Monthly Archives: May 2012

Inspiration

My friends at Run The Edge sent a little something my way. I thought I’d share it.

Every now and then we all need a little inspiration. I have several friends working on their first 5k. I have a few more working on new PR’s for triathlons, one working on knocking out a century bike ride, and a few nutters doing various marathon work. While we are all different classes of athlete, I think it’s safe to say we can all find inspiration in this one.

Think about this as you’re doing your next event. You’ll see someone struggle. A simple word of encouragement might be the difference between a “personal first” and a “DNF.”

I won’t talk around it any more because there simply isn’t any more to add. Click away…

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start”
-John Bingham

Until next time, don’t let the fat man catch you.

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Motivation

Yes. Motivation. Again. Or still. Shut up and read.

To this day I do not consider myself a runner. I do, however, consider myself a competitor.

I learned about being a competitor playing hockey in Jr. High. I learned that not every takes the game as seriously as I did. Not everyone was willing to do whatever it took to win a game. And sometimes, those people were some of the best on the team. (Over the years I’ve learned this is OK. But at the time it drove me nuts.)

There are at least two parts to being a competitor. The first is motivation. The second is some instinctual drive. Oddly enough, lots of people seem to have one, but not the other.

Me? I have lots of that instinctual drive. I want to be the best. It’s everywhere in my life. Playing CandyLand with the kids it comes out. Cards with Grandma it comes out. Playing Backgammon with my phone… Everything is a race. Everything is a contest. If there’s a score board or a time clock, look out.

But it gets old. My motivation goes away. And then I just start going through the paces. I still get upset when I lose. I still want to win. It just… isn’t worth fighting for sometimes.

This spring has been tough on me. I let myself go a bit over the winter. I weigh more than I should. I’ve been eating junk. I haven’t been exercising properly. There are no excuses. Yes, I let myself get caught up in work and neglected to take care of myself. But I think I might have needed the break. And now, I’m back into it. I’m gathering my motivation. I’m setting out to build a plan.

I’m going to take control of myself. I’m going to get my body back in shape. I’m going to eat better. And I’m going to become a better runner.

I’m not playing hockey this summer, so I’m going to run. So far I’ve done three races this spring. It’s safe to say none of the three went as planned. But they all had one thing in common. They let me taste that inner drive again.

And I want more.

Feeling this drive while running is still pretty new to me. I’ve only felt it a few times. The first was my last JV cross country race in high school. It was a weird feeling. I recognized it from playing hockey, but I wasn’t supposed to feel it running. I didn’t feel that drive while running again until about 18 years later. It was nearing the end of my first marathon. I should know exactly where in the race, but to be honest, the last eight miles or so are just a blur in my mind. But I was at a water station – my plan was to walk through the aid stations, this time I stopped to top off my water bottle. My mind was working. I knew it was late in the course. My cloudy mind was trying to figure out if it was time for more Gu, more salt tabs, or just plain water. The thoughts were all confusing because my brain and body were trashed from the abuse so far. I managed to ask the volunteer working the table how many miles I had left to go. I don’t even remember the answer. But whatever she said, it calmed my mind. I was able to center myself. I knew how long it was going to take to finish.

So I started running again.

And the inner drive came out. Something inside me set the pace and kept me moving. I crested a ridge and knew the end was near. I rounded a bend and I could see the clock. It was a ways off, and I was amazed I could actually make out numbers. I saw the clock flip over to the next minute. And that’s when that inner drive took over. I was going to make it to that finish line before this minute was up. After four hours and twenty some minutes of pounding that inner drive took over my legs, my lungs, and my heart and set them all in motion. Each moving faster in conjunction with the other. And I made it.

Now, this was my first marathon. I had only two goals: 1) Reach the start line healthy and not over trained. 2) Finish under my own power. My training runs gave me some idea about what to expect time wise, but there was no time goal in mind. At least until I saw the clock. I didn’t need to pick up and go. I would have been well within my expected finish window if I hadn’t.

But I’m a competitor. That day it was me and the clock for the final stretch. And I won. What did I win? I won a severely cramped hamstring. A cheap finishers medal that I have since misplaced. I have a t-shirt. The free beer and pizza didn’t even taste all that good. But I reveled in them. Because I won. When my mind and body were done, that inner drive took over and set a goal, and sent me in to beat it. And I was powerless to stand up for myself. Any sane person would have said, “Hey, listen self, you just ran 26-some-odd miles. There’s no point sprinting this last piece. It’s not going to matter.”

