Sunday, January 30, 2011

"To the Victor Go the Spoils"

A friend posted a link to the 1971 US National Championships 3 mile race the other day in observance of Steve Prefontaine's 60th birthday. For those of you who aren't running nerds, like me, Pre was a legendary runner from Oregon who boasted "A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run it to see who has the most guts." Below is the you tube video of the 3 mile race, run in an astonishing 12:58.6, & won by the gutsiest guy of the bunch. (Watch it, it's awesome. It's also not the whole race so don't think you have to watch guys run in circles for almost 13 whole minutes).

Several things crossed my mind while watching that video clip:

     1) I would be thrilled to run the 2 mile in that time.

     2) My right arm moves in an almost identical way as Pre's when I run.

     3) How bad do I want it?

They said Pre was favored to win, but a lot of those guys were holding their own with him up until the final yards. You had that gutsy move by Stageberg, surging past Pre for just a moment, the guys playing off each other, & then ultimately Pre overtakes him for the win. You have a bunch of guys running out front, guys with similar ability, & yet there can only be one winner. Who determines that? I think it was already decided before the race began. A champion is a champion long before he ever sets foot on the track (my brilliant husband told me that, but it had something to do with wrestling). He who wants it the most will have the guts to do what it takes.

This can apply to a runner of any ability. I know that I can't compete at an Olympic level, but I can still compete against myself. I know all my numbers & I know what I need to do to improve them, but how bad do I want it? That's what it comes down to. Anyone can set a goal of, say "I want to run the Chicago Marathon this year," but do you really want it? Do you want it badly enough to train for 16 weeks, lay it all on the line, give it everything you've got... This is actually the question I've been faced with. Tuesday is the registration date for Chicago, & I keep thinking I should run it. Right now, however, marathon is not my best friend. Right now, I just can't imagine... But these races fill so quickly that I feel the need to sign up, even though I may not even want to run it when we get right down to it. I know myself, too. I'll think that because I've registered that I have to do it, & I will, but right now my heart just isn't in it. I have a lot of other big goals this year with triathlon, cycling... Not that I can't squeeze a marathon in, but 26.2 miles is a long way to run if you don't really want it.

When I go out to a race, I'm not there to wear a tutu & glitter & goof around. That stuff all has it's place, so no hate-mail please :) But I am usually there to accomplish a goal. I come well-trained & prepared, & though I may not be able to compete at that high level, I am still there to compete against myself & to run my best race possible. I know that isn't the goal of every runner on race day, & that's perfectly fine. No harm in having a little fun. No matter what your ability, we can all strive to be our very best as long as we really want it.

**See below: I'm about to beat the pants off an old man. That's what I'm talking about ;)

Running is a total mental game. Race day hurts. It's hard. Your brain tells you to stop. That you can't do it. That you'll get injured. I think what Pre was talking about when he referred to his "guts" was the ability to fight through the pain & the head games & go out there to do what he came to do: WIN. I wonder if that's something he learned to do, or something that was just in him. Sometimes I think I could run a lot faster if I wasn't such a head case myself. Each time I push through my own mental weaknesses, I have victory over myself, & gain confidence & fitness. The mind is a powerful thing... Maybe one day I will want the marathon badly enough to go after it again. To hunt it down & not let up, no matter what happens during that long 26.2 mile trek. When I want it, I'll know... & there will be no stopping me.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Combat Baby

After going to church this morning with the kids, making lunch, & getting a few things done around the house I realized that I would have to lug the laundry over to dad's house before going to the gym to get on the spin bike. I dreaded both of those things because, well, I would like the convenience of doing laundry here in my own home, & I would rather be out seeing the beautiful countryside on the saddle of my own bicycle than in a dark room at the gym going nowhere, fast. Happy to have these options, as opposed to a washboard & clothesline &/or no bike at all, I set off. It's dangerous, sometimes, for me to have this much alone time because I start to think... ... ... this was no exception. I went looking for a towel at dad's house & was sidetracked by my great-grandmother's beautifully handmade afghans: one of which I hijacked - don't tell my dad ;) I stumbled upon some old photos too.

Photos of me playing with my little brother & cousins, photos of me at the zoo, photos of me in pigtails eating a Popsicle in my underwear on the front porch, Halloween photos, picnics & birthdays & Sunday dinner at grandmas...

Young, carefree, & completely unaware of what it means to have responsibilities, deadlines, obligations, errands, bills, bills, & more bills. I also saw a lot of photos of my grandma, great-grandma, my mom... Strong, wonderful women that I looked up to & wanted to be like, one day. I was very reflective about all of these things as I clipped my shoes onto the spin bike & started riding. Started thinking about all the things that have been happening in our lives, all the added stress... & I felt extreme happiness. I have my health, a roof (well, um, sort of), & my family.

