When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Insanity

Truly is. And I don't mean it in any bad ways. There are people who thrive on going around loops for hours and they reach awesome potential. There are those who are intimidated by distances and/or unknown terrain, and a time limit as opposed of miles give them freedom to give ultra a try.. But what was I, a mountain goat, thinking signing up for a totally flat 1M urban loop 24 hour race, I am not sure... Actually, I do. I wanted to see it for myself. I wanted a long run that would have support and fun and friends around. I wanted it to be close to home and relatively cheap. And I wanted to try this last race in PNW before I go. Not to mention there were so many dear friends coming who I haven't seen in many months, I had to say hello:)

And say I did. Lisa Bliss and Tim England, Michelle and her crew of gals, Rob and Steve, Sarah and Little Guy counting laps, Joe Lee, Van Phan, David Stevenson (who I carpooled with), Barefoot guys Leif and Tim, Gail and Bret, Tony C. and many many more. We all were so laid back about the start, RD Fred (as it turned out later) cut his talk short and didn't say important thing - this year we were allowed to switch directions running. And that was a mistake that cost me some serious grief.

I had no goals going into this. I did, however, had three bail-out excuses: if it downpours rains, if I get bored, and if I get injured (or close to it). I was pretty sure the first two will happen. However, life tricked me surprisingly...

I never felt bored. Honestly, that would be lying. I felt bored on loops 12-15 and pretty close to stopping, only promising myself to make it to a marathon mark, since it would justify my drive and fee. And it never rained. The day was beautiful. Sunny at times, a bit cloudy more, but mid-50's and not a wind. And the loop was flat...boy, was it flat. I've been to this place 3 times, every one of them at night. First year I arrived at 3:30am next day and did 17M (after Chuckanut), and then 2 other times I came to support and go a few loops with some friends for fun (also after Chuckanut) . This left an impression for me that the loop is asphalt and has a few small hills. Well, it wasn't either. It was 2/3 dirt path with gravel - what was my big mistake, as, while even hard-packed dirt is somewhat better than road, I didn't have my gaiters, and when Van gave me hers, my road shoes didn't have a sticky part to paste them down, what meant I stopped at least twice every loop to empty my shoes. And - it had no hills, not even little ones. It had a small incline of about 0.1M before end of each loop, but such low grade, even I, the infamous walker on every part but a downhill, couldn't make myself do it, and 2 blips of may be 5 and 10 yards respectively, the "bigger" one of which you can kind of make a walk, but really, for 10 yards?

So I ran. I ran first 9 miles non-stop (besides refueling at my own AS, as most people did), without walking a step, what was my new PR for continuous running, I think, since a long time. Then I took a couple of walk breaks on that 10 yard hill, got annoyed, and ran a couple more miles. And then at mile 13 - it hit me: all the right turns, and one of them was 330 degrees, wore off on my right leg, and my knee flared up. Now, I have had many running injuries in my life, but never knee or ITB, not to mention right side is my "good side", not prone to injury. So, somewhere at mile 16 I walked, slowly, for 4.5 miles, chatting with people. Every loop I would hook up with someone and we'd exchange stories - and it was great. Time clicked by, Vit I started kicking a bit, and then I ran...again, non-stop, for 11 miles. My first goal-on the go was to make a marathon under 5 hrs. I believe I was at 4:55? Then, without stopping, I challenged myself to a 50k (yes, they have marks on the ground for each distance) under 6hrs - and when made it in 5:4x, added another mile to it for 32M in 5:56. Then I stopped to eat, happy. And then I awarded myself with walking around...for a few loops:)

Going into mile 34, I hooked up with Bret, Gail and Rick, and Rick was going for the first 50k finish since heart surgery. So we hung out and had fun for a loop, and held his arms for a "finish line", and then I went running again. So far all the running miles were amazingly right on the spot, 10 min/mile, nothing exciting for you, but pretty darn good for me these days. Although when I walked, I did it not in power style, but rather relaxed, and it would take me 20+ minutes for a loop. That said, when I went, I made another goal - break 11 hrs for a 50M. Why? Who knows. May be because it's a WS qualifier (first of all, I am not applying for WS anymore as I had done my duty and others need to give it a try, secondly, I believe this qualifier is way too soft, back in my first year it was 9hrs). Nevertheless, goals are fun. I ran...now it was 16 miles non-stop, still 10 min/mile, and or, glory, 50M in 9:43. Ha, that's fun...

What wasn't fun was that while my knee had lowered the pain, my right hip went totally out of whack. While running, I was focusing so much to not pay attention on pain, I hunched my shoulders forward, rounded my back, didn't talk to anyone, strained my neck to look directly down and locked my back in question mark - I, a total freak when it comes, to running with open shoulders...As soon as I stopped, the shooting pain overridden my body, my hip joint, and as I crawled around the loop for my well-deserved break, I contemplated what to do next.

I never had a goal going into this run. But I am a competitor. Besides, being an ultrarunner means you are an OCD person. If you do the math, it gave me 14 hrs for the second 50. Getting an extra unexpected 100M finish surely sounded tempting. I decided to walk to a 100k mark and see how I feel.

