I know this is coming a bit late, but I wanted to let everyone know that I’m drafting up a race report from Saturday. I want to thank everyone who has supported Run For Something so far…your positivity helped me have a great day despite a lot of challenges. I finished in 2:48:08, 67th overall, and set a 10 minute, 13 second Personal Record. My official results are here, and you can see pics here. I can honestly say that I’ve never been more proud of, or satisfied with another race. It was a great day, and as soon as I get my thoughts together I’ll get a complete report posted. Jen took some great pics from the sidelines, and I’m going to get those up as soon as possible as well.
Where do I start? How do I pick up the pieces of the past month?
A little over four weeks ago, I did a 23M on a perfect Sunday afternoon and had a glimpse of the possible. It was the first time in the past eight months of training I actually felt like 2:39-40 was within my grasp. I couldn’t believe how great I felt, despite having averaged 6:35 over challenging terrain the last 13 miles. Then, work sent me off in several different directions and it the edges began to fray. The week after that glorious long run, my left leg felt a bit tricky which I shrugged off as simple fatigue from four weeks over 100/week and an arduous run. But it got worse, probably compounded by a ten day stretch where I switched to night schedule and my sleep cycle was all jacked up.
Things continued to worsen when I got home…hot hot humidity, lack of rest, and my left calf turned into a bona fide injury as opposed to annoyance. On top of it all, I simply could not hit my target paces for key workouts and I just plain got depressed about it all. Two weekends ago, things hit a crescendo when I couldn’t manage for five miles what I’d previously been running for 10-20. It was a severe mental blow…but as I spent some time looking at my state of mind and approach to training, I figured out some key lessons.
One, the whole reason for starting this whole Run For Something endeavor was to get beyond personal ambition. Yet here I was, dwelling on my troubles, not blogging at all and just generally feeling sorry for myself. I won’t say I had an epiphany, but sitting at a Sunday night service at Midtown, I felt a message built just for me hit home. Without getting too far into the weeds, let me tell you I walked away from it re-purposed. The specific take-away for me and for this project was to stop feeling sorry for myself…there were bigger things at work besides my little mental breakdown. So many times over the past month, I felt like I should be writing and sharing with my devoted readers. Instead, I wallowed in self-pity. I should have been sharing stories like this.
Then, last Tuesday, I received terrible news. Four of my brothers were killed in a helicopter that went down in Afghanistan. These were men to whom I was bonded through trials and challenge beyond the scope of what I care to discuss here. One of them, Michael “Flo” Flores was one of my troops in my last job, and it is his loss I feel the most. He was such a quiet, unassuming professional. Always ready with a crooked smile, his demure mannerism completely disarming. He leaves behind a wife, two children, and a host of men and women whose lives he altered. He died on his anniversary.
I have no problem sharing with you my deep sorrow and broken heart over these losses. In eight years of wars, this is the first time someone close to me has been killed. I have been remarkably fortunate, I feel this on a personal level that is too painful to explain.
This brings me to today, on a flight to Tucson for tomorrow’s Memorial Service. We left SC yesterday and I made arrangements to get to AZ mid-trip, so I haven’t made it up to Duluth yet. My plans of getting up there early to pick up my packet and unwind before the race have obviously gone by the wayside. I’m going to show up in Duluth on Friday with a legs heavy with travel, but not as heavy as my heart. Then there’s my injured calf and the derailed training of the past month.
I’ll be honest – I thought about withdrawing. There are a lot of reasons not to run at this point. My Perfect Plan of arriving in Duluth well-rested, tapered, and trained for the Big Race has not survived life’s ups and downs. But I’ve asked myself over the past week some important questions. Would Flo want me to quit before I even started, feeling sorry for myself? Never. This was a man who met and overcame challenges in training that eliminated 90% of his peers; Flo was a man who when he said, “Never Quit,” he meant it. I asked myself: Will the Sudanese who will learn to access clean water because of our contributions to Mocha Club care whether I run 2:45 or 4:45? The answer is a resounding, “NO.”