Here's a photo of me today on the spin bike. Grown up Kerrie, alone in a dark room, spinning on a bike for hours on end & headed nowhere. Cynical, jaded... But this isn't what my kids will see years from now when they look through family photos. They'll see photos of them running through the sprinklers, photos of them at the carnival, birthdays, picnics, barbeques, sparklers on the fourth of July... & photos of my mother, grandmother, & even ME. Strong women that they want to be like.

I realized today that I have a lot to be thankful for. One of the greatest things I have right now that I can reach for, when everything else seems to be falling apart, is running (or just endurance sport, in general). Even through all that has been facing us in these last few weeks, I still have running. For just a moment in time I can still be that little girl: carefree, unaware of responsibilities, deadlines, obligations, errands, bills, bills, & even more bills. I can achieve, I can get stronger, I can push myself, & I can just plain have fun. I'm so blessed & lucky to be able to do these things. So many of us are laden with obligation & responsibility, leaving little time for ourselves. It's not only fun, but necessary to step out of those roles for just a moment & just. be. you. Even though things seem to be crumbling around us, it's important to hold on to those mainstays so we don't lose sight of the big picture & what we are trying to ultimately accomplish.

One day, when I'm an old lady, I'll have all those race day photos. I'll think about how young, strong, & carefree I looked. I don't want to have any regrets, so I will try to always remember this advice to myself: whatever it is that's important to you in life, do those things regardless of what else may be going on. Things will eventually fall into place. You just have to fight through it. With that being said, even though my house is a complete disaster, I'm headed to make a pot of homemade soup with the kids, followed by a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

Props to Metric for giving me the idea for the title. Great album to listen to on the spin bike, by the way.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Life Ruins All of Our Best Plans

The New Year has brought many challenges to our household so far, beginning with our house being struck by a tornado on the morning of New Year's Eve. No one was hurt, so we really have nothing to complain about, but we were all home at the time & were very surprised to emerge from the basement to find that our porch, along with a nice portion of the roof, had been taken off. Trees were down all over the neighborhood, along with miscellaneous "stuff" strewn all over the yards. It was absolutely surreal. A lot of people, though not in my neighborhood, lost their entire house so we really have nothing to complain about: just a minor inconvenience. We still don't have a roof, & snow-melt has started to leak through the ceiling into my oldest daughter's room, but materials were delivered on Friday & I was told that they would start working on Monday or Tuesday. I can't wait!!!

Promptly on Monday, my son fell & hit his head requiring a staple, my younger daughter got a double ear infection that also infected her eyes, & my washing machine broke. Then it snowed. Currently I'm taking the laundry either to the laundromat across the street or to my dad's house... in the snow. Five people sure do create a lot of laundry! My husband is doing his best to trouble shoot & try to get the machine up & running again, but the poor guy is always at work. On top of all that we have had tragedy strike a close family member, & we are helping to deal with that.

Then this little fur ball showed up in my garage & I had quite a time finding his owners. He spent the day, & night, with us & was gone by the next morning, but it felt like he was with us for a week. Minor inconvenience. 

What does this have to do with running, you ask? Everything. We are all extremely stressed out & finding it hard to do all of the things we know we need to do to maintain our sanity in the midst of this most-inconvenient stretch of life we have been dealt. Things that were routine have now taken a backseat to things that are now facing us.

I had all these "plans" for January. Plans to strengthen & stretch, to spin, to swim, to run a little... My efforts have been sub-par, at best. But this is life. We have to deal with it as it comes at us, & even though training has not met my specifications, I'm still doing "something". Upon running with my much speedier friends at the social run, I discovered that I've lost some running fitness. It happens. One exciting thing is that I now have a brand new pair of running shoes!!! :) :) :) While my body & mind needed a few weeks to just chill, I am definitely ready to start ramping back up again. Very excited to put my new little shoes to the test. I switched from Nike Pegasus to the New Balance 759's, which are a firmer shoe, & so far they fit me very nicely. I can't wait to get out there & check them out. I've never run in New Balance before, so I'm pretty stoked.

I also got my hair cut. I don't exactly love it, but it needed to happen. Per usual, my hairstylist scolded me for not putting my hair up when I run (most of the time) & pointed out all the breakage, etc... yeah, yeah, yeah, get on with it... What can I say? It gives me a headache! This will at least be easier to deal with, & tri season is just around the corner. Needless to say, I need to get to the gym...