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.