Sunday, 20 March 2016

Reframing: Turning Excuses into Reasons Why

What a great week of running!  This was a down week for me, which meant easy shorter runs to allow my body to absorb all the training of the last few weeks and rebuild stronger for the weeks ahead.  I honestly didn't feel the need for recovery this week though - I have been feeling great and am finding my pace is picking up nicely now that the paths are dry and I'm not wearing 10 lbs of clothing with each run!

Several things have made me pause to think over the past few days. Today was the Comox Valley Half Marathon, a race that I have done many years since 2005, with the exception of the years that I was 8.9 months pregnant.  I missed being there this year, seeing familiar faces and running a very familiar route that I hold my 1/2 PR on.

CV1/2 - 2006
CV 1/2 - 2014
After my run this morning, RunKeeper told me that I had just finished my 800th run since I first started keeping track in March of 2012.  I have recorded 5, 045 miles of running since that time, and have run many more miles that I haven't recorded.  It amazes me how it all adds up over time, and it amazes me even more that I haven't gotten sick of running yet.  The more I run, the more I want to run, and the more grateful I am that I can.

When I was 15, my brother (age 13) had a tragic dirt bike accident, which left him with a complete spinal cord injury below T4, punctured lung, ruptured spleen, fractured ribs, humerus, femur, and spine.  He came very close to not making it, and had a very long recovery.  A few weeks after his accident I began try-outs for an acrobatic gymnastics team that I had dreamed about joining for most of my adolescent and teenage years. I trained hard - very hard, and after the month of try-outs was over I found out I had made the team.  Instead of celebrating, I remember feeling so very guilty.  My brother was in a hospital bed and couldn't even wiggle his big toe, and I was being given the opportunity to learn to perform in ways I had only dreamed possible.

I remember speaking with him on the phone one day in the fall of 1992.  I don't remember our exact words, but in essence I had expressed my hesitation at joining the team because I was feeling guilty that he was so sick and I was training so hard.  He told me that I should not use him as an excuse - that I should use his disability as my REASON.  I don't know if he knew the impact of his words that day, but I still draw on the strength and wisdom he exhibited during that conversation, and in the challenge that he gave me that day.  To be grateful for my physical abilities and health, and to honour them as the reason for staying active.  Now I feel shame for NOT being active regularly - because there are so many people that can't be.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.  Proverbs 27:17

My brother and I, having fun with my Jeep (2005)
On Friday I gave a short presentation to a group of teachers about self care from a physiotherapy perspective as part of their Wellness Inservice Day activities.  During that talk, I spoke about the reasons we should take care of our physical health and exercise, as well as the reasons why we don't.  As I spoke, I realized I was turning all the reasons we brainstormed as barriers to wellness into reasons why we should take the time for self care.
Two salesmen were sent to Africa to sell shoes.  One said, "what a horrible idea, no one here wears shoes."  The other said, "what a great opportunity, no one here wears shoes!"
Do you have excuses that you can reframe to motivate you?  If you don't have energy to exercise, do it because it gives you more energy.  I am often asked how I can possibly have so much energy seeing as I run so much.  I reply that it is because I run so much that I have so much energy. If you don't have time to exercise, do it because the increased focus and concentration you gain improves efficiency which creates more time in your day.  If you have pain that makes it hard to exercise, do it in a modified way to strengthen and lengthen your body to decrease the pain.  If you are self conscious about your body, do it so that you gain self-esteem and can have pride in yourself and your accomplishments.  Even those who can't do very much often push themselves to do what they can and celebrate even the tiniest of accomplishments.  These people are my heroes.

I spend a lot of time examining my WHY. I can list dozens of reasons why I run, and these have evolved over time. But the fundamental reason, the foundation that all the others are built on, is simply that I can.  I learned very young that one should NEVER take health for granted, and to waste the gift is...a waste.

NB: My brother is now a successful financial analyst and business executive for TAQA oil in Abu Dhabi.  He has not let his disability limit his potential.  He struggles with unimaginable pain and physical challenges every single day, but he presses on, never using his disability as an excuse.  He is and will always be my biggest hero.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

And Then You Bounce...

In my last post, I shared the reality that sometimes things can get low in ultra running - even while training.  In blogs and on social media, it's easy to only post stuff about the great runs and the great days. But that would be deceitful.  The reality of the ultra running sport is that there are bad days and low points.  Ultra runners are very good at minimizing those lows and powering through them, but they do exist.  Interestingly enough, at almost the same time that I was dipping down into the doldrums last week, my old training partner Sarah was having her own struggles a half a continent away.  She posted this blog post this week about how to overcome mental struggles and low motivation while ultra training. I can't help but share, because as always she's a brilliant writer and precisely nails it.  I chuckle to myself as I remember her yelling at me during the Miwok 100 - "Just Pretend!!!!" as she sailed away while I was decompensating under a giant redwood tree looking for my lost cell phone.  Ahhh....the memories.

A week later, spring has arrived in earnest and I have bounced back.  Life is still stressful, full of family commitments and juggling priorities.  But I had a great run today with the company of several friends along the way and am feeling my running mojo return.

