Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Knowing When...

I think it's about knowing when to push, when to pull, and when to just hold on. - me

I ran 20 miles on Saturday.  Well, almost.  Closer to 19.  It was freezing outside and there was snow falling for most of the race, blizzard conditions for the last few miles and wicked heads winds on the way back in to the finish.   When we started it was dark out and we were on a trail that seemed to lead nowhere.  Did I mention I have mono and my joints were already swollen before I took a step?  So, my pace was slower than I am happy with and I was passed by so many runners that on a normal day I would have smoked.  Oh, and this was my longest training run I'd taken... in years actually and I was in the worst physical condition I had been in for probably two years.  Most of my friends and family were trying to talk me out of it and were telling me it wasn't smart, that I was pushing too hard, that I was going to get hurt. Miles 18 and 19 were the two most painful miles I have ever experienced as a runner.  Tear-inducing awful and painful, the kind of pain that led me to shut it down... my joints were so swollen it was nearly impossible for me to bend my knees.  I had a hard time supporting my body weight and I was feverish when I finished and got in the car to head home the sting of not finishing the last mile adding to the defeat and disappointment of the day.  I had not finished what I set out to do.  My body did not perform, I was slow, and I was angry that so many things were working against me. I had to wear flip flops the rest of the day because my feet were too swollen for my shoes to fit.  The next day would be hard, I'd be sore and I'd be lucky to get in good training miles for days.
 
That's one way to start this post.  Here's take two...

I ran 20 miles on Saturday. Well, almost. Closer to 19. I was with friends and the trail was in perfect condition.  Not too wet or too dry so dust wouldn't get kicked up in our faces as we ran and goopy mud wouldn't slow us down. Did I mention I have mono and my joints were already swollen before I took a step but I was going to take as much as my body would give me. Oh, and this was my longest training run I'd taken... in years actually. My friends and family didn't understand why I did it and they cared enough to want me to rest, but relented when I persisted.  The first 18 miles were beautiful, starting off in the early hours, deer on the trail, 7 miles down in the blink of an eye and 10 more with 1000 other trail runners who my good friend and running partner, Jim Collison and I often engaged in conversation and often the quiet trail was interrupted by our laughter. Admittedly, miles 18 and 19 were hard and painful and forced me to shut down before hitting the goal of 20 miles, but on a cold day with swollen joints, a weak body, mental blocks, and frustrations I ran 19 miles.  I had not finished what I set out to do, but I did more than I should have realistically expected.  My body did not perform as I would have liked, and I was disappointed that so many things were working against me but despite all that I had 19 miles in the books and before noon.  After ice, Ibuprofen, a restorative lunch with a friend, a birthday party for my nephew who just turned one and a quick nap I went out dancing with Brad and Kim - two of my best friends.  I wore flip flops with my jeans and rocked out for two hours on the dance floor. A nearly perfect Saturday.  Sunday I'd take the day off and Monday I'd hit the track and log another 6+ miles.

Perspective changes everything.  You have to decide how your story will be told and if that story will add or take away from your life's purpose and meaning.  My training run was mostly wonderful capitalized by some acute moments of intensity and pain that can easily be forgotten, dismissed, foregone in the broader spectrum. Sometimes you have to push yourself forward, or push obstacles or clutter aside even when you don't want to because forward is the only direction and  pushing is how to get there.  Sometimes the push is pushing back, standing up for yourself and what you want. Sometimes you have to pull yourself out, of negative thinking of situations or relationships when all you want to do is to stay in where it's safe, where its familiar but pull anyway because out is where your life really happens.  Sometimes you have to pull away or pull back.  But the idea is that you know it's time.  Sometimes you just have to hold on... to anything you can wrap your arms around even if it is a belief or a spark of something that cannot be extinguished because you have to carry on.  Sometimes you have to do all three at the same time.  For me on Saturday morning that was for about 19 miles or so... and then it was just time to go dancing in flip flops...