Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Accomplishing a goal and the puzzle

When I was in high school I ran cross country and loved it. I loved running through the woods but it helped that I was pretty good at it too. I could easily run in the 18 minute range for the 3 mile course. Stretching out the legs and feeling the rush of running quickly over the rough terrain made me feel like I was flying. I kept running after high school but somewhere along the way I lost the speed that I used to have back then. It became extremely challenging to run a 5K anywhere near 20 minutes let alone 18. I found that I was OK with my slower pace if I ran longer because accomplishing the longer distances gave me a similar sense of satisfaction as did running fast back in my youth. I suppose that means I was only chasing some sort of self-satisfaction and using running to give it to me buy hey, I was young and could have been chasing it with other things right?
Although I was content with running longer distance in place of running fast, I always kept an internal goal of one day breaking 20 minutes in the 5K. I wasn’t planning to train for a 5K but hoped that my marathon training would allow me to accomplish the 5K goal while seeking a marathon goal. Turns out I may have been right for the first time in my life! Hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. ☺
At the Edmond turkey trot on Thanksgiving I ran the 5K in 19:42. This is the fastest time I’ve run for a 5K since I was 18.
Since I haven’t been training for a 5K I didn’t anticipate accomplishing this goal so I didn’t have any stress about the race beforehand. The weather was near perfect running weather although a little cold for my tastes. I, of course, screwed up my watch at the starting line and put it in cycling mode instead of running mode so I only had speed and total time to measure my progress during the race. Since I can’t run and do math at the same time, I gave up looking at it. It wasn’t until I turned the final corner and saw the clock that I realized I was going to break 20 minutes. My heart just about came out of my chest! I had struggled most of the race to keep pace and that pace didn’t seem all that fast but here I was about to accomplish a long-time goal!
It’s funny how uneventful accomplishing a goal can be. When I crossed the finish line my insides were cheering and so excited but on the outside I was just another runner. Although I was completely relieved, excited, happy, and a million other positive emotions, my only thought was how weird it is to have accomplished this goal but to have lost the life that I had when I started thinking about it. It didn't make me sad so much as it frustrated me to think that when I put the goal in my head I had people around me who I motivated me to seek this goal but by the time I actually accomplish it those people are gone. It just seemed like the puzzle wasn’t complete even though I had finally got those last difficult middle pieces to fit. I’d finally fit those pieces that you can’t fit together without putting most of the other pieces in place first and when I stepped back to look at the finished picture I realized I’d lost the corners.
On the positive side, I also realized that I didn’t NEED to have someone there in order to feel good about this accomplishment. I enjoyed the success in my own way and within my own skin. The feelings were all positive and I was able to feel the satisfaction on my own. That’s a big step forward from me and I have to wonder if the changes that brought about this new self-awareness aren’t, at their root, the same changes that led to accomplishing the running goal. I also have a large group of new, wonderful, friends who were there and so excited to know I'd done this thing. They truly cared and made the day wonderful.
You can't expect to keep the world the same forever. Things change, we change, hell the universe is constantly expanding at a phenomenal rate! There's no reason we should ever expect to be in the same space for long. But we set out on long journeys anyway. We take the motivation from the space we're in presently and use it to move forward knowing (or at least finding out) that that space might not be the same when we arrive. Sometimes it hurts a little or a lot, but if we thought about it for more than a second, we'd realize that we wouldn't be adventuring if our hearts wanted to be in the same space. The itch that made us seek something distant, or hard, doesn't really want us to end up in the same space we left.
Thanks for listening

