Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Guess it was Zen...

Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy and Compassion

Zen defined - a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind.

The moment occurred as I crossed over from mile fourteen to fifteen and then progressed until I was completed my allotted eighteen miles.  More than any runner's high that I had ever experienced, but crossing over to a new level of feeling as though I could have continued running for a long time after the eighteen miles.  The strangest occurrence was when I began to pray, just to a higher power I was just in a meditative state.  Praying is not something I do on a regular basis but that morning I did.  I remember distinctly what conversation was going on in my mind at the time. All I was thinking/saying/praying was help me get through these last miles in the manner that I hope to achieve at a later time, and thank you for helping me get so far.  I am a spiritual person but not religious.  My beginning to pray/meditate at that moment was certainly foreign to me. 

As I have discussed my experience with a few different people, some religious, a psychiatrist (don't get excited she's my client) and a fellow "run-aholic"  they all responded in the same way.  They described my experience as a "Zen" moment.  I never would have thought of it as a Zen moment however after further analyzing of the moment, I would have to agree fully.  Zen is the state of mind where the focus is so great the mind and body are in one accord.  It was completely empowering and the last miles seemed earsier than the previous.  The feeling was completely addictive and far more than the runner's high which had been gone for several miles.  I have to be careful though because the quest for Zen may take while to get to and I do have to engage in other activities besides running like life.

Nik and I were out with his mom on Saturday night.  Our waiter, who was fabulous, began talking to us about his little daughter , Nora who had been born about eleven weeks prior.  I watched his face beam as he told us about her.  I leaned over to Nik and whispered that the guy talked about his daughter the way I talk about running especially and now swimming and cycling.  It dawned on me that I love exercise as much as I love my children, very interesting observation. 

Last year as I was just beginning my running journey toward becoming an endurance runner, the eight mile mark nearly killed me.  I fondly remember running my first six on the road.  That afternoon I slept for I think about five hours.  I laugh at myself a lot now in hindsight of last years disastrous training season.  I have learned so much, and how to and how not to do train.  The main thing I have learned is nutrition and how my body responds to training much better with proper sustaining.  I remember hitting the fifteen mile mark last winter and being disoriented all day after, hurting intensely and sleeping and propping my legs up because they ached so badly.  Well I survived, making me stronger,  smarter and even more determined to complete my journey. 

The past three Saturday runs have been filled with anticipation, preparation and even a little trepidation.  The reason was ampted up miles.  The mileage was fourteen, sixteen and eighteen.  Each run began with a conversation between, me, the road, my body and ultimately my mind.  I told the road that today your ass is mine.  I will conquer you.  My body knows that it is strong, fueled and can handle the mileage, I just reaffirm that with that realization I always exhale heavily.  My mind, I think, it has to be in accord with my body and even stronger to push through because the mind always wants to quit first, probably due mostly to boredom.  Which leads to the next cataloging of thoughts that occur, accomplishments, how far I have come in the past year.  Personal records I have set, and people I have inspired always make me smile.  Those positive thoughts though run out at about mile fourteen for me then I am left to do what occurred on Saturday, meditate and just keep running.   If I keep running I don't really know what is hurting, it's really  hard to start back running after walking.  As I have mentioned before, the fastest way home is to keep running, that comment from the Ironman athlete is going to be the death of me, but it is on automatic repeat in my mind. 

Another thing that I have been trying to incorporate in my runs is finishing up fast, not coasting in but just all out at the end.  Saturday I was able to do just that, I threw up after, but I did it. 

There's a point after I've had a good run where I sit and stare as I replay the run over in my mind.  I analyze and reanalyze how it felt, what I was thinking, if I need more water stops, gu's, did my shorts aggravate me, did I get any new blisters on my body from ill fitting clothes, how many hills did I do.  A whole check list is in there, ingrained in my mind. 

The ultimate though is getting Nik to drive me through the course after so I can show him what it was like that morning.  Most of the time I don't realize the amount of hills, it's all road to me.  As long as I focus on just what's ahead of me the hills seem to disappear becoming in my mind flat or at least less intimidating.  A conversation between us usually follows with his saying that I am crazy for running such a long, open hilly course.  I always say I know I'm nuts, but I did it and I did it well.  that sense of accomplishment is worth it's weight in gold.

I'll share a secret.  Nine years ago on October 1, I was told I wouldn't be able to run again.  For a moment I had accepted that statement,  but not any more.  I should have made a wager with him.  Guess he didn't know who he was talking to.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Running...inspiration and determination

Nothing can quite compare to watching the sun come up over the horizon while having a run early in the morning as I push myself hard stride after stride.  Physically understanding that I just need to keep moving while telling my weak mind to shut up. The mind always wants to quit first, not the body. This morning the body won, and the mind was silent! I just smiled and kept going.

Runs where I leave my house thinking that I'll just go as far as I can due to sore legs or just fatigue in general on most cases turn in to the best times out on the road.  

Samantha McGlone said a variation of this while I was watching Ironman Kona, she said the fastest way home is to run home.  That's how she keeps herself moving once the voices in her head start telling her to walk.  Hearing her statement was both a blessing and a curse.  I replay her statement over and over as I run and believe it or not it works.  I just keep going mile after mile, my legs aren't tired, I'm not hurting, ok well sometimes I am but I tell myself otherwise.  

When I see the likes of Rudy Garcia-Tolsen who happens to be a double amputee competing in full Ironman competitions, I realize that there is not a damn thing wrong with me and it pushes me a little harder.  He inspires me to keep going just the thought of him and his story.   He is definitely worth googling to view his story.  Be forewarned, he may inspire you to sign up for something totally insane.  

Yesterday as I stepped out on to the road, the temperature was 63 so of course the road was calling my name.  The time 6:45 a.m.  The air was crisp, humidity down and I was on a mission. Having completed sixteen miles on Saturday in 2:26:33 I did not know if I was going to feel like much out on the road, however on Monday I was about to pound out eleven miles in a little over an hour and a half.  Tuesday I just decided I would go out for a while even if the run ended up being a short five miles.  I attached my Garmin 305 to my wrist and I was off.  I was in awe that I had no pain.  So two miles turned into four until it became a game of beating the clock because unfortunately I do have to work and could not stay out all day running.  Work is probably my saving grace because if I didn't have to go in I more than likely would have stayed out there on the road all day yesterday.  When I finished I had run  a little over ten  miles in an 1:20.  

I love sharing my stories of accomplishment with people.  No bragging is intended because it is all about hard work and dedication, there is no quick way to improvement.  I am reminded of the Lance Armstrong quote about his cycling, it follows:  

"This is my body, and I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it; Study it; Tweak it; Listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I am on. What am I on? I am on my bike busting my ass six hours a day; What are YOU on?" 

I sat down the other day a figured up the amount of hours a week I dedicate to training.  My average weekly training time is twenty to twenty-four hours a week.  I am not complaining in  the least bit about the time required in order to reach my goals.  I was aware when I signed up for events that I would have to be completely determined, disciplined and dedicated.  

Most importantly that my family is completely understanding an supportive of my decision to tap into my athletic side, well insanity. They support me, and cheer me on.  Of course Nik tries to balance out my workouts by what I call guarding me to  make sure I don't over do it and putting me on exercise restriction.  I would not be able to commit to these events without them.  

My ultimate goal is to show my children and those around me that they can achieve anything they set their minds to as long as they work hard to attain the goal, because there are no shortcuts.