Fact is, it didn’t matter. But I’m a competitor. I have to compete.

This is getting long. Let me attempt to wrap up. I seem to have found my motivation again. This time that motivation is that inner me. The one that will drive hard the last stretch of a marathon that means nothing. That inner driver makes me feel incredible. I’ve felt it at some point in all three of my races so far this year. Once at the start. Once at the finish. And once as I was working through the combined pain of a broken toe (broken before the race started) and intestinal cramps.

I think as a species we all have some of that competitor in us. We have to. At some point it is needed for basic survival.

I urge all my readers to find their inner driver. Find your competitor. And feed that beast.

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Gotta be the shoes!

A couple times each year I break down and buy a new set of running shoes. Inevitably, I have the following conversation:

Person – Hey, are those new shoes?
Me – Yes they are.
Person – What are they?
Me – They’re shoes…
Person – Do you like them? Maybe I’ll try a pair out.

On the surface, it’s a pretty normal conversation. I understand that some people really get into shoes. Personally, I view running shoes as a consumable tool. Part of that has to do with the fact that my runs almost always include trying – and usually failing – to avoid that big pile of elk poo spread out all over the trail. It’s really hard to care too much about something covered in poo.

But with running shoes it’s different. On the odd occasion I get to actually speak with someone about running shoes the discussion is much different. The discussion usually starts about the same. But I get to ask some important questions. Things like, what kind of running do you do? What complaints do you have about your current shoes? What sort of distances do you run when you train? Where do you run?

Do you know why there are so many different kinds of running shoes on the market? Because the answers to all those questions are different for each of us. Add in the various stride correcting shoes and the different combinations of choices are simply astounding.

Thus, when people ask what the best shoe for them might be, my answer is simple – the one that works best for your foot, your stride, and your environment. Frankly, I have a funny stride, I run “crazy” terrain and distances, and I have no real concept of looking good while working out. If my shoes happen to fit you and what you do we should probably submit to a DNA test to see if we are related.

But people are lazy. They hope to find the perfect shoe. The shoe that will enable them to meet their goals without putting in the miles, the sweat, the hard work.

But I’m here to tell you that isn’t going to happen.

Some of the “best” runners in the world do it barefoot. Or nearly barefoot. It’s the new craze you see – barefoot running while wearing shoes. All the major brands make “barefoot like” shoes. Vibram and Fila even make a slipper thing that makes it look like you don’t have shoes on at all.

The conclusion? It isn’t the shoes. It’s the person filling the shoes.

Now that isn’t to say a good pair of shoes won’t help you along. A good pair of shoes will help keep you healthy while you train. (Yes, there are a lot of assumptions there. Let’s not get too deep for the moment.) A good shoe will protect your foot. A good shoe will make it easier for you to get to your goals faster. A good shoe won’t hurt your knees or other body parts.

But, it’s the brain hovering a few feet above the shoes, and heart a foot or so lower than the brain that really drives the shoes and makes them work. It’s the brain and heart that move the legs. The brain and heart that decided to buy the shoes. The brain and heart that decided to go for a run today. The brain and heart that decide to push longer. The brain and heart that decide to push harder up that hill…

I encourage everyone to find “their” shoe. A trip to a true running shoe store is a wonderful thing. There are treadmills. Other runners. People to speak with that know more about shoes than you and I could ever hope to remember. And you get to try them on. And you get to run. (Sure, it’s usually on a treadmill, but it beats not running, right?)

And if you want to try the barefoot thing – go for it! Just go for it slowly and do the research and know what you’re in for.

What are my current shoes you may ask? Since this is the end of the post and not the beginning, I’m happy to share.

I wear these newtons. How I got to those shoes is a fairly long and drawn out story. It involves several hundred miles of running. Several “mistake shoes”. At least one lost toe nail. And visiting multiple shoe stores, talking to multiple people, having people evaluate my stride, evaluating my own stride, and simply learning about my body.

Tomorrow I go to look for new shoes. There’s a good chance I’ll end up in a pair just like the ones linked above. My only complaint is – after about 500 miles they’re pretty beat up and broke down. But I’ll be going to a good shop with staff that understand running, and will understand my stride when they see it. Maybe something new has hit the market that will fit what I’m doing. If so, I’ll consider it. I’ll try it on. I’ll hit the treadmill. And I’ll make a decision based on what feels good.

Until next time, don’t let the fat man catch you.

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