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Reinventing I

I’m pessimistic and I doubt myself a lot. There, I said it. I hate that it’s true but I don’t want to live that way anymore so it’s important to say it. While I’m sure my doubts and fears are significantly different from yours, I’m also sure we all have a bit of self-doubt lingering somewhere just beneath the surface. It usually rises to the surface when we are presented with a challenge where our hearts say “Go for it!” but our heads say “Holy crap that looks hard!
Neuroscientists are discovering that our subconscious mind controls a large portion (some say up to 90 %!) of our actions. This subconscious reaction is our brain’s way of giving us quick responses and alleviating our conscious mind of having to make every decision. Our conscious minds require significantly more energy to operate than the subconscious so this is also a way in which this amazingly complex and efficient body of ours conserves energy. Over the course of our lives, our subconscious mind learns from how we react to certain situations and stores this away. Eventually it uses this stored information to automatically react to similar situations without us having to actually process what’s happening. Usually this stored information is negative and our subconscious learns to react in ways to protect us from the experiencing that pain or failure again. The sad reality is that when we reach a certain age we can become more automatic than conscious. We can become a machine, driven more by our past experience, who isn’t actually experiencing the world today as much as reacting to it. 
That’s the reason we are so often afraid to take on new challenges or to push ourselves beyond what’s comfortable. We see something that excites our conscious mind but that’s the moment when that subconscious monster of doubt, grown and cultivated over the years by our bad experiences and failures, takes over and wipes away the dream without us even really knowing it. We are able to get a glimpse through the crack in the door but it’s immediately slammed shut and we remain in our safe room of mental comfort where we can’t experience failure or pain but also can’t grow.
I’m making this sound like our bodies are out to keep us down and hurt us and that’s not the case. This process is the amazing way we stay safe and stay alive. It’s the most fantastic creation on this planet! You have a body that works to keep you alive and safe without much thought on your part. But in its focus on those goals, it can, if we allow it, squelch the rest of our amazing gifts and talents, sacrificing them for safety. 
The great thing is that we can control and/or change our subconscious! It’s still learning, even in my extremely old age. We have the power to take control of our conscious mind when presented with a challenge and cage that monster of self-doubt. We can not only cage him, we can teach him a new automatic response! It’s not easy and he will fight, remember he’s been learning our old ways since we were born, but we can change our automatic, fear based reactions and step up to new things and challenges. All it takes is to become aware of our actions, understand if they are truly coming from our heart or our head, and when possible, follow the heart instead of head. It’ll be scary and we’ll probably fail at new things for a while but that’s OK because where you can fail you can also succeed! You can’t have the brilliant joy of victory without the risk of failure. You’ll also realize that failure really isn’t that bad anyway, your mind just makes it look that way when you let it think about it.
I’ve had a dream of qualifying for the Boston marathon for many years. The qualifying time for me is extremely challenging based on what I normally run so I’ve always put that dream in the category of unachievable. Well now I’m making a run at it. I realized my view of this challenge was based on how I’d performed in the past which was limiting my ability to see how good I could be in the future. I’m fighting that automatic response that says I can’t run that fast and committing myself to the training. I might fail. I might succeed. I know I’ll be better for having taken control of the situation and not let my past define my future. 
Get out there and find out how good you can be too. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

All I needed was a run

I thought I was loosing it. I thought I was backsliding.
I have been learning so much about myself and moving forward in a good direction. It's not been a fun journey or one that I would recommend doing often, but it is necessary and I'm grateful that things worked out to give me this opportunity to grow. 
Along the way I've regressed more times than I can remember but I have wonderful friends who I can lean on when I need a crutch. Again, so grateful for all the players in this situation.
Yesterday I had one of those frightful days when the floodgates of fear opened and I wasn't strong enough to hold it back. It scared me not only because of the waves of fear and anxiety that came and never seemed to end, but because I thought I was passed this. I thought I had put this kind of irrational emotion behind me. I was caught completely off guard and, of course, spent way too much time trying to analyze it and figure out, well basically WTF??
Then I went for a run tonight. A really hard interval run. In the beginning I was still fighting the fear and anxiety. As I pushed myself faster and faster, I found that my mind settled, my fear turned to calm. As I continued with the workout I found myself actually finding some confidence and emotional strength. The kind I'd had before yesterday. It wasn't gone! Then I realized that I hadn't run since Saturday and had let my diet fall to shit. I had a stomach bug on Monday and spent the day in bed. Basically I had become seditary. I hadn't given my body or spirit what it needed and the result was a fall into all the worst my mind could conjure up. There was nothing keeping me from falling. 
This happens on a smaller scale in good times and it manifests as laziness and fatigue. In my current state it had ample fodder to build into an emotional storm of midwest spring magnitude. 
Pushing the body and keeping it from getting down is more than just a physical need. For me it also keeps the soul stable. I need to remember this.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Lesson learned again

