (Michael Jordan memorabilia) and feasted once before and twice after the race at The Pit.  Hands down, Big Ed Mitchell BEST BBQ EVER!!!!!!
In Phoenix, after the Javelina Jundred we had dinner out at Roy's Hawaiian restaurant with drinks under the desert sky.  The following day, we walked around Scottsdale to shake out my legs, just make sure you get away from race headquarters in the middle of the desert after a torrential storm and bitter nighttime cold.  On the way to the airport, wait for it....wait... In-n-Out Burger!  We don't have any in the Midwest but I love that place and after 100 miles nothing is better, I mean NOTHING than a 4x4 with fries.  

During the Keys 100, rain was a constant companion.  Don't let the state motto fool you, it is NOT the Sunshine state.  But after that finish, my choice of dinner was a grilled grouper sandwich with a Key Lime pie dessert-mmm mmmm!  It's always a good thing to surprise your support crew with a day of swimming....with dolphins.  They sit around for hours waiting to support you for a few minutes and repeat and repeat and repeat.
  There will be other races.  There will be plenty of chances to record a PR.  You don't have to stop during a race but be in the moment, know how lucky you are to be running in an event in another city, state or country.  In the end remember to take a look around, enjoy where you are, who is with you and savor the memories.
This week is a trial week.  I am fighting a tweaky left knee, so I will back down the mileage and have made an appointment to see a doctor.  That only means more time in the pool and on the bicycle.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Network of Support

Any athlete worth their salt will tell you, they didn't make or couldn't have made it to where they are without the support of others.  It may be family, could be friends or a stranger with encouraging words, support is key to keep an athlete engaged and moving towards their goal.  Thoughts occurred to me this week that made me want to blog about them.
I have a network of support in my world, both personally and athletically.    
Derek, a friend of mine in the athletic world asked me to be a Brand Ambassador for the company he represents, CW-X. In all of my races, I have worn CW-X bottoms and Derek has graciously supplied them to me. Imagine K T tape sewn inside compression bottoms and the support and stability it provides, perfect for me. Support for my legs, stability for my knees and support from my friend.  Thank you Derek. 
In my athletic world, there are groups within groups that provide support and stability.  As you work your way deeper into my network, each group adds to the characteristics of the preceding group. The outer group asks what I am doing, when are the races, how I am feeling and wishes me good luck.  One group inside of them is made up friends that understand endurance sports. They are participants at races, some work in the industry and know the rigors of training for events. We trade war stories, we see each other out on the trails and we follow each other's progress and check results online.  Dig a little deeper and you will find my active supporters.  Here you will find phrases like, "I'll be out there cheering for you", "I'd love to pace you" or "put me down for your crew."  These are friends that want to see what an ultra is all about because they are 80% committed to signing up for one but (secretly I believe) just need the nudge to compete in one. Coach Melissa, Katie, Darren and Tim - I cannot wait to toe the starting line with you and support you in your endeavors.  Finally what I call, "my inner circle" of support.  It is made up of my crew and pacers. During my races, they have see me at my worst and best.  They have quietly listened to me explode early in a race, encouraged me at low points and celebrated with me crossing the finish line. Darnell, or as I call him Darn Elk.  A coach of many, statuesque and proud like an elk and even rode his bicycle alongside of me in my very first ultra.  Tracy, the "mother role" of the group.  She does log training and racing miles with me but always has the supportive smile, attitude and the "magic backpack of whatever you need."  The Drs. Black, Tracy and Richard have reworked plans to crew and pace me at races.  Even staying up through the night when they couldn't make it, to monitor my progress and offer advice to keep me going. Thank you Dr. T for watermelon, it's liquid fruit gold for me during an ultra and also for slogging through a torrential desert rainstorm for 30ish miles.  Swamp foot anyone?  Jeff K. He is my coach, friend, crew and pacer.  Here's how to sum up Jeffrey, "what do you need? I got it for you. Whatever it takes, whatever you need."  His famous phrase to me is, "if you have to walk, walk with a purpose."  Heather, the brains of the operation.  Crew chief extraordinaire!  Heather makes everything work, has whatever I need, whenever I need it and always is in my corner. She let's me focus on training and racing and even packs and plans for the rest of the crew to be taken care of and have all of their needs met. Heather runs the whole show.  I would also like to thank the spouses and significant others of my network.  My crew by supporting me means I am taking them away from their families and loved ones.  I do understand and appreciate that, Thank You.
Bottom line is all of my success in the ultra community is due to the support of others.  Whether you are training for your first 5K or you are a grizzly marathon veteran, say "Thank You."  Whatever group you land in or groups you have it is important to realize you have support and couldn't be where you are without it. 