So, I will persevere. I don’t care if I have to walk, don’t care if I have to crawl across that finish line. I will remember the needs of others, and place them before personal desires and comforts. In the meantime, I ask that if you have the means, please join my team by hitting the Mocha Club link on the right. Make a difference and contribute. If you can’t afford it, I ask only for your moral support and prayers for the families and friends of the fallen, and for our Mocha Club project. And, if you have the time, on the morning of June 19th, think of me while I run Grandma’s and send me some of those thoughts and prayers as well.
An ironic admission: I don’t like blogs. There are too many of them, and all-too-often degenerate into pedestals for punditry, rant, and unvettted journalism. If there’s a cultural phenomenon I associate with blogs, it’s the idea that having a captive audience doesn’t excuse you from the responsibility not to report mundanities; or the obligation to know the difference between ‘they’re,’ ‘there,’ and ‘their.’
However, this isn’t to say that all blogs suffer the same ailments. They have become a means of near-instant communication and interaction in a world, empowered by modern communications, more comfortable connecting its inhabitants for the briefest of physical moments before sending them back out amongst their far-flung destinations and origins.
Enter me, and the story which trails behind, aside, and in front of me. For those reading who don’t know me (and as of this writing I think that would number around zilch) I’ve been a competitive athlete since the age of 15. On and off for the past 17 years, I’ve competed in a variety of endurance activities, to include duathlon, triathlon, and good old-fashioned running. This isn’t to say I’ve done any of them consistently for the past 1.7 decades with the one exception of my time running as an intercollegiate; rather they’ve been periods of serious punctuated by months of something else. I always trained hard enough to be regionally competitive but never anything beyond that. When I wasn’t in a Serious Training Mode, it wasn’t because I was sitting in front of the telly crushing bags of chips. Usually it was because my job made it impractical for a period of time or because I was focused on another activity.
The common thread throughout it all was running. Whether it was a means to an end (fitness for something else) or the end itself, I’ve always viewed myself as a Runner. In the past two years, I’ve experienced something of a revival (“renaissance” would imply something far too grand). Living in Tucson, I hooked up with Dave and Michele Hill’s Grinders, a dedicated bunch of serious runners of all ability levels. Under Michele’s guidance, I’ve gotten into the best running shape I’ve been in since college.
But as I’ve put in the countless hours and thousands of miles in the past months, I’ve begun to question my motives. Here I am, in relentless pursuit of something, usually a specific time I want to run over a specific distance. Really? Is that it? I spend all this time, make all these sacrifices, all in the name of something that won’t break any records, won’t get me on the podium, won’t even get me in the top 10% of my own age group peers in the country. Last October, I ran the Long Beach Half Marathon. My bottom-line goal was to break 1:20 (roughly 6:05 pace for 13.1 miles). I accomplished that goal, running 1:19:19 (6:03 average pace), placing 37th overall. That might seem pretty fast to some, but let me put the performance in perspective. 1:19:19 put me in roughly 75th percentile. That means out of all the men out there at my age at the time (32), I was slower than 25% of them! In academic terms, I got about a C+ on that test. Even more humbling – world class runners will cover the same distance in about 60 minutes…amazing.
There is clearly no doubt about my place in the pecking order.
I’m not discounting the pursuit of potential. AB-solutely not. But the single-minded pursuit of excellence has a cost. There is sacrifice in the ten plus hours a week I spend running. If you think about it, ten hours is a lot of time. You can fit a lot of quality family time in there, self development, or even rest and recreation. Lots of things you can do with that chunk of seconds, minutes and hours.
And I’m starting to think that if I’m going to make that sacrifice, maybe it would be good to associate it with something in addition to personal aspiration.
So, I’ve got A Plan. This Plan will tie my running to charity, although I’m still trying to work out the details. This blog is my Start Line (and race course if you want to continue the metaphor). It’s way of telling folks, “Folks, I’m going to do something here. It probably won’t be big. It probably won’t be terribly pretty. But it will make a difference, if only a small one.”
I’ve got a non-profit picked out, as well as a concept, but I’m already up to 765 words and probably exceeding blog-a-bility. So, I’ll save it for the next entry.