I wasn't feeling any better, despite handfulls of drugs at this point. And I was walking quite slowly. But, of course, 13 hrs sounded good, if only I could shuffle...I shuffled first time at mile 58, for about 2 min, and it wasn't any good. Then Mike Bushwhacker came - he promised to pace/support me, and I felt guilty he made his way out there for nothing. I tried to kick him to pace David, but turns out, he wasn't looking for a run anyway. So, I managed to make last 4M at 11min/mile, shuffling non-stop, just to get to that 13 hrs, which I did, 100k in 12:49.

And then we walked a bit, talking Hardrock, high passes, goal race for the year, staying injury-free and what's important. So, at mile 64 I said I might try for 70, but at mile 65 I said - screw it, I am hurt and I am not doing damage for nothing.

And I am extremely happy with it. With my decision to stop - knowing me, it wasn't easy (Larry on the phone all day discussed with me negatives and positives to continue, yet never pushed, and that was the best way). And with every distance I ran in certain time. However small my "local" goals were, I smashed them - and hey, that's what it is all about, right?

I was eager to get home and sleep in my own bed - but I couldn't. Pain in the hip kept me awake till almost 5am, after which I finally collapsed. I was so scared at night for what I had done to myself, and what will I do now, that I called Larry and sobbed for a good 30 min. Amazingly, when I woke up second time, I felt mysteriously much better. I will just pray the hard surface and right turns put a temporary shock and not permanent.

Rob wrote a post "Where did that guy with determination go to?". Brother, you'll have to answer it yourself. I know I have my answers.
Lately, I've been talking a lot. To Larry and to Gail the most. What changed in me? It was hard to post all those thoughts here. At some point or another, so many times there were comments about "inspiration" and "training" and such...
I am not training anymore. I run. I run quite some serious miles, by the way, 4 weeks of over 80 the latest. But I don't train.
I have no specifics, no plans, and no interest to push. Funny, I still want to do OK, but I am not willing to sacrifice anything for it. Like, anything. And without sacrifices good stuff doesn't fall down on your laps.
I was lucky when I came to running. I am not gifted, but I surely was somewhat natural when it came to trails and distance. I went straight to placing high as soon as I joined and basked in that. Having "good time" on top of good times made me work harder, focus more and shoot after the stars. I got many of them, even if many slipped between fingers. Then I had a slow change in priorities. At first, it was more of coming from outside, pushed upon me, but slowly yet surely I had a renewed views on my running life.
Sometime ago, what of course wasn't that long, though seems like forever, Gail and I were in SD100, and I wondered what will happen when I can't compete? What would it be for me? I remember saying I hope I wouldn't drop trail running just because I am not "game" anymore, but I, myself, wasn't sure. Running well gave a lot of extra endorphines, and a lot of confidence to do things in life.

And I did. A lot of things in life that scared me. For that - thank you, running. Thank you, ultras, thank you, mountains, and thank you, fast times.

I don't think I need you anymore. Not for building my confidence and self-esteem anyway, but for difference reasons, still do, and hopefully forever will. I don't think I need to prove anything to anybody as I felt, deep inside, back then. I might have never known that I felt it, but I bet I did. I was suggested recently to go to a psychologist. You know, unwrap my fears and worries from childhood and youth to see what stands behind the character I am today. I don't know, man, I think I am scared to meet that face to face yet. I also think I am doing same work, just very slowly. When I look back, I can now many times pin-point the reasons behind my actions. Yes, it's in the past, but it's still not the end of my life yet, right? :)

I did a lot of trail running by not running myself lately. By volunteering, directing, supporting, involving, and most fun - crewing and pacing. Every one of my pacing gigs was the best and highest on my memory list of my running life. And I wondered why...

Steve Styles and I chatted at PacRim 24 how he mostly just sticks with a friend for a race, even if can go faster. I don't think I needed explanation, I just challenged the answers:)

Trail running is my soul cleansing. When it fitted my life, I trained hard, and it wasn't work. And now it is. I can't afford the extra stress in my life, not from what is supposed to be there for me to relieve that stress. Thus I have no plans, no training schedule, no goals. I would lie if I said I don't have certain predictions for every course I'll be going to, but it's fun. And just as years prior, all my predictions are based purely on what I am capable of, not what I would push for. I am a lazy racer. Until last 20% of the race develops, I don't like to strain myself about what will happen. Have fun. Look around. Chat, flirt, pour soul out, hear birds chirping, see grass bending, drink from the creeks. Feel pain in legs, lungs burning, mouth dry, the best present is pure cold water, the best vacation is laying on soft dirt with your feet up and holding a cold beer. Look at the sun - and not burn the eyes. Stare at the moon, wish on a shooting star. Hold somebody's hand. Then get your shit together and kick ass on the last few miles - just to have great memories of a fight. Not before you enjoyed the run:)

And that, my friends, is my life now. Doesn't have to be anybody else's life, and doesn't have to be my life forever, but it is now. And it makes me smile:-)))