Everything in moderation.
That's a wonderful saying and I try to live it but sometimes life gets in the way. I've got a million things going on right now and I want to get them all done RIGHT NOW! So, in typical Willie fashion, I've worked myself into a frenzy that has ended with sickness. I've run myself down to the point where I had to spend a whole day in bed yesterday feeling completely horrible and nauseous. The sickness was bad enough but the frustration of not being able to work on any projects or even go to work made it even worse. Add to this the fear that I'd lose a week of BQ training and I was a complete mess!
Luckily it last only a day and I'm feeling much better today. Being forced to rest also forced me to, once again, see how I had lost sight of how important balance and patience are in life. It would be nice if I could learn this lesson once and not have to be forced to learn it over and over.
Becoming focused only on finishing everything makes me miss the joy of the journey. The end result should be a motivation but it can't be where I focus all my attention. Staying present in the current moment and paying attention to the details of what needs to be done now is how we finish races and how we enjoy life to the fullest. One thing, one race, one mile, one step at a time.
I've got two killer workouts on the schedule this week so I need to get one more day of good rest ad make sure I'm over this sickness. I'm getting into the real meat of this BQ training plan so from here on the workouts look a challenging. Here are the description from my coach.
Workout #1
So, we'll run an 800 around 3:15. Take 1:00 rest and go right into a mile at 7:26 pace. Then take 1:00 rest and do it again until we have run six 800's and six miles. It's a high volume workout that will require patience early.
Workout #2
Our second session will be a Long Run Workout during the weekend. I just want a good, fast finish 20 miler. The first 10 miles need to be easy, casual running. Then the last 10 miles I would like to try and be at 7:45 or better.

Until now, most of the workouts have been things I could do. They weren't comfortable, but I felt I could do them. This week's runs will test my ability to push beyond what I think I can do. It's scary and exciting all at the same time. I need to push everything else out of my mind and make time for these workouts if I can because I won't be able to just "get them done". It's going to take focus. A focus on the present and what needs to happen now. Something with which I obviously struggle.
I'll let you know how these go.

Thanks for listening

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Marine Corps Marathon Race Report

When I ran the Anchorage marathon this summer a friend forwarded me an email from the RRCA saying I could register for the Marine Corps Marathon for $43 if I purchased a $15 RRCA visor. Now if you don't know, the Marine Corps Marathon usually fills up early so it's a bit difficult to get in and if you've ever run a marathon you know that $58 is a STEAL for any marathon! I've always wanted to run the Marine Corps Marathon because it runs through DC which is one of my favorite places to visit and because it has a primarily military theme which I respect. So needless to say I jumped on this chance and immediately registered.
It just so happened that I had to travel to NY the week before the race for work so I was also able to have most of my travel costs covered too! Sometimes the universe aligns in your favor. So I spent the week in upstate NY where it was COLD!!! It actually snowed a couple days. I didn't get outside to run but I did get a good hard tempo run on the dreadmill on Thursday. I was so excited when I checked the DC weather on Friday and saw that is was in the 70s and sunny! This was a nice change for this warm weather lover.
I had a lot of friends who also registered through the RRCA and it was nice to have a big group in DC to run this marathon. I love traveling to marathons with my running friends! It adds an extra element of fun to have people with you who are easy to be around and like similar things. I actually shared a room with Maurice at the host hotel. This was nice because we got to stay at a way-to-fancy hotel and split the cost. I normally will look for the cheapest hotel or AirBnB available, which is fun but sometimes inconvenient for the race. Staying at the host hotel made getting around to the race events easy. Or so I thought but I'll get to that.
Since I'm on my BQ quest I didn't have a goal for this marathon but, of course, secretly I did. I really wanted to run around 3:30 which is 8:00 pace. I have been training at sub-8:00 pace and felt that if I couldn't hold at least 8:00 pace for 26 miles then I might be in trouble for getting to the 7:28 pace I'll need for my BQ. I've got plenty of time before my BQ race but this little boost to my ego would help a lot.
I got to the starting line and, since they didn't have corrals, I made my way up to the 3:35 pace group sign. Surprisingly there were very few people in this area compared to the hordes of runners farther back. The race organizers kept pushing our group forward and by the time the gun went off I was only a few feet from the starting line! This was a little unnerving but I was going to run my own race so I enjoyed seeing the starting festivities and didn't worry about it.
The hills on this course are mostly in the first 5 miles so I had promised myself I'd take it easy for those miles and wait until the course leveled out before pushing anything. I knew as soon as I started though that this wasn't going to be an easy run for me. The 3:35 pace was not comfortable. I could run it but it was coming easy like it had in training. I'm still not sure why but I never felt comfortable at any time during this marathon.
I made it through the hills and into Georgetown which I'd never visited before. I took a moment to look around and am now convinced I need to go back and spend some time there. It's a very pretty area and looks like a cool place to hang out. Not surprising since, you know, it's Georgetown! I think everyone but me already knew it was a cool place. Anyway, I was still having to concentrate on holding my pace but wasn't worried yet since I could hold it when I did concentrate. I was still running with the 3:35 pace group and I noticed that we were averaging 7:40-7:55 per mile which is a little fast for a 3:35 marathon. It started to bug me that this pacer was running faster than necessary. At one point he even said something about being a little fast and said it in such a way as to blame it on the group! I wanted to remind him that he's the pacers and we're following him but I kept my mouth shut and soldiered (get the Marine reference? :) ) on.
At some point I got ahead of the group and left them behind as we ran along the Potomac just south of the national mall. This was a beautiful part of the course and although it was mostly an empty park, it had plenty of crowd support. This is also where we ran through through the pictures of fallen Marines. There were so many pictures and under the pictures were their ages when they died. I will admit that I cried a little by the end of this stretch as I saw picture after picture of 19 and 20 year old kids who's lives ended before they had really begun. Some of the pictures were of young families and they looked so happy together. I couldn't stop myself from wondering about how much pain those young wives and husbands went through when they got the news that their loved one wasn't coming home. How much pain will their babies go through growing up without knowing their mom or their dad? Maybe I'm just overly emotional but it got to me and is still in my head.
It was shortly after this stretch that I ran up on a guy running with 2 prosthetic legs. And yes, he was running! It wasn't pretty, and he looked like he was working his ass off, but he was running damn it. This young man had lost more than I will ever know and he was finding a path forward. I felt weak and unworthy to be on the same road as this badass. I told myself that I couldn't quit on my journey, no matter how bad I think things are, I just have to keep moving forward.
I should pause here a moment and mention my wonderful high school friends who had come out to see me. I hadn't seen either of them in over 20 years and they were both on the course cheering for me! I saw them at least 4 times and each time I heard a loud "Wilcoxen!!!" I would look up and be instantly happy. They surprised me at just the right moments and I'm so happy and grateful for long time friends especially ones that stay connected when we aren't physically. John and Sandra, thank you so much for being out there!
Eventually we made it back up to the national mall and all the wonderful monuments. This was somewhere around mile 15 and I was still running strong holding a sub-8:00 pace for the most part. I was beginning to struggle but the huge crowds around the mall made it easy to keep going and keep pace. I absolutely love running around the mall and this time I had the whole street to myself! I made a point to take in the Washington monument and the Capitol building as we went by. I even noticed the Air and Space museum which is my absolute favorite place in DC. As we headed out of the mall, I knew that "the bridge" was coming up around mile 18. I had heard people talking about the dreaded bridge but didn't really think it could be that bad since the elevation profile didn't show anything dramatic around mile 18, nor did I remember any significant hills in that area.
We left the mall and crossed mile 18 and immediately started out across a bridge that I had not seen before. I thought I knew DC pretty well since I'd been there just a few months before but somehow I missed this bridge. I had done a good job of hydrating all along the course because the forecast was for hot temperatures and I knew I needed to get as much water as possible at all the stops to beat the heat. I somehow missed the memo that there would be no water available on this bridge which would take us all the way to mile 20. Looking back I can't say the bridge had any large hills but it seemed like it was a constant hill and I got really tired and really thirsty while traversing it. By the time I reach the end at mile 20, I knew why I had heard so many people talking about "the bridge"! It sucked the life out of me! I was barely holding pace and had become extremely thirsty. My muscles were cramping and everything seemed to be going to shit in a hurry! How I went from running well to a complete pile of unenergized, dehydrated, cramping horse crap in a matter of 2 miles is beyond me but it happened.