This week's workout schedule is as follows:
Sunday - 2 hour long run
Monday - 1 hour tempo run
Tuesday - Swimming
Wednesday - Speed workout
Thursday - Rest day
Friday - 1 hour tempo run
Saturday - 3 hour long run
For me, it's not about miles covered but time on my feet.  The weekend runs I usually try to complete within a 24 hour period then really push my tired legs on Monday.  As training builds, runs will become longer in time duration on the weekends and be tailored for the courses of each race. 


Sunday, April 6, 2014

100 Miles of Therapy

How much have you paid for an hour of therapy?  Physical therapy?  Psycho therapy?  Massage therapy?  The costs range from affordable to "you paid how much?"  I consider running to be "my time....me time."  I don't listen to music, usually run by myself (especially during obtuse training hours) to solve a problem, to clear my mind and collect my thoughts.  During this week's runs, I gathered my thoughts for this entry.  When people ask what I think about or what my mantra is during these races, I sum it up with this phrase, "How much more can I take mentally when I have nothing left physically." 
It has taken quite a number of years and many sessions IN therapy to talk about much less write and blog about it.  For much of my childhood my father (hence forth known as my mother's husband) was an unemployed alcoholic abusive monster.  Many days coming home from school, I was afraid to open the door, afraid of who lurked on the other side.  Was he sleeping?  drunk?  passed out?  angry? or a ticking time bomb waiting for me to announce I was home?  It varied day to day, minute to minute.  Battles ensued between the two of us.  He would chase me room to room and around the house or the around the yard.  Being 6 foot 2 and 240 plus pounds with a long reach he had the edge on his second son, 4 foot nothin' and barely 70 pounds.  I won't give you full details but you can imagine when caught I was a rag doll that took the blunt end of cabinets, counters, washing machines, tools, wooden boards, leather belts and if nothing was in reach a fist would do. 
It was our own Broadway drama, starring my mother's husband as the abusive monster, my mother as abused victim number one, all three children as victims two, three and four.  When the curtain came up, the parents were engaged in a screaming, swearing hand to hand battle.  My older brother's role was to take my younger sister to another room where she couldn't see what she could hear.  My role was to step in for my mother while she decided who to call or where to take us.  Every time I was knocked down I got up for more.  I thought to myself, "he can't win, he'll never win.  Get up, drag yourself up.  Whatever he can dish out, you can take."  Over the years, the scenery changed but the plot remained the same.  Being kicked out of two houses, having to split the bills with my mother and paying for numerous expenses a high school student shouldn't have to pay I stepped into professional therapy.  My brother married, moved out and started his life and my sister went off to college and the Peace Corps hoping to get away as far as possible.  I stayed at home until I was in my late twenties partly because I didn't have the money to move out and partly to protect my mother, the battles still occurred just not as frequently. 
I didn't take my first drink until I was in my mid twenties.  Married in my late twenties and divorced several years later.  I had/have issues and trust me, I am always working on them.  Running keeps me grounded.  Running keeps me sane.  You might say I am running away from something, you might say I am running towards something but as of right now I run for me and my time.  There is something utterly relaxing about hearing the rhythmic patter of my feet, my breath and my heartbeat. 
Could it be I am running from a demon, a ghost or trying to win a battle I am incapable of winning?