After I arrived home after my run, my husband pointed out that the Barkley Marathons documentary was on Netflix!  Yippee!  I have been wanting to see it, but have only seen it advertised at select screenings so far.  I just finished it.  What a race.  When one is feeling the need for a pity this film.

A race that's supposed to be 100 miles, but is actually 130 miles with 60,000' of elevation gain according to the racers.  Since the race began in 1986, only 14 runners out of about 1000 have finished within the 60 hour cutoff.

This is a race that has fascinated me since I first heard about it early in the days when I was contemplating this ultra running thing.  I had listened to a podcast with Dr. David Horton, as he talked about the race.  He was the second finisher.  Later, I heard Nickademus Hollon tell his story about the race, attempting it for the first time in 2012, then finishing in 2013 at age 22.  And now Gary Robbins has received his condolence letter and is training for Barkley.  Check out his training video of covering 20,000' in 31 miles here.  He's the one I'm following for 2016... I will be cheering you on Gary!

A quote in the movie from the race founder Gary Cantrell really stuck in my mind, "People have their own concepts of success and failure, - they are really not concerned about how other people evaluate their performance.  They make their own judgements."  I think this is something that exists in all sport, but also uniquely defines endurance athletes including ultra runners.  Ultimately, it's up to us to decide in our own minds whether we are going to bounce, or stay down; whether we are going to succeed or fail.  We all have own own ideas of how that is defined, each day, each week, each race. The people that keep going are the ones who are constantly adjusting their paradigms, their attitudes, and turning failures into successes.

The laws of physics and momentum can apply to the mind as well as the physical world - what goes down can also come back up with equal energy. I have practice this art over and over again, but I finished this week with a renewed resolution to BOUNCE.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Not Always Unicorns and Rainbows

I was looking forward to today all week. as it was forecasted to really warm up. I am very ready for spring, as it has usually already arrived by now on Vancouver Island, where I've spent the last 15 years.  March means short sleeve runs and salt tabs, sometimes rain, but temps between 10C and 15C.  Here in Manitoba...not yet.

After freezing my buns off running earlier this week, I went to bed last night battling a sore throat.  I prayed that I would wake a new person.  Instead I woke to the sounds of my husband vomiting and dry heaving in the bathroom all night long.  My kids have been ok, but complaining of no appetite and belly aches, so when my alarm when off at 6:00am this morning, I questioned the soundness of my judgement in running today.  But running Sunday mornings is never an option - it's a part of  life. So I got up, tiptoed around making coffee and drinking water and UCan.  My tummy rumbled, but I told myself it was psychosomatic.  My throat was sore...but no one ever died of a sore throat.

I made breakfast for the kids and left a lovely arrangement of fruit and cereal on the breakfast bar.  I decided I would race out to the trail, run as fast and efficiently as I could, and hopefully be home before anyone else got sick, including myself.  Before I left the house, I told my husband in his feverish state that he could call or text anytime and then proceeded to escape his germs, feeling equally relieved at the chance to get some fresh air, and intensely guilty for leaving the kids to fend for themselves with a very sick papa.

I got to the trail head just after 7:00am.  I was the first one there.  It was quiet, warm and peaceful.  I quickly adjusted my clothing for the 1C temps and took off on my 33K run.  It was so mild.  The sun came up, I said good morning to "my" deer that I always see 2-3.5K into the run.  But my legs felt heavy and so did my heart.  I waited with dread for that text that one of my children was sick, or that my husband wasn't coping so well.

What was I out here for?  I felt like a really sh*&tty mom, and an even worse wife.  I know I needed to log the miles.  But did I have my priorities in check?  Earlier this week, my boss sent me a quote, "Running because it makes me a better version of myself," and then later I posted on FB, "Love is when the other person's happiness is more important than your own."  Hmmm.  I slogged around the Bur Oak trail in the morning sun/deep snow questioning my WHY.

In the words of Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn't help but wonder...  Was my running making me a better person?  Did my running set a good example to my kids?  Were my running priorities balanced with my family priorities?  Fundamentally I could say yes.  I really strive to make sure my personal running goals don't take away from family time, often getting up REALLY early to get my runs in. I never want my kids or my husband to resent my running.  And I can proudly say that my son loves to run with mommy.   But today....I sure felt like I was failing them all by leaving my kids with a sick husband while I left the house for 5 hours.

So I ran as hard as I could...which wasn't fast considering I wasn't feeling so well myself.  I waved hello at friends on the trail, not stopping to chat lest I lose my resolve to complete the miles, or even worse - start vomiting on the trail myself.  I spent our first sunny spring-like run day running with a "lets go to work and get this done" mentally.  What a shame!

I just finished the book, Out There, by Dave Clark.  In his book, he truly opens himself up and exposes his very intense personal struggles with addiction and then his recovery through ultra marathon running. I'm posting this today to put myself 'out there' once again highlight that ultra running is not always unicorns and rainbows, as my friend Sarah says. It can be hard! Sometimes it's a slog in heinous weather, through gnarly terrain, or done while battling indigestion and tummy upset.  And sometimes our training happens in perfectly sunny spring-like conditions in which everyone else is celebrating - but the mind and the conscience become the battleground.

I am happy to say I finished my run, and made it home in time to spend an awesome afternoon with my kids while my husband recovered.  Today, the rainbows came after the run.