I had kept pace for a 3:30 marathon up to mile 20. I now began struggling to hang on to something near that pace as I pushed myself through the last miles. I was in that old familiar state of being behind the power curve on energy and hydration where you know you can't fix it and just have to deal with the situation and get to the finish. I hate that!!!! Survival became the name of the game as I pushed my body forward and my mind became more and more pissed off that I had let myself get to this state. It's a weird feeling to be angry at yourself while trying to ask yourself to keep going! I almost felt like I should go into Dad mode where you say nice things to your child to get them to do something while inside you just want to scream at them for not doing it when you told them to!
I struggled through the last miles and made it back near the finish where I realized the finish was up hill! Like a steep hill. Like the last 100 yards were straight up hill! WTF?? Then I remember this was the Marine Corps marathon and maybe I should expect things like this. Marines aren't known for making things easy. Well, I thought, fuck it, I'm already pissed off so let's make this hurt as much as possible. I sprinted up that hill like crazy and finished like the Air Force veteran-acting-like-a-Marine-for-a-day that I am! I crossed in 3:36 and I'm happy with that time. I wish I had felt better doing it and am slightly worried about my BQ in December but if nothing else I learned I've got some work to do and I know what I need.
The finish was lined with Marines in uniform who gave me all kinds of congratulations and encouragement. I felt a kindred spirit with them until I remember that I'm an Air Force guy and asked, "Where's the beer tent?".

Thanks for listening.